Strange Wonder

The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Columbia University Press

Strange Wonder

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Pub Date: November 2010

ISBN: 9780231146333

272 Pages

Format: Paperback

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Pub Date: March 2009

ISBN: 9780231146326

272 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $90.00£75.00

Pub Date: March 2009

ISBN: 9780231518598

272 Pages

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Strange Wonder

The Closure of Metaphysics and the Opening of Awe

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Columbia University Press

Strange Wonder confronts Western philosophy's ambivalent relationship to the Platonic "wonder" that reveals the strangeness of the everyday. On the one hand, this wonder is said to be the origin of all philosophy. On the other hand, it is associated with a kind of ignorance that ought to be extinguished as swiftly as possible. By endeavoring to resolve wonder's indeterminacy into certainty and calculability, philosophy paradoxically secures itself at the expense of its own condition of possibility.

Strange Wonder locates a reopening of wonder's primordial uncertainty in the work of Martin Heidegger, for whom wonder is first experienced as the shock at the groundlessness of things and then as an astonishment that things nevertheless are. Mary-Jane Rubenstein traces this double movement through the thought of Emmanuel Levinas, Jean-Luc Nancy, and Jacques Derrida, ultimately thematizing wonder as the awesome, awful opening that exposes thinking to devastation as well as transformation. Rubenstein's study shows that wonder reveals the extraordinary in and through the ordinary, and is therefore crucial to the task of reimagining political, religious, and ethical terrain.

Strange Wonder is a very fine combination of lucid exposition of extremely intractable material, meticulous scholarship, and a genuinely original contribution to burning issues in contemporary philosophy, theology, and philosophical theology.

Denys Turner, Horace Tracy Pitkin Professor of Historical Theology, Yale University

Astonishingly, there exists no real substantive treatment of the theme of wonder in Western philosophy. This book at last provides one, arguing that the entire history of philosophy and theology in the West is involved in an undermining of its essential starting-point. Strange Wonder is beautifully written and the discussions are subtle and deft. It far and away excels other recent treatments of ethical decision making in the wake of Jacques Derrida and Martin Heidegger, and, as mentioned, negotiates a topic so far untouched, and with philosophical elegance.

C. J. C. Pickstock, reader of philosophy and theology, University of Cambridge

One of the most gripping and timely accounts of Continental Philosophy... The reader can only come to the end of this book astonished.

Catherine Keller, Modern Theology

In all, the book offers a new understanding of an influential sector of twentieth-century philosophy.

Jonathan Malesic, Journal of the American Academy of Religion

...passionately argued and engagingly written.

Paul A. Macdonald Jr., Scottish Journal of Theology

a fun read.

George Pattison, Reviews in Religion and Theology
Acknowledgments
Introduction: Wonder and the Births of Philosophy
1. Repetition: Martin Heidegger
2. Openness: Emmanuel Levinas
3. Relation: Jean-Luc Nancy
4. Decision: Jacques Derrida
Postlude: Possibility
Notes
Bibliography
Index
Web Features:

About the Author

Mary-Jane Rubenstein is assistant professor of religion at Wesleyan University, where she teaches in the fields of philosophy of religion, modern Christian thought, and feminist, gender, and sexuality studies.