Ph.D. dissertation Mårten Björk, “Life outside life: the politics of immortality, 1914–1945”, Göteborgs Universitet
7 September 2018, at 13.15
Faculty examiner: Prof. Dr. Rinse H. Reeling Brouwer
The opponent presents a summary of the thesis for about 15-20 minutes
This dissertation, that has been laid before us, is really a thesis, i.e.:the defender develops a clear proposal for further elaboration and evaluation by the academic community.
It presents an clear hypothesis: several thinkers that thought about life eternal during the period 1914-1945, did so in an opposition to the ‘Monistic Century’, an opposition that had political implications too.
For the indication of the mainstream approach of life since the 19th Century it uses the label of ‘Darwinism’, but it uses by preference the designation by Todd H. Weir of the ‘monistic century’ [(p. 19n.6, p. 20n.11)], [in paragraph 1.4.] complemented by the descriptions of Michael Dillon and Michel Foucault of the processes of politicization of life and of Hans Blumenberg of the de-theologisation of the idea of immortality.
The selection of the four thinkers (or perhaps rather ‘witnesses’) – Rosenzweig, Barth, Goldberg and Peterson –, that in my eyes is definitely original, is not justified in beforehand, but appears to be meaningful during the unfolding of the argument and in the end (in my opinion) it appears to be possible to justify it.
The two main questions of this study are well articulated, and in the end, in my judgement, it can be proved that both have been answered: (1) how did the discussion of immortality of the four subjects … involve a conceptualization of the human and her place in the cosmos that confronts the basis of the monistic century? (2) how did this conceptualization (..) imply a political discussion with profound ontological and theological consequences? (p. 23).
The four subjects (as discussed in the Chapters 2-5)
The Philosophy of Franz Rosenzweig was a yearning for a systematic cognition of the All and this yearning begins in the middle of life. It is only in the concrete existence of the individual, the life that can and shall die, where philosophy and theology might commence. At the same time, mortality also gives rise to the idea of immortality as a form of desire for satisfaction and survival. Therefore, Rosenzweig traced the origin of the biocentric paradigm of modernity back to the rise of Western civilization (in Mesopotamia) and naturalized that desire to live on as a natural aspect of life: life is a struggle against death and ideas of immortality are ways to cope with death. Humans cling all other living organisms (including cultures) to survival, or to the hope of the glory of a political afterlife. Humans do so to the cost of war. A pagan form of immortality entails the hope of being remembered by future generations through glorious acts and this understanding of life after death is secularized in the biopolitical idea of the collective life of the nation. However, Judaism and Christianity should see to find the origin of life beyond the temporality of mortal existence and thereby refuse to equate life with survival. Rosenzweig describes the God of revelation as a life beyond life which transcends the two-dimensionality of death and life that constitutes creaturely existence. Judaism and Christianity structure human life towards what is beyond the paganism of biological existence. Life is much more than present life. It is a community with the dead and the coming, and this is what the ancestral past of Judaism shows the world by being a people related to its generations . Those who affirm the existence of a life beyond life must begin to transcend the struggle for life that the rest of the world reproduce by being nothing but living creatures. This is not an embrace of death, but an understanding of life from the perspective of eternity where the dead, in the form of the preceding, wait for the end when God shall be all in all. This anticipation is a struggle here and now for a sabbatical life beyond the confines of the pagan deities of art and state which represent the order of biological life in the domain of history. The Jewish diaspora shows a possibility to live beyond the state, and Rosenzweig hoped that Christianity would build a community beyond the nations. Eternal life became for him a political call for a multicultural empire that before the completion of the All could reflect the promised peace of the Kingdom of God.
The Swiss reformed theologian Karl Barth praised Stirner’s critique of Feuerbach as a naïve humanist who falsely identified the life of the individual with the life of the species and failed to understand ‘the fictitious nature of this concept of humanity in general’. Feuerbach’s desire for an immortality of the species was an illusion in a world where not only all individual creatures, but also whole species, are confronted by death. Ultimately, everything – even time and space itself – shall end. Stirner’s criticism of Feuerbach could strengthen Barth’s thesis of the contingency of truth. The eternal life that Christ gives to and shares with the creation through his suffering, dying and resurrecting has not abolished natural death but eradicated nothingness by embedding the dead in God rather than in the nihil of non-existence. The immortality that is bestowed on the creature through the resurrection is a participation in God’s eternal life but not a denial of what Barth called natural death. However, this domestication of death is not to read as a phenomenon that provides the basis of a myth and a religion. On the contrary, the verbum externum puts our existence into a crisis by disclosing that life can only become meaningful if the nonsense of creaturely life that Barth equated with Darwinian existence is revealed to have an exteriority, The one who is interpellated by this verbum, can be habituated to use the power of imagination to challenge the powers that force organic life to be a struggle for survival. Such an imaginative animal is open for the gospel that life can be lived for other principles that creaturely survival or worldly glory. These ideas challenged the reduction of humanity to the blood and soil of nation and race, but they also implied a critique of Christianity as a religion that has lost its eschatological interpretation of life and death as powers that labor for the glory of God. God has not abolished natural death, but God has revealed that the modality of life can be given another form than the struggle for life. This is why the victory over eternal death in the hands of Barth becomes a political demand that society should be organized according to the principle suum cuique (to each its own), so that every limited creature is able to meet death in peace as that with joins us with eternity.
The Jewish scholar of myth Oskar Goldberg interpreted the Torah as a teaching of a Creator God that needs help to endow his creation with his immortality. During the period of the Exodus from Egypt through the conquering of the land of Canaan, when Elohim JHWH dwelled with his people in the tabernacle, the Hebrews opened their life for the divine so that he could become present in time and space. They enacted their God as a form if life when they followed the rules of the Torah and Goldberg interprets this divine presence anthropologically as the attempt to call humanity out of the world of fixation that Cain represents in the Torah. Cain was not only the first city builder and toolmaker. He was the prototype of the homo faber who in contradistinction to the primitive and archaic peoples of the world amongst whom the Hebrews of the Torah belonged, was imprisoned in a civilization that headed towards deeper and deeper catastrophes. It is not a coincidence that Abraham was a former Chaldean who abandoned the Mesopotamian city of Ur in order to live in the wilderness with his God and even sacrificed his old totem god, the ram, as a proof that he wanted to live contra naturam.Immortality was for Goldberg a form of biological justice that gradually would liberate mortal life from the death, imperfections and suffering of the world. Its is hard not to read him as a theologian of the modern period who validates the interpretation of immortality as a social ideology and a moral idea. The covenant seeks to make God, as the origin of life, present in the world as an enemy to death. Potentiality is primary to actuality in Goldberg’s cosmology and, he suggests, there are ways to open the actual, finished or perhaps even fixated life to the source that constituted it. The human is called to flee all those apparatus that separate life from its pre-biological source of existence and therefore Goldberg urges for a politics of exile.
