Rhetorical “small change”

In his 1963 essay on the “Phenomenological Movement.” H.-G. Gadamer discusses at length Edmund Husserl’s influence in founding the school. In so doing, he recounts an interesting habit of Husserl’s that

In his teaching, whenever he encountered the grand assertions and arguments typical of beginning philosophers, he used to say, “Not always the big bills, gentlemen; small change, small change!” (133)

Gadamer does not wholly underwrite Husserl’s program, but he does helpfully observe that—perhaps as much for theology as for philosophy:

This kind of work produced a peculiar fascination. It had the effect of a purgation, a return to honesty, a liberation from the opaqueness of the opinions, slogans, and battle cries that circulated. (133)

For the balance of Gadamer’s reflections in this essay, see its printing in Philosophical Hermeneutics, ed. and trans. David E. Linge (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1976), 130–81.

Watkin, “Derrida”

Forthcoming this fall in P&R’s “Great Thinkers” series is Christopher Watkin’s volume on Jacques Derrida. According to the book’s blurb,

Christian thinkers and writers who address Jacques Derrida’s philosophy face two potential pitfalls. One is to recast Christianity in an ill-fitting Derridean mold; the other is to ascribe to Derrida objectionable positions that bear little relation to his writing.

To avoid these hazards, Christopher Watkin, a scholar of French literature and philosophy, walks in Derrida’s shoes through the landscape of recent thought and culture, seeking to understand the rationale for Derrida’s philosophical moves in light of his assumptions and commitments in philosophy, literature, ethics, and politics. He then sets these assumptions in the wider context of God’s nature and purposes in history, providing biblical critique.

Learn why Derrida says what he does and how Christians can receive and respond to his writing in a balanced, biblical way that is truly beneficial.

The latest P&R catalog also sports an enthusiastic endorsement from Kevin Vanhoozer:

Chris Watkin has done what I thought was impossible. He has explained Derrida’s deconstruction with lucidity, brevity, and charity. Not only that: he has imagined what it would be like for Cornelius Van Til to go toe-to-toe with Derrida in a discussion about language, logic, and the logos made flesh, all of which figure prominently in John 1:1–14. And, if that were not enough, he has done it in less than a hundred pages. Readers who want to know what all the fuss over postmodernity is about would do well to consult this book. This is an excellent beginning to this new Great Thinker series.

The volume is due for release at the end of November. It is currently available for pre-order at Amazon and elsewhere.

Gadamer on time, tradition, and continuity

Photograph of H. G. GadamerStemming from a discussion of Martin Heidegger’s temporal explanation of Dasein, H.-G. Gadamer suggests,

Time is no longer primarily a gulf to be bridged because it separates; it is actually the supportive ground of the course of events in which the present is rooted. Hence temporal distance is not something that must be overcome. This was, rather, the naive assumption of historicism, namely that we must transpose ourselves into the spirit of the age, think with its ideas and its thoughts, and not with our own, and thus advance toward historical objectivity. In fact the important thing is to recognize temporal distance as a positive and productive condition enabling understanding. It is not a yawning abyss but is filled with the continuity of custom and tradition, in the light of which everything handed down presents itself to us. (Truth and Method, 308)

Thus, Gadamer’s suggestion seems to be that the past is, of course, not our own time, but perhaps neither is it the wholly alien thing that thoroughgoing historicism might represent it as being with respect to the present.