Donate Judaism is not the acceptance of a doctrine, of a religion and its rituals. There may be times when this reality is obscured by the manifold and colorful reality of the nations among whom the Jew lives. But even hidden, it remains real and mysteriously active, and there may come a time when the blessed gift, the heavy burden of its confirmation, is bestowed upon those born into it. Franz Rosenzweig, 11 years old, said to a teacher he wanted "to learn Hebrew properly". I like to observe some of the customs - without any real reason … I like to think in the images of the biblical story. Rosenzweig wrote to his own parents: "We are Christians in all things, we live in a Christian state, go to Christian schools, read Christian books, our whole culture is based on a Christian foundation.
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Personal and Intellectual Development Rosenzweig was born in , and grew up as the only child of Georg and Adele Rosenzweig, in an intellectually and culturally vibrant, assimilated Jewish home in Kassel.
The University of Freiburg was one of the centers of the Southwest school of neo-Kantianism at the time, and Rosenzweig studied philosophy there with Heinrich Rickert and Jonas Cohn, and history with Friedrich Meinecke.
Together, the young Rosenzweig believed, these up-and-coming intellectuals would reconcile in science their respective subjectivity with the objectivity of their time. But the first, and what would end up being the only meeting of the society, appears to have been an abysmal failure precisely because the historians who came to the meeting—most of whom were, like Rosenzweig, students of Meinecke—could in no way stomach the kind of sweeping, metaphysical account of history leading up to the present that Rosenzweig sought to revive.
The Baden-Baden Gesellschaft dissolved as quickly as it was formed. The failure of the Baden-Baden experiment led Rosenzweig to reach what he took to be an important conclusion: the individualism of contemporary culture and the specialization of contemporary science were not to be dissolved in an intellectual-spiritual unity of the present. Here he gathered the material for what would eventually be his two-volume work, Hegel und der Staat.
Rosenzweig earned his PhD in the summer of for part of this work, and the book was nearly completed before the outbreak of the First World War, but Rosenzweig would only come to publish it in But he at once finds the confidence in the state which Hegel bequeathed to later nationalist thinkers—a confidence in the state as the locus of personal or national fulfillment, respectively—to have contributed to both the rise and the fall of the Bismarckian Reich.
For it introduces to its readers a Hegel whose reflections on selfhood, politics, and history are remarkably diverse, and hence available for appropriation in remarkably diverse directions. J Schelling. In all likelihood, surmised Rosenzweig, Schelling had sent or shown an original version of the text to Hegel, who, in turn, had copied it over for future perusal.
There, while still conducting his research on Hegel, he studied mathematics and jurisprudence, and began what was to become a close friendship with a young lecturer in jurisprudence, Eugen Rosenstock.
The two began to meet regularly to discuss philosophical and theological matters. Three months later, having returned to Berlin in October of , Rosenzweig reversed his decision, this as a result of a new conception of Judaism which would remain central to his thought for the rest of his life. Through its mission of neighborly love, Rosenzweig continued to maintain, Christianity carries out the redemptive realization of unity in the world.
The Jewish people lives in large part closed off from the rest of the world; but in its insular communal life, Rosenzweig now claims, it anticipates the ultimate redemption, and thereby represents to the rest of the world the goal they must ever pursue. Having arrived at a manner of grasping the reconciliation of the self and the world in history that was common to Christianity and Judaism, Rosenzweig no longer saw himself compelled to convert, and instead committed himself to a return to the Judaism that was his by birth.
In the month before his death, furthermore, Cohen allowed Rosenzweig to read the proofs to his last great work, Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism, published after his death, in Such theology, Rosenzweig argued, reduced the divine to no more than a human projection.
In lieu of such contemporary trends, Rosenzweig insists that theology in his time cannot avoid taking seriously the notion of revelation: the notion that God, transcendent to and independent of the human being in the world, at once enters into relation with the human being in the world.
Indeed, Rosenzweig claims here that only by taking the transcendence and at once the revelation of God seriously—rather than reducing the divine to an expression of a Jewish life force—can we grasp the split the human being experiences in history, between his personal self-realization and the realization of the world.
