Forms of history: Heidegger, Benjamin, and Rosenzweig
What is the form of history? Is it cyclical, always showing the same patterns that humanity encountered in the past, as Greek historians such as Herodotus, Thucydides, and Polybius suggested? Or is history linear and slowly progressing to human perfection, as Comte, Kant and others in the German tradition, influenced by Christian scholasticism, famously argued? The symposium Forms of History revisits this ancient theme by way of discussion of three formative theories of history from the first half of the twentieth-century in the German speaking world: Martin Heidegger’s notion of emplotment of history, Walter Benjamin’s spatial theory of history, and Franz Rosenzweig’s work on the repetitive nature of Jewish temporality. The dialogue between these thinkers opens an opportunity for philosophical, literary, and theological debates onto the nature of history, focusing on the political implications of each theoretical position.
Heidegger and the Plot of History / Karen Feldman
Heidegger's phenomenological approach--whether to truth, art, Dasein, or history--follows in each case a similar plot: Beginning with commonsense or general opinion, Heidegger unravels a series of misconceptions about the phenomenon in question and arrives at a dynamic of concealment and disclosure that forms its essence, enabling condition or ground. When he narrates the epochs of the history of metaphysics, a similar emplotment emerges. Each epoch misconceives, according to Heidegger, the nature of truth, technology, art, etc., and eclipses the original aletheic understanding of the pre-Socratics. Heidegger's transposition of the phenomenological form of investigation onto the historical narrative of western civilization reflects the tension between formal and historical approaches; the emplotment required for his historical narrative makes for ideological twists in his phenomenology.
Space as a Form of History? Benjamin and the Baroque / Ori Rotlevy
The history and etymology of "history" associate it to the form of a story, and of story-telling. Yet, might there be a historical period that resists this form, and more generally, a temporal form of presentation? Is there a point in history where one must address space as the form of historical presentation? The paper inspects the case of the Baroque as presented in Walter Benjamin's Origin of German Trauerspiel. I examine why the historical content of the period brings play-writers to transpose "temporal data into a figurative spatial simultaneity", how the allegorical form of the plays serves this aim, and to what extent and for what philosophical reasons Benjamin follows their path in his own account of the period.
History and Eternity: On Rosenzweig’s Repetition / Gilad Sharvit
This talk seeks to portray Franz Rosenzweig’s theory of repetition in The Star of Redemption (1921). The argument focuses on the role of the cycles of the weeks and the years in the temporal orientation of the Jewish people, specifically on the function of repetition in the negation of history. Against previous attempts to read Rosenzweig’s theory of repetition according to the mythical return of the same, I suggest that repetition constituted dialectical relations of the Jewish people with time: repetition allowed the Jewish people to resist history but also presented the dynamic nature of reality. To understand Rosenzweig’s repetition in the context of modern philosophical works on repetition, the paper demonstrates an affinity between Rosenzweig’s repetition and Søren Kierkegaard’s theory of time and eternity in his Repetition (1843).