Stretched Flesh-Space: Temple, Talmud, and Merleau-Ponty

By Braiterman, Zachary | Philosophy Today, Spring 2006 | Go to article overview

Stretched Flesh-Space: Temple, Talmud, and Merleau-Ponty


Braiterman, Zachary, Philosophy Today


When philosophers take an interest in nonphilosophy (religion, art, politics), it is presupposed that philosophy does not stand apart from and to the side of that which is other to it, that philosophical problems are best approached from points both inside and outside their own formal parameters. Once subjected to an extra-philosophical competence, philosophical judgment is as good as the most current scholarship guiding it. The claim in this essay-that rabbinic Judaism provides a platform from which to explore spatial motility, religious iconicity, and non-realist, plastic expression-is itself only a recent scholarly possibility with which to stretch philosophy. Our attention goes in particular to holy space, though not for any religious reason per se. God will make no appearance, nor will any of God's surrogates in recent postmodern theology (event, gift, the face of the Other). Without recourse to any point of absolute transcendence, holiness will be understood as the phenomenal space opened out by special rules negotiating the difference between inside/outside, pure/ impure. These rules define a Temple-system, which after the destruction of its physical site by the Romans in 70 CE retains its status as a pseudo-place in rabbinic memory and imagination. Talmud brings to philosophical phenomenology and to the phenomenology of religion an "architecture" based on bent space and movement, an embodied presence in a world that is no longer present at hand.

The cliché regarding Judaism in contemporary theoretical circles (from Adorno through Lyotard and Derrida to Zizek and Badiou) assumes that "the law" is hostile to plastic representation and to all representation tout court. The Judaism upon which this cliché rests is not without Jewish support, just as Kant construed his anti-Judaism on the good authority of Spinoza and Mendelssohn. As observed by Kalman Bland in The Artless Jew, the notion that Judaism is aniconic was a conceit, embraced warmly by Jewish thinkers imbued with the intellectual élan of German Idealism. One finds it expressed by the eminent historian Heinrich Graetz in the nineteenth century and by the Marburg neo-Kantian philosopher Hermann Cohen at the start of the twentieth. The counter-image of Judaic law that I will offer in this essay belongs more to plastic art and to late twentieth century scholar-theorists at work in pre-modern Jewish source material.1 It draws on Leviticus and ritual more than prophecy and revelation. Fixed upon bodies that are at once concrete and imaginai, this analysis runs alongside Merleau-Ponty and the phenomenology of perception. My aim is to pull Jewish philosophy and the philosophy of religion away from Levinasian Judaism and the new apophatic theology, to tug them back into the platonic cave, what Baudrillard called "the seductions of space."2

The difference between Jewish and Christian iconicity lie in form as well as in content. Christian icons are luminous, self-centered shapes. For Jean-Luc Marion, they comprise a physical presence "saturated" by an infinite meaning that is surplus to it. Viewed more prosaically, the Christian icon is a physical copy of a copy of a copy. Icons of Jesus, Mary, and the saints proliferate. There is no one single original image, apart from the Son, i.e., the image of the Father. In contrast, Judaism suggests a model of iconicity without icons. By this I mean the organization of being around a specialized, spatial configuration with no visible image, object, or person position at its center. Pre-ceding the figure of Jesus Christ, the Tabernacle and the first and second Temple (first qua physical site, then qua image) constitute this configuration in classical Judaism. Not the figure of God, not the image of God, not God as an "object of worship," it is rather the architectural frame, a three-dimensional "place of worship," that constitutes the icon which first draws the eye.3 The Order of Holy Things in Mishna and Talmud provides one such example. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Stretched Flesh-Space: Temple, Talmud, and Merleau-Ponty
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.