Possible Thread

Discussion in 'Belief and Spirituality' started by radarmark, Sep 30, 2013.

  1. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Virtual ladies and gentlemen--

    I realize that my logic is sometimes convoluted. So what I am willing to do is to post little bits and pieces of three classic texts that form my basic approach to theology: Star of Redemption, Saviors of God, and Process and Reality.

    What I would do is post a little of one of them and explain how the text affected me. Rosenzweig woke me up to the fact that mere modern philosophy cannot and does not answer those deep questions of existentialism . Kazantzakis showed me the deep-mysterious side ("Cretan Glance") which freed me from the bonds of modern thought as applied to theology. Whitehead provided a way to return to a (for and to me) coherent and comprehensive metaphysical view of theology .

    I would not be preaching, but expressing myself in terms of some short (less than a full page) text. Then we can discuss my interpretation and I can learn where my shortcomings are.
     
  2. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    'Babble' on, my friend!
     
  3. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Oh, my you (perhaps are reading too much JS). Or listening to too much JS Bach. Shall do... must start with Rosenzweig (and he is very hard to paraphrase because of the complexity of Star).
     
  4. A Cup Of Tea

    A Cup Of Tea Well-Known Member

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    Yes, too much JS, I would much rather listen to JS Bach. I'll do that tomorrow, perhaps while reading something about Rosenzweig?
     
  5. stranger

    stranger wolfwing, a feral angel

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    Me too, looking forward to reading and learning.
     
  6. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Sorry, had a busy day three doctor's appointments. I had an infection, not cancer, my bride and I are communicating better, and my rotator cuff repair is doing better than expected.

    Okay, Franz Rosenzweig. Realize that he was part of the early XXth century German anti-idealist revolt (along with his friends Ehrenberg, Rosenstock-Huessy, von Weiszacker) really led by Hermann Cohen ("The Greatest XIXth century Jewish Philosopher"), their teacher. He was roughly a contemporary of Martin Buber (with whom he produced a German translation of the Tanakh.

    His dissertation was on Hegel. His first important work was on "The New Thinking", a refutation of Western Traditional Philosophy (and especially German Idealism). During WWI as an anti-aircraft officer in the Balkans, he wrote the Star of Redemption, considered by many one of the two critical Jewish theological works of the XXth century (Ich und Du by Buber being the second). He was roughly of the same generation as Buber, Baeck and Levinas (the other two preeminent Jewish theologians of the XXth century, according to many).

    Interest in Rosenzweig declined in the 1960s (because much like Whitehead's Process and Reality,Star is a difficult read, even in German, let alone in the sub-par English translations available). But the post-modernists has resuscitated his stature.

    The best two introductions to his thought are the Urzelle to the Star of Redemption (roughly "core") only translated in 2000 (in Philosophical and Theological Writings eds Franks and Morgan) and Hilary Putnam's Introduction to Understanding the Sick and the Healthy.

    His key: philosophy does not and cannot answer the ultimate question "the fear of death", only an individual life and experience (hence his classification as an existentialist) can provide an answer. Beyond that his dismissal of philosophical "expertise" (see esp. Understanding) is unswerving from the time of Urzelle (1917) to the time of his early death in 1929 is quite remarkable in European Continental Philosophy. Also, his "central thesis" of Revelation as a melding of g!d and man (Philosophical and Theological Writings, pp 49-50) in a strikingly Spinozan manner is pretty unique approach.

    I think that suffices for an introduction. What does Rosenzweig mean for me? Well, much like Hume “awoke” Kant from a slumber, he awoke me from a purely rational and philosophically based slumber (“a death in death”). I began to look at how I – as a human – really “saw” what was “not me”. Yes, he led me into existentialism as a theology (very difficult to explain, but if you want me to I can try). But he also (as you will see in the next post) led me to look at the ethical and metaphysical aspects of “reality” (however you want to define that… for me it was always about what “I “ experienced (be it physical intimacy or intellectual agreement or spiritual agreement).
     
  7. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    “I asked him1 straight out what he understood by revelation. He answered revelation is orientation2. In accordance with3 revelation there is an actual, no longer relativized Up and Down in nature — “heaven” and “earth” […]4 — and an actually fixed Earlier and Later in time. Thus in ‘natural’ space and natural time the middle is always the point where I simply am (for man is the measure of all things)5. Thus approximately, not verbatim and also merely in outline6, but a thought of stupendous simplicity and fruitfulness and surely correct (I would not trust myself if I did not also reach it on my own basis).” Franz Rosenzweig, pp 49-50 of Philosophical and Theological Writings.

    Notes:
    1 Rosenstock, one of his close friends, fellow philosopher, and one of the Jewish converts to Christianity who led Rosenzweig to consider Christianity.
    2 A neo-Kantianism really better translated as “life option”.
    3 Could be translated “after”.
    4 In the ellipsis […] I deleted “(you see here how what Rosenstock calls nature is, despite himself, not all the nature of natural science, but rather the nature of poesy; thus indeed is to be entirely understood as his demands for a more natural-scientific method in the human sciences—but back to the topic again)”
    5 Actually presented in the original Greek.
    6 Could be translated “the skeleton”.