In it, Rosenzweig presents the history of the shifting geographic landscape of political power in the world, from the Roman Empire to the present, as the gradual realization of the unity of the globe. The current war, Rosenzweig suggests, pits three world empires against one another to decide which will guide the globe towards its ultimate unification.
The New Thinking In a series of correspondences during the war, Rosenzweig also began to formulate those basic philosophical ideas that would govern his most important works. Here Rosenzweig articulated a critique of the philosophical tradition culminating in German Idealism, and along with it a positive vision of the direction philosophy and theology, in tandem, should take in his time. Rosenzweig understood himself to be living at a transitional moment in the history of philosophy.
In so doing, however, they at once brought to light tendencies of the philosophical tradition that prevented its representatives from achieving the very knowledge they set out to attain. In their quest to grasp what is universally and essentially true, philosophers abstract from the temporal, relational context in which human beings experience the world around them.
This abstraction that points to what things are essentially, Rosenzweig suggests, cannot yield knowledge of things as they are. Indeed, such knowing, according to Rosenzweig, takes the pathological case—the case of a being stripped of the very temporal and relational qualities that allow it to be the way it is—as what is normal, or as the ideal against which our experience must be measured.
Reductive reasoning. The attempt to grasp what things are essentially inclines the old thinking to reason out a single ground for all beings, thereby reducing particular beings to something other than what they are. Our everyday experience confirms for us, Rosenzweig claims, the fundamental difference between divine, worldly, and personal beings.
But over the course of the philosophical tradition, philosophers have repeatedly sought to reduce these three objects of special metaphysics one to the other, rather than to take each up as independent and irreducible. Thinking from the Absolute standpoint. But even if one were to grant the philosopher the possibility of seeing things from the standpoint of the Absolute, such a standpoint would take away from the philosopher the very unique outlook on the actual world which she possesses as individual.
She does not transcend her individual, finite standpoint in order to attain a standpoint that would pretend to be Absolute. For only in such thinkers, Rosenzweig claimed, did the individual first cease to be a negligible quantity for philosophy. The new thinker takes the temporal character of human experience seriously. Our temporal experience is stamped, Rosenzweig suggests, by past, present, and future, and thus our knowledge of the actual is mediated through these tenses of time.
Before one even begins to philosophize, one finds oneself in a world that is already there; thus the new thinker relates to the things of the world through the prism of the past. The human being experiences her own selfhood as categorically present, and thus the new thinker relates to her own self and to the call to selfhood she experiences as present.
From out of the presence of selfhood, the human being opens up into relations with others, and the new thinker relates to those ultimate aims which she shares with these others as future.
In its emphasis on temporality, Rosenzweig contends, the new thinking breaks away from assumptions about the nature of truth that dominate the philosophical tradition.
According to Rosenzweig, if thinking according to reason alone runs the risk of reducing all that is to a single ground, it is speech whose fundamental link to the actuality of our temporal experience can serve to temper the reductive excesses of reason. We articulate our experience of time through the tenses of our spoken language; through language we name the things around us; and it is the spoken word through which we enter into actual relations with others.
Rosenzweig understands the new thinking to have been made possible for philosophy, in part, by a turn towards theology. Indeed, Rosenzweig suggests that the new philosophical approach towards understanding the nature of beings which the new thinking proposes—to wit, that our access to knowledge about beings comes not primarily through an inquiry into what beings are essentially but rather through serious consideration of the nexus of temporal relations in which we experience such beings—rests on an insight that is theological at its root.
That is to say, the theology in which Rosenzweig is interested assumes the independent, irreducible reality of God, world, and self, and accounts for the actuality we experience through the relations between these beings. Taking this theological insight as his lead, Rosenzweig proceeds to label the very threefold temporal experience of actuality through which the new thinking grasps the nexus of relations between beings with theological categories: our experience of the things of the world as already being there in the moment we awaken to our selves is the experience theology describes through its category of creation and understands as rooted in a relation between the world of things and its divine creator; our experience of being awoken or called to selfhood in the present moment is the experience theology describes through its category of revelation and understands as the divine call to the human self; our experience of the ultimate goal we share with other beings, which we anticipate as future, is the experience theology describes through its category of redemption and understands as the vocation placed upon human beings in the world by the divine.
