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The Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy
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    Nisenbaum, Karin 2015. Modern Jewish Philosophy: Universal Human Questions Phrased in Concepts Derived from the Jewish Tradition. International Journal of Philosophical Studies, Vol. 23, Issue. 1, p. 111.

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    The Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy
    • Online ISBN: 9781139016537
    • Book DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432
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Book description

The second volume of The Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy provides a comprehensive overview of Jewish philosophy from the seventeenth century to the present day. Written by a distinguished group of experts in the field, its essays examine how Jewish thinking was modified in its encounter with modern Europe and America and challenge longstanding assumptions about the nature and purpose of modern Jewish philosophy. The volume also treats modern Jewish philosophy's continuities with premodern texts and thinkers, the relationship between philosophy and theology, the ritual and political life of the people of Israel and the ways in which classic modern philosophical categories help or hinder Jewish self-articulation. These essays offer readers a multi-faceted understanding of the Jewish philosophical enterprise in the modern period.

Reviews

'This volume offers a 'big-tent' approach to the semantic and substantive questions of the overlapping categories of modern Jewish thought, theology, and philosophy … a generous view of the boundaries of the field lead to inclusion of themes and thinkers too often left out in earlier outlines of the 'canon', such as the theme of aesthetics, the contributions of Eastern European thinkers, and the relationship to the medievals. The book is organized thematically, and assumes a basic familiarity with the central figures in the history of Jewish thought in the modern period. It is a wise organizational choice that leads to fresh readings and pairings.'

Source: Religious Studies Review

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Page 1 of 2


  • I - Judaism's Encounter with Modernity
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The critical significance of the trajectory of Jewish philosophers in the Enlightenment lies precisely in the way they use their particular perspective to examine reason's universalist claim. Judaism may have been seen as a regrettable but nevertheless instructive version of philosophy, in all its aberrance and falsity. The history of the Spinoza reception became the conflicted story of a philosopher's reduction to stereotype or moral exemplarity. The Theological-Political Treatise examines the difficult relationship between theology and the politics, a relationship, Spinoza suggests, that cannot simply be severed once and for all. In Jerusalem, or On Religious Power and Judaism, Mendelssohn not only discusses the role of religion and more specifically of Judaism in modernity, but also grounds it in a critical revision of political philosophy. The Jerusalem introduces Mendelssohn's modern conception of Judaism, and examines the theoretical foundations of social and political theory.
  • 2 - The Spirit of Jewish History
    pp 75-96
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.004
  • View abstract
    Summary
    In modern times, the philosophers who interpreted Judaism could never totally disavow its progeny, and in fact they rarely wanted to do so. When Karl Popper published his classic The Poverty of Historicism in 1957, he meant by the term the substantive philosophy of history according to which time is characterized by progressive development. In the influential body of the book Totality and Infinity introduced, messianism is extricated from historicism, against the supposedly profane, collectivist, and political connotations of historicism. Further, within monotheistic history, there were crucial progressive steps that moved, much as in the protohistoricist Maimonides as well as in different ways in Krochmal, Cohen, and even Rosenzweig, from myth to reason. As with Walter Benjamin's Weimar-era messianism, which Derrida frequently invoked, Derrida's revival of chiliasm reflected little knowledge of the Jewish tradition.
  • 3 - Phenomenology
    pp 97-127
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.005
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter explains the limits and weaknesses of the arguments of twentieth-century Jewish philosophers influenced by phenomenology. It reviews that scholars should have a healthy caution toward giving this kind of philosophical move too much magical power. Husserlian phenomenology lies in a space between introspection and natural science. Treatments of Buber's intellectual heritage customarily focus on his debt to sociology and late nineteenth-century philosophy. Emmanuel Levinas's oeuvre marks a shift from messianism to apocalypticism, and this shift is associated with a shift of the place of phenomenology in his work. Franz Rosenzweig deserves brief treatment in a study of the appropriation of phenomenology by Jewish philosophy. The scene of revelation described by Rosenzweig would be implicit in every liturgical experience. If fulfillment, a defense of claims to experience the supernatural, is what Jewish philosophy sought in phenomenology, then phenomenology has let it down.
