Jewish Philosophy: Perspectives and Retrospectives

This assortment contains symposia, on "The Renaissance of Jewish Philosophy in America" and on "Maimonides at the Eternity of the World," in addition to different reviews in medieval Jewish philosophy and glossy Jewish idea. participants comprise: Leora Batnitzky, Ottfried Fraisse, William A. Galston, Lenn E. Goodman , Raphael Jospe, Steven Kepnes, Haim Howard Kreisel, Charles Bezalel Manekin, Haggai Mazuz, Paul Mendes-Flohr, Alan Mittleman, Michael Morgan, David Novak, James T. Robinson, Norbert M. Samuelson, Dov Schwartz, Yossef Schwartz, Kenneth Seeskin, Roslyn Weiss, and Martin Yaffe.

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The Torah endures as a guide to life not for its occasional reflections of pagan antiquity but for its power to rise above that spiritual plane and give us richer and more realizable ideas of transcendence. So I don’t privilege readings of scripture that presume only the crudest and most primitive notions to be accessible to the biblical authors or their intended audience. I think the Torah uses simple language and concrete imagery because it seeks a certain timelessness, which it has won, miraculously enough.

Scientism has bred its own reaction in America, giving a cachet to cults and mysteries and creating a market for willful superstition, but I was raised in the humanistic tradition of science and invention. I. A. honors thesis on scientific world views. My earliest bedtime stories were his retellings of the discoveries of Galileo and Lavoisier and (later) Albert Einstein. My life was saved many times over in early childhood by the new antibiotics that turned pneumonia and scarlet fever from mortal plagues to rites of passage.

Idioms, symbols, customs, and conventions change. But if we want to understand what a miracle looked like, we need to consult our own experience, visual and emotional. And if we want to understand how laws were promulgated and received we need to translate our own jurisprudence of expedience and uniformity into a jurisprudence where fairness is God’s concern and an unchanging law for everyone is a fresh and revolutionary idea, vouched for by the word of God, as spoken and relayed and reported by His prophet, but deriving its authority not from an arbitrary fiat underscored by thunder and lightshow in the heavens but from its claim to justice and its worthiness of ascription to the author of creation, the caring and generous provider of light and life, sustenance and cosmic order.

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