International Conference in cooperation with the Department of Philosophy at the University of Antwerp, the International Walter Benjamin Association and the Heinrich-Heine-Universität Düsseldorf
With the kind support of
Star Diamond Group
Institute of Jewish Studies, University
, 11-12 May 2006
"The essential character of messianism may well be precisely its particular relation to the law". This statement by Giorgio Agamben confirms a renewed interest in the interstices between theological, mystical, political and juridical discourse. In the past decades, philosophers and political thinkers repeatedly drew upon the millennial tradition of messianic thinking in their efforts to come to terms with the injustices of the present. Their conceptions of messianism build upon and revise, modify or radicalize politico-theological theories developed in the period between the two world wars by thinkers who, in the face of doom and destruction, reverted to ancient Judeo-Christian visions of redemption.
In the Jewish tradition, the relationship between messianism and the law ranges from ideas of an absolute restoration of order when "all the ancient laws will again be in force" (Maimonides) to visions of the eventual suspension of the law as such. Historically, attitudes toward messianism and the legal tradition interact with the political and historical conditions as well as with the prevailing theoretical and philosophical discourses of their times. Cross-fertilization between messianism, politics and philosophy also informs recent conceptualizations of history and time, language and the law in the writings of Emmanuel Lévinas, Jacques Derrida and, most recently, Giorgio Agamben.
The conference will explore the traditional and contemporary modes and stakes of messianic thinking in its close interactions with both previous and actual political contexts and theoretical discourses. Contributions will address the ways in which today's messianic thinking relates to its historical Jewish and Christian origins and how it deals with the legacy of its early twentieth-century precursors: Walter Benjamin, Franz Rosenzweig, Ernst Bloch, Gerschom Scholem, Theodor W. Adorno and others. The analysis of messianism in contemporary discourse encourages reflections on the following questions: How does messianism figure in modern and contemporary philosophy? How does it relate to today's state of affairs in the juridical, political and social realm. Is it still primarily a Jewish concern and how has it interacted with other religious and political traditions? How does the impact of Jewish messianism on modern philosophy compare with and relate to other influences of Jewish thought, such as the legalistic tradition? Should Kantian and Neo-Kantian schools of thinking - viewed by some as close to a more mainstream tradition of Jewish ethics - be considered in opposition to or as secularized variants of messianic ideas? How valid, how relevant is it to revert to religious and theological concepts for an analysis of concrete historical events, for an assessment of the present state of the planet and for the task of politics in the future?
Speakers will include Micha Brumlik, Lieven De Cauter, Astrid Deuber-Mankowsky, Moshe Idel, Ashraf Noor, Ada Rapoport-Albert, Aviezer Ravitzky and Sigrid Weigel.
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