The catholic historian and patristic Scholar Erik Peterson insists that death is a product of the fall and not a natural phenomenon. He sought for instruments that he could use to resist the equation of life with Darwinian existence. By pointing to the life of the ascetics, celibates, and virgins of the church, Peterson made the argument that the human animal can become habituated to grasp that the potential of life is something radically other than a simple struggle for existence. Peterson argued as early as 1922 that ‘every absolutization of the concept of life attempts to take the glory from God and the shame from the human. We can never forget that our life will be destroyed by death, that we are cheated out of life by the fall. He insists, that the human must learn to die. Peterson identified Christianity with a being in the world rather than a philosophical system. His theology is a discernment of spirits that uses the transcending force of human imagination to cultivate a belief that the life of the soul is not only a biological life. The spirits and souls that inhabit the domain of eternal life can be understood as the afterlife of all those who once lived in the world that for the living is dead and gone, but that from the perspective of eternity is the life that was, is now, en ever shall be: a world without end.
If I read it well, in 6.1.5 (on the pages 375-381) one can find some ingredients for an overview and an evaluation of the findings of this research; I distinguish eight of those ingredients:
1) ‘The four subjects sought to surpass the biocentric definition of life by trying to legitimate the hope for change that would transform the Darwinian economy of survival beyond recognition’ (p. 390 adds the implication of this expectation of a radical transformation with the vision, that time will not be ‘annulled in nothingness but embedded in eternity’);
2) ‘The fact that life is a metabolic and evolutionary process was obviously never questioned by the subjects …; what they challenged was the supposed ethical and political neutrality of the view of life as a simple factual phenomenon’;
3) ‘It is possible to hear a call that urges to understand the sense of life that exceeds the world of the living’; ‘we are invited to live against death or to learn how to die’ [however, in this respect there is some debate between Goldberg and the other three witnesses];
4) ‘God sought to share his eternity to the world so that it could find peace from death’, but also a ‘deactivation of biological functions and bad instincts’;
5) ‘Religion gave the four subjects conceptual means to think beyond life but it also made them reproduce problematic parts of their traditions’ (and, in the opinion of the author, from that we have to say goodbye);
6) ‘Their theologies border on an understanding of magic as a theory of correspondence and determinations’, but in the end, it is not magic but theology they pursue, and theology for them is a ‘summoning of what should be, or an interpretation of what calls new life in existence’;
7) for Rosenzweig and Goldberg ‘God [too] sought to redeem himself from the world of death’, but ‘even Barth’s and Peterson’s majestic and omnipotent God sought a reflection in the world’ [the author does not articulate his own (provisional) position in this field of question];
8) in addition, in part 6.2, p. 388f. it is said: ‘even if only Goldberg differentiates being in res extensae and res potentiae, the other three theologians also insist on the possibility of a new earth and the new heaven.’ Nevertheless, I would say, the debate on potentiality and actuality deserves further elaboration.
Need for further research
The last Chapter starts in 6.1-4 with an summary of the (‘political’) interventions of the four subjects on the topic of eternal life in the years 1914-1945 [the four witnesses are here called ‘theologians’, which is defendable, although it would have been better actually to defend it, especially regarding Rosenzweig and Goldberg]
In 6.2 the study ends with two proposals / intentions for further research by the researcher, and he announces a coming study on the relation of imagination and theology. That is a good intention, but I would say that, for him as well as for other researchers, there remain some further questions on the relationship between the four subjects of this study. I propose to distinguish (on the basic of this book) the following differences between them, as to be elaborated, too. By mentioning this desiderata, I also anticipate on some topics whereon I intend to oppose later on during this afternoon:
1) The political implications of the proposals of Rosenzweig, Goldberg and Peterson are clear; however with Barth, there is a tension between the formal function of the eschatological reserve and the content of his doctrine of life eternal; how we have to articulate this tension?
2) There is a need to investigate the relationship of unity and differentiation in the eternal life (the four elements and ‘the All’ according to Rosenzweig; the annihilation of gender and sex according to Peterson);
3) Goldberg on the one hand stresses the importance of the lively divine presence in the midst of his people, but on the other hand this seems for him to be a nostalgic remembrance from three millennia ago; how can his contribution be made fruitful for the approach of the three other subjects?
4) How to elaborate the proposals of Goldberg dealing with the rituals of the Torah in the struggle against death? Is that desirable? And for whom?
5) Is it possible to generalize in a certain way Peterson’s strategy of stressing virginity and celibacy, that he personally grounded on a catholic tradition?
The author consulted a lot of primary and secondary sources, as well on the four subjects as on the general theme of biocentrism and biopolitics, that in the Concluding Discussion is also extended to nowadays debates. In this way, 6.2. resumes the question of ‘the Politics of Immortality’ against the background of a series of voices from our time (such as Szent-Györgyi, Aliotta, Kurzweil and Goertzel, Wagner, Hägglund, Johnston and Lippin), and therefore takes the shape of a recontextualization of the historical research in the main part of this study.
I am grateful for this study and I am enriched by reading it – but now I should finish my summary and I must open a serious discussion on the proposals that are presented to the faculty here and therewith to the worldwide academic community.
EXAMINATION / OPPOSITION
General remarks of appraisal
This dissertation, that has been laid before us, is really a thesis, i.e.:you, the defender, developed a clear proposal for further evaluation and evaluation by the academic community.
You present an interesting hypothesis – several thinkers that thought about life eternal during the period 1914-1945, did so in an opposition to the ‘Monistic Century’, that had political implications too.
Your selection of the four thinkers (or rather ‘witnesses’?) is definitely original and in the end (in my opinion) it appears to be possible to justify it.
You consulted a lot of primary and secondary sources, as well on your four subjects as on the general theme of biocentrism and biopolitics, that in the Concluding Discussion is also extended to nowadays debates.
I am grateful for this study and I am enriched by reading it – but now I should finish my words of praise and I must open a serious discussion on your proposals.
Some methodical questions
- In the Abstract, that accompanies your manuscript, you are speaking of a ‘discussion that took place amongst Christian and Jewish theologians on the possibility of immortality and eternal life’. However, the voices you are bringing in a dialogue with one another are placed together by you yourself as in a certain sense the organizer of the debate. Can you really prove that at least your four subjects themselves have been aware that they were involved in a common discussion? On the basis of the materials you have collected I would conclude, that they only seldom did mutually react and that some mutual reactions were totally absent. Therefore, how do you wish to define the ‘discussion’ in this respect? Is it more than a construction of yours? ((An indication in favor of your thesis is the introduction that you mention of Hans Leisegang of 1930 (p. 24n.25), where he reviews three of your four subjects with Erich Unger in addition, but also then a reference to the consciousness of their mutual connection by these subjects is missing)).
