The Sparks of Randomness, Volume 2: The Atheism of Scripture


In this second volume of The Sparks of Randomness, Henri Atlan pursues his investigation of human life, which he grounds in a distinctive intermingling of the biological and cognitive sciences and traditions of Jewish thought. The Atheism of Scripture offers up a paradox: its audacious thesis is that the Word or revealed scripture can be better understood without God. It must be decrypted or analyzed atheistically, that is, not as divine revelation, but in and of itself. The first part of the book addresses ...
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In this second volume of The Sparks of Randomness, Henri Atlan pursues his investigation of human life, which he grounds in a distinctive intermingling of the biological and cognitive sciences and traditions of Jewish thought. The Atheism of Scripture offers up a paradox: its audacious thesis is that the Word or revealed scripture can be better understood without God. It must be decrypted or analyzed atheistically, that is, not as divine revelation, but in and of itself. The first part of the book addresses contemporary science. It puts the evolution of ideas about life and knowledge as conceived by today's biological and cognitive sciences into perspective and shows how the genealogy of ethics must be approached in a new way. The second part takes up this challenge by putting classical philosophy in dialogue with the Talmud and the Kabbalah to advance a non-dualistic anthropology of the body and the mind.
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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

"Henri Atlan has undoubtedly become a great scholar and important international figure in the academic community. His approach to texts is original and stimulating, his ideas both lucid and insightful. He has written many volumes on a variety of subjects, but this one has special meaning due to the convulsions society has been undergoing in recent years. The book is steeped in psychology and religion, biology and sociology, mysticism and ethos. Drawing from Talmudic sources but also from secular ones, it is sure to find appeal in many circles."—Elie Wiesel
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780804761352
  • Publisher: Stanford University Press
  • Publication date: 1/9/2013
  • Series: Cultural Memory in the Present Series
  • Pages: 408
  • Product dimensions: 7.00 (w) x 9.90 (h) x 1.00 (d)

Meet the Author

Henri Atlan is Professor Emeritus of Biophysics and Director of Research on Human Biology at Hadassah University Hospital in Jerusalem and Director of Studies at the EHESS. His honorific titles include the French Legion of Honor, the French Order of Arts and Letters, and the French National Order of Merit.
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Table of Contents

Translator's Introduction Lenn J. Schramm xv

Preface xxi

Part 1 Zoön and Bios

Chapter 1 Living and Knowing: Social Images and Scholarly Discourses 3

Differences and Continuity 11

Chapter 2 Toward a Genealogy of Ethics 17

1 Pleasure and Pain: The First Level of Ethics 17

2 The Myth of Adam's Fall and "True Knowledge of Good and Evil" 21

3 The Concerns of Moral Philosophy 22

4 From the First Level to the Second Level 30

5 The Third Level: Theoretical Deduction or Argumentation Genealogy 32

6 Modified States of Consciousness and the Sacred 36

7 Argumentation Ethics and Underdetermination 39

8 The Morality of Indignation 43

9 A Schematic Representation 45

Part 2 The Subject and Time

Chapter 3 A Natural Subject in the Fourteenth Century?

Hasdai Crescas on Determinism and Responsibility 49

1 Return of the Subject or Final Death? A Third Term 49

2 Hasdai Crescas, Determinism, and Freedom 54

3 Determined but Responsible 63

4 A Priori Responsibility and Factum Responsibility 66

5 "Subject of" and "Subject to" 71

6 Crescas and Spinoza: "God's Joy" 74

Chapter 4 Reality, Perfection, and "Glory" 78

1 "By Reality and Perfection I Understand the Same Thing" 78

a Reality as Perfection and Perfection as a Model 78

b Wisdom and Perfection 87

c Toward Acquiescence and Joy: Provisional Morality and Habit 95

d Acquiescence and "Gloria" 99

e Human Dignity 103

2 "Glory" 105

a Gloria/Kavod in Scripture and in Spinoza 105

b Human Perfection according to Maimonides 108

c Revisiting Gloria/Kavod in the Sacred Books, according to Spinoza's Ethics 112

d The Third Kind of Knowledge 117

e Wisdom(s) 119

Chapter 5 The God of Persons and the From of the Human Body 125

1 Who or What? 125

2 The Form 127

3 The Human Body, the Subject of the Rights of Man 134

4 The Problems of Limits at the Start and End of Human Life 135

5 The Pragmatism of Talmudic Law 138

6 "I" Is the Tetragrammaton 141

7 The God of the Philosophers, and the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob 144

8 The Unique Person and His or Her God 147

9 The Voices of Prophecy Reflected on Themselves 152

10 An Absolute Singular? 155

11 What Am I? 156

12 Idolatry Does Not Have to Be Pagan 162

Part 3 The Radical Monism of Body and Mind

Chapter 6 A Spinozist Perspective on Evolution and the Theory of Action: from Analytic Philosophy to Spinoza 167

