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The Mathematical ImaginationOn the Origins and Promise of Critical Theory$
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Matthew Handelman

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780823283835

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823283835.001.0001

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Infinitesimal Calculus: Subjectivity, Motion, and Franz Rosenzweig’s Messianism

Infinitesimal Calculus: Subjectivity, Motion, and Franz Rosenzweig’s Messianism

Chapter:
(p.104) Three Infinitesimal Calculus: Subjectivity, Motion, and Franz Rosenzweig’s Messianism
Source:
The Mathematical Imagination
Author(s):

Matthew Handelman

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823283835.003.0004

By way of Leibniz’s and Newton’s calculi and Hermann Cohen’s neo-Kantianism, Chapter 3 explores how infinitesimal calculus allowed Franz Rosenzweig to embed messianism into the daily work of thought. Through metaphors of space and subjectivity, the idea of the differential—the infinitely small quantity—synthesized the finitude of lived experience with the infinitude of the Absolute. In Rosenzweig’s The Star of Redemption (1921), the differential revealed a world in which the thinking individual works toward the redemption of the world, thus arguing for the modern relevance of Judaism despite the apparent world-historical hegemony of Christianity. For Rosenzweig, the differential pointed to a “messianic theory of knowledge,” which made room for the truths verified by belief alongside those proved by mathematics. It also underscored the epistemological significance of marginalized beliefs and experiences—even of those people who stand on the sidelines of so-called world history—in the project of redemption.

Keywords:   Cohen, differential, epistemology, infinitesimal calculus, Jewish theology, mathematical pedagogy, messianism, Rosenzweig

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