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Franz Rosenzweig’s Conversions

Franz Rosenzweig’s Conversions: World Denial and World Redemption

Copyright Date: 2014
Published by: Indiana University Press
Pages: 282
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  • Book Info
    Franz Rosenzweig’s Conversions
    Book Description:

    Franz Rosenzweig's near-conversion to Christianity in the summer of 1913 and his subsequent decision three months later to recommit himself to Judaism is one of the foundational narratives of modern Jewish thought. In this new account of events, Benjamin Pollock suggests that what lay at the heart of Rosenzweig's religious crisis was not a struggle between faith and reason, but skepticism about the world and hope for personal salvation. A close examination of this important time in Rosenzweig's life, the book also sheds light on the full trajectory of his philosophical development.

    eISBN: 978-0-253-01316-3
    Subjects: Religion
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Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Introduction: Explaining Rosenzweig’s Near-Conversion and Return (pp. 1-14)

    ON JULY 7, 1913, a twenty-six year-old Franz Rosenzweig engaged in an all-night conversation with two friends, Eugen Rosenstock and Rudolf Ehrenberg, at the home of Ehrenberg’s parents in Leipzig.¹ Rosenzweig would look back on thisLeipziger Nachtgespräch(Leipzig Night-Conversation) as the transformative event of his life. It precipitated a dramatic personal and intellectual breakdown from which it took him several months to recover. Moreover, the terms of this crisis, and the intellectual and spiritual vocabulary Rosenzweig developed on the way to overcoming it, forged, in decisive ways, the direction his thinking would take for the whole course of his...

  5. 1 Revelation and World Skepticism: Rosenzweig’s Early Marcionism (pp. 15-50)

    “On the heights of the Capitol the redeemer of the world shall be worshipped, Christ or Antichrist, but no frail mortal.”

    So runs the prophecy given to Caesar Augustus by the Sybil, legend has it, atop the hill of the Capitol in Rome on the night of Jesus’ birth. Selma Lagerlöf recounts this prophecy in the opening scene of herAntikrists mirakler(1897), and tells how, at the very spot of the sibylline prophecy, the Church of Santa Maria in Aracoeli was founded. The monks who maintain Aracoeli, Lagerlöf relates, guard against the dark side of this prophecy: their vocation,...

  6. 2 Christian “World-Activity” and the Historical Reconciliation of Soul and World: Rosenzweig’s (Near-)Conversion (pp. 51-96)

    On February 6, 1917, Rosenzweig writes to his parents from the war front, musing over the “strange parallels to Hegel” he has “experienced in [his] life.” He proceeds to explain that “ 1913 and 1797 is the most peculiar,” “‘the 27th-year of life,’ insofar as Hegel made a theory . . . precisely out of this ‘year of life.’ Compare the beginning of ‘Jena I’. I myself am thus an example for it.”¹

    Rosenzweig’s comments suggest that he understood the crucial transformation he underwent during the summer of 1913, in the midst of the twentyseventh year of his life, to...

  7. 3 “Ich bleibe also Jude”: Judaism, Redemption, and the World (pp. 97-126)

    Why did Rosenzweig return to Judaism? After the transformative conversation of July 7, 1913, in which he was forced to examine the Marcionist consequences of his faith position, and in which he determined to convert to a Christianity that would resolve his long-standing perplexity over the relation between soul and world, what could have led him to decide to recommit himself to Jewish life?

    The answer that has dominated the scholarship for the last sixty years suggests that the key to Rosenzweig’s reversal was a transformative experience at a traditional Day of Atonement prayer service. Stéphane Mosès claims that “before...

  8. 4 World Denial and World Redemption in The Star of Redemption (pp. 127-215)

    THE STAR OF REDEMPTIONoffers a philosophical account of “the All”—the whole of what is— that is forged out of the relations between three fundamental kinds of beings: God, the world, and human selves. The first part of the Star shows how each of these three “elemental” beings may be conceived as constructing itself out of its own particular “nothing”; and the second part of the book articulates the course of relations between them—creation, revelation, redemption—which both generates our actual experience and points toward their future unity in redemption. We find ourselves, Rosenzweig suggests, in the middle of...

  9. Conclusion: Life and Thought Revisited (pp. 216-220)

    THIS STUDY HAS FOCUSED on a single night in Franz Rosenzweig’s life, indeed, on a single conversation in which Rosenzweig participated. Scholars have long recognized theLeipziger Nachtgesprächas a transformative event for Rosenzweig, and this book certainly confirms its importance. But I have claimed that the stakes of that night-conversation, and hence its significance for Rosenzweig’s personal and intellectual development, were vastly different than has been supposed up until now. In contrast to the account that has dominated the scholarship for the last sixty years, I have argued that the Leipzig night-conversation did not begin a process of faith-awakening...

  10. NOTES (pp. 221-248)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY (pp. 249-258)
  12. INDEX (pp. 259-264)
  13. Back Matter (pp. 265-265)