2021-03Thematic Section
Against Autoimmune Self-Sacrifice: Religiosity, Messianicity, and Violence in Derrida’s “Faith and Knowledge” and in Classical Rabbinic Judaism


In this essay, I argue that a comparison of Derrida’s “Faith and Knowledge” to the texts and thought of classical rabbinic Judaism can illuminate new conceptual connections among the different elements of Derrida’s thought.  Both Derrida and the rabbinic texts can be viewed as affirming a type of “holding back” and “allowing the other to be,” stances which Derrida links to “religiosity” and to “messianicity beyond all messianism.”  Moreover, the rabbinic texts appear to avoid the “autoimmune” reaction that Derrida sees as stemming from many sacrificial and self-sacrificial logics in which the self is problematically sacrificed in order to preserve the “unscathed” other.  In addition, the rabbinic texts’ stance concerning divine authorization for war and capital punishment help to illuminate Derrida’s claim that the ostensibly “secular” wars of modern states are in fact better understood as “wars of religion.”


Derrida, sacrifice, rabbinic Judaism, messianism, altruism, war

How to cite:

Weiss, Daniel H. “Against Autoimmune Self-Sacrifice: Religiosity, Messianicity, and Violence in Derrida’s ‘Faith and Knowledge’ and in Classical Rabbinic Judaism.” Eidos. A Journal for Philosophy of Culture 5, no. 3 (2021):  23-34. https://doi.org/10.14394/eidos.jpc.2021.0025.


Daniel H. Weiss
Polonsky-Coexist Senior Lecturer in Jewish Studies
Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge
West Road, Cambridge, CB3 9BS, UK


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