Jewish Messianism and the History of Philosophy

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Overview

Jewish Messianism and the History of Philosophy contests the ancient opposition between Athens and Jerusalem by retrieving the concept of meontology - the doctrine of nonbeing - from the Jewish philosophical and theological tradition. For Emmanuel Levinas, as well as for Franz Rosenzweig, Hermann Cohen, and Moses Maimonides, the Greek concept of nonbeing (understood as both lack and possibility) clarifies the meaning of Jewish life. These thinkers of "Jerusalem" use "Athens" for Jewish ends, justifying Jewish anticipation of a future messianic era, as well as portraying the subject's intellectual and ethical acts as central in accomplishing redemption. In addition, Kavka argues that this formal structure of messianic subjectivity is not simply an acculturating move of Judaism to modern or medieval philosophical values, but it can also be found in an earlier stratum of the Jewish tradition, particularly in an ancient midrashic text discussing a group that refers to itself as the Mourners of Zion.

This book envisions modern Jewish thought as an expression of the intimate relationship between Athens and Jerusalem. It also offers new readings of important figures in contemporary Continental philosophy, critiquing previous arguments about the role of lived religion in the thought of Jacques Derrida, the role of Plato in the thought of Emmanuel Levinas, and the centrality of ethics in the thought of Franz Rosenzweig.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Exceeding all other work on modern Jewish thought, this book engages the history of philosophy and the history of Jewish philosophy. The question of the me on, the not-being, is a central question for both traditions, leading from pre-Socratics,through Plato and Aristotle, and then obsessing certain thinkers until today...[the author's] relentless philosophical voice allows him to delve into extremely complex and challenging questions with astonishing clarity. Because he is asking for a specific purpose, he can plumb the depths of the relation of being and non-being, without drowning the reader in jargon or metaphysical haze. No reader will fail to learn a great deal from his enquiry and his argument." Robert Gibbs, author of Correlations in Rosenzweig and Levinas and Why Ethics? Signs of Responsibilities

"In our apocalyptic, ironic age, a book about nothing hardly makes us lugh. But Martin Kavka's prodigious wit lightly carries his dense study of meontology, the logic of nonbeing. Broad enough to encompass Husserl and Maimonides, Plotinus and Hermann Cohen, Jewish Messianism and the History of Philosophy will appeal to diverse audiences with uncommon success; and it will reshape even as it reintroduces Judaism into contemporary philosophy and Christian theology." - Gregory Kaplan, Rice University, Modern Theology

"Martin Kavka's Jewish Messianism and the History of Philosophy combines an extraordinary breadth and depth of scholarship with a degree of living thinking and ethical passion that is indeed rare and wonderful. It is framed as a love letter, an invitation to conversation, addressed to a friend, a Rabbi, and to us, his readers. It is an invitation that I take personally." —Kenneth Reinhard, Journal of the History of Philosophy

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521831031
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 5/28/2004
  • Pages: 256
  • Product dimensions: 5.98 (w) x 8.98 (h) x 0.91 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction : from Athens to Jerusalem 1
1 The meontological conundrum : Emmanuel Levinas and Emil Fackenheim on the Athens-Jerusalem conflict 18
2 Beyond "beyond being" : nonbeing in Plato and Husserl 42
3 Nonbeing as not-yet-being : meontology in Maimonides and Hermann Cohen 66
4 Nonbeing ensouled, nonbeing embodied : Levinas versus Rosenzweig on the role of the other in messianic anticipation 129
Conclusion : deepening the roots of the Jewish meontological tradition, or contra the Derridean "Messianic" 193
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