Abraham, Isaac, and the Toxin: a Kavkan reading of the binding of Isaac

Religious Studies:1-17 (forthcoming)
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I argue that the story of God’s commanding Abraham to sacrifice Isaac can be read as a variant of Kavka’s (1983) Toxin Puzzle. On this reading, Abraham has no reason to kill Isaac, only reason to intend to kill Isaac. On one version of the Kavkan reading, it’s impossible for Abraham, thus situated, to form the intention to kill Isaac. This would make the binding an impossible story: I explore the ethical and theological consequences of reading the story in this way. Finally, I suggest that analytic philosophers may have more to contribute to interpretive projects in philosophical theology than generally practiced.

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Christopher Willard-Kyle
University of Glasgow


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