Philosopher as Witness, The
Fackenheim and Responses to the Holocaust
Publication Year: 2008
Published by: State University of New York Press
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Emil L. Fackenheim died at age eighty-seven in Jerusalem early Friday morning, September 19, 2003. His intellectual career, if we date its origin to his entrance into the Hochschule in Berlin in 1935, spanned sixty-eight years. People think of him as a Jewish theologian and philosopher and, especially, as one of the few Jewish theologians who was preoccupied with the Holocaust as ...
PART 1. REFLECTIONS
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CHAPTER 1. In Memory of Leo Baeck and Other Jewish Thinkers in “Dark Times” Once More, “After Auschwitz, Jerusalem”
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The last time I spoke in public was at Hebrew Union College, Jerusalem, on November 7, 2000, just two days before the anniversary of Kristallnacht, the event I would understand—in retrospect, many years later—as the beginning of the Holocaust. Two days later, someone in Berlin would mention Rabbi Leo Baeck, no more than his name, for who would still know him? But I had ...
CHAPTER 2. Hegel and “The Jewish Problem”
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In a story, probably apocryphal, Hegel on his deathbed declared that only one understood him, then added—upon reflection—that this one did not understand him either. Almost 200 years have passed since 1831, the year of his death, so surely I am not, belatedly, the story’s anonymous one who “almost” understood him, ...
PART 2. CRITIQUE
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CHAPTER 3. Hegel’s Ghost “Witness” and “Testimony” in the Post-Holocaust Philosophy of Emil Fackenheim
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I have been strongly influenced by Emil Fackenheim’s thought, especially his major work To Mend the World: Foundations of Post-Holocaust Jewish Thought.1 Fackenheim is the philosopher who has raised the most important questions after the Shoah. Although I sometimes take a different tack in responding to these questions, his work continues to deeply inform and challenge my own. ...
CHAPTER 4. Fackenheim on Passover after the Holocaust
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Emil Fackenheim’s classic little book God’s Presence in History: Jewish Affirmations and Philosophic Reflections appeared in 1970, three years after the Six Day War. It was based on lectures delivered in 1967 and 1968. No book written by a Jewish philosopher after the Holocaust has presented more forcefully the case for the God of History and dealt more seriously with the problem of ...
CHAPTER 5. Of Systems and the Systematic Labor of Thought Fackenheim as Philosopher of His Time
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In the opening pages of To Mend the World, Emil Fackenheim reflects back on the development of his work in the fields of philosophy and theology and comments: “The first . . . formal commitment of my thought that was to remain permanent was [the commitment] to ‘system.’ ”1 Fackenheim calls his commitment to system “formal” in order to express his conviction—shared by ...
CHAPTER 6. Fackenheim and Levin as Living and Thinking after Auschwitz
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To compare the thinking of Emil Fackenheim and Emmanuel Levinas is no simple task. The scope and depth of their work make each singly a challenge, and to treat both at once doubly so. But I shall try. Let me focus on three themes: their criticisms of the Western philosophical tradition; their views about God; and the role of the Holocaust in their work. Furthermore, I will suggest ...
CHAPTER 7. The Holocaust and the Foundations of Future Philosophy Fackenheim and Strauss
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Those who do not share Emil Fackenheim’s hopes for philosophy are unlikely to appreciate To Mend the World. The drama of the book rests on an idea of philosophy—essentially Hegelian1—that takes seriously the possibility of complete knowledge: nothing is beyond philosophy’s purview. A sense of philosophy’s scope and eminence not only motivates Fackenheim’s proposal ...
CHAPTER 8. Fackenheim and Strauss
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In his introduction to this collection, Emil Fackenheim names Leo Strauss as one of the Jewish thinkers who most influenced his own development. Fackenheim was never a student, much less a follower of Strauss, but he, nevertheless, repeatedly insisted upon acknowledging his intellectual debt.1 At the same time he clearly stated the places and ways he dissented from ...
PART 3. RESPONSE
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CHAPTER 9. Emil Fackenheim Theodicy, and the Tikkun of Protest
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Emil Fackenheim has been an ’ot, a living sign, in between history, amcha (the ordinary Jew), and the sources of Jewish tradition. While his contribution to the field of philosophy, especially to Hegel studies, has been of capital importance,2 his contribution to the field of Jewish theology, properly speaking, has been to speak the theology of the common Jew—to other Jews and to the ...
CHAPTER 10. The Holocaust Is a Christian Issue
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The purpose of this chapter is not to blame Christianity for the evil and horror of the Holocaust. Two simple and basic truths preclude such an attitude. First, the Nazis and their allies perpetrated the evil and horror of the Holocaust. Second, in contrast to the Nazi ideology of pitiless hatred and the concomitant glorification of brute force, the basic doctrines of Christianity are ...
CHAPTER 11. The Holocaust Tragedy for the Jewish People, Credibility Crisis for Christendom
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The year 1967 was a critical one militarily, and it also is noted as a watershed year on the political and theological calendars of those who then were impelled to reach for a new level of understanding and cooperation between Jews and Christians. In 1967, for the third time, aggressive Muslim armies attacked in an attempt to wipe out Israel—the Jewish island in the ocean of Islam. This ...
CHAPTER 12. Man or Muselmann? Fackenheim’s Elaboration on Levi’s Question
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The Torah commands us to choose life (Deuteronomy 30:19). Making this choice does not mean that we no longer pass away from this earth. Rather, it means that in choosing life we understand death to be part of the process of sanctifying life, the testimonial outcome of a life steeped in Torah, prayer, and deeds of loving kindness. Understood as a movement from one realm into ...
CHAPTER 13. Emil Fackenheim, Irving Howe, and the Fate of Secular Jewishness
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... language is Emil Fackenheim. But if Wieseltier here shows just enough courage to dissent from the conformity of liberal-left dissent from Fackenheim’s famous formulation, then he does not show quite enough to name the Jewish philosopher cited, a significant omission when addressing a readership afflicted with historical amnesia. Wieseltier is the literary editor of the New Republic; ...
CHAPTER 14. She’erith Hapleitah: Reflections of a Historian
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I am doubly glad to be contributing to this volume—firstly to join in honoring Emil Fackenheim and, secondly, having cast my mind back over these last thirty-four years, I gained a better appreciation of the formative role Emil has played in shaping my thinking about the Holocaust and much more besides. I vividly remember the dramatic impact of Emil and Elie Wiesel’s contributions ...
CHAPTER 15. Willful Murder in the Lublin District of Poland
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Emil Fackenheim on many occasions related a conversation with Raul Hilberg, where he asked Hilberg, as a leading expert on Nazi Germany, “Why did they do it?” Hilberg heaved a sigh and replied: “They did it because they wanted to do it.”1 To many who heard this story, Hilberg’s reply and Fackenheim’s agreement might have seemed somewhat evasive, only begging further questions. ...
CHAPTER 16. Metahistory, Redemption, and the Shofar of Emil Fackenheim
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This chapter is concerned with religious-philosophical approaches to the Holocaust in the time and place of the war and immediately thereafter (referred to as She’erit Hapeleitah), that is, with responses by individuals who themselves belonged to the objects of reflection. At the end of this chapter, I suggest where Emil Fackenheim’s thought stands vis-à-vis these earlier approaches. ...
List of Contributors
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Page Count: 250
Publication Year: 2008
Series Title: SUNY series in Contemporary Jewish Thought
Series Editor Byline: Richard A. Cohen