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Personal profile

Research Interests

Biblical theology, political theology, and modern Jewish philosophy

Professional Information

After completing my work on the translation and commentary of Mendelssohn's Morgenstunden and An die Freunde Lessings in MosesMendelssohn: Last Works (2012, University of Illinois Press), I turned my attention to a little-knownGerman-Jewish philosopher, Oskar Goldberg (1885-1953). It was Gershom Scholemwho inspired me to learn more about Oskar Goldberg. Scholem makes a crypticreference to Goldberg in his earliest publication about Sabbatianism (1928), anessay on the Sabbatian theologian Abraham Cardoso, a writer who had been thefocus of some of my earlier research on conversos,crypto-Judaism, and antinomian messianism. I discovered that Goldberg hadbeen the subject of an intellectual biography by the German scholar ManfredVoigts, but this book only raised more questions in my mind. Goldberg’s magnumopus, The Reality of the Hebrews (1925),had been furiously attacked by Gershom Scholem in a letter he sent toRosenzweig and Benjamin, among others. He was attacked by Scholem aspromulgating a “magical” form of Judaism based upon the Kabbalah. Scholem tookGoldberg to be a dangerous manipulator of Jewish tradition, seducing young Jewsto dream of resuscitating the ancient Hebrew “metaphysical capacity” fordrawing down the efficacious presence of the transcendental God YHWH into thisworld. Scholem took a dim view of Goldberg’s theories, although he took themvery seriously indeed. I recognized in Goldberg a possible subject for a newcase study in philosophical politics. The provocative force of Goldberg’sauthorship had certainly been acknowledged by everyone who encountered it.Thomas Man drew inspiration for his Josephnovels from The Reality of theHebrews and the sociologist and Holocaust novelist H. G. Adler wasprofoundly influenced by Goldberg’s argument that the imagination possessed aproductive power that could transform the world. My book on Oskar Goldberg, in press with Indiana University Press in early2017 (Transfinite Life: Oskar Goldberg and the Vitalist Imagination), argues that Goldberg’sphilosophy is best understood as part of the resurgent vitalism of the earlytwentieth century. My book begins with an account of the rise of vitalistmodels of explanation in biology at the turn of the twentieth century inGermany with the work of the embryologist-turned-philosopher Hans Driesch. Ithen explain Goldberg’s fusion of Driesch’s vitalism with amathematically-informed interpretation of the Kabbalah. Goldberg found in thelatest developments of Georg Cantor’s mathematics of transfinite numbersconfirmation of the Kabbalah’s fundamentally mathematical orientation towardthe structure of the Godhead. In drawing upon the latest developments inbiology and mathematics, Goldberg hoped to fashion an interpretation of thebedrock text of Judaism, the Pentateuch, that would be firmly groundedtheoretically and also capable of guiding a renewed application of itsprinciples to transform the contemporary world. It is this “applied Hebrewmetaphysics” that Scholem found so dangerous. I find it, however, to be asignal instance of a philosophical politics aimed at countering the lethalcombination of biological theory and state power articulated in Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf as well as in many otherworks of the period.

 I am working on book to be titled Hegeland the Holocaust. The book will treat four thinkers who have attempted torespond to the Holocaust in the terms of Hegel’s philosophy of history. Thefirst thinker is Leo Strauss who in OnTyranny (1948) engaged with the meaning of Hitler’s dictatorship through alittle-studied text of Xenophon, Hiero,or Tyrannicus. The interpretation of Xenophon’s dialogue between a tyrantand a philosopher (a “wise man”) was written while Strauss was engaged in afriendly exchange of letters about political theory with Alexandre Kojève,perhaps the most influential Hegel interpreter of that period. In 1954 a new edition of Strauss’s bookwas published (in French) which framed the discussion of Xenophon’s dialoguewith an interchange between Strauss and Kojève. The stakes of the framingdialogue were no less consequential than those of Xenophon’s: the fate ofphilosophy during a time of dictatorship. This question was framed in relationto Hegel’s philosophy of history. The Strauss-Kojève debate will situate mytreatment of the remaining three figures that the book will cover: EricVoegelin, Emil Fackenheim, and Gillian Rose. These thinkers all attempt tounderstand the Holocaust in the light of Hegel’s philosophy of history. In thefinal analysis, they all embraced a “broken” Hegel, a thinker who foresaw atotalizing “end of history” but who, in their readings at least, hoped to builda bulwark against it in the midst of the struggles of our finite lives torepair an imperfect socio-political order while avoiding all “final solutions.”Our task, they would agree, is to postpone the end of history, not hasten it.

Education

Ph.D. in Classics, Princeton University, 1979
B.A. Columbia University

Honors & Awards

Co-PI, “A Multimedia Digital Library of Hispanic Folk Literature,” National Science Foundation Digital Library Initiative II, $500,000, 1998-2002

Teaching

Office Address

Department of Religion
3017 FLB
707 S Mathews
M/C 166
Urbana, IL 61801

Office Phone

Fingerprint Fingerprint is based on mining the text of the expert's scholarly documents to create an index of weighted terms, which defines the key subjects of each individual researcher.

messianism Social Sciences
monotheism Social Sciences
god Social Sciences
political theology Social Sciences
phylogeny Social Sciences
Plato Social Sciences
flight Social Sciences
republic Social Sciences

Research Output 1983 2019

The flight of the gods: A comparative study of Martin Heidegger and Oskar Goldberg

Rosenstock, B., Aug 1 2019, In : New German Critique. 46, 2, p. 221-252 32 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

flight
god
Martin Heidegger
Deity
Comparative Study
Tyranny
Kabbalah
Vitalism
Cultural Environment
Modernity

Saltational Salvation and Paradoxical Truth: Moses Mendelssohn and Søren Kierkegaard

Rosenstock, B., 2016, New Essays on Moses Mendelssohn . University of Maryland Press

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

"god...has sent me to Germany": Salomon Maimon, Friedrich Jacobi, and the Spinoza Quarrel

Rosenstock, B., Jan 1 2014, In : Southern Journal of Philosophy. 52, 3, p. 287-315 29 p.

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

Quarrel
Germany
Friedrich Heinrich Jacobi
Baruch Spinoza
Deity

God accused: Jewish philosophy as antitheodicy

Rosenstock, B., Jan 1 2014, Jewish Philosophy for the Twenty-First Century: Personal Reflections. Hughes, A. W. & Tirosh-Samuelson, H. (eds.). Brill Academic Publishers, p. 358-371 14 p. (Supplements to The Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy; vol. 23).

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

Jewish philosophy
Deity
Anti-theodicy

Activities 1981 2015

  • 25 Invited talk
  • 2 Participation in conference

Closing the Circle of German-Jewish Philosophy

Bruce Rosenstock (Speaker)
Feb 20 2008

Activity: Talk typesInvited talk

Heresies and Orthodoxies: Regulating Identities in Late Antiquity

Bruce Rosenstock (Organizer)
May 11 2000May 13 2000

Activity: Attendance typesParticipation in conference

Laughter as Culture Critique in the Hebrew Bible

Bruce Rosenstock (Speaker)
Dec 2004

Activity: Talk typesInvited talk