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Renowned professor of philosophy to join Syracuse University’s Department of Religion
Renowned professor of philosophy to join Syracuse University’s Department of ReligionApril 02, 2004Kelly Homan Rodoskikahoman@syr.edu
Renowned philosopher John D. Caputo will join The College of Arts and Sciences at Syracuse University as the Thomas J. Watson Professor of Religion and Humanities, beginning with the Fall 2004 semester. He will be based in the Department of Religion and will teach graduate courses in both the religion and philosophy departments.
Caputo has spent his entire career at Villanova University, where he has been the David R. Cook Professor of Philosophy. He will retire from Villanova in June and receive emeritus status. Caputo will maintain his home in Wayne, Pa., and will continue to work with the Villanova Ph.D. candidates he is currently advising until they have completed their degrees.
“This is a spectacular appointment for the religion department, and for the humanities division of The College,” says Dean Cathryn R. Newton.
According to Richard B. Pilgrim, associate professor and chair of the religion department, “this is a real coup for SU and the Department of Religion. Jack works at the intersection of religion and philosophy, and his name and notoriety will attract students to SU in both disciplines.”
Caputo says that the strong philosophical and theological traditions found in SU’s religion department encourage him to teach at SU – and he knows that he has big shoes to fill in the prestigious Watson Professorship. Previous Watson Professors – Professor Emeritus Huston Smith (1973-83) and the late Charles Winquist (1986-2002) – were friends and colleagues of Caputo.
Caputo, who draws on the work of continental European philosophers, says he has always held a special interest in the philosophy of religion. His most recent work has been with deconstruction, a philosophical movement that questions traditional assumptions about certainty, identity and truth.
“The public image of deconstruction is that it is a radically relativistic and destructive theory that breaks things down,” Caputo says. “I have maintained that is a mistake.” Caputo has been advancing the work of French philosopher Jacques Derrida, who maintains that deconstruction is deeply affirmative and opens up new possibilities.
Caputo’s controversial 1997 book, “The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida” (Indiana University Press), “lit a fuse” among philosophers and religious scholars, as it promoted a religious approach to deconstruction and a deconstructive approach to religion, Caputo says. He is also the author of “On Religion” (Routledge, 2001) and “More Radical Hermeneutics” (Indiana, 2000). He edited “Blackwell Readings in Continental Philosophy: The Religious” (2001) and co-edited “Questioning God” (Indiana, 2001) and “God, the Gift and Postmodernism” (Indiana, 1999). He also authored the award winning “Deconstruction in a Nutshell: A Conversation with Jacques Derrida” (Fordham University Press, 1997). In all, Caputo has authored or edited 14 books and published more than 100 articles and book chapters. His work has been translated into several languages. In the past three years, two books have appeared about his thought.
Caputo holds a bachelor’s degree from LaSalle College, a master’s degree from Villanova and a doctorate from Bryn Mawr College.
Caputo says he is grateful to Dean Newton for bringing him to Syracuse. “Dean Newton has shown remarkable initiative in investing in the religion program and honoring its tradition,” Caputo says. “She has been terrific in making this happen.”