Correlations in Rosenzweig and Levinas

Correlations in Rosenzweig and Levinas

Robert Gibbs
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 293
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  • Book Info
    Correlations in Rosenzweig and Levinas
    Book Description:

    Robert Gibbs radically revises standard interpretations of the two key figures of modern Jewish philosophy--Franz Rosenzweig, author of the monumentalStar of Redemption, and Emmanuel Levinas, a major voice in contemporary intellectual life, who has inspired such thinkers as Derrida, Lyotard, Irigaray, and Blanchot. Rosenzweig and Levinas thought in relation to different philosophical schools and wrote in disparate styles. Their personal relations to Judaism and Christianity were markedly dissimilar. To Gibbs, however, the two thinkers possess basic affinities with each other. The book offers important insights into how philosophy is continually being altered by its encounter with other traditions.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-2082-5
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

  1. (pp. 3-16)

    Ever since Hegel proclaimed himself to be the end of philosophy, philosophy has been resurrected in a strange, almost Hegelian, dialectical move. A thinker claims that something stands outside philosophy and so refuses the systematic logic that thinks everything. Philosophy sits rejected and chastened by this recourse to something other than itself. But this very effort to stand outside philosophy, independent of reason’s empire, produces a new point of orientation for philosophy. The existing self, or everyday language, or the written text, or the will to power, or “the body,” or . . . produce new philosophies: philosophy of the...

  2. (pp. 17-33)

    The reciprocal relation between Judaism and philosophy in the works of Rosenzweig and Levinas requires some preliminary definition. To call it simply correlation is to gesture to a wide spectrum of possible relations. In this chapter I will identify the specific correlation between the two bodies of thought. Moreover, I will attempt to overcome the explicit and original resistance each thinker would have to my double claim. Levinas refuses the appelation “Jewish Thinker,” and Rosenzweig claimed to have moved beyond philosophy. By sketching a family portrait of Hermann Cohen, Rosenzweig, and Levinas, I can offer the preliminary perspective of this...

  3. (pp. 34-56)

    The proponents of the others that stand outside the grasp of philosophy are compelled to mark its limits. They reject the quest for total knowledge, and their resource is what cannot be known. We live in a time when the goal of encyclopedic knowledge, of a progressive discovery of all knowledge guided by a fully grounded method, seems obsolete. Due to regular announcements that we “do not know,” philosophy appears to have reached its conclusion. We do not know what humanity is. We do not know God. We do not know what our world should be. We do not even...

  4. (pp. 57-79)

    When Rosenzweig reconstructs the philosophical task in Part I ofThe Star of Redemption, he intends a parallel reconstruction of theology in Part II. Theology also entered this century in crisis. On the one side we are threatened by the culmination of a tradition of religious thought that has elevated and isolated inward experience to the exclusion of all expression, all habit, and all communication; on the other side an equally threatening wall of water crests above us with its meager rationalism. And for better or worse, both waves are almost spent: the inwardness of religious experience (or ‘existential’ experience,...

  5. (pp. 80-104)

    The presentation of Rosenzweig’s grammar of revelation does not itself resolve the serious problems in philosophy of language. My purpose in presenting the grammar within the contexts only of performance and of grammar was to provide a base of interpretation from which we now can consider the key claims that Rosenzweig makes about this view of language. In examining those claims, Rosenzweig’s analysis will intersect with several general questions about language, offering indications of how he can contribute to contemporary conversation.

    The first task in this chapter will be to see how it is possible for spoken words to have...

  6. (pp. 105-128)

    While the move from logic to speech clearly broached the walls of pure reason with the admission of experience, the full relation of reason and empiricism in Rosenzweig’sStar of Redemptionrequires a further step: a move into a futural verification of theology. Such a verification is not a testing of a hypothesis, but is rather a transformation of reality. The sphere for that transformation is society, because redemption will occur in the social world; the science for verification, therefore, is sociology. In Part III ofThe Star of Redemption,Rosenzweig produces a social theory of prescription, a theory that...

  7. (pp. 129-154)

    While several of the methodological issues in Rosenzweig’s social theory are now resolved, the specific claims that he makes about society in general, and about Jewish and Christian societies in particular, await exposition. The guiding light for that exposition is the first topic of my discussion of sociology: the importance of eternity. Social theory will be split into two different ways of making eternity take place in time. Both in a nontheological context, where the social realm disregards the theological concepts of Creation, Revelation, and Redemption, and in the specific theological communities of Judaism and Christianity, society’s practices and structures...

  8. (pp. 155-175)

    In this chapter I turn to the works of Levinas. The sequence of topics in the following chapters parallels the sequence in the first part of the book: from the question of correlation to the logic of separation; to the performance of speech; and finally to social theory. Rosenzweig has presented these topics systematically inThe Star of Redemption,allowing me the direct approach of interpreting his book. For Levinas these topics require a quite different approach, because he has struggled to avoid appearing as a Jewish theologian, even one as philosophical as Rosenzweig. The manner of proceeding will be...

  9. (pp. 176-191)

    Levinas and Rosenzweig intensify ethics by focusing on the interpersonal relationship between myself and an other. Their thought derives from the claim that this concrete situation of myself and another cannot be reduced to a relationship that could be grasped by pure reason. All the more striking, then, is the almost paradoxical parallels with one of the last great pure rationalists: Hermann Cohen. In this chapter I will explore the striking similarities between Cohen’s and Levinas’ accounts of my extreme responsibility. Those accounts focus on the uniqueness of the other person and on my unique, inalienable responsibility for that person....

  10. (pp. 192-228)

    The logic of uniqueness displaces the focus of our thought from the self to the other. But responsibility requires a self who retains at least the capacity to respond. In the currents of postmodernism, the modern philosophical subject seems adrift, if not already drowned and vanished. Can any sense still be made of the concept of responsibility without such a subject? Can ethics survive the fracturing, de-centering, deconstructing of the self?

    It is ironic that, long before the current hubbub called postmodernism, the de-centered self was already discovered—and in an explicitly ethical context. Dialogical philosophers found that interpersonal ethics...

  11. (pp. 229-254)

    Liberation is not a private affair. It is not consummated in an intimate relationship of two people. Even less is liberation a purely personal accomplishment. In opposition to a long tradition of ethics focusing on the perfection of the single individual, a philosophy of liberation is always social—looking at individuals in society, in communities. Liberation is not a flight from society, but a restructuring or a reorienting of human interrelationships and of society. But to invoke this social sphere need not be to dissolve the responsibilities of individuals, to absorb the individual person into a group. Totalizing over the...

  12. (pp. 255-260)

    To conclude this book I would like to list an agenda of seven rubrics for contemporary Jewish philosophy. This list both presents a sketch of a family portrait, calling attention to certain key family resemblances, and in addition offers a regulative ideal for what Jewish philosophy should struggle to approach. Coming as a conclusion, this list can hardly be considered established or proven by the discussion in these pages, but, on the other hand, I believe that a reading of this book should produce at least the plausibility of this agenda.

    This ideal agenda is not simply a summary of...