This paper explores moral reasoning within the framework of contemporary cultural theory, in which moral functioning is action mediated by tools (such as socially available discourses) within a social and cultural context. This cultural model of a dialogic moral self challenges many of the assumptions inherent in the individualistic Kantian position that underlies much moral reasoning research. It provides a model for understanding cultural variation in ethical systems as well as the social context in which individual reasoning operates and develops. (...) This framework derives from the developmental psychology of Vygotsky and from discursive social psychology, drawing on Foucault and Bakhtin. The core processes are discursive: dialectical and dialogic relationships at the intersections of three parts of a system comprising societal?cultural context, dyadic interaction and the individual agent. Key processes include the cultural and social construction of moral narratives and discourses that provide explanations and justifications within shared legitimation, comprehension and value. These provide resources that are drawn upon both in dialogue and in individual reasoning. Interpersonal interaction, a crucible and also a scaffold for both individual reasoning and for social change, involves argumentation, rhetoric and positioning. (shrink)
I have vigorously absorbed the negative element of the age in which I live, an age that is, of course, very close to me, which I have no right ever to fight against, but as it were a right to represent. The slight amount of the positive, and also of the extreme negative, which capsizes into the positive, are something in which I have had no hereditary share. I have not been guided into life by the hand of Christianity – (...) admittedly now slack and failing – as Kierkegaard was, and have not caught the hem of the Jewish prayer shawl – now flying away from us – as the Zionists have. I am an end or a beginning.1. (shrink)
Archetypal psychology suggests the possibility of a leadership archetype representing the unconscious preferences of human beings as a species about the appropriate relationships between leaders and followers. Mythological analysis compared God’s leadership in the Abraham myth with modern visionary, ethical and situational leadership to find similarities reflecting continuities in human thinking about leadership over as long as 3600 years. God’s leadership behavior is very modern except that God is generally more relationship oriented. The leadership archetype that emerges is of a (...) leader that develops his/her follower by reliably maintaining a vision, behaving according to firm ethical values even when it weakens the leader’s authority, accepting suffering when the follower is unreliable, and always forgiving even when the follower behaves with hubris in an attempt to overthrow the leader. If God’s leadership principles were mandatory in management, many dysfunctional leaders would be disqualified and many of the negative consequences of poor leadership might be averted. (shrink)
This paper critically examines what I call the ‘testing theodicy,’ the widely held idea that natural evil exists in order to test our faith in God. This theodicy appears numerous times in the scriptures of all three Abrahamic faiths. After examining some of these scriptural passages, we will argue that in light of these texts, the notion of faith is best understood as some type of commitment such as trust, loyalty or piety, rather than as merely a belief in (...) God’s existence. After carefully showing the form this theodicy must take, I argue that the testing theodicy suffers from serious difficulties and fails to adequately account for the existence of natural evil. (shrink)
Why do we admire Abraham1 so much? The standard answer is that Abraham’s faith in God is very great. Now in the context of Genesis, “faith in God” does not mean “belief in God’s existence.” Polytheism, not atheism, is the adversary in Genesis. Nor does “faith in God” mean “believing in order that we may come to understand God”2 or “believing because we cannot fully understand God”3 or “believing despite what we understand about God.”4 To minimize anachronism and controversy I (...) shall work with a minimalist reading of “faith in God,” a meaning shared by all interpretations. On every plausible conception of faith, if Abraham has faith in God, then he trusts God’s word. In Genesis “faith in God” means at least, “trusting that God will keep His promises.”5 But Abraham does not display this sort of faith. I shall argue that Abraham actually displays a lack of trust in God throughout his whole life. To show this I shall review the events of Abraham’s life, assessing his level of faith in God at each point. (shrink)
All of the ingredients for what has become known as Anselmian perfect being theology were present already in the thought of St. Augustine. This paper develops that thesis by calling attention to various claims Augustine makes. It then asks whether there are principled reasons for determining which properties the greatest possible being has and whether an account of what contributes to greatness can settle the question whether the greatest possible being is the same as the God of Abraham, Isaac, and (...) Jacob. The paper develops Augustine’s answer to the first question by extracting several principles he endorses that generate a hierarchy of greatness. It addresses the second question by discussing the requirements of worship and of creation. (shrink)
The explicit topic of Fear and Trembling's third Problema (the longest single section, accounting for a third of the book's total length), the theme of Abraham's silence stands not far in the background in every other section, and its importance is flagged by the pseudonym—Johannes de silentio—under which Kierkegaard had the book published. Here I aim to defend an interpretation of the meaning of the third Problema's central claim—that Abraham cannot explain himself, 'cannot speak'—and to argue on its basis for (...) an interpretation of the work as a whole. (shrink)