  • 4 - America
    pp 128-153
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.006
  • View abstract
    Summary
    American Jewish philosophy can be read as a form of religious mapping, in which the transparency, elasticity, and strength of religious borders help to identify and situate Jews in America. This chapter explores the ways in which Jewish thinkers imagined boundaries, and how the creation of border crossings informed their Jewish philosophy. Philosophers such as Mordecai Kaplan, Joseph Soloveitchik, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Emil Fackenheim, Eugene Borowitz, and Rachel Adler, cover a broad array of perspectives on Jewish practice and thought. To paraphrase Kaplan's famous closing lines of his Judaism as a Civilization, the Jew will have to save the arts before the arts will be in a position to save the Jew. Jewish philosophers have made a home in America by creating maps of border crossings to help Jews navigate in and out of the city. Borowitz's notion of a postmodern Jewish theology jibes with the postmodern condition: a thoroughgoing denial of grounds, fundamental truths, and universal values.
  • 5 - Feminism and Gender
    pp 154-190
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.007
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Jewish feminism emerged as a distinctive branch of feminism in the early 1970s with the founding of the Jewish Feminist Organization. Gender analysis exposes the difficulty of defining Jewish philosophy. Franz Rosenzweig's gendered theory of revelation and his understanding of love have continued to engage other scholars of modern Jewish philosophy, but with no consensus. Ecofeminism is as diverse as feminism, and the internal debates among the various practitioners, do not always follow the ideal of sisterhood. This chapter indicates that engagement with gender analysis in Jewish philosophy exists and is more extensive than is usually assumed. Contributors to gender analysis within Jewish philosophy include women and men, feminists and nonfeminists. Feminist Jewish philosophy can continue to enrich the discipline if it remains true to the core mission of philosophy: the pursuit of truth. Attention to gender analysis and feminist philosophy might grow if Jewish philosophy shifts its attention to aesthetics, environmental philosophy, embodiment, and sensuality.
  • II - Retrieving Tradition
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter introduces Jewish textual reasoning (TR) and scriptural reasoning as an approach to contemporary Jewish philosophy (CJP) and as the kind of Jewish philosophy. It explains that this kind of the Jewish philosophy begins with talmud torah, or rabbinic practices of study. The talmud torah in times of crisis offers a rereading of torah, both in the sense of scripture as Tanakh and in the sense of rabbinic text-study of Mishnah, Talmud, and Midrash. TR adopts various elements of rabbinic and scriptural study as first principles for CJP and, as guidelines for conducting Jewish philosophy as reparative reasoning. The chapter provides some illustrations from the work of Moses Mendelssohn, Hermann Cohen, and Franz Rosenzweig. Scientific study of the scriptural traditions had its roots in the medieval period, most likely in Muslim, then Jewish and Christian, sciences of scriptural interpretation.
  • 7 - Medieval Jewish Philosophers in Modern Jewish Philosophy
    pp 224-251
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.009
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter focuses on tensions, continuities, and breaks between medieval and modern Jewish philosophy. It analyses the concept of dialogism. The topic of dialogism permits us to witness the ongoing dialogue between medieval and modern Jewish philosophers. Dialogues played an important vehicle in the dissemination and thus popularization of philosophical teachings in premodern Judaism. The chapter provides an excursus on how the past functioned in the rich philosophical milieu of nineteenth-century Germany. Premodern Jewish philosophers became intimately intertwined with decidedly modern concerns of respect, tolerance, and emancipation. It explores the ruptures and correlations, continuities and discontinuities, between premodern and modern Jewish philosophy, focusing on particular clusters of thinkers. The best example of the transition from medieval dialogue to modern dialogic may be found in Martin Buber's Daniel, an early work published in 1913. Revelation, in other words, sets up a dialogical address that enables God to communicate to humans, and humans to approach God.