- For the indication of the mainstream approach of life since the 19th Century you use the designation by Todd H. Weir of the ‘monistic century’ (p. 19n.6, p. 20n.11), in paragraph 1.4. complemented by the descriptions of Dillon and Foucault of the processes of politicization of life and of Blumenberg on the de-theologisation of the idea of immortality. You speak of ‘Darwinism’, although you are aware of the need of differentiation of this category through the lines of a) the developments of the thoughts of Darwin himself, that are not very easy to reconstruct (cf. p. 36n.83 and p. 38n.88), b) the later elaboration of his evolution in the biological and other sciences, and c) the ideological use of his theories in ‘social Darwinism’. When I see it right, none of your four subjects did intensively study scientific debates (although there are informative exceptions, as Rosenzweig reading Rudolf Kjellén on biopolitics, p. 22n.23 and p. 67n.12). How can you justify that it suffices for you to refer to constructions such as Darwinism in this study in a rather loose way?
- Your two main questions are clear, and in the end, in my judgement, you can prove that you have been answered both: (a) how did the discussion of immortality of the four subjects … involve a conceptualization of the human and her place in the cosmos that confronts the basis of the monistic century? (b) how did this conceptualization (..) imply a political discussion with profound ontological and theological consequences? (p. 23). However, less clear for me is, how, to be able to answer the two main questions, you can maintain that ‘the difference between theory and method is rather artificial in this study’ (p. 29). In section 1.5 you associate yourself with the method of ‘political hermeneutics’, as it has been calibrated by John Baptist Metz (p. 43). When that is your intention, I would ask whether this method is only related to the second research question? For it is my impression, that you are implying it on the first main question too. But does that mean, that for you eventually the question of politics is overdetermining (to use this category of Louis Althusser) the question of the ontology of life? On p. 44 you are writing: ‘this (stressing the historical context of your subjects) is not a reduction of theological doctrines to political theories since I shall also discuss the cosmologies that these doctrines implied.’ Can you uphold (?) this intention in the end?
Other points of discussion to Chapter I, Introduction
- p. 18n4: Rosenzweig as a ‘philosopher of religion’. Would ‘philosopher of Revelation’ not be a better characterization? (→ Chap. II, e.g. p. 102-3 on Schelling)
- p. 21: was Ludwig Feuerbach a ‘theologian’? Certainly, he did not belong to our guild. I would say: he was a philosopher, who (very unusually) considered religion and theology as his main theme.
- p. 26: is the portrait of Goldberg in the figure of Chaim Breisacher of Thomas Mann’s novel Dr. Faustus (S, 372-380 in the Fischer-edition) a proof of Antisemitism? That makes sense, as it does with the agonist Naphta (Jesuit and Jew) in Der Zauberberg. At the same time, we must ponder that Mann also portraits a lot of very conservative Christian theologians (when Adrian Leverkuhn is studying theology), and that the scene with Breisacher is dated in the turn of the year 1913-1914 (p. 368), so that naming Breisacher a ‘fascist Jew’ seems to be an anachronism.
- P. 41n.99: Mary Douglas uses the late-capitalist modern West, the ‘American wage and cash economy’ as an example of a non-ritualistic economy. Against this, one can quote Walter Benjamins article on ‘Kapitalismus als Religion’ of 1921.
- p. 44f. In your reading of Rosenzweig, you rely on the book of Benjamin Pollock (that is not in the possession of a Dutch library). As far as I can estimate it, he is right that it is too limited, to characterize Rosenzweig’s philosophy as a variant as existentialism. However, I have hesitations on his approach of Rosenzweig’s attitude towards the ‘systematic task of understanding the All’ (p. 60), and his reducing (p. 45n.113) of Rosenzweig’s conversion to Judaism to a mainly intellectual event, against the literal wording in his letter to Eugen Rosenstock (→ Chapter II)
- p. 46: On the acquaintance of Barth to Rosenzweig there can be said more. Eberhard Busch is of the opinion, that Barth read the Stern, but I whole-heartedly disagree with him on this point. Certainly, there was a friendship between Barth and Rosenstock, but also a radical break, leading to a withdrawing of the ‘Du’ that was once offered, in the eyes of the German Rosenstock a terrible act. Barth was very frustrated by what he called the smell of Gnosticism around Rosenstock, and he couldn’t help to presume that Rosenzweig would move in the same direction. Later, the Dutch theologian K.H. Miskotte tried to invite Barth to read the Star of Redemption, he made excerpts of it for him, but all in vain… After Barth ended his friendship with Rosenstock, Friedrich Gogarten appeared: what would have happened in the history of theology, if….?
- p. 50: between 1920 and 1924 Barth reinterpreted the diastasis between God and Creation with the help of Kierkegaard, Overbeck and Feuerbach. In my eyes, these three witnesses are not to be seen on the same level. Kierkegaard and Overbeck had an important function in the revision of the first edition of the Römerbrief, with the effect that the second edition would stress the categories of eternity and immortality against that of time and mortality, but the dialectic of this second commentary you are not researching separately. Afterwards, his Göttingen colleague Stange invited Barth to make some remarks on Feuerbach on an evening session and he did so. (→ Chapter III)
- p. 57: the relationship between Barth and Peterson did not arise just in Bonn, but already in Göttingen (letter KB of 6 November 1921 to Thurneysen: ‘Eine erfreuliche Gestalt ist Lic. Peterson. Er treibt die Kirchengeschichte ganz im Stil von Overbeck, könnte aber eines Tages mächtig explodieren. Von der Unhaltbarkeit der irdischen Dinge ist er gründlich überzeugt (!! RRB) und nimmt mit tragender Sympathie auch an meinem Versuch Anteil‘).
Remarks and questions on Chapter II, Rosenzweig
- p. 65, last line: ‘Eternal life …. goes beyond the life of the people …’. This may be true in Rosenzweig’s reflection on Hegel, but in The Star of Redemption he speaks otherwise about the people of Israel (see below, p. 87)
- p. 68, last lines: ‘Philosophy must become theology and gets a glimpse of the world from the point of view of redemption, where God is all in all’. Here we can continue our discussion, that is probably provoked by B. Pollock. Rosenzweig quotes 1 Cor. 15:28 as a sentence of ‘der ersten Theologe des neuen Glaubens’ (GS II, 1976, 458 – differently from Jacob Taubes afterwards, Rosenzweig could not acknowledge Paul as a, be it extreme messianianistic, Jewish brother). One of the three dangers of Christianity (besides ‘die Spiritualisierung des Gottesbildes’ and ‚die Apotheisierung des Menschenbildes‘) is the ‘Pantheisierung des Weltbegriffs‘, that means the belief that ‘Gott werde Alles in Allem sein werde und nicht Einer über Allem‘ (op. cit. 446-7, italics mine). Also, in the Redemption, where (wo)man and world appear to be reconciled with God, the three ‘elements’ are not annihilated. Can you offer me a quotation where Rosenzweig quotes the expression ‘all in all’ in a positive sense, with other words, can you prove that I am wrong?
