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296 Reviews

theologian or even the church, but the God who is the Name towards whom we are
ordered in seeking and in worship.

Cyril O’Regan
Department of Theology
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556

The Quest for Meaning: Friends of Wisdom from Plato to Levinas by Adriaan T.
Peperzak (Bronx, NY: Fordham University Press, 2004) x + 240 pp.

In Quest for Meaning, Adriaan Peperzak offers a guided tour through the history of
philosophy with a particular set of questions in mind, specifically metaphilosphical
concerns about the relationship between faith and reason, philosophy and theology,
truth and wisdom. So while the book ranges from Plato to Levinas, Peperzak in no
way attempts a comprehensive sweep of the intervening centuries. One might
consider an analogy: when visiting Chicago, one might enjoy a comprehensive,
whirlwind tour of a myriad of aspects of the city, or one could elect to enjoy the
more targeted architectural tour—which has its own kind of breadth, but one
organized by a particular interest. In this respect, Quest for Meaning is like the
architectural tour: a selective, targeted survey of key figures in the philosophical
canon, with studies of Plato (two chapters), Judaism, Anselm (in comparison to
Hegel!), Bonaventure (two chapters), Descartes, Pascal, Leibniz, Hegel and Levinas.
While absences are intriguing, particularly given the orienting theme (Aristotle?
Augustine? Aquinas? Kant?), these absences do not constitute deficiencies. Instead,
by means of a rigorous course in the history of philosophy, Peperzak articulates a
renewed vision of philosophy as a way of life and pursuit of wisdom, regularly
contesting the professionalization of philosophy as a “discipline” detached from
either the pursuit of wisdom or a desire to live “the good life” (p. 155). The
erudition, scope, and even passion of the book testify to the confidence and wisdom
of a seasoned teacher who is committed to just this.
These sorties in the history of philosophy are undertaken in relation to very
contemporary discussions about the relationship between philosophy and theology,
a perennial theme which has gained new life in postmodernity. Peperzak wants to
contest both the modern bifurcation of philosophy and theology, as well as some
“postmodern” accounts of their relationship. In particular, Peperzak challenges a
version of the postmodern account which simply extends the Kantian bifurcation
and so, in obedience to a Heideggerian maxim (pp. 159, 169), asserts a fundamental
opposition between faith and knowledge, making it necessary to deny reason
(philosophy) in order to make room for faith. At the same time, he finds in the
“postmodern” critique of autonomy a catalyst and opening for re-articulating an
ancient and medieval relationship between faith and philosophy: because “ ‘post-
modern’ philosophy has turned away from the modern overestimation of its
autonomy” it has become “possible to recognize that the philosophy of a Christian
need not at all be second in critical judgment about the thinking that has unfolded
itself inside and outside of Christianity” (pp. 167–168). Drawing on the postmodern
critique of “autonomy” so valorized by modern philosophy, Peperzak considers
these historical case studies in order to “show how much their work is motivated
and shaped by underlying faiths” (p. 6). So throughout the book, he is interested
in making two kinds of claims in this regard. First, Peperzak makes the formal

© 2007 The Authors

Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
Reviews 297

claim that all philosophical reflection is rooted in pre-philosophical commitments.

Thus his core “thesis” is that “every seriously committed philosophy necessarily
involves a basic faith” (p. 10) because “[e]ach human life is animated and oriented
by some sort of faith concerning the meaning of existence” (p. 156). In other words,
modernity’s claim to have liberated philosophy and made it autonomous is nothing
less than a ruse. And having unveiled this—having peeked behind the curtain of
modern philosophy and found there a faith running the show—Peperzak sees this
as a leveling of the playing field, which should give Christian philosophers a new
boldness to work from the specificity of their Christian pre-philosophical commit-
ments. In a passage that echoes Milbank’s critique of modern theology’s “false
humility”, Peperzak exhorts: “Christians should no longer be nervous or ashamed
about their theocentric, Christocentric and pneumatic inspiration” (p. 22). In this
critique of the myth of autonomy and the encouragement of a philosophy that
unapologetically begins from Christian faith, I am struck by deep similarities
between Peperzak’s Catholic and continental articulation and a dominant Reformed
and analytic articulation of the same points in the work of Alvin Plantinga and
Nicholas Wolterstorff. I think there are important points of overlapping concern
here that point to possibilities for ecumenical dialogue not only across confessional
lines, but also across the continental-analytic divide.
Peperzak consistently makes this formal claim about philosophy’s necessary faith
commitments in terms of a broadly Neoplatonic account of eros and desire. As he
succinctly puts it, “no theoretical endeavor would be possible were it not driven by
eros” (p. 94; cp. p. 110). So philosophy’s dependence upon faith is not merely an
epistemological point about the conditions of possibility of knowledge; it is directly
related to Peperzak’s concern to see philosophy as a way of life driven by a passion,
desire, and love for “the Good” which is itself pre-philosophical. Here Peperzak’s
holistic, erotic account of the necessary relation between faith and philosophy adds
something to the more limited epistemological claims that tend to be the focus of
Reformed epistemology. And I think it is precisely this holistic, erotic account of
philosophy as a way of life motivated by desire that makes Peperzak’s account
more attentive to the significant role of liturgical participation as a key practice for
any “Christian philosophy” (p. 7).
Second, in addition to the formal claim regarding philosophy’s necessary depen-
dence upon ultimate, orienting faith commitments (in general), Peperzak is inter-
ested in looking at the specific faith commitments that have undergirded
philosophical projects throughout the history of philosophy. Here the studies tend
to show the way in which Christian philosophers, because of their Christian faith,
transform other-than-Christian philosophical lexica and frameworks. For instance,
Bonaventure “received and transformed” Neoplatonic motifs (p. 92), though he also
recognizes that “certain works of the fathers or the medieval magistri contain
unassimilated or badly integrated, and in this sense pagan elements” (p. 18). It is
with regard to the question of appropriation and transformation that Peperzak
articulates the utter failure of modern philosophy: “In discussing the works of
Descartes, Spinoza, Kant, and Hegel, I for my part would defend the thesis that
their philosophies, including their appeal to Christian faith, in fact have betrayed
it”; even more critically, “the basic faith on which the whole enterprise of modern
philosophy rests is not compatible with the faith of a Christian” (p. 18). He goes on
to point out, for instance, how Descartes’ absorption of Augustinian motifs was
insufficient, such that other-than-Christian philosophical commitments end up
trumping the Augustinian hints in his work (pp. 144–148), or how Hegel—despite
his enthusiasm for the ontological argument—fails properly to appropriate it
because he ignores its embeddedness in prayer (pp. 73–90). Thus, while Peperzak
concedes that Christian philosophers always and necessarily inhabit a particular

