critical prophecy, that is to say, philosophy

Generally speaking, no one would feel immediately comfortable today claiming the position of prophet.

Naturally, the prophet has not altogether disappeared from Western culture.

Excerpts of “Creation and Salvation” by Giorgio Agamben,Nudities, (SUP: 2011).         Edited by Thomas Marconi.

Prophets disappear early on in Western history.

In as much as  the Messiah appeared on earth and fulfilled the promise, the prophet no longer has any reason to exist, and so Paul, Peter, and their companions present themselves as apostles (that is, “those who are sent forth”), never as prophets.

In Judaism as in Christianity, hermeneutics has replaced prophetism; one can practice prophecy only in the form of interpretation.

The Islamic tradition inextricably links the figure and the function of the prophet to two works and actions of God. . . the work of creation and the work of salvation. Prophets correspond to the latter. . . . Angels correspond to the former.

And if it true that God is the place where humans think through their decisive problems, then these are also the two poles of human action.

In modern culture philosophy and criticism have inherited the prophetic work of salvation (that formerly, in the sacred sphere, had been entrusted to exegesis); poetry, technology, and art are the inheritors of the angelic work of creation.

What is truly singular in every human existence is the silent and impervious intertwining of the two works.

A critical or philosophical work that does not possess some sort of an essential relationship with creation is condemned to pointless idling, just as a work of art or poetry that does not contain within it a critical exigency is destined for oblivion.

The fact is that these two works—which appear autonomous and independent of one another—are in reality two faces of the same divine power, and they coincide, at least as far as the prophet is concerned, within a single being.

Perhaps the only way to lead them back once again to their common root is by thinking of the work of salvation as that aspect of power to create that was left unpracticed by the angel and thus can turn back on itself.

The prophet is an angel who, in the very impulse that spurs him into action, suddenly feels in his living flesh the thorn of a different exigency.

The crying angel turns itself into a prophet, while the lament of the poet for creation becomes critical prophecy, that is to say, philosophy.


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