Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Philosophical and theological treatments of Christian prayer regularly overlook its formal stakes. As a type of limit-speech, prayer can be thought alongside the class of logical dilemmas generated whenever an element of a total set refers to the very totality of which it is a part. These dilemmas are grouped together in what Graham Priest calls the “inclosure schema” and, moreover, exhibit a non-self-identical structure that is also the hallmark of robust metaphysical materialisms (i.e., the structure by which matter constitutively fails to coincide with itself). This dissertation sketches an immanent materialist account of Christian prayer by bringing these two things together: (1) the formal inclosure paradox in which prayer participates and (2) the non-self-identity that characterizes materialist ontologies. The dissertation begins with an Introduction that briefly sketches the gaps in the literature and the challenges facing a materialist account of prayer. Chapter 1, “God and Inclosure,” then introduces Graham Priest’s schematic for limit paradoxes and shows how Anselm and Pseudo-Dionysius’s accounts of prayer fit this schema. Chapter 2, “Form-of-Life in Prayer,” outlines a rather different approach to inclosure represented by Giorgio Agamben. Prayer is here treated as a devotional practice that scales life into an indivisible whole and inhabits the site of time’s failure to coincide with itself. In this way, prayer resists the biopolitical excesses risked by inclosure, answers certain Foucauldian critiques of Christian devotion, and challenges theories of prayer that understand it to be primarily a mental or dialogic practice. Chapter 3, “Prayer as Quantum Chamber,” puts prayer in conversation with François Laruelle’s particle collider—a prepared space in which the world takes on a minimal appearance and registers the effects of the real. On this reading, prayer is like a physicist’s construction of a state vector; it gathers up a disciple’s material occasions in order to present them to a kind of immanent vision. Finally, the project concludes with a brief fourth chapter that articulates a jointly Agambenian and Laruellian reading of the Lord’s Prayer.
Matheson, Kimberly, "Soul as Paraphrase: The Formalism and Minority of Prayer" (2022). Dissertations. 3999.
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