- P. 74, beginning of the last paragraph. Cf. GS II, 435: ‘Das All, das sowohl alles wie ganz wäre, kann weder ehrlich erkannt noch klar erlebt werden; nur das unehrliche Erkennen des Idealismus, nur das unklare Erleben der Mystik kann sich einreden, es zu erfassen. Das All muβ jenseits von Erkenntnis und Erlebnis erfaβt werden, wenn es unmittelbar erfaβt werden soll. Eben dies Erfassen geschieht in der Erleuchtung des Gebets.’ Can you explain to me, why you are calling this illumination by prayer ‘quite mystical’, when at the same time it is presumed to transcend mystics?
- P. 79: ‘transcending death in the Christian or Judaic sense’. When Rosenzweig is quoting the sentence ‘death is swallowed by victory’ (P. 80: ‘as Paul writes to the Corinthians’), he has in mind not only 1 Cor. 15:54, but above all, as it follows from the Index on the Star, Is. 25:8. For the confrontation with paganism, one always firstly must listen to the prophets of Israel.
- P. 87: here we find the thought that I missed on page 65: the world demands a myth of eternal life – the eternal people is such a myth – even if this myth is in the Jews (…), it is still something that goes forth from them as the promise that every people may be embedded in the eternal life of God.’ For a Christian theologian, it should be not only his or her task to sketch this conviction in the sense of the history of religious beliefs, but also to evaluate it. However, when I read your study carefully, I did not find such an evaluation. Can you make today some remarks on this issue: do we as ecclesia must accept and gratefully receive this offer of the Jewish people to us?
- P. 83: the same can be asked regarding the central category of ‘messianic politics’. It is a task to sketch the historical meaning of this program in the thinking of Rosenzweig, it is another one to evaluate it and to ask – and when the Star of Redemption is not meant as a specific Jewish book, one is obliged to ask, whether Christian theologians could take over at least the sense and the tendency of this perspective for the gentiles.
- P. 90: Indeed, Kracauer blamed Buber and Rosenzweig that they ‘wagnerisierten’. However, see their masterly text ‘Zur Erwiderung’ (1926)
- P. 97: You are offering an adequate evaluation of the objection of Nahum Glatzer: how is it possible that Rosenzweig on the one hand can advise to direct one’s life to no other goal but death, but that he also can conclude his Star with the famous words ‘into life’? In this connection I want to invite you to reflect on the first essay of the collection of essays Nudità of the (to both of us well-known) Georgio Agamben, with the title ‘creazione e salvezza’ (Creation and Redemption – the middle term of Revelation in the Rosenzweigean sense is missing here). Agamben suggests, that receiving redemption (which he does not denies – for ‘the work of redemption is an eternal one’, but at the same time relativizes as always ‘too late’ or ‘happening on the day after’) precedes that of creation. I would argue, that this does not contradict the teleological order of the Star of Redemption, as you are stressing it, but that it can elucidate the last page. Exactly in the knowledge of eternal life, it is possible to lose oneself in the life of Creation, that is also a life of mortality. Can you reflect a little bit further on that?
- P. 99 The concept of verification, Bewährung, is not only a key concept in the Star, but also a key word in the ‘Verdeutschung’ (for the stem ts-d-q, that in all variations is translated with words that are derived from the German stem ‘wahr’).
- P. 105, below: ‘Still, Rosenzweig was a modern [post-Nietzschean] thinker who understood thelegitimacy of the new perspectivism which sough to understand the “multidimensional form” of reality.’ This is a good point to continue our conversation on the thesis of B. Pollock on Rosenzweig’s enduring interest in a systematization of the All. Apparently, for Rosenzweig in the eternal life, as it is discussed in the third part, there is no disappearance of the three ‘elements’ of God, world and man of the first part of the Star, no flowing away from the distinction of the ‘Einer über Allem’ in a Gott that should become Alles in Allem’. At the same time the three elements will reach their eternal destination, when these elements are saved from their decline and death. But they will not become it in the same way. GS II, 288: ‘Daβ diese unmittelbare Einerleiheit von Gewähr und Erfüllung der Ewigkeit für die beide andern „Elemente“ nicht gilt, das macht sie zu den „andern“ und Gott zum Einen.‘
- P. 112: in this quotation yet a rehabilitation of the ‚pagan’ category of hen-kai-pan. Nevertheless, Rosenzweig adds, GS II, 266: ‘Das All der Philosophen, das wir bewuβt zerstückelt hatten, hier in der blendenden Mitternachtssonne der vollendeten Erlösung ist es endlich, ja wahrhaft end-lich (!! RRB), zum Einen zusammengewachsen.‘
- P. 127: the fact that Rosenzweig does not, as Hannah Arendt, lament the loss of the political sense of immortality (existing in the remembrance of the polis man), is an interesting component for a theory of the political implications of the doctrine of eternal life (your second main question). However, I wonder whether you are seeking for components of an all-inclusive theory, or whether you prefer to respect the intentions of your four subjects next to one another.
- P. 128: ‘the Jewish liturgical act is not part of the world of political glory’. This is an interesting observation in connection with Agamben’s evaluation (in The Kingdom and the Glory Chap. 7) on the findings of Petersons dissertation regarding the liturgy of the Christianity in the late Roman Empire.
- P. 138: ‘Rosenzweig’s description of the day of judgement’ (cf. GS II, 359ff.): in the order of this Chapter, this mention of a highlight in the Star appears rather late: only in the conclusion. In my eyes, this experience is crucial to understand the thesis, that already in this life humanity can experience the judgement beyond death. Has your mentioning it on so late a moment of your argument to do with the downplaying by B. Pollock of the history of the conversion of Rosenzweig (I saw his argument on YouTube)?
Remarks and questions on Chapter III, Barth
- P. 143: a Good beginning with a quotation from The Christian Life! References ‘in passing’ to Darwin can be found already in the sermons in Safenwil. See the Indices of the editions of the sermons of 1911, 1915, 1916, 1917 and 1920.
