Words and Diagrams about Rosenzweig’s Star

Naharaim 14 (1):5-33 (2020)
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This article explores aspects of Rosenzweig’s Star of Redemption from the perspective of systems theory. Mosès, Pollock, and others have noted the systematic character of the Star. While “systematic” does not mean “systems theoretic,” the philosophical theology of the Star encompasses ideas that are salient in systems theory. The Magen David star to which the title refers, and which deeply structures Rosenzweig’s thought, fits the classic definition of “system” – a set of elements (God, World, Human) and relations between the elements (Creation, Revelation, Redemption). The Yes and No of the elements and their reversals illustrate the bridging of element and relation with the third category of “attribute,” a notion also central to the definition of “system.” In the diachronics of “the All,” the relations actualize what is only potential in the elements in their primordial state and thus remedy the incompleteness of these elements, fusing them into an integrated whole. Incompleteness is a major theme of systems theory, which also explicitly examines the relations between wholes and parts and offers a formal framework for expressing such fusions. In this article, the systems character of Parts I & II of the Star is explored through extensive use of diagrams; a systems exploration of Part III is left for future work. Remarkably, given its highly architectonic character, diagrams are absent in Rosenzweig’s book, except for the triangle of elements, the triangle of relations, and the hexadic star, which are presented on the opening page of each part of the book. While structures can be explicated entirely in words, diagrams are a visual medium of communication that supplements words and supports a nonverbal understanding that structures both thought and experience.

Author's Profile

Martin Zwick
Portland State University


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