  • 8 - Jewish Enlightenment Beyond Western Europe
    pp 252-279
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.010
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The Haskalah or Jewish Enlightenment, is often regarded as a movement that emerged in eighteenth-century Berlin, in response to social and cultural conditions. All standard histories of Jewish philosophy point to the earliest phases of the Haskalah in Berlin as important in the formation of modern Jewish philosophy. Special focus is on the activity of Moses Mendelssohn, and Solomon Maimon and his encounter with Kantian thought. The new philosophy of Immanuel Kant attracted the attention of maskilim at the turn of the century and assimilates traditional Jewish categories of thought. The eighteenth-century Haskalah continued the harmonistic/synthetic trend of many early modern Jewish intellectuals when it came to philosophy and theosophical Kabbalah. The work of Nachman Krochmal, the most philosophically original of the Galician maskilim, is emblematic of this mixing of eastern and western Ashkenaz. The Haskalah in the Russian Empire has two primary foci similar to the Haskalah in Berlin.
  • 9 - Hasidism, Mitnagdism, and Contemporary American Judaism
    pp 280-308
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.011
  • View abstract
    Summary
    From Reb Yoelish's perspective, the radical edge of the Hasidic revolution had been softened to make Hasidism almost indistinguishable from its Lithuanian antagonists known as the mitnagdim. Modern Jewish traditionalism in America, whether Orthodox or traditional Conservative, is the carrier of the mitnagdic heritage. This chapter focuses on the conception of law outside the realm of pure Talmudism and its accompanying meta-halakhah and its transformation into the post-halakhic Judaism of America. History and myth, Wissenschaft and Kabbalah, serve as the touchstones of contemporary Judaism. Hartman does move us beyond Twersky's vision of meta-halakhah, which is expansive, necessary, and robust but still must play a supporting role to halakhah. Contemporary American Judaism can be viewed, in part, through the lens of a meta-halakhah/post-halakhah dichotomy. The meta-halakhist side of this dichotomy comprises modern Jews who carry the mantle of the Lithuanian school as they adapt historical-critical methods of analysis.
  • III - Modern Jewish Philosophical Theology
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The idea of divine transcendence, that on a literal level God is completely beyond human conceptual and emotional reach, appears very early in the history of Jewish tradition. This chapter explores the opening remarks about Luzzatto to an investigation of the Talmudic and Maimonidean patterns of argument. It elucidates the theoretical currents of early modernity that contribute importantly to shaping Luzzatto's work. The chapter explains the new course in Maimonidean and rabbinic scholarship by uncovering and examining from multiple perspectives the implicit logical connection between negative theology and mysticism. Luzzatto's innovation consists in reading the beraita of R. Pinchos b. Yair explicitly in the light of assigning primacy to the idea of method. Finally, the chapter summarizes Maimonides' naturalistic approach to prophecy as it relates to a whole range of unconscious mental processes. There is a conceptual linkage between the methodism of Mesillat Yesharim and the tenets of negative theology.
  • 11 - God: Divine Immanence
    pp 337-370
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.013
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Divine immanence, to the neo-Kantian Hermann Cohen, explains a relation of finitude and infinity. Divine transcendence precludes the immanence of man and God. In the latter half of the twentieth century, a spiritual and political revival in Judaism took place since Jewish philosophy spoke to the individual Jew, the person, and the community of Jews, the people. For Joseph B. Soloveitchik, divine immanence frames the lens of revelation through which the observant, learned Jew experiences the possible redemption of creation. Feminist Jewish philosophy has taken various routes to the question of immanence, which Rachel Adler's book Engendering Judaism addresses. With Spinoza's thought about God or nature its lodestone, modern Jewish philosophy has guardedly engaged immanence, its organic potencies and/or institutional powers, in terms of a threat or resource. God is immanent to something, whether nature, history, life, person, community, body, or soul.
  • 12 - Creation
    pp 371-398
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.014
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Medieval Jewish philosophy was to a great extent concerned with the ancient theological doctrine of the divine creation of the universe. However, modern Jewish philosophy has been concerned with it to a lesser extent. The natural theology of the philosophers and the creation philosophy of the theologians are basically the same discipline, both using much the same terminology and conceptuality provided by natural science. The cogent retrieval of the doctrine of creation by modern Jewish thinkers needs to consciously overcome kabbalistic acosmism, just as it consciously overcome Spinoza's monism since both Kabbalah and Spinoza had marginalized creation as a theme for modern Jewish thought. This chapter considers three such daring modern Jewish philosophers: Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, and Lenn Goodman. Since all three modern Jewish philosophers consider themselves to be committed participants in Jewish tradition, all three of them have to deal with creation in relation to the most central concern of Jewish tradition: revelation.
