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 Michael Kremer

Eric, I think you're being a bit uncharitable to Stump here. I think that your response to her work is being distorted by the idea that what she sees narrative as imparting knowledge about persons rather than knowledge of persons. (That seems to me to miss the point that the distinction between Franciscan and Dominican knowledge that she draws is not supposed to be simply a distinction between two kinds of propositional knowledge.) When she speaks of "the" interpretation, surely it is charitable to take her to simply mean "the interpretation that has been offered" and not "the uniquely correct interpretation." The context makes that clear: the passage which you have quoted from is immediately preceded by, and comments on, the remark that "we can definitively rule some interpretations out, but it is hard to make a compelling argument that only this interpretation is right." In her own interpretations she constantly considers alternatives and criticisms of the ways she reads the texts. In fact it seems to me that the book is so massive in part because she has spent so long presenting many of these ideas to various audiences and has incorporated so many of the criticisms she has received and so many responses to them (which often, in my experience of reading the book, detract from the clarity of her argument, unfortunately). I doubt Stump would reject your picture of an philosophy as an open-ended conversation; as far as I can tell she has been engaged in just such a conversation about these topics for many years. But when one comes to publish a work, of course one is taking a freeze-frame of any conversation.

As for knowledge of worldviews, you say that Stump "means to present or teach a worldview" but it seems to me this is ambiguous. She does not mean to "teach a worldview" in the sense of inculcating it. "Present" may be more accurate, but only if understood in the right way: she says explicitly that she will "explicate the worldview within which a typical medieval theodicy is embedded" in order "only to show what it is." She thinks this worldview and theodicy can count as a "defense" if in understanding it we can see how it might be a possible way for things to be. This relies on the Plantingian theodicy/defense distinction, which might be objectionable for other reasons. But I take part of the point of the long explication and presentation of the medieval worldview on such topics as love and the human good, to be the sense in which this possible way of looking at things has been culturally lost and become unavailable. The point of making such a worldview available for thought is surely not to shut down conversation, but to allow conversation to move in directions that would otherwise be blocked off.

Eric Schliesser

Michael, thank you for this thoughtful response. I see why you think that I present Stump as more dogmatic than she is. I should not have implied she is somehow against an open-ended conversation, for she is -- indeed -- responsive to objections and surely does not suggest she offers the final word. One can believe in open-ended conversation, as Stump does (you are, surely, right about that), and yet think that there is (a) a privileged interpretation of a literary/revealed text, and (b) that privileged interpretation can be subsumed within philosophical argument. It's the latter approach, which combines (a-b), to literature/revelation that I discern in Stump and that I object to--even if it is entirely legitimate as theodicy, or cultural rescue operation.

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