A significant challenge faces any ethic that endorses the view that divine commands are sufficient to impose moral obligations; in this paper, I focus on Kierkegaard's ethic, in particular. The challenge to be addressed is the "modernized" problem of Abraham, popularized especially by Fear and Trembling: the dilemma that an agent faces when a being claiming to be God issues a command to the agent that, by the agent's own lights, seems not to be the kind of command that a (...) loving God would issue. Against a solution to this problem proposed by C. Stephen Evans in Kierkegaard's Ethic of Love, I argue that Kierkegaard regards this scenario as never actually resulting in a fully responsible agent's performance of some horrendous action on account of her non-culpable misinterpretation of God's will and/or failure to discern correctly whether a perceived moral imperative truly is divine in origin. (shrink)
This cogently argued and richly illustrated book rejects the dichotomy between the God of Abraham and the God of the philosophers to argue that the two are one. In God of Abraham, one of our leading philosophers of religion shows how human values can illuminate our idea of God and how the monotheistic idea of God in turn illuminates our moral, social, cultural, aesthetic, and even ritual understanding. Throughout Goodman draws on a wealth of traditional, philosophical, historical, and anthropological materials, (...) and particularly on a wide range of Jewish sources. He demonstrates how an adequate understanding of the interplay of values with monotheism dissolves many of the longstanding problems of natural theology and ethics and guides us toward a genuinely humanistic moral and social philosophy. (shrink)
Abraham ibn Ezra the Spaniard (d. 1167) was one of the foremost transmitters of Arabic science to the West. His astrological and astronomical works, written in Hebrew and later translated into Latin, were considered authoritative by many medieval Jewish and Christian scholars. Some of the works he translated from Arabic are no longer extant in their original form, and on occasion his treatises provide information about earlier sources that is otherwise poorly preserved, if at all. Ibn Ezra seems to be (...) the earliest scholar to record one of the seven methods for setting up the astrological houses, and this method was subsequently used by Levi ben Gerson (d. 1344) in southern France. (shrink)
This paper recasts the normative shape of "Fear and Trembling" by presenting an 'ethical reading' based on an ethic of care. It will be argued that Abraham's response represents a commitment to sustain and deepen his fundamental relationship with God, to make absolute his relation to the Absolute. Since most readers tend to focus myopically on 'the trial' itself, apart from the context and history of the God-relationship, the proffered interpretations tend inevitably to distort the nature and significance of Abraham's (...) form of life. By remembering the pattern of attachment between God and Abraham, I think that a different normative picture will emerge, one which can be expressed in the grammar of care. (shrink)
A century after his landmark report Medical Education in the United States and Canada (1910), Abraham Flexner remains an icon in the history of American medical education. Working for the Carnegie Foundation for the Advancement of Teaching, he visited each of the 155 medical schools then in existence in the United States and Canada, after which he published a blistering, muckraking report. This report helped bring about the destruction of the proprietary medical school, put forth the Johns Hopkins School of (...) Medicine as the ideal of what a medical school should look like, and established Flexner as the unchallenged arbiter of educational reform in American medicine. Two years after the report, he became assistant .. (shrink)
Would the Jewish tradition agree with Søren Kierkegaard's claim that the biblical episode of Abraham's near-sacrifice of Isaac represents a fearful "teleological suspension of the ethical"? After surveying a variety of classical Jewish sources, the author concludes that Kierkegaard's interpretation has almost no resonance within the Jewish tradition. Rather than involving a suspension of the ethical, this episode is viewed by Jewish writers as involving a moment of supreme moral responsibility on the part of both God and man. This treatment (...) of the biblical episode points up a central fact about the Jewish tradition: although Judaism is unquestionably an ethical tradition based on the divine command, it is also a tradition of human autonomy and reason. If Jews have regarded God's commands as absolute, they have also found it unthinkable that these commands should ultimately defy our human sense of right and wrong. (shrink)
This paper recasts the normative shape of Fear and Trembling by presenting an ‘ethical reading’ based on an ethic of care. It will be argued that Abraham's response represents a commitment to sustain and deepen his fundamental relationship with God, to make absolute his relation to the Absolute. Since most readers tend to focus myopically on ‘the trial’ itself, apart from the context and history of the God-relationship, the proffered interpretations tend inevitably to distort the nature and significance of Abraham's (...) form of life. By remembering the pattern of attachment between God and Abraham, I think that a different normative picture will emerge, one which can be expressed in the grammar of care. (shrink)
Temor y Temblor, de Kierkegaard, escrito bajo el seudónimo de Johannes de silentio, nos ofrece una recreaciónpoética de la historia bíblica de Abraham. Johannes alaba a Abraham como el más eminente caballero de la fe, pero nuestro análisis encuentra que las caracterizaciones que hace de Abraham, como decidido y al mismo tiempo angustiado por el sacrificio de Isaac, entran en conflicto y se mantienen sin resolver. Esto, sumado a la reconocida ignorancia de Johannes en cuestiones de fe, hace que la (...) representación de la fe en Temor y Temblor no sea convincente. Sólo en sus obras tardías Kierkegaard concilia estas dificultades introduciendo una condición "metaestable" de la fe. (shrink)
Unlike the other prominent patriarchs of Israel, whose names also function as tribal or local designations, the Abraham who stands at the beginning of the patriarchal traditions appears to have been a historical individual before he became the subject of tradition and legend.