The Star of Redemption Rosenzweig spent the last months of the war in and out of military hospitals for bouts of influenza, pneumonia, and malaria. At the end of August, , he began writing The Star of Redemption and sending what he wrote back home to his mother on military postcards. After the war ended, he returned home first to Kassel, and then to Freiburg, devoting himself entirely to writing.
He finished the Star in the middle of February, One might suggest that Rosenzweig shares with the German Idealists the conviction that the fundamental questions human beings ask—including those questions about the relationship between the individual self and the whole of the world which perplexed Rosenzweig during his own personal and intellectual development—can only find their grounded answers within the context of a philosophical system. The Star is such a multi-faceted work, however, that generations of readers have discovered in it myriad philosophical insights which far outspan its systematic aspirations.
The book offers a rich account of the temporal situatedness of the human being, and suggests that the actuality we experience can only be understood through the tenses of past, present, and future. The Star works out its own aesthetics and history of art. At the center of this speech-thinking is a philosophy of dialogue which traces the awakening of selfhood through an I-You relation into which the self is called by the Absolute other.
It offers a series of interpretations of Biblical texts meant to evoke the uniqueness of the Bible as a written text which nevertheless makes it possible to hear the divine word. The Star presents Judaism and Christianity as communal forms whose institutions and liturgical calendar enable human beings to bring eternity into time.
And the book includes within it a sweeping history of religion and philosophy, politics and culture, from ancient times to the present. In short, much like the systems of German Idealism, the Star offers the reader numerous points of access; but all these points of access are meant to hold together within a single overarching vision of truth and the path to it. Committed as Rosenzweig remains, in the Star, to this systematic task, he breaks from German Idealism perhaps most dramatically in the standpoint out of which he insists systematic knowledge is to be attained.
In the systems of German Idealism, the philosopher seeks to attain the standpoint of the Absolute—the very Absolute out of which all particular beings are understood to have unfolded dialectically. According to Rosenzweig, such Absolute Idealism fails to grasp particulars in their particularity, because it assumes the fundamental unity of all particulars within the Absolute from the start.
Only a proper recognition of the unique character of the individual mortal human being holds the promise for systematic knowledge. The Star is a disorienting work in many ways. Keeping in mind the overall structure of the book can do much to help keep the reader from getting lost while reading it. The three books of the first part of the Star present philosophical constructions of what Rosenzweig asserts to be the three fundamental kinds of beings—God, world, self—as the elements out of which the system will be realized.
The three books of the second part introduce the course along which God, world, and self enter into relations among themselves that advance towards unity, relations Rosenzweig denotes through the theological notions of creation, revelation, and redemption. The third part of the book inquires into the possibility of envisioning that figure of the star, in its redemptive unity, whose construction out of the elements along their course the reader has followed in the first and second parts of the book.
The most important of these insights are the following: Rosenzweig locates in the fear of death the source of the awareness of the basic split between selfhood and worldliness which had perplexed him at least since his university years. In serious contemplation of death, Rosenzweig suggests, one experiences nothingness in a particular, and particularly immediate fashion.
Moreover, Rosenzweig devotes considerable attention to the particular quality of the nothingness experienced in the fear of death. The particularity of nothingness over which the human being hovers in the fear of death leads Rosenzweig to critique the starting points of the systems of German Idealism and to suggest his own alternative to them. However, Rosenzweig reasons, particulars that are ultimately the dialectical product of absolute unity cannot be said to be particulars at all. The particularity of nothingness experienced in the fear of death thus leads Rosenzweig to take up a starting point in difference.