- P. 145 (also 192): Indeed, Augustine and Aquinas already assert that God is actus purus; but the addition et singularis (KD II/1, 296, CD 264) is specifically an accent of Barth (‘there must be added at least…’)
- P. 146ff. About Barth on Feuerbach I wrote in my dissertation (1988, long, long ago), because of the three lectures on Feuerbach he held (1926, 1929/30 and 1932/33 only in the first one he treated the connection between the Marxist labor movement and Feuerbach. I discovered that Barth intensely read The Essence of Christianity (1841; your footnotes 24,26,27,30,68,77,78), and less The Lectures on the Essence of Religion, that were held during the revolution of 1848 (your footnotes 38,74,77 andindirectly 31). Between these works there appeared the critics of Max Stirner (cf. p. 152), who in a pre-Nietschean way argued that it did not help to substitute the obsolete God by a divinized man (as a ‘Gattung’), and that after the dead of God the dead of man had to follow. Feuerbach was impressed by this, and after 1845 he tempered his former humanism and anthropocentrism in favor of a more naturalistic and ‘positivistic’ (M. Xhaufflaire) approach. Barth didn’t see that, and his reception of Feuerbach is concentrated on the Feuerbach of the Essence of Christianity (with its annex of 1843 on Luther, your footnote 32). Did you encounter this state of affairs?
- P. 151. CD I/2 appeared indeed in 1938, but we now know that Barth was forced to stop his lectures in Bonn on 26 November 1934, when he read the manuscript of § 17 on religion (CD I/2, p. 311).
- P. 154f. The category of ‘revelation as Aufhebung of religion’ (we now know the reconstruction of Agamben, how the katargein of Paul via the translation of Luther was taken over by Hegel) indeed remembers on the left Hegelian current (it can also be found in Marx)
- P. 155n.58: the Dutch politician Geert Wilders uses such utterances of Barth in his crusade against Islam…
- P. 156n.60: you stress the connection between revelation as the abolition of religion and the doctrine of the assumption carnis, with which Barth ends his discourse. However, in the structure of Chapter II of the CD the question of religion relates to the theologoumenon of the Outpouring of the Holy Spirit, as the question of historicism relates to that of the Incarnation. Barth repeatedly said: David Friedrich Strauβ is the radical voice from the 19e century for the question of historicism in theology, and Feuerbach on that of religionism. Both are to be treated parallel to one another.
- Pp. 164ff. It is interesting that Barth (implicitly already in 1922, explicitly in 1927) borrows his critics that in the end Feuerbach was ‘ein Nichtkenner des Todes’ and a ‘Verkenner des Bösen’ to the introduction, written by Hans Ehrenberg in his edition of Feuerbachs Philosophie der Zukunft, 1922. Ehrenberg belonged to the Patmos-circle!
- Pp. 164ff. It is interesting, how you try to find the answer of Barth to Feuerbach’s anthropology also in his reading of the first Chapters of Genesis in CD III/1. There is a certain ambivalence here in the wording, also with Barth himself. On the one hand, you could say, there is the characterization of these stories as ‘saga’: there can be looked to man from two different points of view, that from man as creature of God, and that from sin and destruction. On the other hand, provoked by the narrative order of the story in time and following the Augustinian doctrine of an historical Fall, there is the speaking of a prelapsarian an a postlapsarian human being. Can I understand you in this way, that the language of the second wording must be understood in the sense of the first one?
- Pp. 171ff. It is very well that you read the paragraph ‘De angelis bonis et malis’ from the Göttingen Dogmatics to discover Barths hermeneutics of the demonic, as an anticipation on his later doctrine of the ‘herrenlosen Gewalten’. However, in my opinion there is a problem in this paragraph that has to do with the genre of the Göttingen Dogmatics as a ‘sentence commentary’ on the textbooks of protestant orthodoxy. On the background of this locus on the spiritual beings at it can be found in the textbook of Heppe stands the orthodox doctrine of predestination. Therefore, Barth in his Leitsatz says: ‘in an abstract decisiveness, the angels have already realized the two possibilities that are included both in the divine decree and in the freedom of man’: some angels are elected, others have been damned, and there is no ‘actualism’ here, as (according to Barth 1925) in the election of human beings. Therewith, there is in this tract a trait of determinism, that Barth later will abandon.
- P. 172: indeed, Barth in 1950 is much more hesitating to visualize a demonology than earlier in 1925. This has to do with his experience with German theologians after World War II (such as Hans Asmussen), who used the expression that ‘we (Germans) have seen the demons in the eyes’ as an argument, not really to reflect the own responsibility for the rise of Nazism.
- P. 177: you make a jump from the Göttingen Dogmatics (on the doctrine of man) to the explanation of the Creed of 1935 (on the last articles). Why do you neglect the lectures on eschatology of his first Dogmatics (‘The doctrine of Redemption’, Winter 1925/26, Münster)? It is the only manuscript on eschatology by Barth that has been completed (ed. Zürich 2003, on eternal life on pp. 481-488).
- P. 187: very well that you remember Althusser’s famous text on the structure of ideology, and in that context criticizes the approach of Feuerbach, as it was followed by Barth (and in line with the approach of the fathers of the Church). I would suggest, that Althusser’s thesis can elucidate what Barth himself endeavored. See e.g. Barth’s critics of ‘the absolutist man’ in his Protestant Theology in the Nineteenth Century; this man can better be understood when man sees how bourgeois ideology interpellates him as a quasi-almighty subject. On the other hand, for Althusser the effect of an interpellation can only be insertion into an existing ideological order; but his own example of Moses shows, that there is also such a phenomenon as exit (an exodus), as an insertion into the new order of the future.
- P. 194 (also n. 223): ‘what is in the light of the redemption must be learned from what it is in the light of the Fall’. This is the methodological principle, that Barth borrowed from the protestant orthodoxy. In the end, it is the order of Law and Gospel. In my book on Karl Barth and Post-Reformation Orthodoxy (Farnham UK 2015) I quoted this sentence on p. 219 together with three other sentences, that express the same methodological principle. However, we must conceive, that Barth radically changed his methodology in dogmatics at last with his lecture on Gospel and Law of 1935.
- P. 195: you are fully right that in the Göttingen Dogmatics Barth maintains the classical doctrine of the immortality of the soul. This too has to do with his intension in this project, to be faithful to the doctrine of protestant orthodoxy as far as it is possible. At least in CD III/2 we see a shift, perhaps also influenced by the appearance of Heidegger’s Sein und Zeit. [thanks for your reference to the book on the prayer in the Genevan Catechism!]
- P. 197n.231 and p. 208n.278: here we find the mature insight of Barth in CD III/2: when the Christian ‘is freed for eternal life, he is also freed for natural death.’ You can say that in the end, here he has found a satisfactory answer to Feuerbach’s analysis, that the longing for infinity expresses the human species: exactly the one who knows from eternal life is able to surrender oneself to ‘natural death’, individually as well as in the form of the species. In this way, your Chapter shows a wonderful construction and unity.
