Rows of candles in patterned holders

Spiritual Investment in the World: Modern Theologies of Worldliness

The aim of the conference is to add a speculative dimension to the famous debate on secularisation, which began in the 50’s around Karl Löwith’s Meaning in History.

Its participants usually present modernity as the age of more or less ‘illegitimate’ worldly transformation of the premodern religious patterns (Löwith, Weber, Schmitt, Taylor, Milbank) which eventually leads towards full atheisation (Blumenberg, Marquard, Lyotard, Lefebvre, Gauchet, Žižek, Nancy), but never as an epoch which created its own form of religious belief.

The latter claim – that secularisation created its own form of ‘the religion of modern times’ (die Religion der neuen Zeiten) – derives originally from Hegel, but found a strong support in Gershom Scholem, who described the ‘modern religious sentiment’ in paradoxical terms of ‘pious atheism’ and ‘non-secular secularity’: a new attitude in which immanence replaces transcendence as a new object of religious interest.

The Scholemian apparent oxymoron indicates that the ‘pious atheism’ cannot be reduced to a simple atheism: while the latter is a non-belief in the presence of God, the former is a belief in the absence of God, understood as the necessary condition for the creation of the world (tsimtsum).

The Scholemian approach to secularity/ worldliness constitutes a part and parcel of the secularisation debate, but it has not yet been interpreted as such: the aim of the conference will be to include this unique Jewish voice on the theological status of the world (saeculum) into the current debates on the meaning of modern secularity. 

Department of Theology and Religious Studies

International Conference


A22 Humanities Building, University of Nottingham


30-31 May 2023

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Agata Bielik-Robson




Tuesday, 30 May

 9.00-11.00 The Lurianic Background

  • Agata Bielik-Robson, “Instead of Introduction. The Liberation of the World: Luria, Scholem, Derrida”

  • Paul Franks, “Shattering the Vessels: Catastrophe, Catharsis, and Communicative Overload” lliot Wolfson, “The Logic of the Trace. The Disclosure of the World (ha-olam) in the Concealment of Infinity (he’lem)”

 11.00-11.30 Coffee Break

 11.30-13.30 Arendt’s Amor Mundi

  •  Annabel Herzog, “Arendt’s and Derrida’s Spiritual Worldliness. A Comparative Approach”

  •  Yael Almog, “Two Revisions of Jewish History: Arendt versus Scholem”

  •  Yotam Hotam, “The Phantom of Theology: Hannah Arendt on Judgment and Evil” 

 13.30-15.30 Lunch

15.30-17.30 Messianism, Procosmism, Secularity

  • Libera Pisano, “Pneumatische Gemeinschaft. Gustav Landauer’s Messianic Politics through Scholem’s Prism”

  • Martin Kavka, “Anarchic Profanation: Hermann Cohen’s Messianic Action”

  • Shaul Magid, “Cosmological Nationalism and the Secular Piety of Aaron David Gordon”

 17.30-18.00 Coffee Break

 18.00-18.45 Franz Kafka

  •  Vivian Liska, “Kafka’s Biblical Investment in the World”

 20.00 Dinner

Wednesday, 31 May

9.00-10.30 Rosenzweig’s Turn to the Worldly, Part 1

  • Benjamin Pollock, “?! כבוד auf Deutsch ?!: Buber and Rosenzweig Translate the Glory of God”

  • Gilad Sharvit, “Rosenzweig on Halevi: A Curious Turn to the World”

10.30-11.00 Coffee Break

11.00-12.30 Rosenzweig’s Turn to the Worldly, Part 2

  • Daniel Weiss, “Spiritual Investment in Material Creation, Spiritual Divestment from the World”

  • Daniel Herskowitz, “The Wrong Side of History: Franz Rosenzweig’s Judeo-Christian Thought and the Exclusion of Islam” 

12.30-14.30 Lunch

14.30-16.00 Wordliness in the Talmud

  • Zachary Braiterman, “The Sense of the Image in the World: Rabbinic Nullification of the Idol”

  • Sergey Dolgopolski, “The Dress of the World”

16.00-16.30 Coffee Break

16.30-18.00 Lévinas On/In the World: Metaphysics

  • Cedric Cohen-Skalli, “The Circle of Love – A Short History of Transcendence”

  • Adam Lipszyc, “Network of the Groundless: Nancy, Lévinas, Mitchell”

18.00-18.15 Coffee Break

18.15-19.45 Lévinas On/In the World: Politics

  • Michael Fagenblat, “Paganism as a Political Problem: the Jewish Spiritual Investment in the World according to Lévinas in the 1930s”

  • Elad Lapidot, “Moseism after Maoism: Critique of Revolution as Gnostic in Post-68 French Jewish Thought”

20.00 Dinner




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