Friday, November 21, 2014

Dust up between Jamie K. A. Smith and Eduardo Echeverria over religious epistemology

Jamie K. A. Smith, author of Who's Afraid of Postmodernism?: Taking Derrida, Lyotard, and Foucault to Church (2006), has authored another book in his series echoing the title of Edward Albee's 1962 play, "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" -- namely, Who's Afraid of Relativism?: Community, Contingency, and Creaturehood (2014).

Sacred Heart Major Seminary Professor, Eduardo Echeverria, who is well-versed in both continental and analytical traditions of philosophy, has published an article-length critical review of this book in the latest issue of Calvin Theological Journal, as Smith reveals in his blog, where he offers his own response to Echeverria, entitled "Responding to a Common Critique of 'Who's Afraid of Relativism?'" (Fors Clavigera, November 12, 2014). Smith's post features both Echeverria's full critique as well as Smith's own response, entitled, with deliberate irony: "Echeverria's Protestant Epistemology: A Catholic Response" (formally, Echeverria is the Catholic and Smith the Protestant).

Predictably, Smith's "response" in turn provoked yet another response by Echeverria, this one posted on the blog of the Tyndale University College and Seminary site, "A Response to James K. A. Smith, by Eduardo Echeverria" (Every Thought Captive).

The chief questions at issue in the debate concern religious epistemology and whether some sort of realist epistemology is still viable, as Echeverria holds, or not, as Smith insists. Smith has clearly drunk deeply at the well of post-modern philosophers of the sort he's been writing about and teaching for upwards of the last two decades, while from Echeverria's perspective of the perennial philosophy, Smith's well appears more like a shallow puddle. See for yourselves.

[This article is permanently archived at Philosophia Perennis]




Excellent observations by E.E., and sorely needed. These conversations happen in the academy, by the consequences play out in the churches. It reminds me slightly of Vatican II: the documents verbosity dissuaded laymen from trying to understand them, but you can't help but understand the consequences as you experience them on a day-to-day basis in the Church. Catholics especially are prone to say, "I'm no theologian--that's the church's job." While that's probably true, the more you know, the better you can navigate the road. This helps a good deal.