Friday, April 27, 2007

Correspondence with Barbara

Dear Barbara,

I have a couple of questions for you this time, I hope maybe you can be of some help. I've been reading again your paper from the Jerusalem Rosenzweig conference and as of late I'm a little bit bewildered about how you come about with the 'bridge' between Rosenzweig and Benjamin; I've just read the book of Scholem on Benjamin (with some reservations thereof) and their 'Briefwechsel' so that I found out Benjamin was undoubtedly familiar with the 'Stern' and thought possitively about it, moreover Scholem himself had been learning in Frankfurt for a few months at the 'Lehrhaus'. Do you know of any secondary literature that treats this topic of Benjamin's relationship to Rosenzweig? I don't think he might have specifically spoken about him in any of his many essays and unpublished fragments, but my discovery of the metaphysical religiosity of Benjamin (whereby I see the faults in his Messianism, that is of the antinomian kind... perhaps the only antinomian Jewish Messianism except for the Sabbateans, but then Benjamin wasn't working exclusively in Jewish terms...there's a piece in German of S. Lehmann discussing this in the context of his 'apotaktasis') does echo to Rosenzweig, but not in a very positive light I think. There's an essay of St├ęphane Moses on Benjamin and Rosenzweig in the volume edited by G. Smith in 1989 about Benjamin but I don't like the writing much, it lacks some pervasive philosophical seriousness and Moses' French book about Benjamin doesn't fare any better. I'll tell you briefly why I'm interested in this, I'm preparing a lecture to deliver in Germany this summer about Arendt and Rosenzweig on Love and Politics, subjects that permeates both thinkers to their core ideas... but they're really far distant from each other... The only possible link I can see in between them is St. Augustine's account of love and perhaps to a lesser degree a 'metamorphosis' of some of the historical content of the 'Stern' passed onto Arendt by late Benjamin and in particular the 'Thesen zur Begriff der Geschichte' that together with the fundamental ontology of Heidegger shaped decisively Arendt's thinking about the political.

At any rate I think the comparison is interpretively very difficult, so I decided to solve the problem of hermeneutics into the realm of politics by presenting two comparable 'models of Christian-Jewish dialogue' with very similar end-goals, one particularly distinguishable for its silence before the question with all the secular caution it involves (Arendt) and the other by tackling it in the open but achieving similar results (Rosenzweig). Of course the Germans will not like to hear that I use both Rosenzweig and Arendt to advocate a model of ecumenism that wants to take no part in 'love of alterity' but merely in politics. Yet I believe something can come out of it. If you think on any relevant material on Rosenzweig/Benjamin or have any comments please let me know. As far as Arendt is concerned I believe the topic is completely fresh, but there's really not much to say unless you venture into your own philosophy. Lastly let me know if your book came out, I'd like to have a look at it sometime.

An embrace from Jerusalem



Dear Ari,

I think you have all the relevant literature, and I also do believe that you are entering into something valuable, something that no one else has touched in any extensive way, something to which only you will be able to do full justice. You will see connections, partly from your strong, solid and wide base in both German Jewish thinkers and in the Christian thought that was a stream in their thought from European history of ideas, and partly (mainly) from your lightning-speed mind that knows how to make connections others can't see. When you've completed what you'll be reading, please do send it to me--but only when it's completed, okay? I'll be leaving for Italy on June 14th, and so if you send it during the last two weeks of June, I wouldn't be responding till about the 4th of July, when you'll likely still be in Germany.

Thank you for asking about the book; I've attached the launch invitations. Too bad we both can't be in the same places at the same time. So, hold the fort bravely and safe!

Yes, an embrace, this one from Montreal,

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