Prof. Michael Kagan                             Office Hours in RH-422
PHL 335/REL 383                                 M 8:30-10:00 am;  W 9-10:20 am
Philosophies of Judaism                          and by appointment.
Spring 1998                                             (Call 445-4489)
We will consider a variety of Jewish philosophicalresponses to fundamental problems and concerns including human nature,faiths/reasons controversies, theories of revelation,  existentialand feminist Jewish philosophies. Be willing to struggle with difficultphilosophical texts and issues. Requirements include participation, attendance,successful completion of two exams and a final project to be agreed uponwith the instructor.  

Course Objectives:

(A) To examine a variety of Jewish philosophicaltendencies as responses to fundamental crises and challenges. The coursewill focus on several paradigmatic philosophies of Judaism in terms ofthe following:

(B) encourage sensitivity to the influenceand importance of gender and culture in the development of these philosophies;
(C) challenge students to closely and criticallyexamine a Jewish philosophical work in depth, report on the results ofthat examination and respond to it in light of their own philosophicalreligious orientations.

Required Texts

There are also some other required readingson reserve in the library, as indicated in the syllabus and class discussions.

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


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

Course requirements andgrading

* Carefully read the assigned texts. Be prepared to discuss the readings in class. (participation and attendancecount for  20%; 4% will be deducted from this part of grade for eachmiss; in class writing assignments will be figured into this part of thegrade ) 
* Do the short writings on the reading assignments (40%)
* Prepare and present on one of the readingsfor class. (20%)
* Complete and be prepared to present a finalproject (20%)

Reading  question(s) are given alongwith each assignment.  Unless otherwise indicated, please answer thereading question(s) in less than one TYPED page (all assignments, exceptin class writings are to be typed).  Make sure you are workingwith the current version of this syllabus.


All students are expected to do all readingsand to share their understanding with one another in class discussionsand by leading their own and participating in other students' presentationson the various readings. Student presentations on readings begin the secondweek of class, and will be scheduled during the first week. The subtopicswill be divided up into student groups whose size will be determined bythe class size.

Remember: You have less than an hour topresent. Focus on the aspects your group finds most interesting and important.Do not try to cover everything. Your presentation will be improved if youmake it easier for others to participate.  (Please try to help others'presentations by participating!) Please feel free to meet with me to discussyour presentations.  If you don't find me on campus, feel free tocall me at home (637-0349) before 8:00 PM. YOU CAN ALWAYS LEAVE A VOICEMAIL MESSAGE AT 445-4489.

Final Project:  Writtenand Presented to Class

Students are to closely and criticallyexamine a Jewish philosophical work (of their own choice) in depth, reporton the results of that examination and respond to it in light of theirown philosophical religious orientations. The first portion of this assignmentis exegetic and expository, requiring the student to present and explainthe work in question, making  sure to indicate philosophical strengthsand weaknesses. The second part of the assignment invites the studentsto respond. The response may consist of an essay explaining your view andcriticisms; you might write a dialogue or story addressing some of thecentral issues; you might do something else. Students who do this projectas part of a group are required to write an additional brief individualessay on the project topic.

SPECIAL NEEDS: If you have a documenteddisability and wish to discuss academic accommodations, please contactme as soon as possible.


NO CLASSES  2/16 & 2/17      Long Weekend
NO CLASSES  4/9 and 4/10    Easter Weekend
Tuesday, Mar. 10:  PROJECT PROPOSALSDUE.  No classes week of Mar. 16 (Spring Break).
Apr. 28, Evaluations.  Tuesday, May 5  Classes End .

TENTATIVE SCHEDULE ('*'indicates dates on which students present)

Week #1 (of Jan. 20)  Introduce course,choose groups and schedule presentations on readings, IN CLASS WRITING#1: Write a brief (less than 3 pages handwritten) essay describingyour knowledge of and experience(s) with Judaism(s).

*Week #2 (of Jan.  27)  Introductionof some biblical perspectives.  Read the book of Genesis.  OnJanuary 29, students present on issues suggested by the text. SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT  #1( ALL SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENTS AREDUE THE DATE OF THE RESPECTIVE STUDENT PRESENTATION ): What is God'srelationship to people in the book of Genesis?  How, at all, doesit change throughout the book?

