The White Heat of Writing

Rosenzweig, as is well known, wrote much of The Star Redemption in installments on trains, in hospitals, in Serbia and in Macedonia (where FR served in an antiaircraft unit), which he sent to the Rosenstocks.  Reminiscing about the composition of the Star,  Rosenstock comments:

His soul and his mind left his body behind and never fully took possession of it all again.  His suffering from the atrophy of all his muscles and the writing of the Star in complete ecstasy–with no correction, in one white heat–were two aspects of one and the same process.

Traversing the Alltag

In the final paragraphs of the “New Thinking,” playing around with the German word Alltag, Rosenzweig writes:

Everyone should philosophize once.  Everyone should look all around from his own standpoint and life-point.  But this vision is not an end in itself.  The book is no attained goal…it must itself be taken responsibility for, rather than bearing itself or being borne by others of its kind.  This responsibility occurs in the everyday of life.  Except that to know and live it as All-tag [everyday or day of the All], the life-day of the All had to be traversed (Philosophical and Theological Writings, 137).

When Rosenzweig mentions “the book is no attained goal,” it is an allusion to the completion of the Star of Redemption, that is, the end of that text’s systematic determination of “the All” is not the final goal or endgame. Rather, its readers must take responsibility for the All in the everyday of life. This is interesting.  One can certainly catch a glimpse of the Levinasian aspect of Rosenzweig–or better, Levinas’s reading of Rosenzweig– here, but I think (and perhaps it’s because Pollock’s excellent book on Rosenzweig is still somewhat fresh in my head having read through it a month or so ago) that’s to miss the point or ignore Rosenzweig’s debt to and rethinking of the systematic impetus of German Idealism, especially Schelling.  It also sheds light on Rosenzweig’s overarching concern with adult education, translating the Bible and Jeduah Halevi as well as the day to day issues of communal Jewish life.  As Rosenzweig famously said in a letter to Martin Buber: “I see my future only in life, not in writing.”


I’ve been reading through the two volumes of Rosenzweig’s letters and diary entries here and there for good while, but  in a footnote in the first chapter of Benjamin Pollock’s so far quite interesting Franz Rosenzweig and the Systematic Task of Philosophy I came across an something I haven’t yet seen.   As Pollock notes, Rosenzweig was rather unimpressed with the majority of the Neo-Kantians (except for Hermann Cohen, really), who he thought were simply confused about the relationship between a “system” and the task of philosophy.  Hence the need to return to the  approaches of German Idealism to get clear on the systematic task of philosophy. In this letter his ire is directed towards Rickert

Spinoza refutes Descartes, Leibniz refutes Spinoza, Kant refutes Leibniz, Fichte refutes Kant, Schelling refutes Fichte, Hegel refutes Schelling, and Hegel, through the advance of history is more than refuted, he is judged. But Nietzsche does not refute Schopenhauer and I do not refute Nietzsche.  He who still busies himself today with refutations (e.g. Rickert with Nietzsche, for what is the philosophy of value other than a struggle against the transvaluation of values?), proves in so doing that he is not a philosopher.

Geez.  How awkward.  I mean Rickert purportedly helped Rosenzweig publish his article, “Oldest System-Program.” Moreover, as Pollock notes (I wouldn’t know since I’m not that familiar with Rickert): “Rickert’s own systematic work contains key themes and concepts too many of which pop up in Rosenzweig’s Star for such overlap to be coincidental” (64).  Yet…

Deflationary Optimism

I came across this just now and thought I’d post it.  In a letter to his mother from 1918, Franz Rosenzweig—while reading through Hermann Cohen’s Logic of Pure Cognition—writes

Cohen is insanely hard. I would never have believed that a philosophical book would hold such difficulties for me.  Moreover-whether understanding him is accordingly worthy, is not yet certain for me; I almost believe it is not. But now I have begun it and am reading it through.

Rosenzweig, of course, ends up taking up Cohen’s infinitesimal method (of sorts) in the Star, but I find this passage somewhat comforting.

Rosenzweig and the Systematic Task of Philosophy (review)

Unfortunately I don’t have time to flesh out anything particularly worthwhile about it right now, but I came across an interesting review of the very promising Franz Rosenzweig and the Systematic Task of Philosophy:

Kant was the thinker who placed the idea of system on philosophy’s agenda, although Rosenzweig thought it had always lain like an embryo waiting in the womb of philosophical rumination. Hegel and Schelling seized on this in particular, and formulated their systems as responses to the new challenge. A century later, however, the landscape of philosophical questioning had substantially changed: how to view the question of system seemed in a precarious situation that is ultimately unsatisfactory. Continue reading

Love Me! Rosenzweig, Love, the Subject

Wildly Parenthetical’s questions about the possible role of “peace, love and understanding” (Sorry, couldn’t resist the Elvis Costello reference) in Levinas’s ethical rapport has gotten me thinking about Franz Rosenzweig. For perhaps one of the clearest influences of Rosenzweig on contemporary philosophy is to be found in Levinas’s ethical inversion of the etymology of philosophy from the love of wisdom to the wisdom of love (in the service of love). However, I think that Levinas tends to merely transpose God’s demanding love with the love of the other by substituting the ontological status of absence with ethical proximity, which seems to me, a “cool” “Heideggerization of Rosenzweig.” That said, the “here I am” that Levinas associates with love, subjectivity and philosophy clearly has it source in Rosenzweig’s chapter on revelation in the Star of Redemption, but “cashed out” it’s a bit different. What follows is just some commentary/summary/fragments on Rosenzweig’s conception of revelation, what he calls the “ever-renewing birth of the soul.” The second part of the Star moves from logic/cognition into temporality/testimony. The elements in the first part of the Star need an inner transformation so they may be sources of power for revelation and not simply “conceptual pieties.” Being (in the most restrictive sense, to be contrasted with existence) signifies the correlation of acting with experience lies beyond reason and is fulfilled in the realities, e.g. creation, revelation and redemption. Now, whenever I read Rosenzweig I get a bit uncomfortable with all the theological language, but there is certainly something interesting at work behind all of it that can shed some light on the inter-subjective rapport. However, it is good to read Rosenzweig broadly as hammering away at the pretensions of idealism–albeit the regressive movement of the text is rather Hegelian. Continue reading

New Titles from Stanford UP

A couple of interesting new titles from Stanford University Press:

Exemplarity and Chosenness
Rosenzweig and Derrida on the Nation of Philosophy

Dana Hollander

Forthcoming: Available in January
Buy this book

The Shape of Revelation
Aesthetics and Modern Jewish Thought

Zachary Braiterman

Buy this book
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