Anne Pollok LectureFriday, January 30, 2009 -
"A Hermeneutics of the Self"
Department of Philosophy, USC
Moses Mendelssohn’s late German writings confront the question of the place of Scripture and religious tradition within the individual’s task of self-formation (Bildung). I will argue that he offers an essential hermeneutical conception of the self that critically draws on a Spinozistic tradition of exegesis. Being forced to either prove Judaism as superior, or to convert, Mendelssohn conveys a hermeneutics that focuses on the dialectical move between an irreducible self to be formed from within itself – and the normative constraints it faces by religious as well as societal laws. In Jerusalem Mendelssohn holds that all these aspects should be seen under a essentially dynamic light which calls for new criteria of correct interpretation. In my talk, I address the role of religion and/or personal faith within this dynamic. I also seek to show that Mendelssohn’s theory can be read more convincingly if seen under the scope of Ernst Cassirer’s project of a Philosophy of Symbolic Forms. In its reformulation as a function of world-understanding and world-construction, personal faith as well as the ceremonial laws and traditions within Judaism gain a new role. Mendelssohn’s task could then be reformulated as a search for a method to strengthen the act of signification within one decisive sphere of human (self-)understanding.
Place: Wardlaw 126
[Sponsored by Jewish Studies and Philosophy]
Pollok Lecture Flyer