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Anatomy of the Abyss
Simon D. Podmore claims that becoming a self before God is both a divine gift and an anxious obligation. Before we can know God, or ourselves, we must come to a moment of recognition. How this comes to be, as well as the terms of such acknowledgment, are worked out in Podmore's powerful new reading of Kierkegaard. As he gives full consideration to Kierkegaard's writings, Podmore explores themes such as despair, anxiety, melancholy, and spiritual trial, and how they are broken by the triumph of faith, forgiveness, and the love of God. He confronts the abyss between the self and the divine in order to understand how we can come to know ourselves in relation to a God who is apparently so wholly Other.
Authorship as Edification
In contrast to recent postmodern and deconstructionist readings, Mark A. Tietjen believes that the purpose behind Kierkegaard's writings is the moral and religious improvement of the reader. Tietjen defends Kierkegaard against claims that certain features of his works, such as pseudonymity, indirect communication, irony, and satire are self-deceived or deceitful. Kierkegaard, Communication, and Virtue reveals how they are directly related to the virtues or moral issues being discussed. In fact, Tietjen argues, the manner of presentation is a critical element of the philosophical message being conveyed. Reading broadly in Kierkegaard’s writings, he develops a hermeneutics of trust that fully illustrates Kierkegaard’s aim to evoke faith in his reader.
Kabbalistic Hermeneutics and Poetic Imagination
This long-awaited, magisterial study-an unparalleled blend of philosophy, poetry, and philology-draws on theories of sexuality, phenomenology, comparative religion, philological writings on Kabbalah, Russian formalism, Wittgenstein, Rosenzweig, William Blake, and the very physics of the time-space continuum to establish what will surely be a highwater mark in work on Kabbalah. Not only a study of texts, Language, Eros, Being is perhaps the fullest confrontation of the body in Jewish studies, if not in religious studies as a whole.Elliot R. Wolfson explores the complex gender symbolism that permeates Kabbalistic literature. Focusing on the nexus of asceticism and eroticism, he seeks to define the role of symbolic and poetically charged language in the erotically configured visionary imagination of the medieval Kabbalists. He demonstrates that the traditional Kabbalistic view of gender was a monolithic and androcentric one, in which the feminine was conceived as being derived from the masculine. He does not shrink from the negative implications of this doctrine, but seeks to make an honest acknowledgment of it as the first step toward the redemption of an ancient wisdom.Comparisons with other mystical traditions-including those in Christianity, Buddhism, and Islam-are a remarkable feature throughout the book. They will make it important well beyond Jewish studies, indeed, a must for historians of comparative religion, in particular of comparative mysticism.Praise for Elliot R. Wolfson:Through a Speculum That Shines is an important and provocative contribution to the study of Jewish mysticism by one of the major scholars now working in this field.-Speculum
Humor as a Response to Nihilism
Disputing the common misconception that nihilism is wholly negative and necessarily damaging to the human spirit, John Marmysz offers a clear and complete definition to argue that it is compatible, and indeed preferably responded to, with an attitude of good humor. He carefully scrutinizes the phenomenon of nihilism as it appears in the works, lives, and actions of key figures in the history of philosophy, literature, politics, and theology, including Nietzsche, Heidegger, Camus, and Mishima. While suggesting that there ultimately is no solution to the problem of nihilism, Marmysz proposes a way of utilizing the anxiety and despair that is associated with the problem as a spur toward liveliness, activity, and the celebration of life.
A Conservative Critique
In this original new study, Grant Havers critically interprets Leo Strauss’s political philosophy from a conservative standpoint. Most mainstream readers of Strauss have either condemned him from the Left as an extreme right-wing opponent of liberal democracy or celebrated him from the Right as a traditional defender of Western civilization. Rejecting both of these portrayals, Havers shifts the debate beyond the conventional parameters of our age. He persuasively shows that Strauss was neither a man of the Far Right nor a conservative, but in fact a Cold War liberal with a strong secular bias who taught his followers to uphold Anglo-American democracy as the one true universal regime that can be embraced and practiced by all human beings regardless of time, place, or creed. Strauss firmly rejects the traditional conservative view held by Edmund Burke and others about the leavening influence of Christian morality. Havers maintains that this inattention to Christianity, though historically unjustified, is crucial to Strauss and the Straussian portrayal Anglo-American democracy as a regime whose eternal ideals of liberty and constitutional government are in accord with the teachings of Plato and Aristotle, rather than the Gospels. In the process, Havers argues, Straussians end up rewriting history by falsely idealizing the ancient Greeks, who tolerated slavery and infanticide, as the forerunners of modern liberal democracy. Straussians also misrepresent heroes of the Anglo-American political tradition such as Abraham Lincoln and Sir Winston Churchill as heirs to the ancient Greek tradition of statecraft. Havers suggests that the most troubling implication of this Straussianism is that it provides a rationale for the aggressive spread of democratic values on a global basis while ignoring the preconditions that make these values possible. Concepts such as the rule of law, constitutional government, Christian morality, and the separation of church and state are not easily transplanted beyond the historic confines of Anglo-American civilization, as recent wars to spread democracy in the Middle East and Central Asia have demonstrated.
