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Rosenzweig and Heidegger

Rosenzweig and Heidegger: Between Judaism and German Philosophy

Peter Eli Gordon
Copyright Date: 2003
Edition: 1
Pages: 357
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  • Book Info
    Rosenzweig and Heidegger
    Book Description:

    Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1929) is widely regarded today as one of the most original and intellectually challenging figures within the so-called renaissance of German-Jewish thought in the Weimar period. The architect of a unique kind of existential theology, and an important influence upon such philosophers as Walter Benjamin, Martin Buber, Leo Strauss, and Emmanuel Levinas, Rosenzweig is remembered chiefly as a "Jewish thinker," often to the neglect of his broader philosophical concerns. Cutting across the artificial divide that the traumatic memory of National Socialism has drawn between German and Jewish philosophy, this book seeks to restore Rosenzweig's thought to the German philosophical horizon in which it first took shape. It is the first English-language study to explore Rosenzweig's enduring debt to Hegel's political theory, neo-Kantianism, and life-philosophy; the book also provides a new, systematic reading of Rosenzweig's major work,The Star of Redemption.Most of all, the book sets out to explore a surprising but deep affinity between Rosenzweig's thought and that of his contemporary, the German philosopher Martin Heidegger. Resisting both apologetics and condemnation, Gordon suggests that Heidegger's engagement with Nazism should not obscure the profound and intellectually compelling bond in the once-shared tradition of modern German and Jewish thought. A remarkably lucid discussion of two notably difficult thinkers, this book represents an eloquent attempt to bridge the forced distinction between modern Jewish thought and the history of modern German philosophy-and to show that such a distinction cannot be sustained without doing violence to both.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-93240-1
    Subjects: Philosophy

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-viii)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. ix-x)
    (pp. xi-xvi)
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
    (pp. xix-xxx)
  6. Introduction: Germans, Jews, and the Transformation of Weimar Philosophy
    (pp. 1-38)

    What Franz Marc once said of the history of art may apply to the history of ideas as well.¹ There is arguably no such objective thing as the philosophical tradition, aside from those constructions that various philosophers have fashioned from a heterogeneous manifold of ideas. Indeed, one might say that the history of philosophy consists to no small degree in philosophers’ repeated attempts to imagine what came before them in such a way that this tradition will have a coherent shape. Quite often, however, philosophers create a tradition only to call its most fundamental values into question. In this way,...

  7. Chapter 1 Toward Metaphysics: Cohen’s Opus Postumum and the Origins of the New Thingking
    (pp. 39-81)

    On April 4, 1918, the great neo-Kantian philosopher Hermann Cohen died. Only six years earlier (on July 4, 1912), he had celebrated his seventieth birthday with great ceremony, accompanied by ennobling speeches and announcements in major papers across Germany. The eminent philosophical journalKantstudienpublished a special volume in honor of his contributions to aesthetics, ethics, epistemology, and religion. His seminars at the University of Marburg were legendary. His colleague Paul Natorp called them a monument to the “Marburg school.” In Jewish circles Cohen was regarded as “the second Maimonides.” But for many students his work was “primordially and authentically...

  8. Chapter 2 Hegel’s Fate: The Emergence of Finitude in Rosenzweig’s Hegel and the State
    (pp. 82-118)

    “This book that I could no longer have written . . . ” This was the provocative phrase Rosenzweig applied to his doctoral dissertation,Hegel and the State (Hegel und der Staat).Written in Freiburg under the direction of Friedrich Meinecke, it was largely complete by 1913, but first saw publication in 1920, just a year before his astonishing effort in original philosophy,The Star of Redemption (Der Stern der Erlösung).¹ At first glance the two books belong to seemingly different worlds.The Staris generally regarded as the work of a mature philosopher who has at last outgrown the...

  9. Chapter 3 Beyond Metaphysics: Rosenzweig’s Star (Part I)
    (pp. 119-191)

    Rosenzweig’s first and only systematic work of philosophy,The Star of Redemption,was first published in 1921. Walter Benjamin would later remember it as one of “the great works of German scholarship.” But from the very beginning it met with an uncertain reception. Both within and beyond a small circle of loyal readers, it was often misunderstood as a work that addressed exclusively Jewish concerns. To take only one example, Friedrich Meinecke, the historian of ideas who served as doctoral advisor to Rosenzweig forHegel and the State,seems never to have considered the possibility that his student’s mature work...

  10. Chapter 4 Redemptiom-in-the-World: Rosenzweig’s Star (Part II)
    (pp. 192-236)

    As I have argued in the previous chapter, both Rosenzweig and Heidegger saw as a chief requirement of the new philosophy that it follow a hermeneutic method, tracing out the meaning of religious concepts along the temporal path of human life. The new thinking would never stray into alien worlds; rather, it would remain faithfully within the bounds of “factical life-experience.” For Rosenzweig, however, this requirement cannot be dissociated from his more global effort to develop a new concept of redemption. Because he was a modern, post-Nietzschean philosopher, for him redemption could no longer mean, as it once had for...

  11. Chapter 5 “Facing the Wooded Ridge”: The Hebrew Bible in the German Horizon
    (pp. 237-274)

    In 1924, Franz Rosenzweig began the monumental task of translating the Hebrew Bible into German. A cooperative project between Rosenzweig and Martin Buber, the Bible translation is now widely recognized as one of the most unusual works of German literature. It is also an object lesson in the philosophical invention of Jewish identity. For translating the Bible meant re-inventing Jewish origins from the ground up. Every Hebrew patriarch and prophet acquired a new and unfamiliar name; the landscape, once green with vegetation from the Middle East, was now crowded with Germany’s native fauna, and even the historical sections now flashed...

  12. Chapter 6 “An Irony in the History of Spiriy”: Rosenzweig, Heidegger, and the Davos Disputation
    (pp. 275-304)

    By the spring of 1929, the progressive paralysis that would ultimately take Rosenzweig’s life was already well advanced—he would die the following winter. Immobilized and confined to his home, he was nonetheless acutely aware of the affairs of the world. He kept himself informed through newspapers and extensive correspondence, and while devoting the greater share of his energies to the Bible translation with Martin Buber, he still found time to reflect on matters of contemporary interest in the wider field of philosophy. Sometime in May 1929, he wrote an intriguing essay entitled “Exchanged Fronts” (“Vertauschte Fronten”), a document that...

  13. Conclusion: Germans, Jews, and the Politics of Interpretation
    (pp. 305-314)

    I have argued in this book that Rosenzweig’s philosophical achievement is most properly understood when restored to the horizon of interwar Weimar thought. By insisting on this point, I do not mean to invoke some putatively historicist concern for origins. The point should be to understand primarily the movement of concepts, not merely the conditions of their development. But Rosenzweig is an enormously challenging philosopher. Amidst the occasional indulgence of his imagery and his elaborate digressions toward seemingly distant concerns, the precise concepts in his writing are not always easy to discern. So it is perhaps unsurprising that some of...

  14. INDEX
    (pp. 315-328)
  15. Back Matter
    (pp. 329-330)