Part I, Chapter One: God and his Being, or Metaphysics - Movement from the Mythic to the Concealed God
Rosenzweig begins his presentation in the metaphysics of the new philosophy with a review of the conclusions reached in
his summary of the history of theology in the introduction. In a word, philosophy's maximal achievement in this area was reached by Maimonides' development of extreme negative theology in the twelfth century. All attempts by subsequent philosophy to move beyond it failed, not because there is no more to discover, but because philosophy itself has no ability to move beyond it. More specifically Rosenzweig says here that traditional philosophy moved from thinking that it knew something (Etwas) about God to discovering that it knew nothing (Nicht). In contrast, the new philosophy begins with this nothing (viz., doubt about every positive statement about God) to a new something (i.e., a new kind of positive knowledge of God). The 'something', as will emerge in the subsequent discussion in this chapter, is God's 'reality' (Wirklichkeit). However, this affirmation has an important qualification. Rosenzweig warns us not to think of the nothing that we know about God in the same way that you would think about Hegel's 'being' (Sein). Hegel's being or deity is his 'the All', but the nothing that we know of God is not an 'All.' If it were, the move from the origin of thinking in nothing rather than something would not really constitute a new way of thinking. We have not merely substituted one word for another where the former functions for thinking no differently than the latter term. Rather, the nothing of the element God is only one among three nothings, each distinct from the other in their own way. Hence, this nothing is no general, all-inclusive category as it was for Hegel. It is the particularity as well as the
A. Logic and Methodology
Again, whereas traditional philosophy focused on the positive in both content and method, the new thinking focuses on the negative, again in both content and method. The initial content for thought in which thinking both begins and has its origin is the concluding doubts of traditional philosophy about the objects (or elements) God, world, and the human. The method for
thinking about them is negative in two very distinct ways. One way is to affirm a negation of a nothing, and the other way is simply to negate a nothing. Rosenzweig explains them by looking at what he considers to be their opposite, viz., two ways of thought by which something becomes nothing. One way Rosenzweig calls the negation of the 'Icht', which Hallo translates as the 'Aught'. The other way is the affirmation of the 'Nicht-Icht', which Hallo translates as the 'Naught.'