Mashup Philosophy as a “Task for a Lifetime”: A Conversation with J. Aaron Simmons

An Interview with J. Aaron Simmons

Interviewd by Martin Shuster

 

1. How did you get interested in philosophy of religion? And how do you understand the role of this sub-discipline within philosophy more broadly? I ask especially because in many Anglophone circles it has fallen into great disrepute being equated essentially with Christian apologia. 

Well, ironically, I got into philosophy of religion largely through such Christian apologetic work, though I have a very different view of such work today than I did when I first started reading it. When I was in graduate school, I realized that my own Christian identity was something that was often viewed as problematic to the life of an intellectual. Much like Martin Heidegger once noted regarding religious belief, some of my professors seemed to indicate that being a Christian academic was simply to start where I was supposed to finish. For them, I was like a lived example of question-begging. Though I agree that religious belief and identity can serve as an obstacle to engaged thinking, I don’t think that religion is somehow distinct in this regard. We all start from somewhere when we ask questions. Indeed, the questions we ask are largely products of such starting points. That said, I remember being very troubled and wondered whether I had to abandon my Christian identity in order to think well. There is certainly no shortage of voices in the academy who would answer in the affirmative. Nonetheless, I figured that I needed to make sense of how that famous relationship between faith and reason, or Jerusalem and Athens, or the soul and the mind, or whatever, was going to play out for me. Continue reading

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“Our own moment, grasped in time…” (An Interview with Martin Shuster)

An Interview with Martin Shuster

Interviewed by J. Aaron Simmons

 

  1. As a philosopher, what interests you about religion?

Is ‘everything’ a possible answer? More seriously, likely because I spent significant time around Hent de Vries, I often tend to think of knowledge in terms of archives. And religion is so interesting, at least to me, because its ‘archive’ is actually far deeper, more dense, and significantly older than the archive of philosophy. Furthermore, I think it is no secret that at times (all times?) the two archives comes to be intertwined (one thinks here quite recently of the variety of work from Charles Taylor to Hent de Vries to Carl Schmitt, as well as something like Anscombe’s wonderful essay, “Modern Moral Philosophy”). The issues animating how philosophy (taken here broadly and stressing especially ethics and social/political philosophy) and religion are and ought to be understood in relation to each other are still very much alive, and if we take a global view of them, they play out, often in dangerous and sad ways across the globe. So, what interests me most about religion as a philosopher is how the religious archive both informs and deforms our projects as agents, whether political, social, aesthetic, or ethical.

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