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Sandra Lehmann

Abstract

This essay follows the assumption that the first principle of classical metaphysics has its counterpart in political sovereignty as suprema potestas. Therefore, both can be equally described as arché. Their epitome is the God of so-called ontotheology, who thus proves to be what I call the Ur-Arché. In contrast to current post-metaphysical approaches, however, I suggest overcoming ontotheology through a different metaphysics, which emphasizes the self-transcending surplus character of being. I regard early Christian martyrdom as an eminent way in which the surplus of being is manifested. This has two interwoven aspects, one ontological and one political, both arising from the excessive idea of the Christ event, or the notion that there is life beyond life unto death. I will analyse the mechanism allowing early Christian martyrs to counteract Roman imperial sovereignty. Finally, I will relate this to contemporary life systems in which sovereignty has become anonymous biopower.

From the Unconditioned to Unconditional Claims

Violence, Radical Theology, and Crisis

Jason W. Alvis and Jeffrey W. Robbins

Andrew Benjamin

Abstract

The aim of this paper is to develop a conception of God that works with the identification of being-before-the-law and being-with-God. In addition, it argues that developing a rethinking of God along such lines necessitates, equally, the development of the concomitant political theology and philosophical anthropology that such a repositioning of God envisages. Processes of subject creation have to be thought in relation to any philosophical engagement with the law.

Kelly Oliver

Abstract

With the upsurge in various forms of religion, especially dogmatic forms that kill in the name of good versus evil, there is an urgent need for intellectuals to acknowledge and analyze the role of religion in contemporary culture and politics. If there is to be any hope for peace, we need to understand how and why religion becomes the justification for violence. In a world where religious intolerance is growing, and the divide between the secular and the religious seems to be expanding, Julia Kristeva’s writings bridge the gap and once again provide a path where others have seen only an impasse. Her approach is unique in its insistent attempt to understand the violence both contained and unleashed by religion. Moreover, she rearticulates a notion of the sacred apart from religious dogmatism, a sense of the sacred that is precisely lacking in fundamentalism.

The “Light of Light Beyond Light”

Derrida’s “Question” and the Meta-ontological Origins of Philosophy and Violence

Carl Raschke

Abstract

Despite Jürgen Habermas’ famous suggestion that the violence of history might be mitigated by “the liquidation of unconditional claims,” the issue of whether monotheistic religions and the metaphysical rationality they engender are indeed the hidden source of such violence remains an open one. This essay explores how Derrida with his project “deconstruction” sought to deal in a manner unique to philosophy with the question of the relationship between violence, the unconditional, and the ontological. It proposes that Derrida’s “Jew-Greek” dilemma, which encapsulates the problem of the “violence” of metaphysics, is resolved through Levinas’ project of disrupting Husserlian phenomenology with an alterity that is not simply a heteron that disintermediates the logic of predication, but one that challenges what is normally meant by philosophy itself.

Unconditional Responsibility in the Face of Disastrous Violence

Thoughts on religio and the History of Human Mortality

Burkhard Liebsch

Abstract

This essay draws attention to the question how a strong notion of unconditional responsibility in the face of the other’s mortality (as it was claimed by Emmanuel Levinas) is related to the historical experience of a disastrous violence that seems to annihilate not only numerous bodies, lives, identities and histories but, rather, any responsible religio to the other – whether living or dead. It is well known, that Levinas claimed that human responsibility demands not to let the other alone in his death. But if the other is already dead – like numerous others who share the same fate – keeps human responsibility silent, then? And how is this religio of human responsibility related to forms of disastrous violence which seem to deny it?

Violence and the Unconditional

A Radical Theology of Culture

John D. Caputo

Abstract

I distinguish between the deep culture and the manifest culture, the relationship between the two constituting a circle, which constitutes the circulation of a radical theology of culture. The deep culture surfaces in the manifest, and the manifest draws upon the depths; neither one without the other. My hypothesis is that religion is an expression of the deep culture and for that reason, religion is not accidentally violent; religion is violent in virtue of something essential to religion. Religion is playing with the fire of the concealed depths, of the unconditional, of the impossible, of the undeconstructible. Religion is the best way to save the world, but it also the best way to burn it down. It is both of these things and in virtue of the same property. This is not to say that religion is structurally violent, always and necessarily violent. It is structurally ambiguous, dangerous, on the verge of violence, whipsawing between radical violence and radical non-violence, between martyrdom and murder. Religious beliefs are not the cause of the violence but often a façade for deeper, visceral nationalism or ethnic hatred, The reaction of Christian right to the contemporary world is naive and simplistic but not superficial; it reflects a visceral fear of the postmodern world. Religion is a matter of being claimed by something unconditional, which means it should have the good sense not to lay claim to it. We should never trust anything that has not passes through that apophasis. Before any claims we make, we are laid claim to in advance by the unconditional, the undeconstructible, which Schelling calls the prius, the “un-pre-thinkable” (das Unvordenkliche). The unconditional in the optimal sense is love, which is an expenditure made without the expectation of a return, like loving one’s enemies, which is impossible, the impossible. But love does not get a pass. What would we not do for love? In that question is concentrated all the ambiguity of love, all the courage of the martyr, but no less the violence of the suicide bomber.

Tzahi Weiss

Abstract

The Babylonian Talmud contains a tale about the creation of an artificial calf by two sages who dealt with hilkhot yetzirah, or laws of formation (b. Sanhedrin 65b). Already in the eleventh century CE the phrase “Laws of Formation” was being used to refer to the short, enigmatic, and influential treatise Sefer Yetzirah (Book of Formation), which depicts the creation of the world by means of the twenty-two letters of the Hebrew alphabet. The connection between hilkhot yetzirah and Sefer Yetzirah is of great consequence in determining the period in which the latter was edited, as well as its reception history.

Rachel Adelman

Abstract

This paper compares the Babylonian and Palestinian talmudic traditions on the fate of the ark of the covenant—either lost before or during the Babylonian conquest, or buried in the Temple precincts (b. Yom’a 53b–54a; y. Sheqalim 6:1–2, 49c). In the Babylonian Talmud, the ark and the cherubim are described in highly erotic, feminized terms, blurring traditional gender categories of Israel and God. The feminization of the ark serves as a “survival strategy” to counter the defiling gaze of the gentile conqueror, but also preserves the sacred center as a locus of longing for Jews in diaspora.

Jonatan Meir

Abstract

One of the distinctive literary genres of Bratslav Hasidism is the shir yedidot (Song of Endearment), a mystical poem concerning the stature of the soul of R. Naḥman of Bratslav. These poems, still sung by Hasidim today, contain esoteric traditions that reveal the multiple voices within Bratslav Hasidism. This article traces the development of this form from the beginning of the nineteenth century until the present, and argues that changes in emphasis within these songs reflect shifts in Bratslav theology over the years. The study thus presents a more complex historical picture of Bratslav Hasidism, which has usually been seen as one monolithic unit.