Miracle and Machine is a sort of “reader’s guide” to Jacques Derrida’s 1994–95 essay “faith and knowledge,” his most important work on the nature of religion in general and on the unprecedented forms it is taking today through science and the media. It provides essential background for understanding Derrida’s essay, commentary on its unique style and its central figures (e.g., Kant, Hegel, Bergson, and Heidegger), and assessment of its principal philosophical claims about the fundamental duplicity of religion and the ineluctably
autoimmune relationship among religion, science, and the media. Along the way it offers in-depth analysis of Derrida’s treatment of everything from the nature of religious revelation, faith, prayer, sacrifice, testimony, messianicity, fundamentalism, and secularism to the way religion is today being transformed by globalization,
technoscience, and worldwide telecommunications networks.
But Miracle and Machine is much more than a commentary on a single Derrida text. Through references to scores of other works by Derrida, both early and late, it also provides a unique introduction to Derrida’s work in general. It demonstrates that one of the very best ways to understand the terms, themes, claims, strategies, and motivations of Derridean deconstruction from the early 1960s through 2004 is to read critically and patiently, in its spirit and in its letter, an exemplary text such as “Faith and Knowledge.” Finally, Miracle and Machine attempts to put Derrida’s ideas about religion to the test by reading alongside “Faith and Knowledge” an already classic work of American fiction that is more or less contemporaneous with it, Don DeLillo’s 1997 Underworld, a novel that explores the same relationship between faith and knowledge, religion and science, religious revelation and the World Wide Web, messianicity, and weapons of mass destruction—in a word, in two words, miracles and machines.