Part I, Chapter Three: The Human and his Self, or Metaethics – Movement from the Tragic to the Secluded Human
Now begins the concluding book of the first part of the Star. Rosenzweig's work began with a survey of the history of Western philosophy, from Plato through the tradition ofIdealism to Hegel. The conclusion was that traditional philosophy, while claiming to encompass everything, in fact concludes with three distinct foci of doubt, and these doubts become the starting points for Rosenzweig's new kind of philosophy. Traditional theology, which Rosenzweig calls 'physics,' because it studied God as a first principle underlying the existence of the universe, reaches its summit in the so-called middle ages with Maimonides' doctrine of negative divine attributes, where we learn that as long as thought is limited to the forms that are available in philosophy, we know nothing about God. This doubt about God begins Rosenzweig's new thinking about God, which he calls 'metaphysics.' Next, traditional ontology, which Rosenzweig calls 'logic', because it attempts to discover the logic implicit in the world, reaches its summit in the seventeenth century in Descartes' reflections on human consciousness and Spinoza's thinking about the substance of God as foundations for all philosophical speculation about the general nature of the world. Both philosophers realized that as long as thought is limited to the forms that are available in philosophy, we cannot be sure that there in fact is an external world (external either to human consciousness in Descartes' case or to divine substance in Spinoza's). This doubt in modern philosophy - that it cannot know anything with certainty about an external world - begins Rosenzweig's new thinking about the world, which he calls 'metalogic.' Finally, traditional rational psychology, which
Rosenzweig calls 'ethics', because moral thinking is the kind of thought that is most distinctive of the human psyche, reaches its summit in the nineteenth century in Kant's analysis of human consciousness as a Transcendental Unity of Apperception, where it is made explicit through Hermann Cohen's unpacking of Kant's thought at the end ofthe century! that this unity that constitutes the human mind as a rational entity lies beyond anything that can be thought within the limits of the forms of thinking available in philosophy. This doubt in what was for Rosenzweig contemporary philosophy - that it cannot know anything positive about what is distinctively human - begins Rosenzweig's new thinking about the human, which he calls 'metaethics.'