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Crossover Queries

Dwelling with Negatives, Embodying Philosophy's Others

Edith Wyschogrod

Publication Year: 2006

Exploring the risks, ambiguities, and unstable conceptual worlds of contemporary thought, Crossover Queries brings together the wide-ranging writings, across twenty years, of one of our most important philosophers.Ranging from twentieth-century European philosophy-the thought of Heidegger, Foucault, Derrida, Levinas, Janicaud, and others-to novels and artworks, music and dance, from traditional Jewish thought to Jain andBuddhist metaphysics, Wyschogrod's work opens radically new vistas while remaining mindful that the philosopher stands within and is responsible to a philosophical legacy conditioned by the negative.Rather than point to a Hegelian dialectic of overcoming negation or to a postmetaphysical exhaustion, Wyschogrod treats negative moments as opening novel spaces for thought. She probes both the desire for God and an ethics grounded in the interests of the other person, seeing these as moments both of crossing over and of negation. Alert to the catastrophes that have marked our times, she exposes the underlying logical structures of nihilatory forces that have been exerted to exterminate whole peoples. Analyzing the negationsof biological research and cultural images of mechanized and robotic bodies, she shows how they contest the body as lived in ordinary experience.Crossover Queries brings together important essays on a remarkable range of topics by one of our most insightful cultural critics. Commenting on philosophical and theological issues that have shaped the recent past as well as scientific and technological questions that will preoccupy us in the near future, Wyschogrod consistently alerts us to the urgency of problems whose importance few recognize. To avoid the challenge these essays pose is to avoid responsibility for a future that appears to be increasingly fragile.-Mark C. Taylor, Columbia University

Published by: Fordham University Press

Crossover Queries

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pp. vii-ix

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pp. xi-xiv

Permission to use the following previously published materials is gratefully acknowledged. Chapter 1 appeared as ‘‘Intending Transcendence: Desiring God,’’ in Companion to Postmodern Theology, ed. Graham Ward (London: Blackwell, 2001), 349–65. Chapter 2 appeared as ‘‘Corporeality and the Glory of the Infinite in the Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas,’’ in...


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pp. xv-xix

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pp. 1-10

Fixed bridges are firmly anchored structures that enable one to travel from one shore to another, whereas pontoon bridges are temporary connections that facilitate movement across a body of water. Cyberlinks arise anywhere and nowhere to create transitory ties joining images, sound bytes, and fragmentary messages....

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Part I: God: Desiring the Infinite

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pp. 11-12

The relation of referent to name is problematic in a unique way when the name of the referent is God. Transcendence may be envisaged as an excess that attaches to notions both of the infinite and of glory in a manner that bypasses the apophatic strategies of mysticism and of negative theology and expresses itself instead as...

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Chapter 1: Intending Transcendence

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pp. 13-28

In what may seem a paradoxical claim, Edmund Husserl maintains that the ‘‘rich use of fancy’’ in art and poetry can contribute significantly to phenomenological philosophy conceived as a rigorous science. Phenomenology ‘‘can draw extraordinary profit’’ from the gifts of these arts, which ‘‘in the abundance of detailed features . . . greatly excel the performances of our own fancy,’’ as Husserl...

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Chapter 2: Corporeality and the Glory of the Infinite in the Philosophy of Levinas

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pp. 29-44

In the opening line of Arnold Schoenberg’s opera Moses and Aron, Moses stammers, ‘‘Only one, eternal, thou omnipresent one, invisible and inconceivable,’’ thereby invoking a God who cannot appear, be pictured or mediated through images. The suspicion of theophany echoes a significant strand in Western theological...

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Chapter 3: Postmodern Saintliness

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pp. 45-60

What must saintliness be if we are to think of it as postmodern? Does the term postmodernism not refer to a dizzying array of ever-shifting significations attributable to aesthetic styles and cultural practices? I shall focus upon postmodernism as a revolt against modes of rationality that make foundational claims, that is, as an attack...

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Chapter 4: Levinas and Hillel’s Questions

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pp. 61-75

‘‘Philosophy is in crisis,’’ says the postmodern thinker. ‘‘Yet,’’ she continues, ‘‘we are forced to comport ourselves within its ambit, forced to dance its dance, to use its concepts and to unsay them even before they are said.’’ But what is meant by ‘‘philosophy,’’ and how are we to unsay it if we have at our disposal...

