Infinity: Qualitative and Quantitative

Came across this passage from a letter Franz Rosenzweig sent to Hans Ehrenberg in 1918:

What does the irrational number mean in relation to the rational?  For rational numbers, infinity is an always unattainable limit, a forever improbable magnitude, even if it is of the order of certainty, of permanent truth.  With irrational numbers, on the contrary, at each of its points that limit comes up against rational numbers, almost physically, with the presence specific to numbers, thus liberating it from its abstract, linear and one-dimensional nature (from which its hypothetical status also proceeds), to confer a “spatial” totality and an obvious reality on it.  In the form of the infinitesimal number, infinity is the secret spring, forever invisible, of the rational number and its visible reality.  On the other hand, through the irrational number, infiinty is manifested, becomes visible, while forever remaining an alein reality: a number that is not a number, or so to speak a “non-number.”

What an interesting (and oddly clear) passage.  It’s a rather succint statement of  Rosenzweig’s conception of redemption (and critique of Hegel) and sheds a some light on how Rosenzweig approaches some of the problems  towards the end of the Star, e.g. progress, messianism, election and history.  Anyway, at long last I have gotten a hold of Stephane Moses’ recently translated The Angel of History: Rosenzweig, Benjamin, Scholem.  Time permitting, I’m hoping to throw together some thoughts about Moses’ text and more broadly, Rosenzweig sometime soon.

Rosenzweig and the Systematic Task of Philosophy (New Book)

This looks quite good, but very expensive. It adds to the dearth of secondary literature on Rosenzweig. Well, comparatively. From Cambridge UP:

Franz Rosenzweig and the Systematic Task of Philosophy
Benjamin Pollock
Michigan State University

Benjamin Pollock argues that Franz Rosenzweig’s The Star of Redemption is devoted to a singularly ambitious philosophical task: grasping ‘the All’ – the whole of what is – in the form of a system. In asserting Rosenzweig’s abiding commitment to a systematic conception of philosophy, this book breaks rank with the assumptions about Rosenzweig’s thought that have dominated recent scholarship. Indeed, the Star’s importance is often claimed to lie precisely in the way it opposes philosophy’s traditional drive for systematic knowledge and upholds instead a ‘new thinking’ attentive to the existential concerns, the alterity, and even the revelatory dimension of concrete human life. Pollock shows that these very innovations in Rosenzweig’s thought are in fact to be understood as part and parcel of the Star’s systematic program. But this is only the case, Pollock claims, because Rosenzweig approaches philosophy’s traditional task of system in a radically original manner. For the Star not only seeks to guide its readers on the path toward knowing ‘the All’ of which all beings are a part; it at once directs them toward realizing the redemptive unity of that very ‘All’ through the actions, decisions, and relations of concrete human life.

Presents a philosophical introduction to Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption, offering an in-depth explanation of Rosenzweig’s philosophical method • Revises the conventional view concerning Rosenzweig’s opposition to German Idealism, showing Rosenzweig’s uniqueness • Uses hitherto unknown or little-used archival material to shed light on the intellectual context within which Rosenzweig wrote, especially his inner circle of correspondents

Click here for more information.

Badiou, Rosenzweig and the word “Jew”

Mostly a thinking out loud post based on some visceral reactions, really. I have heard the charge of antisemitism directed at both Badiou and Zizek for sometime now, and while I’m not completely unsympathetic to such claims, they do tend to misinterpret and simplify both thinkers, which of course, have the effect of missing the mark completely. Now, in particular, with regards to Badiou and the term “Jew,” this seems to me to be an old problem of particularism vs universalism rather than the typical knee jerk reactions towards the state of Israel (see here and here). In this sense, it’s hard not to think of Isaac Deutscher, who remarked in a speech he gave to the World Jewish Congress in 1958:

Religion? I am an atheist. Jewish nationalism? I am an internationalist. In neither sense am I therefore a Jew. I am, however, a Jew by force of my unconditional solidarity with the persecuted and exterminated. I am a Jew because I feel the pulse of Jewish history; because I should like to do all I can to assure the real, not spurious, security and self-respect of the Jews.

Now because I’m without shame, here’s my original comment pertaining to the above passage. This is a very interesting response, and really, a very Jewish one. This begs a number of questions: Is it ever possible to reconcile ethnic fidelities with a commitment to “universal human emancipation? ” Is the only option to simply choose sides, that is, either a nationalist (particularism) or a “non-Jewish Jew” (universalism/cosmpolitanism)? But here’s the thing, if Judaism is a particular community/ethnicity/religion with a universal aims/goals/ramifications (e.g. a light unto the nations) to begin with then there is no choice to be made, the “Jew” as such would not have to choose either/or, but then again, perhaps I’m just not very dogmatic.

I still have the same response, but I often find myself feeling somewhat uncomfortable when I hear Badiou discussing these issues. In an article I dug up on, “The Uses of the Word “Jew,”” Badiou writes this: Continue reading

Rosenzweig, Religion and Politics

franz.jpgAll of this talk about politics and Israel yesterday got me thinking of some passages from Franz Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption. These passages are found in the final part of the text. In the Star, Roseznweig argues that reality has three levels, the middle level is experience, which is described in Part 2, the ground of experience, if you will, are the primordial elements that are accessible only to reflective thought (Part I). Finally, the third part paints a picture seemingly beyond experience (only be inescapably involving it) of an ontology, which is derived from casting it through the topos of the sociology of religious life. Put differently, the progressive nature of the text moves from a mathematical system to a grammatical system to the organization of social signifiers (e.g. the form and content of the religious life of the congregation). The mathematical system in part I is inverted in the third part, this is to say that the sign of the collectivity of religious life is given to experience while the referent (the world of redemption) is outside of reality and is lived in anticipation, it is only signified through an intercession by the form of the collective religious life. Anyhow, here are the passages Continue reading