In the latest issue of Logos: A Journal of Catholic Thought and Culture, our friend Father Thomas Guarino describes the “postmodern Christianity” of the Italian philosopher Gianni Vattimo, said by Guarino to be a major voice in Europe now being increasingly read and discussed here thanks to the translations of his works by Columbia University Press. “Despite its patent opposition to anything resembling historic Christian orthodoxy, Vattimo’s interpretation of Christianity constitutes an influential achievement that has proven, either explicitly or implicitly, to be attractive to large segments of contemporary society.”
Vattimo is most famous for his idea of “weak thought,” writes Guarino in The Return of Religion in Europe?:
It is perhaps best to understand Vattimo’s weak thought as an attempt to reconstruct rationality in a postmodern way. By this I mean that the Torinese intends to move contemporary construals of rationality away from modern notions of reason, with their aggressive assertions about the “certainly true,” the “really real” and “absolute objectivity,” and with their insinuations that evidence and warrants are unproblematic concepts, readily available to settle questions of interpretative adequacy. Weak thought, on the contrary, holds that the world is not simply given to us as pure, uninterpreted, unmediated reality.
If contemporary philosophy has taught us anything, it is that the world is known by men and women who are already deeply enmeshed in history and tradition, who are themselves entirely theory-laden. Vattimo is convinced, then, that the world is “given” to the postmodern christianity of gianni vattimo 19us as an always-already interpreted reality. And precisely because of this, we must avoid “strong thought” with its blinkered claims to truth, finality, and objectivity and with its concomitant avoidance of historical contingency. No ultimate, normative foundations exist that are available to us outside of interpretation.
There exists no “evidence” that is not already deeply implicated in determinate sociocultural forms of life and in already elaborated interpretative structures. Consequently, we have no clearly available archai or Gründe, undisputed first principles or warrants, that could settle matters finally, that could offer definitive notions of truth that would escape perpetual provisionality.