*Week #3 (of Feb. 3)  Read the booksof Exodus and Esther.  SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT #2:  What is the difference between the way the descendants of Abraham and Sarahdeal with persecution in the two books?  Feb. 5, students presenton Esther.

*Week #4 (of Feb. 10)  Read Ecclesiastes. SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT #3:   What problem is botheringthe author of Ecclesiastes?  Feb 10, students present on Ecclesiastes: Feb. 12,  Instructor present's on views of the after-life inthe development of Judaism..

Week #5 (of Feb. 19.)  Lecture onPhilo.  Read Saadia selections in Arthur Hyman and James J. Walsh(eds.), Philosophy in the Middle Ages: The Christian, Islamic, and JewishTraditions, Second Edition, Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company,1983 [on reserve in the library) IN CLASS WRITING #2: In what ways,if any, are Saadia and Philo addressing the same problems?

*Week #6 (of Feb. 24)   Read Guide., pp. 1-37.   Read Strauss's introduction and title essay  SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT #4:  Who is Maimonides'audience?   Feb. 24., Students present on Maimonides'  lifeand work.  Feb. 26 Lecture on secret writing and Strauss.

*Week #7 (of Mar. 3)  Mar 3: ReadGuide., Pages 59-120; 212-250.  Read Strauss, Chs. 2 &3.    Mar. 5: Read Guide, 307-397.   Studentspresent on Guide, pp.  307-397.  SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT#5:   According to Maimonides, How do the best persons conducttheir lives?

Week #8 (of Mar. 10)  Read Maimonideson Evil  and Providence (264-306).     IN CLASSWRITING #3:   What do you take to be Maimonides' centralthesis about evil and providence?  How does it square with your ownviews?  Tuesday, Mar. 10:  PROJECT PROPOSALS DUE.  No classes week of Mar. 16 (Spring Break).

*Week #9 (of Mar. 24)  Wiesel on Eviland Responsibility.  If you have not yet read Night, do so. Then read DawnSHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT #6: What problemfaces the protagonist in Dawn?  How does this and related problemsaffect our lives today?   Note:  You are welcome to do thiswithin one page if you can, but, for this assignment, the page limit isextended to 3 TYPED pages.  Mar. 26: Students present on Dawn,group work on Dawn.

*Week 10: (of Mar. 31)  Buber on responsibility.  Mar. 32, Instructor presents on Buber's philosophy. Read Buber's "The Way of Man."   April 2,  studentspresent on Buber's "The Way of Man."  SHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT#7:   What does this essay tell us about  the meaningof the question "Where are you?"

*Week 11 (of Apr. 7)   Wieseland Schwarzschild on responsibility after the Holocaust.  Read Wiesel'sThe Accident.   Read Schwarzschild's Ch. 4, "On theTheology 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]). Read Samuelson, pp. 288-306 (on reserve).  April 7, Students present on The AccidentSHORT WRITINGASSIGNMENT #8:   How does Wiesel and/or Schwarzschild thinkwe should live in a post-holocaust world?

*Week 12: (of April 14)  Read StandingAgain at Sinai: Judaism from a Feminist Perspective. SHORT WRITINGASSIGNMENT #9 (3 page maximum):  What is the basic problem Plaskowaddresses in this book?  What can we learn from the response?  April 14:  Students present on Standing Again at Sinai, firsthalf.  April 16, Students present on Standing Again at Sinai, second half.

 *Week 13  (of Apr. 21).  Read The Jew in the LotusSHORT WRITING ASSIGNMENT #10(3 page maximum): What is the basic problem faced by the Jews in thisbook?  What is the basic problem faced by the Tibetans?  Of allthe people you "met" reading this book, which two did you likethe best?  Why?  What did they offer?  Students presenton The Jew in the Lotus.

*Week 13-15 (Apr. 23, 28, 30, and May 5,last day of class).  Students report on their final projects These reports are to be between 10 and 15 minutes in length). These willcontinue until the end of semester. Students who are unable to do theirindividual presentations at the scheduled time will need to schedule amake-up presentation to be done at the regularly scheduled final exam timefor this course.

Remember:  WRITTEN PROJECTS DUE: Thurs., April 16.
STUDENT EVALUATIONS: Tues., Apr. 28. Back to M. Kagan'spage (