Thank you, Taryn and Steve, for your kind words in comments to my previous post. As for favorite Connolly reads, maybe its like arguing over barbecue. We could argue over Kansas City versus East Carolina sauces, but why fight over multiple riches?
Chapter Four of Identity/Difference is a marvelous read, especially as Connolly cautions against the cruel drive to attribute responsibility for trauma which Christians, among others, are often tempted towards (Augustine, for example, suggesting that the women raped during the sack of Rome may have been too haughty and thus were being 'humbled' by God!)
What really won me over to Connolly was his remarkable response to a critique of his reading of Augustine by the feminist theologian Kathleen Roberts Skerrett. Rather than repeat the obvious criticisms of Augustine, which it is all too easy to do, (see above), he acknowledged his own tendency to over-react to Augustine, as well as the way in which his 'agonistic respect' for the African bishop was something very important to his own work.
Here is militant pluralism at work, in which Connolly senses that in Augustine's doctrine of grace, there is a note of the tragic which resonates significantly with his own views. (Skerrett too has a profound theology of mourning in her work drawing on Augustine) Here's where Connolly's recent work on the fragility of things seems very significant to me, as it is here that we can begin to draw connections with our opponents, as we witness their own and our vulnerabilities intermingle.
Connolly is also, in spite of his spirited critique of right wing evangelicalism, a wonderful resource for evangelicals with both environmental interests and a desire to engage the interface of theology and science. His indebtedness to Stuart Kauffman's book Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion is deep, and his critique of secularism and defense of the role of religious voices in democratic movements in Why I am Not a Secularist is brilliant.
Finally, Connolly has something I for one think cannot be underestimated in a philosopher: a wicked sense of humor. Here's his barb at members of his own guild, political science, for their hand-wringing over 'events' like the recent Arab Spring whose emergence caught them entirely by surprise:
“How come we did not predict this?”, whisper political scientists to each other, before they catch themselves enough to recall that they only promise to predict hypothetical events under conditions in which the “variables” are strictly specified, not to explain actual events in the messy, ongoing actualities of triggering forces, contagious actions, complex and floating conflicts, obscure purposes, subterranean anxieties, and contending hopes. But why do so many remain committed to these protective maneuvers in the domains of the intelligence, the media, political leadership and the human sciences? Do they demand a world in which they can be in charge so much they are hesitant to sink into the messy reality of things underway?
...Many practitioners of the human sciences increasingly believe that proponents of classical practitioners of quantitative, predictive inquiry in those sciences simplify the world to make it clean enough for them to use their preset categories and demands. Maybe when they played in the mud as young boys their mothers called them in too soon to wash up.
May Connolly's militant pluralistic tribe increase!