Identity, Ontology, and the Two


Identity, Ontology, and the Two / Идентитет, онтологија, и две,” Identities: Journal for Politics, Gender, and Culture. Vol. 13 (2016-2017): 101-136. English & Macedonian. Trans. Jordan Šišovski.

The following investigation examines the ontological concept of identity through the perspectives of several contemporary European philosophers, specifically attending to the critique of binary thinking contained within their critical conceptions of identity. Although poststructuralist discourse has long rejected simplistic either/or thinking about identity, few sustained attempts have been made to understand exactly what role distinctions between-two play in the process of individuation. In response to this need, the following study reviews several existing perspectives on ontological identity (Ricoeur, Düttmann, Adorno, Kolozova, Zupančič, and Rosset), and provides its own, all in order to suggest that the individuation of identities is radically dependent upon the Two.

Postsecular History


Postsecular History: Contemporary Continental Philosophy of Religion and the Seventeenth Century Dutch Collegiant Movement,” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses 46/3 (September 2017): 406-432. DOI: 10.1177/0008429817701707

This study provides a particular historical reading of the postsecular moment. In an effort to problematize and historicize the claims of both the secular and the postsecular, this study draws a connecting line between a contemporary postsecular thinker (Daniel Colucciello Barber), and a group of religious dissidents in the seventeenth century Dutch Republic (the Collegiants). In order to demonstrate that the concept of the secular is value-laden and historically situated, the following will explore the ways in which an historical group shares many epistemological characteristics with present postsecular discourse.

Mennonite Metaphysics?


Mennonite Metaphysics? Exploring the Philosophical Aspects of Mennonite Theology from Pacifist Epistemology to Ontological Peace” Mennonite Quarterly Review 91/3 (July 2017): 403-421.

“There is a certain antithesis between being philosophical and being Mennonite.”
– Ralph C. Kauffman (1943)

This study traces the history of the relationship between Mennonite theology and philosophy from its early stages in the work of Ralph C. Kauffman and Robert Friedmann, through the differing attitudes toward theological resourcing of philosophy in the works of John Howard Yoder and A. James Reimer, to recent efforts to bring Yoder into conversation with contemporary philosophers. The essay first addresses the supposed contradictions between Mennonite identity and philosophy, and then—drawing on the work of J. Lawrence Burkholder, Chris Huebner, and Peter Blum—it explores the ways in which these contradictions are both resolved and sustained in the conjugation of Mennonite peace theology and philosophy that constitutes pacifist epistemology and its extension to ontology in the debate with Radical Orthodoxy. The study concludes with an examination of pacifist epistemology and the debate between Radical Reformation thinking and Radical Orthodoxy.



Robert Friedmann’s Design for Living

Design for Living: Regard, Concern, Service, and Love, by Robert Friedmann. Edited and Introduced by Maxwell Kennel. Preface by Leonard Gross (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2017). Friedman_32051 pre-pub (1)-page-001

“Friedmann writes lucidly, with a free flowing style and above all with keen and empathetic discernment as a man who has cut for himself a broad swath of life and has drunk deeply at its richest sources and overlooks the highest peaks of human aspiration as well as its illusions and pitfalls.” – Clarence Bauman

Written in 1954 but unpublished in his lifetime, Robert Friedmann’s Design for Living asks that pertinent existential question: how should we live? Drawing on literary, philosophical, and theological sources, Friedmann’s answer begins with a critique of utilitarian ethics and popular apathy, and proceeds through an existential preparation that ascends in confessional style to the question of the meaning of human life, culminating in a fourfold set of principles: regard, concern, service, and love. Along the way, Friedmann’s critical eye remains clearly fixed on his object of study – lived experience, and not abstract principles detached from day-to-day life – and he intentionally guides his reader step by step up the mountain of spiritual and ethical inquiry in a deliberate and serious attempt to educate the heart, mind, and soul. At once accessible and scholarly, while troubling our contemporary divide between religion and the secular, Design for Living presents a rare vision of human meaning and purpose that will appeal to scholarly and public readers alike.

Robert Friedmann (1891-1970) was a Mennonite historian known for his work in Mennonite Piety Through the Centuries (1949) and Hutterite Studies (1961), and The Theology of Anabaptism (1973). He taught at Goshen College and Western Michigan University.

Update on Research and Writing



As I come to the end of my PHD course-work there are a few pieces of writing and some works in progress that might be of interest to people who come across this space. The most notable things that come to mind are three articles that will be published at some point this year, each of which represent the culmination of a great deal of time and energy over the past few years. Since I began my masters degree, my research has fallen under three broad banners: a philosophical project on ontology and identity, a project on Mennonite theology and philosophy, and a project on secularity that falls broadly under the domain of religious studies and intellectual history.

