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Postmodernity's Transcending: Devaluing God.

POSTMODERNITY'S TRANSCENDING: DEVALUING GOD. By Laurence Paul Hemming. Notre Dame, Ind.: University of Notre Dame, 2005. Pp. xii + 269. $35.

Opposite Hemming's first page is a still from Sam Taylor-Wood's ten minute film Brontosaurus. The still presents a frontally nude male in dancing pose. For H., Brontosaurus captures the fluidity and plasticity of postmodernity as a cultural and social phenomenon. We, the postmodernists, can give this man, this artwork, the meaning we wish in an exercise of bricolage, with no metanarrative governing us or the film. The meaning transcends Brontosaurus horizontally as our achievement, but in no sense lifts us toward any vertical transcendent, toward any sublime. H. argues that the whole of Western philosophy, of Western culture, has already worked such a devaluation by placing the sublime--by placing God--at the terminus of our experience of being. He begins with the pseudonymous Longinus's 200 AD treatise on rhetorical uplift, turns back to Plato and Aristotle, then forward to Aquinas, Descartes, Kant, and Hegel, finishing with Nietzsche and Heidegger. Nietzsche serves as the key figure in stating and manifesting "postmodernity's transcending" and thus its devaluing of God and, with God, devaluing of humanity. If we ourselves are to find God at the end of this trajectory, it will be not through a gap in being, but as pure gift appearing among US.

The book is thematically rich and philosophically erudite with intricate discussions of themes and authors. However, it is also complicated, elusive, and even perplexing. H. addresses it to specialists, and not just those strongly conversant with the authors presented, but mostly to those comfortable with the peculiar rhetoric and strategy characterizing post-Heideggerian and postmodernist philosophy. A deeper problem is that H. does not follow his own wisdom that "philosophy is not the attempt to think again what Hegel or Nietzsche ... thought, but to find a way in to what they--and we--think of" (206). Unfortunately H.'s book remains very much a book about authors and writings rather than about life and experience.

MICHAEL J. KERLIN

La Salle University, Philadelphia, Pa.
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Title Annotation:SHORTER NOTICES
Author:Kerlin, Michael J.
Publication:Theological Studies
Article Type:Book review
Date:Jun 1, 2007
Words:341
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