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Chapter 5: Recontextualizing the Ontological Argument: A Lacanian Analysis

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pp. 76-92

I read Lacan. I ask myself: What is this good for? It is good for nothing. If so, can this be proved? I will try. I will not know, you will not know, if I am successful. In Lacanian terms, if I have succeeded, I have failed; if I fail, I have succeeded. Doch, I shall apply Lacanian techniques to one of Western theology’s most frequently...

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Part II: Training Bodies: Pedagogies of Pain

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pp. 93-94

Viewed from a phenomenological perspective, the perspective of what has become known as the ‘‘lived body,’’ the body establishes a context for a wide range of inquiries. Thus understood, it can become the object of self-mortification in the interest of religious or aesthetic ends. In addition, suffering may be interpreted...

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Chapter 6: Asceticism as Willed Corporeality

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pp. 95-111

Heidegger and Foucault can be envisioned as thinkers of emancipatory askeses, disciplines of liberation in which each may be seen as engaged in freeing knowledge and truth from embedding contexts of repressive epistemological constraints and their ancillary ethical implications, a freeing through which a certain release is attained.1 Techniques in which historical accretions are not...

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Chapter 7: Blind Man Seeing

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pp. 112-124

Once in a great while a play opens that should have irresistible appeal to afficionados of Maurice Merleau-Ponty. Such a play is Molly Sweeney, Irish playwright Brian Friel’s extraordinary drama about the crisis in the sensory and affective life of a woman born blind who, through surgery, supplants a world of darkness...

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Chapter 8: The Howl of Oedipus, the Cry of He´loı¨se

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pp. 125-140

Asceticism is a complex of widely varying practices, beliefs, and motives that have appeared in particular historical and cultural contexts. It is, to use the language of art criticism, site-specific. If the historical and phenomenological integrity of asceticism’s many manifestations is to be preserved, it is beyond dispute...

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Chapter 9: From the Death of the Word to the Rise of the Image in the Choreography of Merce Cunningham

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pp. 141-154

When one of the key figures in the world of dance, who is generally envisaged as an exemplar of high modernism, Merce Cunningham, appeals to the power of images rather than to a semiology of movements as the basis for his new work, then a shift that must be interrogated has occurred. As Wittgenstein demonstrated...

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Part III: Bodies: Subject or Code?

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pp. 155-156

Interpretations of the body as flesh and sensorium have been challenged by recent genetic accounts of the body envisioned as code. Governed by an intricate system of mathematized information that determines its forms, appetites, capacities, and behaviors, the dematerialized body-subject can be seen as no longer...

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Chapter 10: Empathy and Sympathy as Tactile Encounter

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pp. 157-172

Empathy and sympathy are feeling-acts that open unique modes of access to other persons. While they differ from one another in object and intentional structure, both bring other persons into proximity to the experiencing subject. This ‘‘bringing near’’ suggests that empathy and sympathy are misunderstood if they are interpreted...

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Chapter 11: Levinas’s Other and the Culture of the Copy

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pp. 173-188

When objects of perception or cognition are said to be the same, what is generally meant is that a trait or traits of an object can be found in one or more other objects. A resemblance between or among them is predicated with respect to traits that are repeated despite otherwise diverse attributes. That by virtue of which an object is said to resemble another...

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Chapter 12: From Neo-Platonism to Souls in Silico

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pp. 189-204

‘‘Sie haben alle mu¨ de Mu¨ nde / Und helle Seelen ohne Saum [they all have weary mouths / pure souls without a seam],’’ wrote Rilke longingly.1 Humans in their mortality could not hope to attain the enviable purity of the awe-inspiring and mysterious angelic soul. The yearning for soul has become...

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Part IV: Nihilation and the Ethics of Alterity

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pp. 205-206

From the perspective of an ethics of the other, negation can be construed as nihilatory force exerted against another or others. In the context of individuals, another as other is seen as breaking into the self-containment of the subject, so that the presence of that other is experienced as proscribing...

