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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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Immanent Atheology and the Trace of Transcendence

Immanent Atheology and the Trace of Transcendence

(p.201) Chapter 5 Immanent Atheology and the Trace of Transcendence
Giving Beyond the Gift

Elliot R. Wolfson

Fordham University Press

This chapter investigates the apophatic by turning to the role of immanence and transcendence in the thought of Edith Wyschogrod. More specifically, my analysis charts the ways in which Wyschogrod offers a deconstructive Jewish philosophy that may be called call, borrowing her own taxonomy, an immanent a/theology. What drives her post-phenomenological and post-structural analyses is her philosophical grappling with her Jewishness. This is not to parochialize her thought; on the contrary, it seems to me that, in the spirit of Levinas, she saw the particular as the only feasible way to implement the universal without reducing the other to the identity of the same. Contra Levinas, however, she did not seek a synthesis of Jewish revelation and Greek thought. On balance, I would proffer that her approach is characterized better by Derrida's appropriation of Joyce's hybrid expressions “Jewgreek” or “Greekjew.” By her own admission, Wyschogrod notes that her thinking sways between efforts to overcome manifestations of the negative and claims about its irrevocability, and that an especially important influence haunting her project is Hegel's struggle with the negative. Hegel's dialectic is such that every presence becomes what it is by negating what it is not, and hence every negation brings some presence in its wake. What is unthinkable for Hegel is the dialectical overcoming of the dialectic that results in the negation of the Absolute, a negation so profound that it generates an absolute difference—the Derridean différance—in which all difference is annihilated, the pure void, neither something nor nothing, in which all presence is eradicated. The undoing of undoing occasions a negative that is no longer subject to negation, since its own negativity would have been positively negated, whence it follows that the binary opposition of being and nonbeing is dismantled and primacy no longer given to the positive or to the negative. Wyschogrod thus distinguishes her understanding of transcendence from that of Levinas: the otherwise than being becomes the totality of beings that can never be conceptualized as a knowable plenum. At best, then, Wyschogrod, like Deleuze, can affirm an immanent theory of ethics and desire.

Keywords:   Atheology, Negation, Holocaust, Postmodernism/Postmodernity, Transcendence, Immanence, Eros/Erotics, Hope, Gift, Death

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