Each of these projects overlaps with the other in a different way. For example, the ontology project constructively pursues a nonviolent understanding of identity in such a way that is motivated by the Mennonite project but not limited by it, and the Mennonite project proceeds from assumptions explained in the secularity project. But each are also distinct. The ontology project is philosophical and does not directly draw on any religious texts, while the Mennonite project arises from and critiques my own confessional background. The secularity project bridges the two, looking for shared legitimacies between philosophical and theological epistemologies.

I’m now in the fortunate position to say that each of these projects has resulted in an article-length study (and I have also listed other supporting talks that contribute to each project):

Mennonite Metaphysics


“Mennonite Metaphysics? Exploring the Philosophical Aspects of Mennonite Theology from Pacifist Epistemology to Ontological Peace” Mennonite Quarterly Review XCI/3 (July 2017) 19p.

“A Critique of Ontological Peace: Mennonite Theology and Metaphysics,” Anabaptist Theology: Methods and Practices, Humanitas Anabaptist-Mennonite Centre, TWU. June 7th 2017.

Postsecular History


“Postsecular History: Contemporary Continental Philosophy of Religion and the Seventeenth Century Dutch Collegiant Movement,” Studies in Religion/Sciences Religieuses (2017) 27 p. DOI: 10.1177/0008429817701707 

“Questioning Secularization, History, and Ethics,” A review essay on Radical Secularization? An Inquiry into the Religious Roots of Secular Culture. Ed. Latré et. Al. Society for Contemporary Thought and the Islamicate World/SCTIW Review. (October 2016).

Ontology and Identity


“Identity, Ontology, and the Two / Идентитет, онтологија, и две,” Identities: Journal for Politics, Gender, and Culture. Vol. 13 (2016-2017): 101-136. English and Macedonian. Trans. Jordan Šišovski.

“Being, Dialectics, and Chiasmus” 20 p. Draft. 2017.

My talk at the regional AAR this past April pertains to all three projects, and forms the groundwork for what I hope will become my dissertation proposal.

As always, thanks for your interest!




Hello All,

It’s been nearly a year since I updated this site, and so a few things are in order. I’m happy to say that last Fall I began doctoral studies at McMaster University in the Religious Studies department, and a few pieces of writing have come out since that I’m excited about (most of which are posted on my site). I’m also experimenting with a wixsite, so feel free to take a look here.

Projects mentioned in previous updates continue, along with my coursework, and so I’ll list them below for those who are interested:

– My master’s thesis revision on “Postsecular History” is in the proofs stage with Studies in Religion / Sciences Religieuses and so I’ll post a link here when it’s out on their website.

– The first half of the ontology project I’ve been working at for a few years will be published this month as an article called “Identity, Ontology, and the Two” in Identities: Journal for Politics, Gender and Culture. The PDF should be available shortly and so I’ll post that here when it’s ready. The second half is a bit riskier in its form, and so I’m still looking for a place for it.

– Tomorrow I will give a talk at the Toronto Mennonite Theological Centre called “Mennonite Metaphysics? Exploring a Contradiction” which recaps and furthers my work on the topic since 2013. There’s also an appendix essay on Yoder and ontology that I’m not sure what to do with, but which might end up here.

– Last term I had an interesting course on Nietzsche’s Zarathustra and Augustine’s Confessions, which led to an essay that was fun to write and interesting to research.

– The next Zwickau Press manuscript – Isaiah Ritzmann’s More Than Atonement – is being proofread now and should be launched later this year.

– I’m currently working on editing a manuscript from the Mennonite Archives in Goshen, and I’ll post more details on that as things unfold.

– My future work will surely be on the nonviolent ontology and epistemology that follows from the work I’ve been doing on Mennonites and Metaphysics, and which will probably lead into my dissertation project.

Thanks for checking this space, and good luck out there!



Mennonite Graduate Student Conference VII: Power in Perspective(s)

Hi All,

Looking forward to presenting next week at the Mennonite Graduate Student Conference VII, the theme of which is “Power in Perspective(s).” My paper is called “The Critique of Power: Epistemological Foundations in Modernity,” and there are many more to choose from. The conference schedule and details can be found here.



Projects in Progress

There are a few updates on ongoing work that I thought I should post as 2015 draws to a close.

1. Zwickau Press work has been on hold since Gerald Ens’ book Boundaries Thick and Permeable came out early in 2015 (available for purchase on Amazon). In January I will begin editing Isaiah Ritzmann’s book More Than Atonement: Anabaptist Mennonite Discipleship Ecclesiology and then Chris Brnjas’ book On Idolatry. After these are ready to go we’re hoping to have a launch event at Conrad Grebel University College sometime later in 2016, with all three books for sale, and some time to talk about the content of each book.

2. After much time and energy, application season has come to a close, leaving me with no significant due dates other than a few reviews (Steiner, Thacker, Lacoste, MBK, Romano; and the Reimer review should be out in the next issue of the Conrad Grebel Review). Preparing applications also allowed me to revisit my MTS thesis and my paper on Marion and hermeneutics, both of which I was able to refine as writing samples for different schools. Looking back on both pieces – each written almost eight months ago – I feel like I can now see their limitations more clearly, but also their strengths (more on the future of these pieces of writing as things unfold).

