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The first one is about the connection between philosophy and Judaism: I will concentrate on the manner by which Jewish philosophers have used non-Jewish philosophies in order to solve problems they had from the start.


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In other words, I will not examine so much the way Jews answered philosophical questions but rather the way they dealt with internal issues by resorting to the Greek, Arab, German, or other philosophical methods. The question is then to what extent general philosophy was useful to the Jews, even though the Jews also contributed to the elaboration of general philosophy — and sometimes even did so without any reference to the Talmudic texts or any other identified Jewish source.

The texts are all brought to the same level, as if forming a synchronic and homogenous whole. This approach prevails in the study of the Talmud in the traditional world of the yeshivot.


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Philosophically speaking, conceptualism is not an error but historically speaking, it is inaudible. The critical approach takes into account the history of the texts, their modification over time, their successive editions. This critical approach is philosophically and historically receivable. Emphasizing the fundamental place of the Talmud leads me to select specific authors and not others in my three-fold study.

Most histories of Jewish philosophy divide it into the Greek, the Arab, and the German periods. While the contribution of analytic philosophy is more often than not overlooked — mainly because of the scarcity of the texts currently available — the latter will here be reviewed with some attention. The Jewish and the Arab philosophies emerged at the same time, around the 9 th and the 10 th centuries.

In fact, Jewish philosophy first developed in Arabic. Gradually, the Jewish philosophers produced enough material to work without referring frequently and directly in Arabic to authors from other religions. Which authors did the Jewish philosophers study? Now it is only through selected texts translated into Hebrew that post-Maimonides philosophers had access to these authors. The latter became known to the Arab philosophic circles in the 10 th century but became the dominant paradigm in Jewish philosophy only in the mid th century Hugues Even when tinged with Neo-Platonism, Aristotelianism is a philosophy, which is based on a certain view of the world on the one hand, and which offers analytical tools that are still relevant today, for some of them.

Jewish philosophy is influenced both by the Aristotelian view of the world which does not have unanimous support and by a number of Aristotelian concepts which are to a certain extent independent of a given view of the world. Indeed, Aristotle theorized universals at the foundation of science — the concept of definition, among others.

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The mere theorization of definition by genus and differentia did not influence so much the theses found in Medieval Jewish literature but the style of its authors. To better explain this point, I would like to compare briefly an aspect of Talmudic literature and Aristotelian philosophy. The exceptional technical nature of Talmudic literature stands out; yet, before their encounter with Aristotelian philosophy, Talmudic thinkers lacked a structured theory of the definition. This is not surprising since the definition is a universal concept just like the genus, the differentia, the accidental and the Talmud does not explicitly theorize universals.

Three Moments in Jewish Philosophy

Gradually, however, the definition became one of the tools with which Jewish philosophers formulated problems raised in Talmudic literature. Rather than drawing up a fruitless taxonomy of the issues the philosophers dealt with and classifying them, I will simply sum up the Arab moment as the encounter between two literary genres the Talmudic one and the philosophic one that inspired and enriched each other. The latter is the application of historical and philological concepts to Jewish texts.

This critical method adopted by Judeo-German scholars did not aim to solve conceptual Talmudic problems conceptual approach in particular; it rather attempted to understand the historical development of this literature, its passing down, and the evolution of its vocabulary critical approach. The science of Judaism thus benefited the History and Literary History departments more than the Philosophy department. In general, the science of Judaism has some of the characteristics of the critical approach but none of the conceptual one.

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Parricide has always been a family affair. Just like German philosophy Kantianism, German Idealism, German Romanticism, Existentialism, and Phenomenology found in France a new fertile ground, the center of gravity of the German Jewish philosophy moved there. The question as to what makes it a Jewish philosophy then arises.

After the Second World War in particular, this philosopher who first studied phenomenology strove to expound Talmudic passages in the light of phenomenology Now Talmudic literature is close to the Anglo- Saxon pragmatism Adlerblum as much as it is remote from the concerns of Germanophile philosophers. To the field of general philosophy: in his book Difficile Levinas.

While the Jewish thinkers of Arab philosophy enlisted the latter to help them solve Talmudic problems — to apologetic ends, at times — the Jewish philosophers of the German moment took the opposite direction by trying to provide a Jewish answer to the questions and the issues at the heart of the German Christian philosophy. Analytic philosophy opposes continental philosophy 15 — its Hegelian and post-Hegelian currents of thought, in particular — and intends to solve philosophical problems through language analysis.

The adepts of the philosophy of ordinary language find in the latter a material that enables them to explain and clear up philosophic problems. Analytic philosophy does not offer specific theses and is neutral with regards to political, religious, or ontological currents. Thinkers of analytic philosophy thus include nominalists, idealists, atheists, believers, and followers of all opinions and theses.

What connects analytic philosophers is a specific criterion of stylistic quality: precise argumentation. A great analytic philosopher is not an author whose intuition inspired him to see something; the great analytic philosopher is the one who argues best and who answers to objections in the clearest and most convincing manner. Indeed, clarity is a gold standard of quality in analytic philosophy. It goes without saying that for analytic philosophy, obscure philosophical utterances are unacceptable and constitute in no way a sign of profundity.

Analytic philosophy can actually be viewed as the product of a reaction to continental philosophy or as a return to the pre-Hegelian philosophic style. I shall quote a few of them, without claiming to provide an exhaustive list.

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He therefore went back to study the Talmud. He then managed to provide concrete examples for extremely abstract problems of analytic philosophy. In fact, in the work of Eli Hirsch, the Talmudic disputation sheds light on metaphysical issues and vice-versa. Hirsch undertook a very difficult task and he succeeded: he managed to draw the attention of two very different kinds of readers, who learned about a field they did not know about. This author opens his remarkable book Meta-halakha. Logic, Intuition and the Unfolding of Jewish Law Koppel on a central question of the philosophy of halakha Jewish law : does all of what we call halakha derive from the principles given at Mount Sinai?

Jewish Studies Resources: Philosophy. Provides an introduction to the study of medieval Jewish philosophy and presents major Jewish thinkers living in Islamic and Christian lands from the 9th to the 15th centuries. Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy. Covers from antiquity through the 17th century and the modern era.

Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Offers a topic overview of Jewish Philosophy. Introduction to Medieval Jewish Philosophy. Call Number: Central Stacks B R96 This books offers a concise introduction to the central philosophical questions of the Middle Ages. Introduction to Modern Jewish Philosophy. Historical background -- Popular expressions of modern Judaism -- Modern Jewish philosophy. Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages. Covers from Sa'adiah Ga'on to Maimonides. Oxford Handbook of Jewish Ethics and Morality. Introduction: Why study Jewish ethics? Jewish ethical theories in the Hebrew Bible, among medieval Jewish philosophers, the Holocaust, feminist Jewish ethical theories, etc.

Oxford Bibliographies Online. Literary guide to significant sources on a variety of subjects. Serves as an annotated bibliography and a high-level encyclopedia.