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“Beyond merely good political intentions”

July 21, 2009

It is easy, from a privileged position, to be morally righteous about justice for the oppressed, whilst actually drowning out their voices with the din of one’s own high-sounding plans for reform. Likewise, there is much talk of the problem of attending to the otherness of the other in contemporary post-Kantian ethics and post-colonial theory; but there is very little about the intentional and embodied practices that might enable such attention. The moral and epistemic stripping that is endemic to thea ct of contemplation is a vital key here: its practiced self-emptying inculcates an attentiveness that is beyond merely good political intentions. Its practice is more discomforting, more destabilizing to settled presumptions, than a simple intentional design on empathy.

[emphasis mine.] This is from Sarah Coakley’s article, “Is there a Future for Gender and Theology?: On Gender, Contemplation, and the Systemic Task” in the Spring/Summer 2009 issue of Criterion. I’m working on a post about the whole article, but I wanted to share this passage right away because I thought it was so brilliant.


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