Mendel Kranz: On the Borders of Europe: Zionism and (Post) Colonialism in Memmi and Levinas

Mendel Kranz

PhD Student, Philosophy of Religions

On the Borders of Europe: Zionism and (Post) Colonialism in Memmi and Levinas

This paper tracks the shifting articulations of Judaism as it emerges in France in the latter half of the 20th century—a France, that is, still contending with the Shoah and already deep within the throes of decolonization. This historical moment, I suggest, offers a particularly illuminating window through which to understand how the figure of the Jew is established, paradoxically, inside and outside of Europe, perpetuating a European colonial project in the State of Israel while concomitantly functioning at the site of a political-philosophical critique of the West. In the thinkers and writers analyzed here, the figure of the Jew emerges in a surprising series of moves in a liminal space between these two poles—critique and engagement, antagonists and protagonists, inside but not of the West. It is this series of movements that I want to track here.

Part theoretical exploration part critical genealogy, I ask how this double movement took place. By first engaging with and critiquing recent attempts to think about postcolonialism and Jewishness together, I turn to Albert Memmi and Emmanuel Levinas, who serve as fertile examples for why such models fail to adequately account for the complexity of the problem. For both of them the question is the same: how were they theorizing the position of the Jew in relation to the West and what role did Zionism play? Finally, I ask what such reversals might indicate about our attempts to consider the intertwined histories of Europe, (post) colonialism, Jewishness, and Zionism.

Paper can be accessed here

Wednesday, February 20, 12:30 PM, Swift 400

Refreshments provided

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator William Underwood (wunderwood@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.

Tamsin Jones: “Is Academic Theology an Answer to the Problem of Philosophy of Religion?”

Tamsin Jones

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies, Trinity College

“Is Academic Theology an Answer to the Problem of Philosophy of Religion?”

Wednesday, February 13th, 4:30 PM, Swift 201

Paper can be accessed beforehand here

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator William Underwood (wunderwood@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.

 

 

Kristóf Oltvai: Theologizing Otherwise: Culture and/as the Critique of Metaphysics

Kristóf Oltvai

PhD Student, Theology

Theologizing Otherwise: Culture and/as the Critique of Metaphysics in Husserl, Adorno, and Levinas

Although the ‘turn to religion’ in contemporary European philosophy continues to attract interest and debate, scholarly analyses of this shift often remain one-sided, searching only for the impact of supposedly ‘theological’ texts and concepts on ‘philosophical’ ones without considering how these two disciplines’ interaction might reshape what both terms signify. In response, I suggest that the ethical critique of metaphysics as a totalizing conceptual discourse–which becomes, over the course of the 20th century, a critique of ‘philosophy’ as such–redefines ‘theology’ as that which safeguards the value or meaning of human subjectivity against philosophy’s authoritarian impulses. This theology, however, is now found in the whole interhuman world of culture, and not (just) in the historic faith of the Christian churches. I trace this theme from Edmund Husserl’s notions of the Lebenswelt and the crisis of Europe, through Theodor Adorno’s question of “philosophizing after Auschwitz,” to Emmanuel Levinas’ summons to think God on the basis of the interhuman, cultural encounter with the Other.

Paper can be accessed here

Wednesday, February 6, 12:30 PM, Swift 200

Refreshments provided

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator William Underwood (wunderwood@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.

Jean-Luc Marion: “What do We Mean When We Speak of Revelation?”

Jean-Luc Marion

Thomas Greeley and Grace McNichols Greeley Professor of Catholic Studies; Professor of Philosophy of Religions, Theology, Philosophy, and the Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago; Professor Emeritus of Modern Philosophy and Metaphysics, University of Paris IV (Sorbonne)

“What do We Mean When We Speak of Revelation?”

Wednesday, January 16th, Location TBA

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator William Underwood (wunderwood@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.

Matthew Peterson: “Apocalypse and Truth”: an excerpt from a translation-in-progress

Matthew Peterson

PhD Student, Divinity School

“Apocalypse and Truth”: an excerpt from a translation-in-progress of Apocalypse of Truth by Jean Vioulac

Wednesday, December 5, 12:30 PM, Swift 200

Jean Vioulac’s Apocalypse de la vérité (Ad Solem, 2014; winner of the 2016 Grand prix de philosophie de l’Académie française) proceeds from his previous work, where he interprets our era, the epoch of technology, as the consummation of Western metaphysics and diagnoses the totalitarian logic that both undergirds and follows from it. Anchored in Heidegger’s middle and late work, Vioulac now presents a genealogy of ontology that shows how our understanding of truth has been overdetermined by its Greek foundation. In this chapter, Vioulac turns to the Epistles of Saint Paul which, insofar as they embody the confrontation of Hebraism with Hellenism, offer a thematic thinking of the coming of the “mystery” within the Greek configuration of truth. By illustrating how Paul exposes an inaugural rejection of nothingness upon which the weight of nihilism rests today, Vioulac delineates a philosophical concept of apocalypse, where the apocalyptic event is understood as the crisis of truth.

Refreshments provided

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator William Underwood (wunderwood@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.

