Prof. Michael Kagan			 Office Hours in RH-422PHL 335/REL 383			 Monday and Wednesday:  8:30-9:15 AMPhilosophies of Judaism			  and by appointment.Fall 1996

We will consider a variety of Jewish philosophical responses to fundamental problems and concerns including human nature, faiths/reasons controversies, theories of revel existential and feminist Jewish philosophies. Be willing to struggle with difficult philosophical texts and issues. Requirements include participation, attendance, successful completion of two exams and a final project to be agreed upon with the instructor.

Course Objectives:

(A) To examine a variety of Jewish philosophical tendencies as responses to fundamental crises and challenges. The course will focus on several paradigmatic philosophies of Judaism in terms of the following:

1.. The human person (philosophical anthropology)

2. Revelation and obligation

3. Theology

4. Jewish Identity and Existence;

(B) encourage sensitivity to the influence and importance of gender and culture in the development of these philosophies;

(C) challenge students to closely and critically examine a Jewish philosophical work in depth, report on the results of that examination and respond to it in light of their own philosophical religious orientations.

Required Texts

Altmann, Alexander (editor): Three Jewish Philosophers [selections from Philo, Saadia, Halevi] (New York: Atheneum, 1977).

Buber, Martin: Between Man and Man (New York, Macmillan, 1985).

Plaskow, Judith: Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective (Harper Collins, 1990).

Strauss, Leo. Persecution and the Art of Writing (Chicago & London: University of Chicago Press, 1988).

There may also be readings on reserve in the library, as indicated in the syllabus and class discussions.

Other Texts (Final projects may be based on any of the following)

Guttmann, Julius. The Philosophy of Judaism: The History of Jewish Philosophy from Biblical Times to Franz Rosenzweig by Julius Guttmann; translated by David W. Silverman. Northvale, N.J.: J. Aronson, 1988.

[Also acceptable is the older edition:

Guttmann, Julius. Philosophies of Judaism: The History of Jewish Philosophy from Biblical Times to Franz Rosenzweig, with an Introduction by R. J. Werblowsky; translated by David W. Silverman (New York: Schocken Books, 1973).]

Buber, Martin: I and Thou, translated by Walter Kaufmann (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1970).

Fackenheim, Emil: God's Presence in History: Jewish Affirmations and Philosophical Reflections (New York: Harper & Row, 1970).

Glatzer, Nahum: Franz Rosenzweig: His Life and Thought (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1953).

Hertzberg, Arthur (editor): The Zionist Idea: A Historical Analysis and Reader (New York: Atheneum, 1975).

Heschel, Abraham: Between God and Man: An Interpretation of Judaism [selected, edited and introduced by Fritz A. Rothschild] (New York: The Free Press, 1959).

Heschel, Susannah (ed.): On Being a Jewish Feminist: A Reader (New York: Schocken Books, 1983).

Husik, Isaac: A History of Mediaeval Jewish Philosophy (New York: Atheneum, 1974).

Maimonides, Moses: The Guide of the Perplexed (in two volumes), translated with an introduction and notes by Shlomo Pines; introductory essay by Leo Strauss (University of Chicago Press, 1963).

Milgram, Stanley: Obedience to Authority: An Experimental View (New York: Harper & Row, 1974).

Reines, Alvin: Polydoxy: Explorations in a Philosophy of Liberal Religion (Buffalo: Prometheus Books, 1987).

Rivkin, Ellis: The Shaping of Jewish History: A Radical New Interpretation (New York: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1971).

Rosenbloom, Noah: Tradition in an age of Reform: The Religious Philosophy of Samson Raphael Hirsch (Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1976).

Scholem, Gershom: Major Trends in Jewish Mysticism (New York: Schocken, 1954).

Schwarzschild, Steven: The Pursuit of the Ideal: Jewish Writings of Steven Schwarzschild, edited by Menachem Kellner (SUNY, 1990).


The aims of this course are intended to be met through lectures, discussion, preparation and completion of examinations, and preparation and presentation of the final project.

Course requirements

* Carefully read the assigned texts

* Be prepared to discuss the readings in class.

* Prepare and present on one of the readings for class.

* Be prepared to answer questions about the assignments on the Midterm and Final.