- NB what I’m missing in the Chapter (vis-à-vis the second research question) is a treatment of the relationship of the locus De novissimis as such (not only some of the aspects of his content, such as eternal life) and politics. Often, Barth’s eschatology is seen as a sheer reserve (‘Vorbehalt’) towards an engagement in political affairs. What is in Barth the relationship between restriction and cause (of action) in your opinion? And how does that relate to the question of eternal life and struggle for life, or between the shaping of the suum quique in the eternal glory and in ha-olam-ha-zè?
Remarks and questions on Chapter IV, Goldberg
- Not only Gershom Scholem was frightened by the appearance of this man and his theories, and Walter Benjamin was physically hesitating to shake hands with him, but also our Dutch theological guide K.H. Miskotte, who in his dissertation on The Essence of Jewish Religion (1932) discusses a range of contemporary thinkers (not only Baeck, Cohen, Buber, Rosenzweig, but also e.g. Bloch and Kafka), dedicates only one footnote on Die Wirklichkeit der Hebräer (and on its Preface by Erich Unger): he considers it as a proof, that ‘the Jewish spirit can be tensed by the external hostility to the detriment of its inner purity’ (p. 22). As an example of its impurity he mentions the characterization of the ark (coffin) of the covenant as a ‘metaphysical accumulator’ (cf. p. 228 in your manuscript: ‘an electric generator which produces currents of metaphysical energy’). Perhaps for this reason, I don’t know of a Goldberg-reception in the Netherlands. Therefore, I thank you wholeheartedly, that with your study you gave me the opportunity to make acquaintance with this very staggering, highly original, inescapably offensive work. It is really a philosophical project, but the philosophy is developed from an anomalous rethinking of the Hebrew stems and the structures of the Pentateuch, a deviating veritas hebraica.
- I propose to start our conversation in situating Goldberg vis-à-vis Biblical sciences. Certainly, you are defending a thesis in Systematics, but I assume that we may discuss here this afternoon the broad range of disciplines in theology. (p. 229) You tell us, that for him the Torah reflected the oldest stage of Judaism, Urjudentum, or, in Die Wirklichkeit: the Hebrews. Already in the time of David and Salomon there was a decline, a loss of understanding, and the great prophets as Jeremiah might be sympathetic, but in the end impotent. This reconstruction differs not only from other Jewish voices, as you show, such as Cohen and Heschel, for whom the prophets expressed exactly the most powerful message, but also from Biblical scholars as Wellhausen or Duhm, for whom the text of the Thora was mainly a product of exilic and post-exilic priestly authors, who worsened the moral integrity of the Prophets. Do you have an assessment on the historical-critical reconstruction of Goldberg or do you think, that would be totally unimportant for your project?
- (p. 226 and elsewhere) Goldberg usually calls the God of the Torah Elohim IHWH. That is a strange designator, for from Gen. 2:4b onwards the Bible speaks just in the reversed way of IHWH Elohim. I did not find an explanation in Goldberg for this deviating way of naming (did you?), but I can situate it in his theory of Gods and people. In his reconstruction, every Elohim connects himself in his own power with the inherent powers in the body of a people. All Elohim are struggling with one another, but the Elohim of the Hebrews is exceptional, in the sense that he not only is connecting himself to finite powers but at the same time originates from infinity, and that he struggles not only for the victory over the other Elohim and the other people, but above all magically to empower his own people on its way to infinity (cf. p. 227). That means: Elohim is the basic category, but Elohim IHWH appears to be that Elohim that surpasses all the others. Can you agree with my hypothesis that this is what Goldberg meant by using this particular expression of Elohim IHWH?
- But then we can come back to Scholem’s reproaches in the direction of Goldberg. Surely, his vision on the cosmic existence of beings is not Darwinian, in the sense that the usual struggle of the Elohim, in their ‘colonial’ behavior (Goldberg p. 14; cf. p. 233), differs from the struggle of Elohim IHWH with its origin and its aim in infinity. But at the same time, really IHWH is a fighter! And the mechanism of exclusion, the necessity to defeat kinsmen, is the hard law of the life of exactly this Fighter (cf. p. 235). See the scheme on page 253 of Goldberg’s book of all the relations by marriage under the descendants of Abraham. All these relations are a potential threat, and need of not only warnings, but measures of demarcation, prohibition and exclusion. Just because the Hebrews are deviating from the normal pattern, the struggle will be inevitable and harsh, and to be beaten is, in the short term, always probable. Now, what could have been the political consequences of such a theory in the time of the Weimar republic? You could become a ultraleft anarchist, as Erich Unger for a time seemed to be, or a Trotskyist (permanent revolution), but also an adherent of a neo-Hebrew Herrenvolk (although, as Goldberg stresses, the Torah is not thinking in terms of race). Therefore, show me why the distrust of Scholem (or the later Thomas Mann) should have been incorrect.
- (p. 230f.) You rightly sketch how for Goldberg the Torah is not in any sense a source for our civilization. On the contrary, that should be Kain. But the Hebrews escape the world of cities and discover their God in the refuge of the desert. The paradigmatic example for that fright is Abraham who abandoned the Chaldean city of Ur. The Hebrew of kabhabiru of nomads, and they preferred to be so. That is an important insight, and, in my observation, it is also a beloved theme in today’s preaching – but then, apparently, in a metaphorical way. In the same way, being nomad is a beloved metaphor with existentialist and postmodern thinkers, but also with them it’s no more than metaphor. Goldberg’s realism in this respect can be his strength. Indeed, a larger part of world history is dominated by the confrontation of civilization and nomads, and you have to know that to slightly understand bloody conflicts in and around, e,g,. Afghanistan and Libya. But, we can ask, what would it mean when we for our time take this motive exactly non-metaphorically, but literally? How can we live beside ‘the anthropogenesis of the human as a toolmaking animal’, beside normality (p. 242)? Can you tell more about Goldberg’s proposal of a Jewish migration to a place where communities could be built together with so-called archaic people (p. 251)?
- (p. 252ff.) I’m highly interested in Goldberg’s ideas about a reading of the rituals of the Torah as ways to live ‘in opposition to the normal economy of nature’ (254). Indeed, the abnormal character of birth in the house of Abraham, the circumcision as a ‘wrestling free from all ancestral biology’ (a motive that is totally unknown in contemporary discussion of allowing/forbidding circumcision in the Book of Law), the rituals around purity and against so-called impurity as a struggle against death – all that motives are stimulating me all along. Friedrich-Wilhelm Marquardt proposed an ‘evangelical halacha’, but that mostly should be borrowed from ritual practices of Judaism. Attempting to live in a new way with the Torah, as Goldberg hoped for a ‘new messianic Judaism open for everyone willing to follows the rites and taboos of God’ (p. 258) attracts me. Was the philosophical circle around him also fascinated to follow his proposals in this direction? And does it attract you?
