Philosophy | Modern Jewish Philsophy
P205 | 3590 | Morgan


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 PoliticalTreatise, we shall first consider the
main themes of Rabbinic Judaism and then certain features of
Maimomides' Guide for the Perplexed.

We turn next to the life and work of Moses Mendelssohn, the reeminent
Enlightenment Jewish philosopher, and his attempt in Jerusalem, to
blend Judaism with the liberal, rational ideals of the 18th century
Enlightenment.  After examining certain texts and themes from the
work of Kant, Hegel, Marx, Kiekegaard, 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 lecture, discussion, and various
classroom activities.  We shall emphasize the careful examination of
texts, from Maimonides' 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 the mid-term and final exams; students will be
encouraged to use email to discuss issues and raise problems.