Every particular kind of being must be taken up as derived from its own particular nothing, rather than as rooted ultimately in a common unity. Censuring the tendency of the philosophical tradition, once again, to reduce the three domains of special metaphysics one to the other—to reduce selfhood and world to manifestations of the divine, or the divine and the self to aspects of the cosmos, or the divine and the external world to products of the human mind—Rosenzweig takes up each of these three different kinds of beings as having generated itself out of its own particular nothing.
Taking its lead from the particularity of nothing revealed in the fear of death, the first part of the Star thus begins by constructing the particular respective being of God, world, and self each out of its own particular nothing. The differential models for Rosenzweig the possibility of generating something from nothing—when that nothing is a determinate nothing, rather than a nothing conceived as absolute.
But in order to make sense of what Rosenzweig aims to achieve through his constructions of the elemental God, world, and self in the first part of the Star, it is helpful to consider the kinds of qualities Rosenzweig identifies with the affirmative and negative paths, respectively, which emerge out of each particular nothing and merge together in each respective element.
Thus it is infinite being Yes and freedom No which fuse together in the self-generation of the elemental God; the presence of logos Yes and the vital plenitude of particulars No that fuse together to form the elemental world; enduring character Yes and free will No that unite within the elemental self.
Thus eschewing the tendency of the philosophical tradition to root all beings in a single, unconditioned ground, Rosenzweig begins the Star by showing how all particular beings—divine, worldly, personal—can be understood as generating themselves each out of its own particular nothing. As Rosenzweig proceeds to argue, in the second part of the Star, the actuality we experience is born of the relations between God, world, and selves.
That is to say, the actuality we experience is not to be understood as rooted in an original metaphysical unity, but rather in the relations between particulars each of which generates itself out of its own nothing.
Rosenzweig designates the divine turning into relation with the world as creation; the divine turning into relation with the individual self as revelation; and the turning of the self into loving relation with the world as redemption. How we are to understand the beginning of this chain of relations—i. But Rosenzweig also makes it clear that particular beings need to step into relations with one another precisely in order to realize themselves as what they are.
God does not actually become the God he is elementally until he realizes divine freedom in the grounding of the existence of the world in creation, and until he receives human recognition for his divine being through revelation. The world does not actually become the world it is elementally until it receives its essential grounding from the divine in creation, and until its particulars attain to their own vital self-determination in redemption. The self does not actually become what it is elementally until it is awoken to its free I-hood through revelation, and until it realizes its freedom in its turning in love to the world in redemption.
Now, in order for each element to fulfill itself through its relations to its others, Rosenzweig asserts, each must undergo a certain transformation.
Rosenzweig here draws methodological consequences from the very notion of revelation itself. Relations between elements are constituted, then, when, e. Indeed, the Star locates the unity, posited by the German Idealists at the beginning of their systems, in the redemptive conclusion of its systematic course. The course God, world, and self take into relations through the second part of the Star, according to Rosenzweig, generates the actuality which we experience.
The Star of Redemption, by Franz Rosenzweig
The Star of Redemption. Translated from the second edition of by William H. Foreword by N. To anyone even remotely interested in 20th-century Jewish thought the name of Franz Rosenzweig has long been familiar, as are the outlines of his extraordinary life. Born into a cultured, assimilated Jewish family in Kassel, Rosenzweig received only the most rudimentary Jewish education. His interests lay outside Judaism: first in medicine, then European intellectual history, philosophy, literature.
The Star of Redemption
Believe it or not, one of the most daring and original Jewish thinkers of the 20th century, Franz Rosenzweig — did just that. All of us have had a conversation that altered the course of our lives, maybe it was even an all-night conversation—but could it be construed as causing a minor miraculous moment of our lives? I suggest that this is what was happening in while Rosenzweig finds himself in Leipzig as he continues to follow his passion of philosophy while also studying math and law. His quest for all types of knowledge was insatiable, so that in his law lectures, Rosenzweig becomes close friends with his lecturer in jurisprudence, Eugen Rosenstock-Huessy. As passionate, budding philosophers these two begin schmoozing regularly over the following question: how can our radical selfhood be reconciled with our grasp of the world?