Saturday, January 10, 2015

Paul Mendes-Flohr: German Kultur and the Discovery of the Unconscious

Official launch of
The Jung-Neumann Letters
An International Conference in Celebration of a Creative Relationship

Kibbutz Shefayim, April 24-26, 2015, Conference Website Trailer
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Prof. Paul Mendes Flohr will present the key-note address:

German Kultur and the Discovery of the Unconscious
The Promise and Discontents of the German-Jewish Experience

The Jewish experience of modernity is haunted by an intractable paradox: On the one hand, the Jews are arguably the preeminent representatives of the modern cultural ethos, yet, on the other hand, their entry into the modern world may also be viewed as emblematic of the ambiguous fortunes, indeed, agonies of modernity.

The role many Jews played as some of the most energetic and creative agents of modernity only serves to becloud the spiritual – not to speak of the physical – wounds that their passage into a modern, secular order entailed. Due to the peculiar dialectics of Jewish emancipation, those wounds continue to fester. The votaries of the Jews’ liberation from the ghettos and integration into the social and economic fabric of Europe demanded that they free themselves from the shackles of their anachronistic “oriental” religion and “backward” mores.

The eminent advocate of Enlightenment and tolerance, Immanuel Kant, called upon the Jews to “throw off the garb of [their] ancient cult, which now serves no purpose and even suppresses any true religious attitude.”

The path to political and civic equality would be through Kultur, the acquisition and cultivation of one’s intellect and aesthetic sensibilities. Hence, as soon as the gates of the ghetto were pried open, the Jews rushed to embrace Kultur, and its animating ethos of Bildung, the life-long process of self-formation through literature and the arts.

Ideally, this process, which had a distinctive cosmopolitan compass, would create a “neutral” space where Jews and non-Jews would meet, free of the prejudicial constraints of primordial ethnic and religious affiliations. But it was a space that obliged the Jews to “neutralize” their Jewishness, to become deracinated non-Jewish Jews.

This expectation was given ruthless expression by Kant’s younger colleague Fichte who declared that liberal Europe would only be prepared to accept the Jews if they were to “decapitate” their depraved “Jewish heads” and have them replaced with those of cultivated Germans!

The promise of a cosmopolitan, neutral space was, alas, fraught with inconsistencies and profound disappointment. The lecture will discuss two parallel responses to the promise of modernity:

The first was to probe the hidden layers of human consciousness -- a turn inward born of the realization that the human mind is not only governed by reason, but often by deeply irrational emotions and feelings.

The second response, as Hannah Arendt observed, crystallized with Zionism, namely, the demand to be accepted as Jews. Genuine acceptance entailed “recognition” of mutual differences.

Martin Buber gave this demand a general formulation with his notion of dialogue: In genuine relationships one meets the other not despite differences, but precisely by virtue of acknowledging and affirming differences. Attuned to the dialectical wiles of the unconscious, Jung and Neumann conducted such a dialogue, and met one another as a German and as a Jew, fully honoring their respective cultural and spiritual affiliations.

Paul Mendes-Flohr is professor emeritus of the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and currently teaches at the University of Chicago. His major research interests include modern Jewish intellectual history, modern Jewish philosophy and religious thought, philosophy of religion, German intellectual history, and the history and sociology of intellectuals.

Together with Bernd Witte, he serves as editor-in-chief of the twenty-two volume German edition of the collected works of Martin Buber, sponsored by the Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften, the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities, and the Heinrich Heine Universität, Düsseldorf, Germany.

He has recently published Progress and its Discontents (in Hebrew); The Jew in the Modern: A Documentary History (with Jehuda Reinharz); and Encrucijadas en la Modernidad (Buenos Aries). He is the editor of a series on German-Jewish literature and Cultural History for the University of Chicago Press. He is completing a biography of Martin Buber to be published by Yale University Press. He is the editor of two recently published books, Gustav Landauer, Anarchist and Jew (Munich: Walter de Gruyter-Oldenbourg Verlag, 2014) and Dialogue as a Trans-Disciplinary Concept (Berlin; Walter de Gruyter Verlag, 2015).

Don’t miss this historical event!

Analytical Psychology in Exile:
The Correspondence of C.G. Jung and Erich Neumann,
edited and with an introduction by Martin Liebscher,
will be published in the Philemon Series by Princeton University Press.

Conference attendees will be the very first to purchase and receive copies of the Correspondence,
at a special, large discount by Princeton University Press.

The Jung Neumann Letters Conference
International Advisory Board

Erel Shalit • Murray Stein • Batya Brosh • John Beebe • Riccardo Bernardini
Jerome Bernstein • Ann Casement • Angela Connolly • Tom Kirsch • Patricia Michan
Joerg Rasche • Nancy Swift Furlotti • Luigi Zoja • Liliana Wahba

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