    This passage is really the central point to the Urzelle, seed-germ, leading to the Star of Redemption. Rosenzweig had crashed up onto the “Kantian antinomies of reason”, to wit: (from page 3 of Nader Saiedi’sAntinomies of Reason and the Theology of Revelation)

    “Kantian theory creates a major dilemma. On the one hand, humans long to experience and discover the true being. On the other hand such knowledge is outside of the limits of reason. But human beings try to understand the invisible, unfathomable, unnamable world. Therefore, they apply the categories of the mind to the realm of things in themselves. However, unlike the realm of appearance, there are no materials of sense perception corresponding to things in themselves. The realm of appearance is constructed by application of mental forms to experiential matter, but there are no experiential data for the real being. Consequently, we apply the laws of logic to issues that transcend human categories. In other words, when the human mind tries to understand theology, it applies the categories of limitation to the unlimited realm. The result is what Kant calls the antinomies of reason (Critique of Pure Reason 230–318).”


    This Kantian Dilemma is as real and unsolvable as Hume’s Problem of Induction or Gödel’s Theorems. Saiedi goes on to point out that, within the context of Western Philosophy, the antinomies of reason: Kant’s system, Schopenhauer’s systems or Nietzsche’s “lack of system” (from comments made in Star). Too bad Saiedi did not get to Rosenzweig and Levinas (a great Jewish theologian of the mid-to-late XXth Century).

    As outlined above Rosenzweig’s answer was non-philosophical, non-rational—to accept revelation with open arms as an experience, as a fact of existence. “I am the measure of all things” becomes the thesis that led to Star. This is not some solipsist or subjectivist maneuver (trust me, the lines of thought and justification will become clear over this discussion, which should be more than just one or two posts).
     
  8. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Now on to Hilary Putnam and his introduction to Understanding the Sick and the Healthy.

    “The similarity between Rosenzweig’s criticism of philosophy and that of the later Wittgenstein extends also to their criticism of the metaphysician’s search for an account of the “essence” of things as a search which is hopeless, not because it is too difficult to find the essence of things, but because the project is, in some sense, absurd.”

    Of course, why? Because both (Wittgenstein and Rosenzweig) are exploring the fringes of what is knowable (especially in terms of what can be said). In this sense (and the sense Putnam meant it), both give sufficient justification for “existentialism”. But really, neither are existentialists. Neither can be read as “subjectivists”, though both reject “hard (or primary) objectivism”. However, if one accepts Kierkegaard as an “existentialist” one must accept both Wittgenstein and Rosenzweig as such (obviously I do not agree).

    What all three of these great thinkers were saying (IMHO) was that the measure of a man is himself (sorry for the sexism, I do really mean any human being). In this sense, both Wittgenstein and Rosenzweig want to divert us from “essence” to “experience”.

    Here the two thinkers diverge, Wittgenstein remains a “philosopher” and Rosenzweig becomes a “theologian”. I can appreciate W’s stance, indeed I have all his post 1929 works, but they do not satisfy me the way Rosenzweig does. Why? I saw quite early the difference between a Kantian and non-Kantian solution (see previous post—I believe Rosenzweig is a fourth way out of the “the antinomies of reason”).

    Why did they diverge? Rosenzweig believed (or experienced) an ethical dimension to philosophy that Wittgenstein did not; pretty simple, one saw history in terms of the “Metaethics” and one did not.

    In Book 3 of Part One of Star, what Rosenzweig was talking about was the “soul of man qua man”. The individual who is somehow connected with the rest of creation. In Star this is made explicit in the following “this is eternity with in the moment, within the batting of an eye. It is that seeing of he light of which it is written: “by thy light we see the light”.

    Does this make sense?
     
  9. stranger

    stranger wolfwing, a feral angel

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    I am finding Rosenzweig's way out of the Kantian dilemma absolutely astounding, and I have no talent toward philosophy at all. Pretty exciting stuff, thanks for breathing new life into what, for me, has been mostly just dead words on a page (my experience with philosophy). I don't grasp it all, but enough to want to see more. But don't let me interrupt your flow here.
     
  10. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Thanks stranger!
     
  11. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    A little bit... from the quote, one can see that time is central to Rosenzweig. And since time is Creation, Revelation and Redemption must be on-going processes. (He has dismissed classic timelessness).

    Similarly, he has put Man, World and God on equal footing (in terms of existence).

    So one gets (just from this one little quote) not only a rejection of Kant, but Platonic forms and timelessness. A becoming sort of existence a la Bergson...all from the notion of one human's fear of death.

    It is really not all that simple, but it is very close to it. All Rosenzweig did was apply philosophy to philosophy which is why in Star he labels God "The Metaphysic", World "The Metalogic", and Man "The Metaethic" (and by extension, Creation, Revelation and Redemption) as being "beyond" physics, and logic, and ethics.
     
