Although Franz Rosenzweig is arguably the most important Jewish philosopher of the twentieth century, his thought remains little understood. Here, Leora Batnitzky argues that Rosenzweig's redirection of German-Jewish ethical monotheism anticipates and challenges contemporary trends in religious studies, ethics, philosophy, anthropology, theology, and biblical studies.
This text, which captures the hermeneutical movement of Rosenzweig's corpus, is the first to consider the full import of the cultural criticism articulated in his writings on the modern meanings of art, language, ethics, and national identity. In the process, the book solves significant conundrums about Rosenzweig's relation to German idealism, to other major Jewish thinkers, to Jewish political life, and to Christianity, and brings Rosenzweig into conversation with key contemporary thinkers.
Drawing on Rosenzweig's view that Judaism's ban on idolatry is the crucial intellectual and spiritual resource available to respond to the social implications of human finitude, Batnitzky interrogates idolatry as a modern possibility. Her analysis speaks not only to the question of Judaism's relationship to modernity (and vice versa), but also to the generic question of the present's relationship to the past--a subject of great importance to anyone contemplating the modern statuses of religious tradition, reason, science, and historical inquiry. By way of Rosenzweig, Batnitzky argues that contemporary philosophers and ethicists must relearn their approaches to religious traditions and texts to address today's central ethical problems.
"This is not only a thorough and innovative study of Franz Rosenzweig's often dazzlingly complex philosophy but also a pathbreaking analysis of Rosenzweig's contribution to contemporary Jewish as well as Christian theologies. This will set the standard for future scholarship on both Rosenzweig and Christian-Jewish dialogue."--Michael Mack, Journal of Religion
"This is not only a thorough and innovative study of Franz Rosenzweig's often dazzlingly complex philosophy but also a pathbreaking analysis of Rosenzweig's contribution to contemporary Jewish as well as Christian theologies. . . . This book will set the standard for future scholarship on both Rosenzweig and Christian-Jewish dialogue."--Michael Mack, Journal of Religion
"In Idolatry and Representation, Rosenzweig has found a commentator who has fully absorbed the implications of his fundamental insight, that ethics cannot be separated from logic and aesthetics, that our capacities to stand in for our neighbor, to be there for him or her, are deeply connected to our theories of representation, however explicit they may be. This book, written with philosophical lucidity and moral intensity, will orient discussions of German-Jewish thought for years to come."--Eric Santner, University of Chicago
"This illuminating study offers new, indeed daringly novel, hermeneutical strategies of reading the often exasperatingly complex writings of Franz Rosenzweig, arguably the most towering figure of twentieth-century Jewish thought. By identifying his critique of idolatry--characterized by an improper relation to God--to be the subtext informing Rosenzweig's religious vision, Batnitzky not only allows us to unravel his arguments, but also offers a rich array of insights into the religious condition of contemporary Judaism."--Paul Mendes-Flohr, Hebrew University of Jerusalem
Table of Contents:
Introduction Reconsidering Rosenzweig and Modern Conceptions of Idolatry 3
PART I: ETHICS AND MONOTHEISM 15
One The Eradication of Alien Worship: Rosenzweig as Ethical Monotheist 17
Two Miracles and Martyrs, Ethics and Hermeneutics: Idolatry from Mendelssohn to Rosenzweig 32
Three The Philosophical Import of Carnal Israel: Hermeneutics and the Structure of Rosenzweig's The Star of Redemption 62
PART II: ART AND LANGUAGE 81
Four Risky Images: Rosenzweig's Aesthetic Theory and Jewish Uncanniness 83
Five The Problem of Translation: Risking the Present for the Sake of the Past 105
PART III: RELIGION AND POLITICS 143
Six Risking Religion: Christian Idolatry 145
Seven Risking Politics: Jewish Idolatry 169
Eight After Israel: Rosenzweig's Philosophy of Risk Reconsidered 188
Conclusion The Future of Monotheism 207
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