* Complete and be prepared to present a final project.,

Final Project--Written and Presented to Class

Students are to closely and critically examine a Jewish philosophical work (of their own choice) in depth, report on the results of that examination and respond to it in light of their own philosophical religious orientations. The first portion of this assignment is exegetic and expository, requiring the student to present and explain the work in question, making sure to indicate philosophical strengths and weaknesses. The second part of the assignment invites the students to respond. The response may consist of an essay explaining your view and criticisms; you might write a dialogue or story addressing some of the central issues; you might do something else. Students who do this project as part of a group are required to write an additional brief individual essay on the project topic.


The two exams will require short answers, true-false and why [i.e., after marking a statement true or false, you will be asked to give a brief justification for your response], fill in the blank, and passage identification (a selection will be presented, you will be asked who you think wrote it and what problem the author is addressing). You will also have an opportunity to write an essay on one of the identifications, giving your own analysis and criticism of the selection. You will have the option to work on the exams as a group or individually; to do the exam as an in-class or take home exercise. If you work with others, the group is to turn in one exam including the group evaluation of each member's contribution. If you study with others and take the exam as an in-class individual exercise, please credit those who helped you prepare in as specific a way as possible; e.g.,

"this interpretation of Philo is based on Alethea Amitai's analysis of Philo on Psalm 1. You will not be penalized, and this information may help their grade.

Grading and due dates for major requirements

Important Dates

Classes will not be held on 9/23/96 (Yom Kippur), 10/14 (Columbus Day), and Nov. 25-29 (Thanksgiving Break).

Midterm Exam 20% (Take home version distributed by Fri., Oct. 18): Due in class before the In-class exam on Friday, Oct. 25.

Final Exam: 20% (Take home version distributed by Fri., Dec. 6) In class final takes place at time of regularly scheduled final exam (Wed 12/18/96 from 12:30-2:30). Take-Home exams are due at the time of the in-class final.

Presentation on readings: 20%

Participation 20%

Final Project: 20% (grade based on project and presentation): Project Proposals due Fri., Nov. 1. Projects due Nov. 27.) Project presentations will take place Dec. 2 through Dec. 13.


('*' indicates dates on which students present)

Weeks 1-3 [to September 18. Read Philo section of Three Jewish Philosophers (TJ). There will be lectures and group work on sources for Jewish philosophy, some contemporary expressions of Judaism, and developing a philosophy of religion. religions, and a religion.

*Week 4 (September 21 Students present on Philo readings. In this as in other student presentations on readings, students are expected to present basic biographical data about the author (if available), and to discuss the basic problems the author addresses.
September 23-25, close reading of Philo.

Week 5 [Sept. 30; Oct. 2, 4 ].
Saadya. Read selections from TJ and Hyman and Walsh (on reserve)..

*Sept. 30, Students Present on Saadya

Oct. 2, 4 Close reading of Saadya

Week 6 (Oct. 7-11) Halevi. Read selections from TJ. Read relevant sections of Strauss.

Oct. 7. Lecture on secret writing, Strauss, and the dialogue form.

*Oct. 9 Students present on Halevi
Oct. 11, 16, close reading of Halevi

Week 7

Maimonides and Secret Writing. Read Maimonides selections in Arthur Hyman and James J. Walsh (eds.), Philosophy in the Middle Ages: The Christian, Islamic, and Jewish Traditions, Second Edition, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1983 [on reserve in the library). Read Strauss, Chs. 2 & 3.

*October 18: Take-Home distributed. *Students present on life of Maimonides.

Week 8 (Oct. 21-23). Close reading of Maimonides..

October 25, in-class midterm.

Week 9, October 28, take-home due.

Nov. 1, project proposals due.

Week 10- [Nov. 4-8]: Rosenzweig and Buber. Read Rosenzweig material on reserve, read Buber's Between Man and Man.

*Nov. 4: Students present on Buber. Nov. 6-8. Close reading of Buber.

Week 11 (Nov. 11-15): The Holocaust and Recent Jewish Philosophy. Read Samuelson, pp. 288-306. Read Schwarzschild's Ch. 4, "On the Theology of Jewish Survival" (pp. 83-98, and pp. 278-284, and Ch 12, "Modern Jewish Philosophy" in Pursuit of the Ideal, pp. 229-233 [on reserve in library]).

Week 12: Present issues in Jewish Philosophy. Read Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective.

November 18. Instructor presents on some aspects of gender and Judaism.

*November 20 and
*November 22: Students present on Standing Again at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective

*Weeks 13-14 Student presentations of final projects.

FINAL EXAM: Wed 12/18/96, 12:30-2:30 PM.