Rubenstein’s Article on the Nothing and the Sovereign Published

Mary-Jane Rubenstein

Mary Jane Rubenstein, associate professor of religion, is the author of “Cosmic Singularities: On the Nothing and the Sovereign,” published in the Journal of the American Academy of Religion, Vol. 80, No. 2, pages 485–517, in 2012.

Until very recently, the paper explains, “the creation myth of secular modernity has been the hot big bang hypothesis: the explosion of our single universe out of a single point. Physicists concede that in its traditional form, this story performs an uncanny recapitulation of Christian creation theology: the universe bursts forth suddenly, in a flood of light, out of nothing. As many contemporary thinkers have argued, however, the ‘nothing’ of Christian orthodoxy is neither scripturally nor doctrinally self-evident; rather, it is the product of ontopolitical efforts to secure the sovereignty of God.”

The article traces the twinned concepts of sovereignty and nothingness through theological and astrophysical sources, arguing that “even rabidly atheistic appeals to the ex nihilo end up enshrining a figure of absolute power.” Ultimately, it suggests that far from supporting an absolute beginning, quantum and multiverse cosmologies undermine the logic of nothingness and sovereignty by means of chaos and entanglement.

Rubenstein also is the author of “The Twilight of the Doxai: Or, How to Philosophize with a Whac-A-Mole™ Mallet,” published in The Method and Theory in the Study of Religion, Issue 24, pages 64-70, in 2012.

This article evaluates the hermeneutic value of the category of belief from the perspective of a broadly “continental” philosophy of religion. From Socrates’s dismantling of his interlocutors’ doxai to Pseudo-Dionysius’s un-saying of the divine names to Kierkegaard’s noetic divestment to Derrida’s aporetic genealogies, it argues that “belief ” is the target, rather than the telos, of philosophic scrutiny. For the authors engaged here, beliefs are phantasms—uninterrogated positions that uphold a kind of routine political, psychological, or theological order—whose unraveling opens the possibility of difference, and thus of thinking itself. Read the article online here.