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Chapter 13: The Semantic Spaces of Terror

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pp. 207-221

It would seem that Terror and violence stand together, inhabiting the same semantic space.1 The extraordinary ambiguities that attach to the term Terror require multiple approaches, interpretations both deconstructive and additive, which constitute a space whose boundaries are in constant and uneasy flux. Here, I shall successively undertake readings of Heidegger,...

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Chapter 14: The Warring Logics of Genocide

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pp. 222-235

The very mention of genocide usually elicits a shudder, a frisson of horror, of psychological revulsion and moral outrage. Images of mass annihilation, of the dead and dying that the term evokes are especially troubling, since genocidal killing, now endemic to the world of postmodernity, is envisioned as a slaughter of innocents. It is understood that those earmarked...

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Chapter 15: Incursions of Alterity

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pp. 236-247

What, we might ask, could Gregory Bateson’s description of the double bind have to do with the question of evil? I hope to show that the double bind, the claim that no matter what one does one cannot win, not only plays a role in determining the development of schizophrenia, as Bateson maintains, but is intrinsic to the emergence of the...

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Chapter 16: Memory, History, Revelation

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pp. 248-262

A piece of historical writing is often thought of as a narrative interpreting the times of those who can themselves no longer depict the epoch in which they lived and moved and had their being. The subjects of this story are no longer here to attest to their era’s culture, economy, institutions, politics, and way of life, whether to praise or to excoriate them. The historian is challenged...

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Chapter 17: Exemplary Individuals

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pp. 263-280

Efforts to develop a phenomenological ethics have until now begun from two altogether different starting points. The first, a tack taken by Max Scheler, Nicolai Hartmann, and others, assumes that values are instantiated in the world and have properties that open them to intuitive grasp. Values are independent in being and accessible to us without being attached to...

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Part V: Conversations

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pp. 281-282

Talk, in its dictionary definition, ‘‘may be one-sided, the mere utterance of words with little thought. Communication may be uninvited or unreciprocated.’’ Conversation, by contrast, is...

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Chapter 18: Interview with Emmanuel Levinas

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pp. 283-297

Edith Wyschogrod: Is there a turning (Kehre), a change in your work, such that instead of finding moral significations by way of phenomenology, through what is inscribed in the face of the Other, you find it in language? If there is such a change, I would like to know why you now rely on the Logos more than...

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Chapter 19: Postmodernism and the Desire for God

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pp. 298-315

John D. Caputo: In just the past year [1998] we have seen two books edited by English theologians—one entitled The Postmodern God, the other Post-Secular Philosophy—that have pressed the claim that ‘‘postmodern’’ must be understood to mean or at least to include ‘‘postsecular,’’ that the delimitation of the claims of Enlightenment rationalism must also involve...

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Chapter 20: Heterological History

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pp. 316-328

In The Ethics of Remembering, Edith Wyschogrod applies the familiar postmodernist concept of ‘‘heterology’’—the study of Otherness or ‘‘alterity’’—to the philosophy of history. The following conversation with Carl Raschke explores the notion of ‘‘heterological history,’’ as Wyschogrod delineates it, in relationship...

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Part VI: The Art in Ethics

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pp. 329-330

There is an artistry in ethics, that of alterity, an artistry that may be manifested in works of literature, music, and the visual arts. Such works may allow the sensory inundation of what is reflected upon to enter into reflection itself, or absence may inscribe...

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Chapter 21: Between Swooners and Cynics

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pp. 331-344

The semiotic possibilities of the Hebrew of Genesis 1:31, ‘‘Viyar Elohim et kol asher asa vehinei tov meod [God saw everything that he had made and indeed it was very good],’’ include cognitive, moral, and aesthetic dimensions. Some traditional interpretations see the text as asserting that the world is well-wrought, that nature’s...

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Chapter 22: Facts, Fiction, Ficciones

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pp. 345-359

What is it that we ask for when we ask for truth in the study of religion? Before trying to link the two key terms of this inquiry, truth and religion, let me tell you a story, a tale about truth in which the idea of fact but not yet of religion figures prominently. Absent in the narrative I am about to recount is the romance of the story. What must be repressed in the telling is that...

