Religious Studies | Modern Jewish Philosophy
R202 | 3872 | Morgan


R202    Modern Jewish Philosophy (Morgan) (3 Cr.) TR 1:00-2:15 SY 001

As Judaism has changed, so have the attempts of Jewish thinkers to
understand what Judaism is and what Jewish existence is all about.  This
course is about the challenges Judaism has met in the modern world, from
the 17th to the 20th century, and how Jewish thinkers have come to
understand Judaism as it has confronted these challenges.  We shall start
with Baruch Spinoza and his attempt to rethink religion and Judaism
against the background of new political ideas and the scientific
revolution.  In order to understand Spinoza's Theological Political
Treatise, we shall first consider the main themes of Rabbinic Judaism and
then certain features of Maimomide's Guide for the Perplexed.

We turn next to the life and work of Moses Mendelssohn, the preeminent
Enlightenment Jewish philosopher, and his attempt in Jerusalem, to blend
Judaism with the liberal, rational ideals of the 18thcentury
Enlightenment.  After examining certain texts and themes from the work of
Kant, Hegel, Marx, Kierkegaard, and Nietzsche, we shall briefly discuss
19th century Jewish thought and the role of history in Judaism.  The
course will conclude with a detailed discussion of three great figures of
the late 19th and early 20th century: Hermann Cohen, Martin Buber, and
Franz Rosenzweig.  In their work, in the years before and after World War
I, an effort is made to revitalize Judaism in a modern, technological, and
urban setting and to locate ethics, revelation, history, and messianism in
modern thinking and modern life.

Requirements: Students will receive a detailed syllabus with reading
assignments.  The class will include a lecture, discussion, and various
classroom activities.  We shall emphasize the careful examination of
texts, from Maimonide's Guide and Spinoza's Treatise to the works of
Mendelssohn, Cohen, Buber, Rosenzweig, and the non-Jewish philosophers
whose influence on Jewish philosophy is so important.  Members of the
class will be expected to have studied and prepared for class; in addition
they will be evaluated on the basis of a short written assignment, a
mid-term, a final examination, a term essay, and several short in-class
activities.  There will be optional discussions prior to mid-term and
final exams; students will be encouraged to use e-mail to discuss issues
and raise problems.