1 Immanent Causality and Temporal Evolution 167

2 Spinoza's Physics and Spinoza's Animism 171

3 The Synthetic Identity of Properties 176

4 Synthetic Identity, Referential Opacity, and the Underdetermination of Theories 177

5 Action and Perception: The Anomalous Monism of Donald Davidson 180

6 Action and Perception in the Light of Spinoza's Monism 185

7 The Analogy with Physical Magnitudes 188

8 Functional Self-Organization 190

9 Moral Judgment 193

10 Some Astonishing Neurophysiological Findings 195

Chapter 7 Intentional Self-Organization: Toward a Physical Theory of Intentionality 197

1 Intention as Ex Nihilio Creation? 197

2 Self-Organization Is Not an Ex Nihilo Causa Sui 200

3 Is a Physical Theory of Intentionality Possible? 203

4 Physical and Chemical Reductionism and Phenomenological Reduction 204

5 Meaningless Complexity in the Information Sciences 205

6 "Sophistication" as a Measurement of Meaningful Complexity 210

7 Intentional Self-Organization 212

a The Origin of Goals and the Types of Self-Organization 212

b The Transformation of a Causal Sequence into a Procedure 214

8 A Non-Intentional Model of Intentional Behavior 215

a Time Reversal 215

b A Satisfaction Function and Its Origin 216

c A Non-Intentional Model of Intentional Attitudes 218

9 Consciousness-Memory and Unconscious Self-Organization 219

10 Infinite Sophistication 220

11 Provisional Conclusions 224

a Action and Perception 224

b The Underdetermination of Theories and Intersubjectivity 225

c Modeling the Models? The Transcendental Nature of Logic and Ethics 226

d Reason and Common Notions 227

Part 4 Time and Eternity

Chapter 8 Statistics and Temporality 231

1 The Use and Misuse of Statistics and Probability: A Brief Review 231

a Misinterpretations in Medicine and Biology 232

b Correlation and Causation 236

Retrospective and Prospective Studies 236

Correlation (Strong or Weak) Does Not Mean Causality 238

c The Analysis of Variance and the Endless Debate about the Innate versus the Acquired 240

Heritability Is Not a Measure of Genetic Influence 241

The Hypothesis of Additivity 242

2 Paradoxes of the Possible and Probabilities: Time versus Eternity 244

a The Monty Hall Problem, or Marilyn and the Goats 244

b Fermat's Strictures and Pascal's "Mistakes": Equal Odds When Throwing Dice 248

3 Beliefs and Waters 254

Chapter 9 Memory of Ritual, Metaphor of Fertilization 257

1 To Remember and Not Forget 257

2 Generations 260

3 Past and Future: The Conversive Vav 261

4 The Origins 263

5 New Years, Memory, and Fertilization 267

6 The Time of Ritual: Conceiving a Memory 269

7 "The Vision and Riddle" … that "the Mouth Cannot Utter and the Ear Cannot Hear" 270

8 Underground History or Carnival? 273

Part 5 The Letter of the Spirit

Chapter 10 The So-Called Chosen People … 279

1 A False Start: The Antisemitic Question 279

2 The Treason of Words and Their Improper Usage 282

3 What Does the Bible Say? 285

4 A Chosen People Like All the Others 287

5 There Is Nothing Special about the Essence of the People of Israel 290

6 Creating "Chosen Souls" 292

7 Understanding Another Imaginary 294

8 Where Is the Confusion? 297

9 The Election of "the Smallest of Peoples" 298

10 "Atheist" Theologies 300

11 The Tribe and the Humanity in Each Individual 300

12 A Tribal God in the Wilderness 302

13 Telecommunications to the Planetary God 303

14 Neither "Race" nor "Chosen People" … 305

15 The Question of the State 306

Chapter 11 Maimonides then and Now 309

1 Science and Philosophy in the Twelfth Century 309

2 The Bodily Forms of God 310

3 The Face or Category of "In Front Of" 312

4 "The Eyes of YHWH" 313

5 Generosity and Rigor 315

6 Speculative Kabbalah and Modernity 317

7 Seeing and Speaking 318

8 Philosophy and Prophecy 320

9 "Practical Faith" 323

10 The Idolatry of History 327

Chapter 12 Levels of Meaning and the Atheism of Scripture 329

1 The Crowns on the Letters 329

2 The Meanings of a Bottle Found in the Ocean 331

3 The "Garden" and Its Four Levels 335

a Peshat: The Literal, Plain, or Obvious Sense 337

b Remez: The Allusive Meaning 337

c Derash: The "Allegorical" Meaning 339

d The Hermeneutic Situation: Absence Postulated a Priori 341

e Sod: The Hidden or Esoteric Sense 341

4 The White Space in the Text 344

5 The Name and Its Interpretations 346

6 Words of God and the Atheism of Scripture 348

Sources 353

Index 355

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