- (p. 261) Should we admit the opinion of Scholem that Die Wirklichkeit der Hebräer was a ‘classical work of Jewish Satanism’? I hesitate, but I concede that I was shocked by the pages on ‘Die Nachtseite des Elohim’ (216-234 of that book). Perhaps we are too pampered in our alleged civilized world to endure such treats of the Godhead, but in my impression, Goldberg sometimes seems to delight in such treats.
- (p. 268) Methodologically, you seem to prefer to discuss your subjects separately, but in this Chapter I frequently felt the need of a comparison between Goldberg and Rosenzweig (apart from you mentioning the importance of the sabbatical existence for both, p. 280). Here on their common conviction that also God himself needs it to be liberated. But I also remember their common heritage of Schelling (p. 237n.61) and their quotation of Is. 25:8 (p. 257n.129; Goldberg p. 67). The centrality of the dwelling of God in the mishkan (p. 220) connects both thinkers, too. In the articles to clarify their Verdeutschung, Buber and Rosenzweig frequently underline the correspondence between Gen. 1 and Ex. (25-)40: the creational work of Elohim finds its complement and its fulfilment when the people of the covenant work on the tabernacle because of the divine presence therein. On the other hand, in Rosenzweig the divine presence embodies a less magical and more ethical force.
- (p. 271) On several places, a need for a comparison with Barth also came in my mind. Here you introduce the important notion of the ‘ontology of potentiality’, with which Die Wirklichkeit der Hebräer opens. It contrasts with Barth’s priority of the reality over the conditions of its possibility (CD I/2 § 13 and § 16) as well as with the category of actus purus (inside the Aristotelean contrast between potency and actuality) – although both agree that God must be understood primarily in his deeds (p. 235, quote of Unger). Of course, I’m also curious in which measure you see here an affinity between Goldberg and Agamben, and I’m amazed that in your manuscript you are silent on that affinity. Maybe you could end this silence right now, in our conversation! (→ Chap. VI).
- (p. 283f.) In your first conclusion of the Chapter, you speak of Goldberg’s ‘moralization of magic and ritual at work in the Torah’. That seems to me not fully incorrect, but at the same time one-sided. For Goldberg, decidedly, the decline of the old Hebrew magic started in the days of Salomon, when God became a God at distance in heaven and the people on earth felt left alone with sheer moral obligations. Goldberg could sniff moral sentiments. Read the last pages of his descriptions of the struggle against Amalek (p. 247 in his book). In that respect, in my experience your moral excitement on the command to kill those who work on Sabbath (Ex. 35:1-13) has an arbitrary character.
Remarks and question on Chapter V, Peterson
- P. 298f. The main place in the works of Peterson that brought Agamben (in The Kingdom and the Glory) to assert that Peterson identified the katechon (the power that delays the end of the world) with the Jews, seems to be found on the first side of the article ‘Die Kirche’: ‘Das messianische Reich, das Jesus verkündet hat, ist nicht gekommen. Warum ist es nicht gekommen? Weil die Juden als Volk nicht an den Menschensohn geglaubt haben‘ (Theologische Traktate, 1951, S. 411). You are not refering to this quotation.
- P. 302. Here again you discuss Agamben’s reading of Peterson, now his ‘Theologie des Kleides’. In note 55 you remark that Agamben fails to see the critical function of the prelapsarian state for the postlapsarian Darwinist functionalism of bodies. On the other side, I would say, Agamben (in Nudity) does what you neglect to do, i.e. to make a reconstruction of the background of Peterson’s approach in classical roman-catholic theology, that denies a ‘pure nature’ and teaches an original grace in Paradise with the donum superadditum, that takes here the shape of an original (and unusual) clothing. What I miss here in both of you, is an exegetical discussion. Of course, the Chapters Genesis 2 and 3 are a narrative, with their own progress. But is it necessary to read this narrative in terms of before and after the great historical event of the Fall? Karel Deurloo, my teacher in the Old Testament, read Gen. 2:23-25 as the characterization of a remaining aspect of being human, as in the Song of Songs, that has not been lost: two people are enjoying one another in their nakedness. On the other side, Gen. 3:7 they discover that they can threaten and harm one another, and they armor themselves against one another. But God provides them with ‘garments of skins’ (Gen. 3:21). The Hebrew word for ‘garments’ elsewhere is used for the coats of priests. Therewith, these garments are an evidence of divine grace towards human vulnerability. And one can say: humanity can be a being that can enjoy its nakedness, being a vulnerable creature that needs Gods mercy at the same time. It is very well possible to express this with a doctrine of a double grace, but the construction of a historical Fall in between isn’t necessary.
- P. 306: ‘(the ascetic tradition) symbolizes a retreat to the Edenic innocence and separates life from the biological aim of reproduction’. In the last month, I read the fourth volume of Michel Foucault’s history of sexuality, that posthumously appeared (Les aveux de la chair). It discusses the developments in the early Church, and it tells that many Fathers before Augustine (such as Gregory of Nyssa) taught that the prelapsarian Adam could reproduce himself in the way of the angels: myriads of new beings could have been appeared thanks to his breath. I presume, Peterson would have been happy to read such sources.
- P. 309n.83: ‘Die Kirche sollte weder Kanonen noch Ehen segnen. Beides steht in einer Verbinding miteinander.‘ Peterson really was a provoking guy! Besides, I learned from the same book of Foucault that the reproduction as one of the divine aims of marriage fails in the Fathers, even in Augustine. It is an invention of the medieval Church.
- P. 308: ‘ascetism is a symbol for the eschatological end of a gendered and even sexed difference between men and women’: a sentence of Peterson to think through. It is good to say that in eternal life, differences of sex and gender no longer are determining, and of course no longer repressive. But are they fully disappearing? Isn’t the eternal life the life of this our body, seen in a fully new, glorified perspective?
- P. 314 (on ‘Monotheism as a Political Problem’): ‘one can note that it is the Hellenization of Judaism which is the essential problem for him (Peterson): The God of the Jews was amalgamated with the monarchical principle of Greek philosophers’. In footnote 6, you mention a lecture of pope Benedict XVI on a symposium about Peterson. Do you know what is the judgement of Ratzinger on this issue? For that Christianity in its essence is a concordance between Israel and Hellas, dabhar and logos, is a main treat of his own theology.
- P. 335. ‘As fallen beings, Darwinian and metabolic machines fighting for survival, we do not long for new flesh’. In these times, where the notion of desiderium naturale has a broad adherence also in protestant theology, it is a surprise to hear a catholic voice who is of the opinion, that this specific longing, the longing for new flesh, is not implied in this natural desire. [on p. 389, in your conversation with Martin Hägglund on desire, you don’t come back on this subject]
- P. 340. ‘The opening of life to the domain of [heavenly] spirits is made visible though the practical life of the ascetics, celibates, and martyrs of the Church. Peterson’s theology is written from the standpoint of (..) practical reason. Christianity is first of all a mode of being in the world. It is a life-form.’ For me personally, this is a very attractive conviction. But what did it mean for Peterson himself, he himself having five children…?