Few philosophers have devoted more than passing attention to similarities between the thought of Søren Kierkegaard, a Danish Christian, and Emmanuel Levinas, a French Jew. Here, one of philosophy of religion's most distinctive voices offers a sustained comparison. Focusing on questions surrounding otherness, transcendence, postmodernity, and the nature of religious thought, Merold Westphal draws readers into a dialogue between the two thinkers. Westphal's masterful command of both philosophies shows that each can learn from the other. Levinas and Kierkegaard in Dialogue is an insightful and accessible contribution to philosophical considerations of ethics and religion.
Levinas and the Philosophy of Religion
Jeffrey L. Kosky
Reveals the interplay of phenomenology and religion in Levinas's thought.
"Kosky examines Levinas's thought from the perspective of the philosophy of religion and he does so in a way that is attentive to the philosophical nuances of Levinas's argument.... an insightful, well written, and carefully documented study... that uniquely illuminates Levinas's work." -- John D. Caputo
For readers who suspect there is no place for religion and morality in postmodern philosophy, Jeffrey L. Kosky suggests otherwise in this skillful interpretation of the ethical and religious dimensions of Emmanuel Levinas's thought. Placing Levinas in relation to Hegel and Nietzsche, Husserl and Heidegger, Derrida and Marion, Kosky develops religious themes found in Levinas's work and offers a way to think and speak about ethics and morality within the horizons of contemporary philosophy of religion. Kosky embraces the entire scope of Levinas's writings, from Totality and Infinity to Otherwise than Being, contrasting Levinas's early religious and moral thought with that of his later works while exploring the nature of phenomenological reduction, the relation of religion and philosophy, the question of whether Levinas can be considered a Jewish thinker, and the religious and theological import of Levinas's phenomenology. Kosky stresses that Levinas is first and foremost a phenomenologist and that the relationship between religion and philosophy in his ethics should cast doubt on the assumption that a natural or inevitable link exists between deconstruction and atheism.
Jeffrey L. Kosky is translator of On Descartes' Metaphysical Prism: The Constitution and the Limits of Onto-theo-logy in Cartesian Thought by Jean-Luc Marion. He has taught at Williams College.
Indiana Series in the Philosophy of Religion -- Merold Westphal, general editor
272 pages, 6 1/8 x 9 1/4, bibl., index, append.
cloth 0-253-33925-1 $39.95 s /
The Question of Invisibility
Directly challenging the prevailing interpretation, Corey Beals explores the ideas of twentieth-century philosopher Emmanuel Levinas's concept of love, love's relation to wisdom, and how love makes the Other visible to us. Distinguishing love from other types of wisdom, Beals argues that Levinas's"wisdom of love"is a real possibility, one which grants priority to ethics over ontology.
The Silent Footsteps of Rebecca
Challenging previous interpretations of Levinas that gloss over his use of the feminine or show how he overlooks questions raised by feminists, Claire Elise Katz explores the powerful and productive links between the feminine and religion in Levinas's work. Rather than viewing the feminine as a metaphor with no significance for women or as a means to reinforce traditional stereotypes, Katz goes beyond questions of sexual difference to reach a more profound understanding of the role of the feminine in Levinas's conception of ethical responsibility. She combines feminist interpretations of Levinas with interpretations that focus on his Jewish writings to reveal that the feminine provides an important bridge between his philosophy and his Judaism. Katz's reading of Levinas's conception of the feminine against the backdrop of discussions of women of the Hebrew bible points to important shifts in contemporary philosophy toward the creation of life and care for the other.