The chapter concludes with an attempt to revise Rosenzweig’s theology of Christianity through the Jewish‐Christian‐Islamic movement of “Scriptural Reasoning. Keywords prayer – revelation – Franz Rosenzweig – Star of Redemption – growth of the world – redemption – eternity 1 Introduction In one of the. The Star of Redemption is essential reading for anyone interested in Franz Rosenzweig finds in both biblical religions approaches to a.

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Franz Rosenzweig — ranks as one of the most original Jewish thinkers of the modern period. As a historian of philosophy, Rosenzweig frajz a brief but noteworthy role in the neo-Hegelian revival on the German intellectual scene of the s. Rosenzweig engaged in two major works of translation, most notably the German translation of the Bible revemption which he collaborated with Martin Buber. He founded a center for Jewish adult education in Frankfurt—the Lehrhaus —which attracted the most important young German-Jewish intellectuals of its time, and which is still held up today as a model for educational programs of its type.

Rosenzweig’s renown, especially in Jewish and Christian intellectual circles, stems in large part from a fascination with his compelling biography, a biography that included a near-conversion to Christianity, an inspired return to Judaism, the composition of the beginning of his magnum opus on military postcards sent home from the Balkan front, the abandonment of a promising academic career in order to live and teach in the Frankfurt Jewish community, and his heroic efforts to continue his thinking, writing, and communal work after succumbing to the paralysis brought on by ALS.

But Rosenzweig’s singular philosophical importance rests almost entirely on his having written what is arguably the greatest work of modern Jewish philosophy: The Star of Redemption. Rosenzweig was born inand 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. By the early months ofRosenzweig had decided to write a dissertation on the genesis of Hegel’s political philosophy under 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: In Rosenzweig’s diagnosis of the failure of Baden-Baden, one thereby finds hints towards Rosenzweig’s later insight that for a system of philosophy to grasp particulars as such, the unity of that system must be grasped as future.

In the fall ofRosenzweig left Freiburg for Berlin, where he began a period of archival work on Hegel’s handwritten Nachlass. 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 Rosenzweig’s Hegel und der Staat addresses itself to the task Meinecke had delineated, in his Cosmopolitanism and the National Stateof understanding the political ideas of the 19 th Century as rooted in the personal and intellectual development of the creative thinkers who articulated them.

In the book, Rosenzweig traces the genesis of Hegel’s political thought back to Hegel’s earliest personal and philosophical musings over the relationship between the human being and the world. Through careful readings of Hegel’s early handwritten manuscripts, Rosenzweig attempts to show that the Hegel of the mids found himself in a state of perplexity over the possibility of reconciling the radical subjectivity of the free individual human being with the objectivity of the world.

According to Rosenzweig, the path which the young Hegel finds out of this perplexity, whereby he comes to understand the free self as realizing itself, and at once reconciling itself to the world, in timeenabled Hegel’s own personal reconciliation with his moment in history. More decisively for the history of political philosophy, it determined both the historical character of Hegel’s later thought, and the way he later came to understand the reciprocal relation between the individual and the state in history.

Towards the end of the book, Rosenzweig—once again taking up Meinecke’s Fragestellung —considers Hegel’s ambiguous relation to the idea of the nation state. He notes how far Hegel’s rational view of the state is from the nationalist thought that arose in the second half of the 19 th Century. 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.

Perhaps the greatest contribution Hegel und der Staat makes to its time, then, is the way it shows Hegel’s political thinking to be unexpectedly fruitful, just as Dilthey and Nohl had shown Hegel’s theological thought to be in the first decade of the s. 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.

While still at work on Hegel und der Staat inRosenzweig made a scholarly discovery which led him—and scholars of German Idealism after him—to rethink the origins of German Idealism, and which at once precipitated a controversy in the field that continues to this day. But a study of the fragment’s content convinced Rosenzweig that the text was no narrow investigation of a particular field of philosophy, i.


