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The Unbinding of Isaac

A Phenomenological Midrash of Genesis 22


Stephen J. Stern

In The Unbinding of Isaac, Stephen J. Stern upends traditional understandings of this controversial narrative through a phenomenological midrash or interpretation of Genesis 22 from the Dialogic and Jewish philosophies of Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, and, most notably, Emmanuel Levinas. With great originality, Dr. Stern intersects Jewish studies, Biblical studies, and philosophy in a literary/midrashic style that challenges traditional Western philosophical epistemology. Through the biblical narrative of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebecca, Dr. Stern explains that Rosenzweig, Buber, and Levinas Judaically exercise and offer an alternative epistemic orientation to the study of ethics than that of traditional Western or Hellenic-Christian philosophy. The Unbinding of Isaac makes the works of these three thinkers accessible to those outside philosophy and Jewish studies while also introducing readers to the playfulness of how Jewish tradition midrashically addresses the Bible.


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Chapter VI: Conclusion 94


Chapter VI Conclusion The “responses” constituting the dialogue signify–without this being a simple pun–“responsibility.… Neither [begins] in a mystical valuation of a few values having the status of Platonic ideas, nor on the basis of a prior thematization, knowledge and theory of being, culminating in a self-knowledge of which ethics would constitute a consequence or appendix, nor in the universal law of Reason. Ethics begins before the Exteriority of the other, before other people, and, as I like to put, before the face of the other, which engages my responsibility by its human expression, which cannot–without being change, immobilized–be held objectively at a distance. —Emmanuel Levinas1 hrough the biblical narrative of Abraham, Sarah, Isaac, and Rebecca, I methodologically exercised a collagical method. The goal of this method was to illustrate Ethics as First Philosophy while showing how to resist teleodogma. In doing this, I philosophized from a variety of circumstances. When one philosophizes from circumstances, one finds that Ethics as First Philosophy is about one’s conduct, not a theory about ethics. In addition, when one philosophizes out of circumstances one is shown how to resist teleodogma. In bringing these two themes together, one finds that circumstances demand that one philosophize about conduct, at least ethically speaking, whereas teleodogmatic discussions of ethics takes one away from ethical conduct. T A Conclusion B 95 A Collagical Method and Teleodogma Levinas’s approach, like that of Rosenzweig and Buber, is not systemat- ic, but collagical. As explained in chapter one,...

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