It is God's covenant with Abraham, freely initiated by God, that constitutes Israel as a people who gratefully recall the past, who live obediently in the present, and who face the future in the assurance of God's promises.
Within the pluralism of the late twentieth century, when Christians continue to search for their true identity, the New Testament appropriation of the Abraham stories points to the importance of foundational traditions and the need to reinterpret them in contemporary terms.
Is the good news of Jesus Christ bad news for the Jewish neighbor? -- Kierkegaard and Hegel on Abraham : the openness and complexity of the modern context -- The problem, part I : the "perfect storm" of Christological interpretive imperialism -- The problem, part II : the good news of the Gospel and the bad news for the children of Abraham -- The remedy, part I : dispersing the "perfect storm" -- The remedy, part II : the debt to (...) modernity : interpretive imperialism in a higher key -- The remedy, part III : Abraham must die -- Postmodern discernment and the limits of the ethical : the way of justice -- The problem as remedy : an interpretive imperialism "without weapons"? -- Conclusion : faith seeking the ethical. (shrink)
This paper presents an interpretation of the paradoxical decision of Abraham done by Søren A. Kierkegaard in his work Fear and Trembling as an ethics of silence. The main idea is to understand ethics not as moral standards or specific duties, but as the responsibility of becoming a single individual in time; singularity as the intimate and personal relationship with the calling of love. In such a way, that silence is the experience of the encounter with the paradox that being (...) human means to be singular in conditions that claim an universal and general transparent manifestation dependent of the dominant rational discourse.Then, silence becomes the fundamental ethical claim to become a human person, as spirit in time, where it becomes a time of trial and examination, a temporality, where the trial is the fidelity to love’s calling, the listening of the possibilities that are presented by the anxiety of the decision. These possibilities are not immanent to the world or to history, they call for a personal choice, always containing a space of revelation; therefore of listening to the interiority of the personal choice that for Kierkegaard is the passion of faith, communicated and lived in silence. Concluding that an ethics of silence by the image of Abraham implies to re-think the role of philosophy in relationship to faith, hope and love in time, as a silent thought. (shrink)
Abraham Lincoln's dictum that “you may fool all of the people some of the time; and some of the people all of the time; but you can't fool all of the people all of the time”, is interpreted in terms of a simple binomial model, and potential ambiguities in Lincoln's assertion are clarified.
