Essay Difference And Onto Theology Notes
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Discuss the question 'how different is God?', with reference to recent debates on onto-theology. The notion of 'difference' in philosophy is in principle a simple one, to be considered as the simple opposite of identity. Its important to this title question, and to debates in ontotheology, however, lies in the notion of difference in language and the philosophy of meaning, and its impact upon theological debate is constituted in the attempt to appropriately characterise what it is, particularly, that makes God 'different' from anything else that comes under our apprehension. As we will see, its impact upon theological debate demands a re-interpretation of the relationship between God and the world in light of the decline of theology in secular modernity, to establish an appropriate 'post-modern' theology that provides a suitable framework for the re-integration of God into modern thought, and establishes the sciences, law and other spheres of human life considered secular in modern times and, further, considered by many as better for that, as only elements of an all-encompassing theology returned to its place as 'queen of the sciences'. We should begin by examining the notion of 'difference', and we will see both that God is indeed significantly 'different' and 'Other', but equally, that the means by which we describe God as 'Other' are of linguistic importance, since we must describe God's difference in such terms that do not categorise God in such a way as to destroy the very difference we have posited. We should go on then to explore this notion of God's 'difference' from and relation to the world in modern theological debate, and in reference to the dilemma of transcendence and divine involvement in the world. I will conclude that the post-modern understanding of God as emphatically 'different' and Other, beyond our reality entirely, appears to have theological merit, particularly in its reinforcing the notion that arguments from either reason or experience within the confines of our reality are equally irrelevant to the existence of God. We will begin,then, by exploring the notion of 'difference' in language. When we talk about difference in language we refer to the theory of meaning that suggests that, for example, the word 'car' derives the meaning that we ascribe to it chiefly as a function of how 'car' differs from 'van', 'lorry', 'caravan' and so on, rather than in what way the word is tied to some particular mental image of a car. Derrida coins the homophone 'Différance' in talking about difference in language, merging the verbs 'to differ' and 'to defer' into one term, expressing Derrida's assertion that in language, complete meaning is always postponed, since there is never a moment at which the meaning of a sentence is total or completed. This 'deferral' describes the way in which the words following 'car' in this example inevitably affect the meaning of that word, sometimes dramatically - thus, full, complete or intended meaning is deferred. Barthes makes a similar point in Death of the Author: if we look up any given word in a dictionary in the hope of establishing its meaning, we will have to proceed to look up the words involved in that definition to fully understand it, then the words involved in the definitions of those words, and so on. The process is unending, and thus the point is simply made that language is a self-contained and fluid relationship between various signifiers and indicators of the contents of our experience, wherein a symbol or token is defined by its relation to other symbols, but those symbols are only different from it inasmuch as they have a different relation to each other than the original symbol does. There is no final 'meaning' in which all words terminate, and no fully-grounded and permanent logical map of language.
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