Descartes’s exorcism

Madness in what Foucault calls the “classical period” is conceived as a dazzlement - the madman is darkened with excessive light. In this context, “the Cartesian formula of doubt is certainly the great exorcism of madness. Descartes closes his eyes and plugs up his ears the better . . . . Continue Reading »

Divine madness

For the Renaissance, Foucault argues, the line between madness and reason was thin and easily crossed. The madman, in fact, frequently gained insight that the sane did not; think Lear howling on the heath. Over time, madness and truth had been clearly distinguished, and madness ceased to be . . . . Continue Reading »

Exorcizing Zwingli

Dr Jim West is annoyed at me (, though he doesn’t name me. He is responding to an article I wrote attacking what I called “Zwinglian poetics,” where I suggested that Protestants must “exorcise the ghost of . . . . Continue Reading »

Enlightenment and Dehellenization

In Dialectic of Enlightenment , Horkheimer and Adorno characterize the Enlightenment assault on metaphysics as an assault on the remnants of old superstition. Among the Greeks, “by means of the Platonic ideas, even the patriarchal gods of Olympus were absorbed in the philosophical logos . The . . . . Continue Reading »

Hobbes and the Priests

In their study of Hobbes and Boyle, Steven Shapin and Simon Schaffer show that Hobbes’s opposition to Boyle’s air pump was as political as scientific. Hobbes complained about the Catholic system because it introduced a double loyalty to church and state, and he was particularly vicious . . . . Continue Reading »

Beautiful Proof

Does beauty compel assent? It certainly seems to. Ought it? That’s trickier. If an explanation encompasses the data simply and elegantly and beautifully, does that make it a good explanation? Does that make it true? Are the “transcendentals” truly interchangeable? If the . . . . Continue Reading »

Double Narrative

Can we say that Hosea had Jesus in mind when he wrote “out of Egypt I call My Son”? Does it matter whether he did or not? If not, does this mean we can do anything we like to texts, find in them whatever we care to bring? Historian David Steinmetz (in Ellen Davis and Richard Hays, ed., . . . . Continue Reading »


I read John 1:1, and I hear echoes of Genesis 1:1, and I begin to suspect that John wants to teach that the gospel story is a story of new creation. That conclusion does not rest simply on the phrase “in the beginning,” but that phrase is certainly a pointer in that direction. I read . . . . Continue Reading »

One meaning

David Steinmetz finds Benjamin Jowett’s claim that Scripture’s “one meaning” is “the meaning which it had to the mind of the Prophet or Evangelist who first uttered or wrote, to the hearers or readers who first received it” to be “insufficiently historical, . . . . Continue Reading »

Isaac Redux

The Shunammite woman sets Elisha up with a small sanctuary in an upper room, complete with menorah, table, throne-chair, and bed (= altar). When the woman’s son dies, Elisha lays him on the bed/altar, and he revives. He is another Isaac, Elisha a new Abraham. Abraham’s sacrifice of . . . . Continue Reading »