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Giving Beyond the GiftApophasis and Overcoming Theomania$
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Elliot R. Wolfson

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780823255702

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2014

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823255702.001.0001

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Undoing (K)not of Apophaticism: A Heideggerian Afterthought

Undoing (K)not of Apophaticism: A Heideggerian Afterthought

Chapter:
(p.227) Chapter 6 Undoing (K)not of Apophaticism: A Heideggerian Afterthought
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Giving Beyond the Gift
Author(s):

Elliot R. Wolfson

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823255702.003.0007

This chapter examines recent attempts to harness the apophatic tradition of Western neoplatonism together with Derridean deconstruction in order to construct a viable postmodern negative theology. It is reasonable to argue that we must marshal the best metaphors in an effort to imagine what technically cannot be imagined, but such efforts ensnare the human mind in representing the unrepresentable and imaging the imageless by the production of images that, literally speaking, are false, and in so doing, the very allure to the alleged transcendence is severely compromised. Rather than expanding the analogical imagination in envisioning transcendence, the epochal duty is the need to overcome it, to rid monotheism not only of the psychological tug to personify the impersonal but also of what Corbin called the “pious illusion of negative theology” and the pitfall of “metaphysical idolatry.” If we were to apply the unrestrained smashing of all idols without political prejudice or psychological need, then the more fruitful use of the apophatic rhetoric in our moment would be to get beyond the anthropocentric bias to undo both the masculine and the feminine imaginaries that have informed our depictions of the deity. On hermeneutical grounds a genuine unknowing, unencumbered by a theopolitical agenda, should yield a twofold agnosis that would it make it difficult, if well-neigh impossible, to speak of any doxa about matters divine. The more radical negation presumes neither a presence that is absent nor an absence that is present; there is simply nothing of which not to speak, and hence it should occasion the end of God-talk, even of an apophatic nature, a mode of speech predicated on the seemingly absurd proposition that what is said is never what one is saying. The exigency of the moment—to subjugate the theistic anthropomorphization of God and the corresponding egoistic theomorphization of self—demands a sweeping and uncompromising purification of the idea of infinity from all predication, including the ecological tendency to deify the cosmos in incarnational language as the embodiment of a gift of transcendence. Structurally, givenness requires giving and the given, but not everything given is a gift. To portray the latter in postmodern terms as a bestowal on the part of divinity liberated from the straightjacket of ontotheology does not mitigate the problem of presuming that what is given is a gift, which in turn rests on the even more laden assumption that the giving is expressive of some form of generosity or grace on the part of the giver.

Keywords:   Gender, Apophasis/Apophatic, Polydoxy, Gift/Givenness, Es gibt, Ereignis, Eucharist, Parousia, Presence, Absence

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