© 2007 The Authors

Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd
298 Reviews

historical epoch and share a broader cultural inheritance, he thinks it is still

legitimate to ask whether and to what extent Christian faith is compatible or
incompatible with dominant philosophical frameworks: “It is not always clear to
what extent the beliefs of an epoch spontaneously assimilated by Christians are
compatible with their faith or form a stumbling block to their endeavor to
understand who and how they are” (p. 13). Thus Peperzak is not shy about naming
a fundamental antithesis between certain philosophical frameworks and the core
aspects of Christian faith (pp. 88–89).
Constructively, Peperzak issues a bold call for a reintegration of philosophy and
theology that contests a standard Catholic picture which continues to maintain the
notion of an autonomous philosophy under the guise of “natural” reason (p. 226).
Indeed, one could read Peperzak, in the spirit of Henri de Lubac (who makes a few
cameo appearances in the book), as contesting precisely this quite modernistic
bifurcation of “nature” and “grace” (a bifurcation that persists in so-called “post-
modern” accounts of philosophy and theology). In contesting a standard line which
prescribes philosophical neutrality in the name of “natural reason”, Peperzak
describes this as “mistaken” and asks: “How can persons for whom God is the
creative, redemptive, and all-embracing presence, exclude their deepest conviction
from a discipline that claims to seek the most originary and universal principles and
perspectives of the human world and history” (p. 226)? In terms that echo de
Lubac’s Surnaturel, he goes on to ask: “Would faith and revelation not rather
permeate and transform the presupposed ‘nature’ (including its reason) that was
the (putatively) common point of departure? [. . .] If the Creator is gracious, grace
is operative in everybody everywhere (“tout est grace”); no ‘nature’ or ‘reason’
escapes this influence” (pp. 227; cf. p. 22). It is because he contests this modern
bifurcation that Peperzak can issue a call for a recovery of a more ancient and
medieval integration of theology and philosophy that he sees exhibited in the
historical case studies included here. “In order to be radically reflective”, he exhorts,
“the philosophy of Christians must develop as an integral part of a discipline that
integrates theology and philosophy into one whole: a ‘philo-theo-ology’ that accepts
to be challenged by non-Christian philosophers” (p. 21). The question remains
whether even Catholic universities are institutionally primed to entertain the idea.

James K.A. Smith

Calvin College
1845 Knollcrest Circle SE
Grand Rapids, MI 49546

Communicatio Idiomatum: Lo scambio delle proprietà: Storia, status

quaestionis e prospettive by Grzegorz Strzelczyk (Rome: Pontificia
Università Gregoriana, 2004) 318 pp.

As far as I can see, this is the only book ever written solely and explicitly on the
communicatio idiomatum (hereinafter CI). This is an astonishing fact, given this
doctrine’s centrality. One can say—without too much hyperbole—that this commu-
nication of properties, from divine to human in Jesus, so as to achieve the reverse
in us, is what Christianity is about. In this sense a dynamic, chiastic “shape” or
syntax is at the heart of Christianity. Christ is the crossing of the two trajectories of
the chiasm. The reflections of this chiastic form in static text on the page capture its
dynamism in various related types of language: the paradoxical, oxymoronic,

© 2007 The Authors

Journal compilation © 2007 Blackwell Publishing Ltd