Agata Bielik-Robson delivers her talk, 'The infinite in the finite: human life as living contradiction in Hegel and Rosenzweig' for the 2014-2015 Humane Philosophy Project/Ian Ramsey Centre seminar at Blackfrairs Hall, University of Oxford.
For Hegel, the most primary manifestation of the ‘human difference’ is pain. Human life is essentially painful because it is a ‘living contradiction’ which consists in the clash between the infinite and the finite: the premonition of the unending and unharmed life (unverletztes Leben) crushing against the condition of finitude and death. This notion of human life stands in a glaring opposition to the modern biopolitical image of life as a smooth and uneventful cycle of becoming and perishing, which once again takes on and at the same time thoroughly disenchants the Greek concept of phusis. In Hegel, pain is a prerogative, which also means privilege: it is not to be taken away in the anaesthetic pursuit of a painless life which, in biopolitical terms, became a hardly disputed synonym of happiness. Quite to the contrary; pain is a sign which – very much like in the psychoanalytic ‘body language’ – cannot be semantically ignored. In his concept of pain as a sign, Hegel pioneers the psychoanalytic anti-anaesthetic approach which attempts to solve the riddle of human life by deciphering its unique idiom of suffering. In my presentation, I will show how this Hegelian inspiration influenced Freud and Rosenzweig, the two thinkers who also departed from the recognition of human life as a ‘living contradiction,’ and how their philosophical legacy can be used today in opposing the posthumanist and biopolitical trends of late modernity.
AGATA BIELIK-ROBSON received her PhD in philosophy in 1995. She works as a Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Nottingham and at the Institute of Philosophy and Sociology at the Polish Academy of Sciences in Warsaw. She has published articles in Polish, English, Russian and German on philosophical aspects of psychoanalysis, romantic subjectivity, and the philosophy of religion (especially Judaism and its crossings with modern philosophical thought). Her publications include books: The Saving Lie. Harold Bloom and Deconstruction (in English, Northwestern University Press, 2011), Erros. Messianic Vitalism and Philosophy (Cracow 2012), In the Wilderness. Cryptotheologies of Late Modernity (Cracow 2008), Romanticism. An Unfinished Project (Cracow 2008), The Spirit of the Surface. Romantic Revision and Philosophy (Cracow 2004) Another Modernity (Cracow 2000) and On the Other Side of Nihilism (Warsaw 1997). Together with Adam Lipszyc she coedited the collection of essays: Judaism in Contemporary Thought. Traces and Influence (Routledge 2014). Her new book, Philosophical Marranos: Jewish Cryptotheologies of Late Modernity was published with Routledge in September 2014. She is also a co-editor of Bamidbar. The Journal for Jewish Thought and Philosophy, which appears in English three times a year in Passagen Verlag, Wien.