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Chapter 23: Eating the Text, Defiling the Hands

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pp. 360-374

‘‘A masterpiece always moves, by definition, in the manner of a ghost,’’ its mode of temporalization, its timing, always out of joint, spectrally disorganizing the ‘‘cause’’ that is called the ‘‘original,’’ Derrida tells us (SoM, 18). Can there be an ‘‘original’’ describing an event that has already occurred but that rearises spectrally...

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Chapter 24: Killing the Cat

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pp. 375-387

Genet’s heroes are ‘‘as at home in infamy as a fish is in water.’’1 According to Sartre, the effect produced by Genet’s use of crime is not ‘‘an ethics of evil’’ but its metamorphosis into a ‘‘black aestheticism.’’2 For Mishima, descriptions of blood and gore produce a comparable result: ‘‘when blood flows existence as a whole receives...

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Chapter 25: The Art in Ethics

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pp. 388-402

Two objections arise repeatedly in connection with Emmanuel Levinas’s philosophy of language. First, it is argued, in the spirit of Ju¨ rgen Habermas and K. O. Apel, for whom ethics is grounded in discursive reason, that for Levinas ethics is an unmediated relation to the other and, as such, transcends linguistic and conceptual...

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Part VII: Comparing Philosophies

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pp. 403-404

The generative questions and metaphors stretching between and among differing contexts and approaches function as conceptual monorails that allow for comparison without obliterating philosophical difference. Like the tightrope walker of...

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Chapter 26: The Moral Self

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pp. 405-422

The work of Levinas attempts to give an account of the uniqueness of the human person, starting from what he believes to be peculiar to persons, the recognition of others as the source of moral obligation. This criterion had already been proposed in the literature of neo- Kantianism, but the formulation it received there had...

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Chapter 27: Autochthony and Welcome

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pp. 423-431

Is hospitality not a solicitation to its addressee, ‘‘Viens, all that I have, all that I am, is at your disposal’’? Is hospitality, as Levinas writes, ‘‘an incessant alienation of the ego . . . by the guest entrusted to it . . . being torn from oneself for another in giving to the other the bread from one’s mouth,’’ a one for the other that fissures...

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Chapter 28: Time and Nonbeing in Derrida and Quine

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pp. 432-448

Contemporary philosophers may be divided into two classes: those who believe in normative epistemological discourse governed by canons of objectivity and rationality continuous with those of science, and those who think of cognitive discourse as one among many claimants to meaning. Richard Rorty argues that, if there is ‘‘no common commensurating ground between them, all we can...

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Chapter 29: The Logic of Artifactual Existents

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pp. 449-463

Scientific thinking as a model for human inquiry has fallen under criticism, often by those who number themselves among its most ardent admirers. In the case of John Dewey, the romance with science comes to an inconclusive end, since he has no quarrel with the explanatory force of scientific concepts or with the power of science as an organon of theoretical constructs that express...

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Chapter 30: The Mathematical Model in Plato and Some Surrogates in a Jain Theory of Knowledge

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pp. 464-473

One of the generative questions in Benjamin Nelson’s late work was: What accounts for the breakthrough insights that permit the reduction of all quality to quantity, the proclaiming of a mathematical reality behind the experiential immediacies of experience and the affirmation of a homogeneous time and space...

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Chapter 31: Soft Nominalism in Quine and the School of Dignaga

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pp. 474-487

Nominalists argue that everything that is must be particular. D. M. Armstrong contends, ‘‘Nominalists deny that there is any objective identity in things which are not identical. Realists, on the other hand, hold that the apparent situation is the real situation. There genuinely...

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Chapter 32: Fear of Primitives, Primitive Fears

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pp. 488-504

These are the words of Percy Mumbulla, from Ulladulla, an Australian aborigine in a long line of guardians of tribal memory about the arrival of Captain Cook at Snapper Island, as set down by Roland Robinson, a collector of oral...


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pp. 505-562


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pp. 563-566

E-ISBN-13: 9780823247646
Print-ISBN-13: 9780823226061
Print-ISBN-10: 0823226069

Page Count: 592
Publication Year: 2006

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Subject Headings

  • Philosophy, Modern.
  • Theology.
  • Ethics.
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