Philosophy | Topics in Philosophy of Judaism
P305 | 3209 | Morgan


Topic: Franz Rosenzweig and Emmanuel Levinas: Two Great Jewish Philosophers of the 20th Century

Franz Rosenzweig (1886-1925) and Emmanuel Levinas (1906-1995) are among the half-dozen most important Jewish thinkers of the Twentieth century.  Born in Cassel, Germany, Rosenzweig was a philosopher and theologian who lived his last years in Frankfort and
died after suffering, for nearly a decade, from a crippling paralytic disease.  Levinas was born in Lithuania but lived most of his life in France.  He was primarily a philosopher, but also a deeply committed Jewish educator who often lectured and wrote
about Jedaism and Jewish matters.  Rosenzweig was influenced by Hegel, Schelling, Neo-Kantian thought, and Hermann Cohen as well as by friends and colleagues such as Martin Buber and Eugen Rosenstock; Levinas was influenced by Bergson, Husserl, Heidegger,
and others, like Buber and Rosenzweig.  Both reacted against the main tendencies of Western philosophy and religious thought and as a result shaped novel, powerful, and challenging ways of understanding philosophy, religion, ethics, and politics.

In this course, we will study first Rosenzweig and his intellectual career, using newly translated essays to examine his conception of the "new thinking" and its implications for his "existential" conception of philosophy, religion, Jewish faith, and Jewi
sh life.  We shall then turn to an examination of Levinas, from his early study of Husserl and Heidegger to the emergence of his new understanding of the human condition and the primacy of ethics, the face-to-face encounter with the human other, the role
of language and the relationship between ethics and religion, and finally his understanding of Judaism and its relationship to Western philosophy.

The class will focus on reading various essays and articles by these two philosophers.  Their writings are very demanding to read and understand.  In class we will discuss the main lines of their thinking and then read and examine texts.  We will also use
studies of the two philosophers, correspondence, and interviews, in order to help us grapple with their works and their ideas.

No special previous courses are required, but acquaintance with nineteenth and twentieth century European philosophy and intellectual culture would be helpful.  There will be exams and written assignments.

This course is brand new, and I am very excited to be teaching it.  To my knowledge, no course at IU has ever been devoted wholly to Rosenzweig and Levinas, and while I have taught Rosenzweig in other ways and in other settings, I have never before taught
Levinas's extremely difficult and important work.  My goal will be to use every means available to help us understand this extremely demanding pair of philosophers; it will be very much a cooperative venture.  If you have any questions about the course,
please contact Michael Morgan at morganm@indiana.edu.