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Title: De wereld tussen 'ja' en 'nee'
Subtitle: Monotheïsme als modern probleem bij Assmann, Nancy en Blumenberg
Author(s): TEN KATE, Laurens
Journal: Tijdschrift voor Filosofie
Volume: 73    Issue: 1   Date: 2011   
Pages: 9-45
DOI: 10.2143/TVF.73.1.2114150

Abstract :
In contemporary philosophical, theological and historical scholarship monotheism is not so much treated as a phenomenon or phase within the history of religion, but rather as a problematic and ambivalent legacy still present in (post)modern culture. Parallel to this change of perspective, one perceives attempts at a new definition of monotheism. Its essential characteristic is no longer claimed to be the exclusive recognition of only one God, but a profound turnaround in the relation between God and humans, heaven and earth, transcendence and immanence. The complexity of this relation comes to the fore in the fact that in monotheism, God and humans are at distance from one another, even rigorously separated, and at the same time intimately close to one another. Hence, a dynamic of presence and absence, and of their mutual entanglement, is active in the monotheist traditions, and it is this dynamic that still determines secular modernity.
In this article the ambivalence of the monotheist legacy in ‘postreligious times’ is analyzed more closely. Jan Assmann’s notion of the ‘Mosaic distinction’ is taken as a starting point for this analysis. Subsequently the author demonstrates how Jean-Luc Nancy’s ‘deconstruction of monotheism’ is a radical elaboration of this distinction, showing that it is essentially a distinction between presence and absence, between life and death. In the way it deals with these distinctions, secular modernity is a continuation of Christianity, Nancy states, which problematizes the very concept of the secular, let alone of the ‘postsecular’. The article concludes with a presentation and commentary of some other philosophical responses to the challenging legacy of monotheism, in particular that of Hans Blumenberg. Comparing the latter’s work with that of Nancy, the author discovers how Blumenberg discerns a Gnostic ‘Verfallsgeschichte’ within the history of (Christian) monotheism still contaminating the legitimacy of modernity; yet, Blumenberg questions this presumed decline in a deconstructive way, by showing how it paradoxically provided a chance for modernity.

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