Pieter Hoekstra: “Blanchot, Judaism, and ‘The Impossible Necessary'”

Pieter Hoekstra

MA Student, Divinity School

“Blanchot, Judaism, and the ‘Impossible Necessary’”

Wednesday, November 14, 12:30 PM, Swift 200

Download paper here

In this essay I engage two critiques of Blanchot’s interpretation of Judaism, both found in Kevin Hart’s work: first, that Blanchot allegorizes Judaism out of history, and second, that his interpretation of Judaism is fundamentally no different from his formulations of writing and atheism. My argument is that Sarah Hammerschlag’s interpretation in The Figural Jew, in addressing the first critique, also gives us the tools necessary for more robustly developing the second. While Blanchot’s interpretation of Judaism does not fail to take account of history per se, it abstracts Judaism to the point that recourse to Jewish thought appears hardly necessary—we can see separately that the ethical content of Judaism is just as easily found in Blanchot’s understandings of community and writing, among other phenomena. In light of this analysis, I will take up the question of whether Blanchot’s work ought to be considered a part of modern Jewish thought.

Refreshments provided

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator William Underwood (wunderwood@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.

Gil Anidjar: “Friends Like These (A Comico-Political Essay)”

Gil Anidjar

Professor, Department of Religion, Columbia University

 “Friends like These (A Comico-Political Essay)”

Monday, October 29, 12:30 PM, Swift Common Room

The Jewish Studies Workshop, in collaboration with the Philosophy of Religions and Religion, Literature, and Visual Culture Workshops, is excited to announce a talk with Professor Gil Anidjar of Columbia University on October 29th, at 12:30pm in the Swift Hall Common Room. Professor Anidjar’s talk, entitled “Friends Like These (A Comico-Political Essay),” explores what we might mean by “Jewish Politics.” Professor Anidjar is Professor in the Departments of Religion, Middle Eastern South Asian, and African Studies, and the Institute for Comparative Literature at Columbia University. His most recent book is Blood: A Critique of Christianity, and he is the editor of Jacques Derrida’s Acts of Religion. This will certainly be an exciting talk, and we hope to see you there.

Jesse Berger: Is Sarvajñatā Synthetic or Gestalt?

Jesse Berger

PhD Student, Philosophy of Religions

“Is Sarvajñatā Synthetic or Gestalt? Kundakunda, Cantor, and the ‘Inaccessibility’ of the Absolute” 

Wednesday, October 17, 12:30 PM, Swift 200

Download paper here

“Although operating within very different religious and conceptual frameworks, the Jain mystic Kundakunda and the mathematician Georg Cantor contended with similar a priori problems concerning the relationship between the limited, relative purview of human knowledge and the singular, independent nature of the absolute. I argue that they solved these conceptual problems in their respective religious frameworks with strikingly analogous forms of reasoning. More precisely, both thinkers demanded an independently existent, transcendental absolute to render consistent their own respective systems of thought, a position that depended upon resolving the formal quandary of ‘inaccessibility’: i.e., the inability for any sequential, determinate objectifications to ever sum up – viz., a mereological “synthesis” – to the simultaneous comprehension of a genuine absolute – viz., a holistic “gestalt.” Though one thinker adhered to a quasi-Vedāntic form of Jainism, and the other was a devout Roman Catholic, both discovered that the sequential features of human cognition precluded access to the kind of simultaneous knowledge that the absolute must comprehend. In other words, both thinkers grasped a priori why we can never reach a genuine ‘absolute’ perspective from ‘the-bottom-up’, as a mereological sum of the kinds of objective knowledge-facts that figure into our limited, relatively conditioned epistemic states. The absolute must exist in an entirely independent and, from the standpoint of sequential knowledge, paradoxical mode of being – a pre-established totality that is also somehow not relationally determinate, an overarching perspective that pervades all relative perspectives, but is itself not representable in any collection or sum of these perspectives (even an infinite number.)”

Refreshments will be served

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator William Underwood (wunderwood@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.

Philosophy of Religions Welcome Lunch

Philosophy of Religions Welcome Lunch

Wednesday, October 3, 12:30 PM, Swift Quad

Welcome back, Divinity Schoolers! The Philosophy of Religions Workshop invites you to join us for lunch on Wednesday, October 3rd at 12:30 p.m. on Swift Quad. There will be (free) lunch provided from the Nile with vegetarian and non-vegetarian options alike. It’ll be a great chance for returning students and faculty to catch up, and for new Divinity School students to get to know more about the Philosophy of Religions area. No RSVP required.

 

Jeffrey Kosky (Washington and Lee University): “Henry David Thoreau’s Recovery: An Ordinary Happiness and ‘The Phenomena of the Lake'”

Jeffrey Kosky

Professor of Religion, Washington and Lee University

Henry David Thoreau’s Recovery: An Ordinary Happiness and “The Phenomena of the Lake”

Friday, May 25, 12:00pm, Swift 403

Please join the Philosophy of Religions Workshop for a roundtable discussion with Jeffrey Kosky (Professor of Religion, Washington and Lee University). Professor Kosky works in the areas of phenomenology and religion; theories of modern disenchantment and the possibilities of re-enchantment; and traditions of mystical theology in Christian thought and culture. He is the author of Arts of Wonder: Enchanting Secularity (The University of Chicago Press, 2012), and Levinas and the Philosophy of Religion (Indiana University Press, 2001). He has also translated several books and articles by Jean-Luc Marion.

The Workshop on the Philosophy of Religions is committed to maintaining itself as a fully accessible and inclusive workshop.  Please contact Workshop Coordinator Matthew Peterson (mjpeterson@uchicago.edu) in order to make any arrangements necessary to facilitate your participation in workshop events.