3. I’ve resumed working on Being & Chiasmus and editing each chapter in such a way that brings out the continuity of the book. Chapter 1 is on identity, Chapter 2 is on division, Chapter 3 is on ontological violence, Chapter 4 is on the Two, Chapter 5 is on dialectics, and Chapter 6 is on chiasmus, and I’m trying to ensure that each chapter builds on the previous one in such a way that holds up the ontology of identity I’m trying to develop. As I wait for Punctum to get back to me about review details, I plan to fill out the manuscript a little more by adding sections on Grace Jantzen and Christian Jambet.

4. In January I still want to revisit Notes on the Compendium and add sections on Blanchot, Foucault, Groys, and Lyotard. After that writing project I’m hoping that I can do some work on Mennonite Metaphysics in the summer, and maybe take an online course at AMBS.

5. Soon I’ll submit my abstract for the next TMTC Mennonite grad student conference, “Power in Perspective(s).” I’m torn between my earlier idea called “The Critique of Power: Epistemological Foundations in Modernity,” and an extension of my talk at McMaster that would compare Lowith and Taubes on the connection between Enlightenment progress and Reformation-era chiliasm.

6. And finally, I’m wrapping up the Advent season at Rainham Mennonite Church and contemplating what my final sermon of the year will look like. I’ve been reading Richard Kearney’s work, and I think his concept of Anatheism might make its way into the Christmas sermon next week.

Thanks everyone keeping an eye on this space!


New Projects on the Horizon

Cover Art

There are a few new projects in the works that I should note for those who pass by.

1. Gerald Ens’ book Boundaries Thick and Permeable is available for purchase on Amazon. It’s the first print title offered by Zwickau Press, with more to follow. The next two titles that we aim to release later this year include Isaiah Ritzmann’s book More Than Atonement: Anabaptist Mennonite Discipleship Ecclesiology and Chris Brnjas’ book On Idolatry. Both of these books are in editing right now, and should see a print launch before the end of the calendar year.

2. Having finished up my masters thesis, with a bit more preparation to do for my defense in mid-August, I have returned to work on Being & Chiasmus which is coming along quite nicely (there’ll be sections on Katerina Kolozova, Alexander Garcia Duttmann, Paul Ricoeur, Alenka Zupancic, and Clement Rossett). I just have a handful of expository sections to fill out and then I’ll send it to Punctum for review (remaining sections include Merleau-Ponty on chiasmus and Grace Jantzen on violence). Beyond that, I still have some material that I’d like to transform into the next iteration of Notes on the Compendium (with sections on Blanchot, Foucault, Groys, and Lyotard), but that will have to wait for September. After that, I want to take the year to read and write a new draft of Mennonite Metaphysics, but that’s a ways down the road.

3. A short piece I wrote for the FDTF will soon be published, in revised form, in the new issue of Vision: A Journal for Church and Theology. It’s called “Technology in the life of faith: A call for critical engagement”. And beyond that I have two conference papers out with reviewers (or close to it) – one on Mennonites and literature, and the other on phenomenology and hermeneutics.

4. My reviews of Francois Laruelle, Intellectuals and Power, Sam Steiner, In Search of Promised Lands, and A. James Reimer, Toward an Anabaptist Political Theology should each be submitted in the coming few months.

5. In the Fall I’ll present a paper called “The Secular, Secularism, and Secularization: A Conceptual Constellation” at the McMaster University Graduate Conference on Religion and Law on October 17-18. This presentation will expand upon part of the fourth chapter of my masters thesis, with a few more flourishes, and some Karl Lowith and Carl Schmitt.

6. For next year, from June 2-4 the next TMTC Mennonite grad student conference, on “Power in Perspective(s),” is being held at AMBS, and I’m hoping to submit a paper called “The Critique of Power: Epistemological Foundations in Modernity.” I’d like to have some fun with this one and use parts of Boris Groys’ On the New and Francois Hartog’s Regimes of Historicity to show how the critique of power often assumes a subject that can absent itself from all formation (by others, by institutions, by society, etc.). Still thinking about that one…

7. This year I’ll be preaching at Rainham Mennonite Church near Selkirk, and I’m excited to learn more about the 220 year history of the congregation. The June 2011 issue of Ontario Mennonite History (PDF) has a history of Rainham Mennonite in it, but I’d be curious if there are other resources out there (besides the Steiner and Burkholder books). If anyone has any thoughts feel free to send them on.

8. Feel free to email me if you have thoughts about any of the above, or if you know of future manuscripts for Zwickau Press. I’ll continue to post updates on these projects here, and I think that the genre of posts here will continue to be the same: brief updates on my writing projects, rather than reflection pieces. Thanks for reading and checking in!