- P. 345n.231. You criticize Agamben, who interprets Peterson’s angelology as a theory of the economy of power. Agamben fails to see, you argue, that Peterson with his study aimed at a critique of really existing Christianity. He wanted to turn in to its eschatological roots. You call it odd that Agamben never describes the essential fact that Peterson was an outsider in his own Church, and that his theology was a cry in the desert. That is a good point. Nevertheless, one can ask whether it undoes the political character of Petersons thesis of the liturgical unity of the Church in heaven and on earth. We can distinguish a similar critic in Karl Barth, although he knew that Peterson was an outsider (or perhaps more a deeply unaccommodated personality; see his letter to Franco Bolgiani of 12 August 1963, Briefe 1961-68, 165ff.). In the angelology of the Church Dogmatics, he disputes Peterson’s reading of the Book of Revelation Chap. 4, because of its lack of real distinction between heavens and earth. Barth denies (CD III/3, 468) that the hymn of v. 11 should be an ‘acclamation’ (also the key for Agamben), because the 24 heavenly elders are not in the position to constitute the authority of the God of Israel! ‘Thou art worthy’, that should be a finding, an analytical affirmation. This betrays a typical protestant distrust against any clerical claim on participation in divine power, and I would say that the ecumenical conversation about this distrust is as urgent as ever. At the same time, I admit that I don’t share Barth’s antipathy (o.c., p. 481) against Peterson’s stressing (in the third part of his tract) on the role of virgins and martyrs in the heavenly sphere. On the contrary, I affirm your admiration for the intuition that is implied in it.
- P. 252. ‘In stark contrast (with Carl Schmitt), for Peterson, it is Christ’s calling that declares a state of exception, which does not confirm or uphold the political – the distinction between friend and enemy – but rather suspends the definition of the human as a dangerous animal’. It is pleasant for me, to learn that not only Walter Benjamin, but also Erik Peterson could use Schmitt’s category of the ‘state of exception’ in a rather alternative way!
Remarks and questions on Chapter VI, Summary and Concluding Discussion
- The Chapter starts in 6.1-4 with an excellent summary of the (‘political’) interventions of the four subjects on the topic of eternal life in the years 1914-1945 [the four witnesses are here called ‘theologians’, which is defendable, although it would have been better actually to defend it, especially regarding Rosenzweig and Goldberg]. // After that, 6.1.5. tries to offer a systematization of the findings. In my reading-experience, this part was less clear. I had expected an overview of the communal treats and the (‘sometimes antagonistic’, p. 381) differences between the visions of the four subjects, and then your own evaluation as a researcher: what are the questions the four witnesses must ask to on another? what elements in their thinking remain important? what remnants of earlier failures must be left behind? On which points do today’s theologians have to choose between the four positions? (preferably also: what, in that case, would be your own choice?). On some of these questions you give some answers, but I miss a systematic overview. // Finally, 6.2. resumes the question of ‘the Politics of Immortality’ against the background of a series of voices from our time (such as Szent-Györgyi, Aliotta, Kurzweil and Goertzel, Wagner, Hägglund, Johnston and Lippin). In this context, some elements from the antecedent discussion come back. You end with two proposals / intentions for further research.
- If I read it well, in 6.1.5 one can find the following ingredients for an overview and an evaluation of your findings: 1) p. 376: ‘The four subjects sought to surpass the biocentric definition of life by trying to legitimate the hope for change that would transform the Darwinian economy of survival beyond recognition’ (p. 390 adds the implication of this expectation of a radical transformation with the vision, that time will not be ‘annulled in nothingness but embedded in eternity’); 2) p. 376: ‘The fact that life is a metabolic and evolutionary process was obviously never questioned by the subjects …; what they challenged was the supposed ethical and political neutrality of the view of life as a simple factual phenomenon’; 3) p. 377: ‘It is possible to hear a call that urges to understand the sense of life that exceeds the world of the living’; ‘we are invited to live against death or to learn how to die’ [in this respect, there is some debate between Goldberg and the other three witnesses]; 4) p. 378f.: ‘God sought to share his eternity to the world so that it could find peace from death’, but (that it could find) also a ‘deactivation of biological functions and bad instincts’; 5) p. 379f.: ‘Religion gave the four subjects conceptual means to think beyond life but it also made them reproduce problematic parts of their traditions’ (and from that we have to say goodbye); 6) p. 381: ‘Their theologies border on an understanding of magic as a theory of correspondence and determinations’, but in the end, it is not magic but theology they pursue, and theology for them is a ‘summoning of what should be, or an interpretation of what calls new life in existence’; 7) p. 381: for Rosenzweig and Goldberg ‘God sought to redeem himself from the world of death’, but ‘even Barth’s and Peterson’s majestic and omnipotent God sought a reflection in the world’ [also in this respect: what is your own (provisional) position?]; 8) in addition, in part 6.2, p. 388f. it is said: ‘even if only Goldberg differentiates being in what I have called res extensae and res potentiae, the other three theologians also insist on the possibility of a new earth and the new heaven [but, I would say, the debate on potentiality and actuality deserves further elaboration].
- I propose to distinguish (on the basic of your research) the following differences between the four subjects, as to be elaborated, too: 1) The political implications of the proposals of Rosenzweig, Goldberg and Peterson are clear; with Barth, there is a tension between the formal function of the eschatological reserve and the content of his doctrine of life eternal; 2) There is a need to investigate the relationship of unity and differentiation in the eternal life (the four elements and ‘das All’ according to Rosenzweig; the annihilation of gender and sex according to Peterson); 3) Goldberg on the one hand stresses the importance of the lively divine presence in the midst of his people, but on the other hand this seems for him to be a nostalgic remembrance from three millennia ago; how can his contribution be made fruitful for the approach of the three other subjects? 4) How to elaborate the proposals of Goldberg dealing with the rituals of the Torah in the struggle against death? Is that desirable? And for whom? 5) Is it possible to generalize in a certain way Peterson’s strategy of stressing virginity and celibacy, that he personally grounded on a catholic tradition?
- P. 390n.40: thank you for the reference to Steiners worries (p. 391n.41) and the wonderful quotation from Benjamin’s essay on Goethe’s Wahlverwantschaften (p. 390n.40; GS I.1, S. 200).
- P. 159: Moleschott was born in 1822. His Lehre der Nahrungsmittel is from 1858.
- P. 178n.159: CD II:2 must be II:1
- P. 190n.209. This is not the way to refer to the Summa Theologica: Pars? – (Quaestio) – Articulus?
- P. 369n.5: p. 95 seems to be p. 91.