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A New Endeavor

A New Endeavor

May 29, 2023

Hello friends! Since we last corresponded I have continued to post mostly to my micro.blog site — photos and links and reading — reserving the big blog for longer pieces. This works really well for me; it's a good rhythm to be in. (And I'm finding new ways to use micro.blog — for instance, there will be more audio posts soon.)

"Reserving the big blog for longer pieces" has made me think about what this longer pieces should be, and as a result I have begun a series — a series that might last quite a while. The whole business started when I found myself thinking about various approaches to the theology of culture and why they dissatisfy me: see this post and then this follow-up.

I happened at the same time to be looking for a quotation from Augustine's City of God and suddenly found myself thinking: You know, this book might offer a better approach to the whole theology-of-culture question. So I wrote a couple of posts — one and two — to get me started, and after that the ideas started pouring out. I have several further posts drafted, and can see many more that I'll need to write. I am very invested in this.

This whole project could easily be a book, but absolutely no trade publisher would be interested, and an academic publisher would put it through a peer-review meatgrinder that would end up either (a) declaring that I am not professionally qualified to do this work or (b) demanding that I take out almost everything that makes the project interesting to me. (“Please eliminate the references to China Miéville, as they are irrelevant.”) 

I might be able to carve it up into a couple of essays, but that would require me to constrain the inquiry and make it rigidly sequential, more orderly than I think it should be. I feel about the theology of culture the way I feel about our critiques of technology — I wrote about the latter here — that is, I feel that we're locked into limited vocabularies. As the philosopher Bernard Williams once wrote, "We suffer from a poverty of concepts." This has been a concern of mine for quite some time: see for instance this 2017 post on restocking the theological toolbox.

I am trying to enrich our concept-hoard, not primarily in hopes of settling questions but rather in hopes of improving the quality of our questions so as to make our inquiries more fruitful. In my experience, this kind of project is a very hard sell in the publishing world, the world of books and periodicals.

So that's why I'm turning to the blog. I hope it will be fruitful for me and for my readers. I'll certainly be focusing on this Augustinian project through the summer — while also working on other things that will, I hope, be attractive to publishers — and it may last much longer. That's what I love about blogging: a project can find its own scope, and do so in its own time. I hope y'all will enjoy it as it spools crazily out.

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