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Instructor: Elliot Ratzman <[email protected]> office hours: Miller Hall (TBA) T/Th 2-2:50, 6-6:30
Tu/Th (4:30-5:50) 12 College Ave, Rm 107, Jewish Studies 563:312 cross-listed with Philosophy 730:312
Is modern Reason compatible with biblical Revelation? Is a Jewish philosophy an oxymoron? Is Judaism essentially
about social justice? Beginning with the heretical philosopher Spinoza, we'll examine the giants of Jewish thought—
religious reformers, philosophers, and theologians—wrestling with the challenge of modernity, politics, and
multiculturalism. We will examine some of the religious concepts of Judaism in a philosophical light. Topics will
include: the essence of Judaism, the nature of law, religion and state, God and evil, the status of women and nonJews, the legacy of the Holocaust. Readings from: Martin Buber, Abraham Joshua Heschel, Judith Plaskow,
Emmanuel Levinas, Michael Walzer, and others. Philosophy should for everybody! But students will no previous
courses in theory or philosophy should check in with the instructor.
Required Books
Spinoza, Theological-Political Treatise, (Shirley Translation) 2nd Edition, Hackett. $17 ISBN-13: 978-0872206076
Soloveitchik, Rabbi Joseph, Halakhic Man. $22, ISBN-13: 978-0827603974
Plaskow, Judith, Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective. $17 ISBN-13: 978-0060666842
Green, Arthur, Radical Judaism: Rethinking God and Tradition. $22 ISBN-13: 978-0300152326
Writing Assignments: Three short papers on issues from the class material. One final research project on a topic not
directly covered in class. In-class Participation: exercises, workouts, quizzes. Final Exam.
Learning Goals:
Students will become acquainted with the major figures, issues and concepts of modern Jewish thought
Students will learn to examine religious discourse in a philosophical light
Students will learn how to communicate complex issues into accessible prose and clear, civil conversation
Reading Schedule: Jewish philosophy and theological reflection entails a good deal of history, culture, and religious story,
making the theoretical part more enjoyable and example-laden. Tuesday’s session will cover approximately thirty pages of
religious philosophy. Thursday’s session will cover approximately twenty pages of material. Students are expected to read
approximately ten pages of material a day, about an hour’s worth of work.
Week One
Introduction: A “Race of Philosophers”? Pre-Modern Jewish Philosophy
Week Two
Spinoza and the Naturalist Critique of Judaism
Week Three
Spinoza and Political Philosophy
Week Four
The Jewish Enlightenment and Moses Mendelssohn
Week Five
19th Century Philosophers on/and Judaism
Week Six
Judaism as a Philosophical Project
Week Seven
Judaism and Nature and the Nature of Judaism
Week Eight
Jewish Philosophy as an Ethical Project: Emmanuel Levinas
RU-Spring Break
Week Nine
Existentialism of the Law: Rav Soloveitchik
Week Ten
Feminist and Queer Challenges to Judaism
Week Eleven
Jewish Ethics as a Philosophical Way of Life: the Discipline of Mussar
Week Twelve
Jewish Political Philosophy
Week Thirteen
Post-Modern Mysticism?
Week Fourteen
Jewish Naturalism
Week Fifteen
Final Thoughts