  • 13 - Revelation
    pp 399-426
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.015
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter focuses on the character of Rosenzweig's return to revelation and upon the role of desire in his view. Spinoza's analysis of biblical Israel in his Theological-Political Treatise serves as a foundation of this retrieval of revelation rather than a dismissal of it. According to Spinoza, an excellent example of a thriving state by examining biblical Israelite society is found. Spinoza's political model does permit the possibility of the critique of a nation and its collective desires as these have been instantiated in law. Rosenzweig takes up Spinoza's authentic account of carnal Israel. Rosenzweig couples it with a theology of a freely acting revelatory God, creates a playing field for Judaism to remain open to non-Jewish cultures and nations. If the divine love of revelation commands and permits persons to testify to and recognize God, the divine law of revelation commands and permits persons to recognize others.
  • 14 - Redemption
    pp 427-464
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.016
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter explores the constructive study of the term redemption as a Jewish conception in modern Jewish philosophy. It focuses on religious, neo-rabbinic, modern Jewish thought, to the exclusion of the utopian political views of predominantly Yiddishist Jewish revolutionaries and Hebraist secular Jewish nationalists. All Jewish philosophy arises out of a dialogue between what Jews learned from the authoritative texts of religious and cultural traditions. Modern Jewish philosophy is primarily an engagement, between prevailing views in modern philosophy and a premodern canon of rabbinic texts. Maimonides' understanding of redemption is formed out of his rabbinic interpretations of the Hebrew scriptures. Zohar 1:47a is close to a clear statement about the philosophical concept of redemption as can be found in the Zohar. The chapter concludes the study of the textual influences that directed modern Jewish philosophical conceptions of redemption with a single prayer, the Aleinu.
  • 15 - Providence: Agencies of Redemption
    pp 465-498
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.017
  • View abstract
    Summary
    In Jewish belief, divine providence, prophecy, and redemption can be interrelated. In Judaism, ultimate redemption is associated with messianism, and historically, the idea of a messiah arose in Judaism in the biblical period and was associated, even then, with the recovery of political hegemony over a fixed territory. Rosenzweig's view about the primary agency of redemption arises out of his disenchantment with the conception of his teacher Friedrich Meinecke. This chapter shows that various developments in international-relations theory and political philosophy recommend a pluralistic conception of the agencies of redemption. Jewish philosophy would be following Jewish practice, which includes Jewish support for manifold international aid organizations and also the creation of Jewish humanitarian organizations with global concerns. The chapter shows that various strands in recent thinking about international relations recommend a pluralistic view of the agencies whereby global justice and the well-being of persons worldwide are enhanced.
  • IV - Jewish Peoplehood
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Halakhah has been the main arena for the expression of the religious, moral, and practical achievements of the Jewish people. The change regarding Halakhah seems to have begun toward the 1950s, with the publication of philosophical works by Joseph B. Soloveitchik and Yeshayahu Leibowitz. The philosophy of Halakhah endorse the following two strategies: rely on the achievements of positive research in the field, or ignore them and turn Halakhah, as a family name, into its object of study. Some of the scholars involved in the field known as the philosophy of Halakhah were, explicitly or implicitly, aware of the problem. Seeking solutions, they suggested that, instead of Halakhah, the object of the philosophy of Halakhah is the halakhists' self-reflection about their pursuit. The schematic account of hermeneutics lays the ground for solving the methodological problem in the philosophy of Halakhah by recognizing it as typical of the interpretation project.
