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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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Via Negativa and the Imaginal Configuring of God

Via Negativa and the Imaginal Configuring of God

(p.14) Chapter 1 Via Negativa and the Imaginal Configuring of God
Giving Beyond the Gift

Elliot R. Wolfson

Fordham University Press

This chapter examines the thesis that the salient feature of modern Jewish thought is the dialogical imagination, an act of theopoiesis centered on the figural iconization of the invisible deity in anthropomorphic and anthropopathic terms. The emphasis on the dialogical, which proceeds from Hermann Cohen's logical principle of correlation, bears the risk that what should not be subject to imaginary representation invariably will be so represented, even in the guise of the nonrepresentable. Transcendence, which is a property of the uniqueness (Einzigkeit) as opposed to the unity (Einheit) of God, signifies the utter dissimilarity and incommensurability of the divine; inescapably, however, the transcendent becomes immanent to thinking insofar as there is no way to think the unthinkable that does not encroach on its unthinkability. The infinitude of transcendence is unknowable, not because there is some hidden essence that cannot be known, but because transcendence is expressive of the continuous manifestations of finitude by which the unlimited is delimited. The chasm between infinite and finite is narrowed to the extent that the transcendent is immanent, which is necessitated by the fact that God serves as an ethical ideal that imposes a mutual obligation on divine and human through the mediation of the world. Moreover, to generate the personification of transcendence, which is required by Cohen's own notion of divine forgiveness and goodness, the archetype, the originary-image whence all images originate, would have to be conceived itself imagistically. Like Cohen, Rosenzweig and Buber promote a dialogical thinking that is rooted in the principle of correlation that preserves the separate identities of God, human, and world. But they, too, acquiesce inevitably to the anthropocentric personification of transcendence.

Keywords:   Correlation, Pantheism, Negation, Privation, Transcendence, Immanence, Infinity/Infinitude, Uniqueness

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