It’s about time for some Jamie Smith quotes to show up on my blog. I have been a fan of his stuff for awhile. I bumped into his blog about a year ago, thought that Desiring the Kingdom looked good, found myself a copy, and loved it. What did I like so much? Well, although I did actually like the content of the book, I mostly loved its style, method, and presuppositions.
So, one, I think he’s a fantastic example of philosophical rigor integrated with an attention to all things practical, such that his work is fairly accessible to non-philosophers. Two, I think it’s safe to say that his philosophical interests lie primarily in “continental” philosophy. Looking back, I think I was drawn to his work because of the quintessentially continental themes throughout. In other words, he was presupposing all sorts of things (about our conditionedness, primarily) that I’d been trying to articulate for the previous semester. Anyways, since Desiring the Kingdom, I’ve picked up a few of his other texts. Most recently, I read The Fall of Interpretation.
Now, it’s a rare occasion when I read some philosophy that makes me cry. [Clarifying: these are not tears of “Why, Hegel, why are you so impossibly confusing?”] On a day-to-day level, philosophy isn’t emotional, life-changing stuff. But, once in awhile, I’ll happen across a bit of philosophy that speaks directly to something that I’m really anxious about.
You can tell where this is going: I cried over The Fall of Interpretation. (The introduction, actually, not the quotes below.) It’s not the bestest, most brilliant thing I’ve ever read. But it is very good. And it was tremendously pertinent to Abigail of June 2013. It’s a book I want to revisit, especially having just finished Truth and Method. (Speaking of books that I’d like to revisit! Huge swaths of my copy are underlined and starred. It was so good. And yet I just speed walked through the beautiful park that is Truth and Method. I haven’t fully enjoyed it, because I haven’t sat down on a bench to enjoy the view for awhile.)
Well, hey, getting around to the two quotes I’ve selected. They speak to the two most significant lessons I took from Smith: 1) a sense of joy in plurality, rather than a fearful grasping after monolithic truth that denies contingency, and 2) the responsibility of interpretation and the importance of love and charity when interpreting.
“At Pentecost Yahweh’s pneuma affirms the multiplicity of creation […]. A creational-pneumatic hermeneutic opens the door for an understanding of truth divorced from monologism, which in itself opens the door to those who have been shut out of the kingdom, so to speak – excluded because their interpretation was different. The truth, in creation, is plural…”
“Interpretation becomes not so much a matter of ‘correctness’ as responsibility; the interpreter has an obligation to ‘do justice’ to the transcendence of what is interpreted”