Transfinite Life

Transfinite Life

Oskar Goldberg and the Vitalist Imagination
Bruce Rosenstock
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 11/20/2017
Format: Hardback 2016 The Estate of Sigmar Polke, Cologne / ARS, New York / VG Bild-Kunst, Bonn
ISBN: 978-0-253-02970-6
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Oskar Goldberg was an important and controversial figure in Weimar Germany. He challenged the rising racial conception of the state and claimed that the Jewish people were on a metaphysical mission to defeat race-based statism. He attracted the attention of his contemporaries--Walter Benjamin, Gershom Scholem, Thomas Mann, and Carl Schmitt, among others--with the argument that ancient Israel's sacrificial rituals held the key to overcoming the tyranny of technology in the modern world. Bruce Rosenstock offers a sympathetic but critical philosophical portrait of Goldberg and puts him into conversation with Jewish and political figures that circulated in his cultural environment. Rosenstock reveals Goldberg as a deeply imaginative and broad-minded thinker who drew on biology, mathematics, Kabbalah, and his interests in ghost photography to account for the origin of the earth. Caricatured as a Jewish proto-fascist in his day, Goldberg's views of the tyranny of technology, biopolitics, and the "new vitalism" remain relevant to this day.

Author Bio

Bruce Rosenstock is Professor of Religion at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He is the author of Philosophy and the Jewish Question: Mendelssohn, Rosenzweig, and Beyond. He is also the creator and manager of the Folk Literature of the Sephardic Jews multimedia digital library,


“The only fully developed analysis of Oskar Goldberg in English. It is also the most philosophically, scientifically, and mathematically informed inquiry into his work. Bruce Rosenstock has done a great service to the scholarly world.”
 — Peter Fenves, author of The Messianic Reduction: Walter Benjamin and the Shape of Time

“Bruce Rosenstock’s Transfinite Life offers a meticulous and thought-provoking description of Oskar Goldberg’s philosophy.”
 — German Studies Review

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Table of Contents

List of Abbreviations
1. Hans Driesch and the Revival of Naturphilosophie
2. Georg Cantor and the Mathematics of God
3. Goldberg’s Ontology and Unger’s Politics and Metaphysics
4. The Reality of the Hebrews and YHWH’s Battle for the Earth
5. Gershom Scholem, Oskar Goldberg, and the Meaning of Jewish History
Conclusion: Ghosts and the Vitalist Imagination
Appendix I: Thomas Mann’s Critique of The Reality of the Hebrews
Appendix II: Franz Joseph Molitor’s Philosophie der Geschichte and Oskar Goldberg’s Kabbalah Interpretation