In his study of the fragment he found, moreover, Rosenzweig reached a further controversial conclusion. If the text was to be dated in the early summer ofas Hegel’s handwriting suggested, this would place the writing of the text at the very moment in Hegel’s life when, according to Rosenzweig, he was in the midst of his melancholic despair over the possibility of reconciling the subjectivity of the free self with the objectivity of the world.

If this were the case, Rosenzweig reasoned, Hegel couldn’t possibly have been the author of the text. 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.

The original had since been lost, and only Hegel’s copy remained. Since the existing copy was in Hegel’s handwriting, Rosenzweig concluded, the text had mistakenly been assigned to Hegel himself. Rosenzweig’s presentation received high praise from its initial reviewers, but his conclusions about the text—and about Schelling’s authorship, in particular—have been hotly contested ever since.

Rosenzweig moved to Leipzig for the winter and summer semesters of 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. At stake for Rosenzweig appear to have been questions closely linked to those he had contemplated during the Baden-Baden experiment and which remained on his mind as he investigated Hegel’s coming of age in Hegel und der Staat: This question appears to have been the source of some existential disquiet for Rosenzweig, and heading into the summer ofhe appears to have entertained certain Gnostic notions that one could only realize one’s selfhood, and ground that selfhood in a relation to the divine, through a denial of the world.

But on July 7,Rosenzweig engaged in an all-night discussion with Rosenstock and his Rosenzweig’s cousin Rudolf Ehrenberg, which Rosenzweig would later look back on as the transformative event in his life. Rosenstock’s challenge precipitated a crisis in Rosenzweig: Three months later, having returned to Berlin in October ofRosenzweig 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.

Franz Rosenzweig (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

But Judaism also has a vital role to play in the world’s redemption. 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 rosemzweig 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 rosenzeig 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 Judaismpublished after his death, in Rosenzweig found in this work what he took to be a significant break away from Cohen’s critical Idealism, and from the Idealist tradition in general.

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: 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.

It is the notion of revelation, Rosenzweig suggests, that allows us to view history along an absolute redemptive trajectory, established by God’s relation to the human being in the world.

Such a notion of revelation would reappear at the center of Rosenzweig’s systematic work, The Star of Redemptiona few years later.

The star of redemption

For much of the First World War, Rosenzweig served in an anti-aircraft unit stationed on the Balkan front. Studies towards the World-Historical Doctrine of Space. 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.

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 atar to be living at a transitional moment in the history of philosophy. The systems of German Idealism, by Rosenzweig’s account, brought to completion a year arc of philosophical stag initiated by the pre-Socratics.

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 gosenzweig 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 redemptioon that allow it to be the way it is—as what is normal, or as the ideal against which our experience must be measured.


The attempt to grasp what things are essentially inclines the old thinking to redemptin 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.

Thus ancient philosophy, by Rosenzweig’s account, tends to reduce the divine and the human to aspects of the cosmos; medieval philosophy reduces world and selfhood to roaenzweig of the divine; and modern philosophy finds in the human self alone the firm ground upon which knowledge of all else is to be rooted.

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 presentand thus the new thinker relates to her own self and to the call to selfhood she experiences as present.

Liturgical Time

Rossnzweig 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. Finally, just as Rosenzweig’s new thinking seeks to reform philosophy’s long-standing assumptions about the object of the philosophical pursuit truth and the standpoint out of which the human being may seek to carry out this pursuit Absolute or individualso he suggests that philosophy’s traditional reliance on reason must be qualified in order to attune itself to the temporality of human experience.

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 redempiton 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 frajz the relations between roenzweig 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: 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, But the Star ‘s post-Kantian metaphysical aspirations, its systematic structure, and its dramatic scope recommend its comparison to the great systems of Schelling and Hegel more than to any other philosophical work.

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’s influence on later Jewish thought and continental thought may well be said to rest far more heavily on the fruitfulness of some of those individual insights in the book that appear to be decidedly anti-systematicthan on the book’s own overall commitment to systematicity. 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.