Contrary to traditional readings of Kierkegaard's Fear and Trembling , which claim that Abraham gains his world back with Isaac, this article shows that Abraham in fact suffers a tragic loss inasmuch as he can no longer function as a complete human being. The ethical has forever been denied him by his act of absolute responsibility that renders him entirely irresponsible toward his community. It also shows that his kind of faith is not the kind of faith his followers are (...) required to engage in, as shown in Works of Love , that in fact his kind of faith is considered reckless by another Kierkegaard psdeudonym. (shrink)
In this article Troels Norager discusses the subject of sacrifice in the context of Kierkegaard's Works of Love and Fear and Trembling. The first section argues that contrary to contemporary attempts to turn Kierkegaard into a phenomenologist of love, Kierkegaard should be regarded as a radical Christian thinker who (partly for biographical reasons) deliberately emphasized the necessity of being willing to sacrifice one's most precious love object. The second part deals with Abraham's dilemma in Genesis 22 and argues, critically surveying (...) the intriguing interpretation proposed by Ingolf Dalferth, that no credible solution to this deeply troubling story is to be found. In the final section the author ponders the contemporary significance of Abraham's sacrifice and briefly points to insights from eminent political philosophers like Rawls and Habermas. This leads to the conclusion that theology should finally be taking leave of Abraham by rejecting Abraham as the 'Father of faith' and as a paradigm to be emulated. Instead, theologians and philosophers of religion are called upon to embrace our post-secular modernity without surrendering to the demands of authoritarian religion. (shrink)
A filosofia da educação de Abraham Joshua Heschel busca, na tradição judaica, uma luz para o homem moderno. Esta tradição afirma que o mundo descansa sobre três pilares: estudar para participar da sabedoria divina, cultuar o Criador e ter compaixão pelo nosso próximo. Nossa civilização, afirma o filósofo, subverteu esses pilares fazendo do estudo uma forma de alcançar o poder, da caridade um instrumento de relações públicas e do culto uma forma de adorar nosso próprio ego. Essa crise extrema exige (...) uma reorientação radical: estudo, culto e caridade são fins e não meios. O poder, por sua vez, deveria ser um instrumento e não a finalidade da existência. Para Heschel, o clímax da existência, a experiência suprema do viver, deveria ser estudar. Na prática, isso significa uma reforma radical dos fundamentos da educação contemporânea. Os insights heschelianos podem ser fundamentais para a compreensão da condição humana em sua historicidade e do mundo como lugar de realização da humanidade. (shrink)
El autor describe y comenta la obra literaria de Abraham Maimónides que ilustra con la traducción de dos escritos de Abraham, uno donde el hijo de Maimónides describe sus afanes literarios y otro donde defiende a su padre contra los ataques de los tradicionalistas. Importante es también el testimonio del historiógrafo Yosef Sambari sobre el hijo de Maimónides. En conjunto la obra de Abraham tiene una tendencia racionalista, heredada de su padre, pero con un sesgo de pietismo, que heredó de (...) la familia materna, y que se inspira en las corrientes sufistas islámicas. (shrink)
Paul Abraham, one of the Berlin Academy’s most experienced researchers, was deported to Auschwitz in 1943. The fate of this Jewish scholar reveals much about the inner life of the Academy, and its treatment of Jewish staff, during the World War II. This paper describes his life, against a backdrop of war, revolution, and dictatorship, and in the context of one of the Academy’s most prestigious projects.
Adherents and critics of religion both have to face the conundrum of violence committed in the name of religion. Under what conditions would religions that espouse peace provide religious justification for violence? A reading of Kierkegaard’s Fear and Trembling reveals that the exception granted to Abraham, “the teleological suspension of the ethical,” only occurs in the context of “an absolute relation with the Absolute.” Abraham’s relationship with God reorients his relationship with Isaac, thus permitting Abraham to transgress the ethical in (...) sacrificing his son. While this might appear to justify violence in the name of religion, the aporia of Abraham’s silence suggests that he cannot become a category or model for all adherents, that the example of Abraham cannot be mediated or repeated. (shrink)
If Abraham is on the road again in the Christian movement, he will provoke preachers to think unaccustomed thoughts, and listeners will recapture something of the Abrahamic character of the Christian journey with God through real history.
A convincing defense of a divine command theory of the nature of obligation must address our darkest fear about God's commands--the fear that God may command something evil. Certainly some of the things that God has been thought to require have been evil. Rivers of blood have been shed in obedience to supposed divine commands. Can we accept a divine command theory without assuming a potential obligation to perform such horrible deeds?
The purpose of this paper is to establish a proper context for reading Jacques Derrida's The Gift of Death, which, I contend, can only be understood fully against the backdrop of "Violence and Metaphysics." The later work cannot be fully understood unless the reader appreciates the fact that Derrida returns to "a certain Abraham" not only in the name of Kierkegaard but also in the name of Levinas himself. The hypothesis of the reading that follows therefore would be that Derrida (...) writes The Gift of Death not as an attempt to re-present Kierkegaard's Abraham either rightly or wrongly but as an effort to do with Kierkegaard's Abraham what is possible with his thought in a broadly Levinasian/Derridean framework. That the reading he provides of the Abraham story would not be recognizable to Kierkegaard is not the principal point of Derrida's effort; his aim is to demonstrate that Levinas should not have been so hasty to dismiss Kierkegaard but could have recovered his interpretation of Abraham for purposes that Derrida and Levinas both share. (shrink)