  12. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Fourth (and final) post on Rosenzweig. In Star of Redemption Franz Rosenzweig purposefully did not use the words “religion” or “theology”. For he (FR) always considered Star a “system of philosophy” (most strongly in Die “Grili”-Briefe or Letters to Margarit Rosenstock-Huessy).

    Get it? FR was trying to replace German Idealism” (including Hegel, Schopenhauer, and Nietzsche) with his “New Thinking” (Neue Denken) conceived in Urzelle, given birth to in Star, and nurtured in Neue Denken.

    The effort was (JMHO) to create an alternative to Modern Philosophy (FR was targeting German Idealism, but they are nearly synonymous terms) much in the same way that Kazantzakis extended Bergson and Whitehead developed “Process Philosophy”. [HINT, any philosophy student reading this can take the idea of the mirror imaging of these three as a thesis with my blessing… just as any physics student can take Whitehead’s Principle of Relativity and (given the advent of Mills-Yang and Higgs theories) revisit Cliff Will’s “disproof” of his ideas.]

    Did it work (FR’s “system of philosophy”)? For me, yes. The issues are not really philosophical, but meta-physical. For the thesis assumes that the All philosophy was trying to encompass (via the essences) are not reducible to essences or reasoning; but rather to experiences and becomings. It is not nor has it ever been static forms, but things in time that are reality. The idea of essences just does not apply to experience, things evolving in time.
     
  13. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    Yeah, I thought that, too (f'nar!) ;)

    Yes ... I can see that ...

    Yes ... I can see that, too ... very big echoes of Eriugena here, as I read it. Eriugena encompassed Man, World and God as a totality under the term (as he used it) Natura. His critics all seemed to assume by natura he meant 'nature' as it is more commonly understood (to exclude the 'supernatural'), and thus was proposing monistic pantheism, but I don't think he was, and nor does his more recent exegetes.

    Wow! I'm with Stranger here (although dare I say in my case more enamoured of philosophy). This is 'a breath of fresh air' stuff for me, and really intriguing. You also take the credit for getting me interested in Process Theology.

    As Possible Threads go, this is definitely a possible ...
     
  14. Thomas

    Thomas Administrator Admin

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    "The world as pure object is something that is not there. It is not a reality outside us for which we exist ... It is a living and self-creating mystery of which I am myself a part, to which I am myself, my own unique door."

    Thomas Merton Contemplation in a World of Action
     
  15. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Thanks Thomas. Three Short Books "Urzelle", "The Oldest System-Process of German Idealism" and "Understanding the Sick and the Healthy" contain all of "Star" in a matter of a few terse pages. I will move on to "Oldest System" as a topic (what the German Idealists and all philosophy post-Schelling have been trying to do). It is just my opinion that Rosenzweig proved the limitations of Modern Philosophy as totally as Godel gave an no to Modern Mathematics.
     
  16. radarmark

    radarmark Quaker-in-the-Making

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    Before Understanding the Sick and the Healthy (his last work) or Star of Redemption (his best known) or even the Urzelle of the Star (his launching point), Rosenzweig wrote a review of a two page fragment in Hegel’s handwriting, The Oldest System-Process of German Idealism in 1915 or 16. It provides a criticism of the accepted authorship (Hegel) by showing it dated from 1796 and was the product of Schelling (who shared quarters with Hegel at the time). The thesis is still highly controversial in German historical and philosophical circles.

    See, from the very beginning (the pre-Socratics) Western Philosophy has devoted a lot of time to the issue of essence or being or the unity or the one versus becoming or the existent or the diversity or the all. Add to that the crucial issues of physical versus mental versus spiritual. This is reflected in Plato’s famous “Cave Allegory” wherein his notion of forms (essence) versus "the region revealed through sight" (the existent). The all (the kosmos and everything in it) is illusion projected into the mind like the shadows on the wall of the Cave are not the same as what throws the shadow (forms or essence).

    For 2,500 years Western Philosophy dealt with this dichotomy (essence versus existence) only peripherally. Only when Hume awakened Kant from his slumber was Philosophy as a hypothetical structure. Whereas Spinoza solved the dichotomy by reducing the all to the one, Kant attempted to create a structure addressing both (he did). This German Idealism was perfected by Fichte by adding the actions of the subject (the thinker) in Foundation of the Entire Science of Knowledge (1794/95). Schelling made this “German Idealism” “Transcendental Idealism” in his 1800 System of Transcendental Idealism. The “seed germ” or urzelle of this work is the fragment analyzed in The Oldest System-Process of German Idealism. Hegel later perfected this unification of the one and the all within the context of Transcendental Idealism.

    This is the canvas upon which Western Philosophy was painted on between 1830 and Rosenzweig’s time. Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and their followers managed this self-flagellation. It is this that Rosenzweig was reacting to in Star. The thesis is this: “philosophy has self-destructed in terms of its goal, to unify the Unity and the Diversity, the Essence and the Existents, One and the All, the Being and Becoming—because this goal is utterly irrational within the context of philosophy”.
     

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