  • 17 - Liturgy
    pp 519-537
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.019
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Hermann Cohen argues that liturgy provides the language of reason of the Jewish congregation. Franz Rosenzweig proposes that liturgy provides a special Organonstellung or system of reasoning for Jewish thought. Moses Mendelssohn's Jerusalem, or On Religious Power and Judaism contains an important early modern philosophy of Jewish liturgy. The neo-Kantian philosopher, Hermann Cohen, produced the influential statement of modern Jewish philosophy and ethics in his published Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism. In turning to Franz Rosenzweig and his writings on liturgy, this chapter considers additional religious elements that transcend Mendelssohn's and Cohen's interpretations. In the third part of The Star, Rosenzweig focuses on the ability of liturgy to open up and explore dimensions of time that are not available in the purely secular realm. The Reform thinker Lawrence Hoffman has brought new insights to Jewish ritual and liturgy through the cultural anthropology.
  • 18 - Jews Alongside Non-Jews
    pp 538-578
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.020
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The Theological-Political Treatise is the direct culmination of this whole current of Jewish philosophy, with Spinoza inheriting the Maimonidean project. The Marrano experience and the Spinozist moment were symptomatic of the transition of European civilization to modernity. Jerusalem by Moses Mendelssohn was the first attempt to justify and found Jewish continuity on the basis of the new modern reality. In this sense, Mendelssohn continued the medieval Jewish philosophical project, albeit on radically different foundations. This chapter distinguishes four strategies for Jewish continuity, evidencing at once the objective end of the universal and its continuity in one form or another: the enchantment of European states and socialities, the ethics of sacrifice, the aesthetics of nihilism, and the building of the Jewish nation. Each of these four strategies involves a type of relationship with gentiles and a definition of the self.
  • 19 - Political Theory: Beyond Sovereignty?
    pp 579-605
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.021
  • View abstract
    Summary
    The student of modern Jewish political theory is faced with an insurmountable problem: almost all modern Jewish philosophers claim that Judaism is not centrally concerned with politics. This chapter considers the political implications of various claims of modern Jewish philosophers that Judaism is not political. It describes the practical and theoretical changes within Jewish European thinking about Jewish politics from the premodern to the modern era. The chapter explores alternative accounts of Jewish politics in the American context in which sovereignty is understood not in terms of absolute unity but as at times divided, shared, and overlapping. The Jewish heretic Benedict de Spinoza set the philosophical and political agenda for many debates of modern Jewish philosophy. Like Spinoza, the Zionists understood the possibility of a Jewish state not in religious but in solely political terms. Both the neo-Kantian Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen and the existentialist Jewish philosopher Franz Rosenzweig reject Zionism while reaffirming the basic premise of Zionism.
  • 20 - Zionism
    pp 606-634
  • https://doi.org/10.1017/CHOL9780521852432.022
  • View abstract
    Summary
    Zionism, a complex ideological form, historically reflected and responded to all early twentieth-century political currents and cultural styles. This chapter examines Zionism in light of postmodernism and postcolonialism when the rightness of Zionism, the claim to Jewish sovereignty in the land of Israel, and the claim to sovereignty tout court are taken for granted. While postmodernism undermines the view of Zionism as a coherent whole, it also allows Zionism to elude the critical scrutiny. In the 1890s and early 1900s, the main split was between two liberal ideological formations, political Zionism and cultural Zionism, whose proponents emphasized either the one or the other dimension of Jewish identity and Zionist activism. In its claims regarding the Jews and Judaism, religious Zionism was no less revolutionary than socialist Zionism. At the turn of the twentieth century, the sole basis of Zionism in natural right was political need in the face of European antisemitism.
  • V - Issues in Modern Jewish Philosophy
  • View abstract
    Summary
    This chapter explores the limits and claims of reason as a paradigm in Jewish philosophy. It describes the Enlightenment rationalism of Moses Mendelssohn, Immanuel Kant, and the great Jewish neo-Kantian, Hermann Cohen. For Hegel, freedom in Kant's sense, self-appropriation of the moral law, cannot be understood apart from the ideals and social institutions of the Enlightenment culture out of which it grew. It is often said that the Holocaust destroyed the Enlightenment's faith in the powers of reason. Under the aegis of new thinking, Rosenzweig went still further: the center of religious life is not reason but revelation, the experience of being loved by God, being commanded by God, and surrendering oneself in obedience to God. The crux of the rationalist position comes to this: in distinguishing reason from revelation. Buber argues that revelation does not pour itself into the world through its recipient as if he were a funnel.

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