Fackenheim's Jewish Philosophy

Fackenheim's Jewish Philosophy: An Introduction

MICHAEL L. MORGAN
Copyright Date: 2013
Pages: 416
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.3138/j.ctt5hjv62
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  • Book Info
    Fackenheim's Jewish Philosophy
    Book Description:

    Fackenheim's Jewish Philosophyexplores the most important themes of Fackenheim's philosophical and religious thought and how these remained central, if not always in immutable ways, over his entire career.

    eISBN: 978-1-4426-6049-6
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-2)
  4. Introduction
    (pp. 3-12)

    What is Jewish philosophy? There is no answer to this question that does not consider the relationship between the attempt to articulate the meaning of Jewish existence and the historical situation in which that attempt has taken place – that is, that does not appreciate that Judaism is a very particular historical phenomenon of great complexity and richness. In view of this fact, it is a commonplace to some that the very expression ʺJewish philosophyʺ incorporates a tension between what philosophy aspires to and what Judaism is, between the universal and the particular. However, if we understand philosophy as itself...

  5. 1 Can There Be Judaism without Revelation?
    (pp. 13-33)

    In his earliest essay in Jewish theology, Fackenheim writes that the relation with God is central to what Judaism is and to why remaining Jewish is justified. That essay, a reaction to a liberal reading of the Akedah, appeared inCommentaryin 1948 and was Fackenheimʹs first in a series of efforts to argue that Judaism required a commitment to the actuality of divine revelation in history and to the possibility of revelation in the present.¹ This was a hallmark of his philosophical and theological thinking in the postwar years, from 1948 through 1965: that revelation is necessary for Judaism....

  6. 2 Selfhood and Freedom: From Situated Agency to the Hermeneutical Self
    (pp. 34-58)

    Fackenheim praises the ʺreturn to revelationʺ in German philosophy and religious thought that took place during the decade of the First World War and in the Weimar years, and he takes himself to be part of the development of this movement in North America in the postwar period. The hallmarks of this return, as he sees them, are the formulation of a concept of revelation as an incursion of the divine into the world and into history, and the event of divine–human encounter. As we have seen, this concept of revelation, which Fackenheim develops in his own way, has...

  7. 3 Philosophy after Auschwitz: The Primacy of the Ethical
    (pp. 59-81)

    I like to think that philosophy and the Western philosophical tradition begin historically with Plato. This is controversial. Most often, historians date the origins of Western philosophy to Anaximander, in Milesia, or perhaps even to Thales, if one takes him to have been a real person and not simply a mythic figure or a subject of folklore. And even if one does not take these early ʺPre-Socraticsʺ and those who followed them to be philosophers but ratherphysikoi, physical thinkers, one might still date philosophy from Pythagoras, who purportedly invented the term, or from Socrates, who was known by the...

  8. 4 Fackenheim and Kant
    (pp. 82-129)

    Although Fackenheimʹs doctoral dissertation dealt with medieval Arabic philosophy and themes that go back to Aristotle and Plotinus, his primary philosophical engagement throughout his career was with German philosophy.¹ To be sure, he was a student of a variety of central figures in the Western philosophical tradition, from Plato and Aristotle to Spinoza and Kierkegaard, but above all, Fackenheim developed his own Jewish and philosophical views in conversation with Kant, Schelling, Hegel, and Heidegger. A comprehensive understanding of that conversation would require a book, much more than we can consider here. But for our purposes, some discussion is nonetheless mandatory...

  9. 5 The Hegelian Dimension in Fackenheimʹs Thought
    (pp. 130-168)

    Late in life, in two documents, Fackenheim recalled his earliest encounters with Hegelʹs philosophy. The first came on a Saturday night in 1937 or 1938, at the home of Arnold Metzger, a former assistant of Edmund Husserl who was teaching at theHochschuleand who had invited a group of promising students to study together.¹ There he was introduced to the Preface of HegelʹsPhenomenology, and while he understood little of what was said, he came away, he says, ʺthinking that if I ever am to understand philosophy, I must understand thePhaenomenologiefor, as Metzger put it, in that...

  10. 6 Politics, Messianism, and the State of Israel: Fackenheimʹs Early Post-Holocaust Thoughts about Zionism
    (pp. 169-185)

    If Judaism is a way of life, the beliefs that frame it and the norms that guide it must take up what the Jew understands Judaism to be. We have already discussed the concept that for Fackenheim is central to that understanding, and how Judaism arises out of the divine–human relationship. That concept is revelation. At any given moment, moreover, Jews are called upon to act, and their actions not only are shaped and perhaps dictated by norms, however they are conceived, but also are placed in a philosophy of history. The concept that best reveals that philosophy is...

  11. 7 History and Thought: Meaning and Dialectic
    (pp. 186-218)

    From the 1950s through his initial reflections on the ʺepoch-makingʺ character of the Nazi atrocities, Fackenheim thought deeply about the relationship between thought – especially philosophy and religious thought – and history or human experience and conduct. In his Aquinas Lecture at Marquette University, ʺMetaphysics and Historicity,ʺ he asked whether a conception of human selfhood as historically situated self-making and self-discovery could nonetheless still allow for philosophical transcendence. The lecture was surely a high point in his reflections on these issues. But this was by no means his only discussion of them. Indeed, the question of whether philosophical and religious...

  12. 8 The Midrash and Its Framework: Before and After Auschwitz
    (pp. 219-246)

    InAn Epitaph for German Judaism: From Halle to Jerusalem, his memoir, published in 2007, Fackenheim introduces the first teacher at theHochschulewhom he met in Berlin in 1935, Leo Baeck. He praises Baeckʹs character and recalls the awe he felt upon first meeting him. He also acknowledges him as his ʺmain inspiration.ʺ Baeck taught both midrash and homiletics, and, Fackenheim recalls, his ʺfavorite theological expression wasdas Zwiefache[the twofold],ʺ the ʺmain manifestation [of which] in Judaism wasGeheimnis und Gebot(mystery and commandment) … He did not make ʹmoral autonomyʹ absolute, alone, by itself … For Baeck,...

  13. 9 Finding a Philosophical Voice
    (pp. 247-292)

    Some readers have noticed that with his engagement with the horrors of Nazi Germany and the death camps and his emerging commitment to the State of Israel, Fackenheimʹs prose became intense, passionate, and highly rhetorical. Some have even claimed that at this point – in the late 1960s – he abandoned philosophy for something else, literature or rhetoric.¹ I have argued in earlier chapters that central concepts in Fackenheimʹs philosophical repertoire remained stable throughout his career, while others underwent interesting developments. One concept that exhibited both features – continuity and modification – was his very conception of philosophical thinking. Moreover,...

  14. 10 Fackenheimʹs Legacy: Resources for Mending the World
    (pp. 293-312)

    It is about a decade since Fackenheim passed away in Jerusalem. Is it too early to attempt to assess his significance and to consider his legacy? And if we do want to ask what his legacy is, what he has passed on that is valuable and important, ought we not first to ask what kind of legacy we have in mind and whom its recipients might be? If we want to ask what is living and what is dead in his writings and in his thought, for whom is this question being asked?

    Some years ago, on a visit to...

  15. Notes
    (pp. 313-374)
  16. Index
    (pp. 375-399)