Religion Is What We Do With Our Solitariness (Whitehead) (Kaplan)

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Mordecai Kaplan may have misunderstood what Whitehead meant by defining religion as that which “the individual does with his own solitariness” (Whitehead, Religion in the Making, p.16). For Kaplan, religion is primarily “social.” But I think he overlooked the phenomenon of social solitariness. One could have pointed to the solitary existence of the Jewish people in history, and the image of that exemplary existence in the Bible –God’s covenant with Israel pictured as a kingdom of priests, the image of Moses alone up Mt. Sinai, the tents of Israel blessed against his will by the prophet Balaam, Israel and the nations, etc. etc. Of course, what Kaplan could not have understood when he penned this little note in the diaries, is that what Whitehead  meant by “world consciousness” will sound a lot like what Kaplan called “the religion of ethical nationhood.” And perhaps more to the point, what else was Kaplan himself, or how else did Kaplan feel himself to be, at the JTS, for instance,  if anything but alone?

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman teaches modern Jewish thought and philosophy in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. He works in religion, continental philosophy, theoretical aesthetics, and visual culture.
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One Response to Religion Is What We Do With Our Solitariness (Whitehead) (Kaplan)

  1. Mel Scult says:

    Some consider solitude a spiritually creative space. Kaplan suffered in his solitude but it did become creative in the sense that it resulted in the diary. For Kaplan the diary becomes his significant other where he shares and completes his thoughts. The diary becomes a kind of conversation but the great virtue is that it doesn’t talk back.

    In his effort to share his thoughts with others , he at times came up against a brick wall, feeling deeply the failure of communication. ” In my frustration,” he once wrote, “ I turn to writing in this journal as the only means left me to externalize and render transferable that aspect of my being I experience as my soul, self or reason.” The journal thus becomes the repository of his self, his very soul.
    ************

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