Art and Responsibility: A Phenomenology of the Diverging Paths of Rosenzweig and Heidegger
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Two German philosophers working during the Weimar Republic in Germany, between the two World Wars, produced seminal texts that continue to resonate almost a hundred years later. Franz Rosenzweig―a Jewish philosopher, and Martin Heidegger―a philosopher who at one time was studying to become a Catholic priest, each in their own, particular way include in their writings powerful philosophies of art that, if approached phenomenologically and ethically, provide keys to understanding their radically divergent trajectories, both biographically and for their philosophical heritage. Simon provides a close reading of some of their essential texts―The Star of Redemption for Rosenzweig and Being and Time and The Origin of the Work of Art for Heidegger―in order to draw attention to how their philosophies of art can be understood to provide significant ethical directives.
Descartes’ own heuristic lead but transforming the order of application. Rosenzweig harnesses negation to relative, practical, and speciﬁc applications such that doubt, or negation, is at the clear and distinct service of the doubter’s analytic, and serves as a means in a systematic quest for positive “truths,” and not as some abstractly hypothetical starting point for an arbitrary method. What Rosenzweig rejects is Descartes’ attempt to achieve certainty of knowledge by setting doubt over
imperative of the command to love into a community instituting function. The demand (Aufforderung) to join in a common song of thanksgiving is an urging to express thankfulness for the gift given in ethical goodness: “Let us thank him . . . because he is good.” It is a thankfulness for the gift given in love and of how to love. It takes form as thanks for fulﬁllment, but also as anticipation of an eternity of thanksgiving for the love of the other that happens today, that is, a thanks for the
community that comes together to sing but, instead, comes together to speak its deﬁning word of judgment. A community achieves its identity and grows together insofar as it engages in ongoing speech–acts that deﬁnes itself as given to this or that particular historical task. Particularity is simultaneously a separation in the 126 Art and Responsibility sense of the German word for particularity, Besonderheit, which plays off the root word sonder. To sonder something is to “separate it off”
fact, a Tatsache, an act that matters in the world. And thus, as a fact, or act that matters, we need to talk about power and politics. And that discourse entails a discussion of art, of an aesthetics that fuels Rosenzweig’s messianism. In order for any of this en-souling activity to matter, to matter in actually changing the world, there needs to be public effectiveness, public even beyond the publicness of marriage. The aesthetic effects of the acts of redemption are that the en-souled
love that is at the heart of the “wandering,” as well as readings from Isaiah’s prophecy about the fruition of the chosen people, the judgment of those set against them, and the messianic vision of the day when “the wolf shall dwell together with the lamb and the world shall be as full of the recognition of the Lord as the sea is of water.” In other words, readings are read to engender a hope for enacting an ideal social order, set in a future time and a transformed world, when peace and justice