The Pale God: Israeli Secularism and Spinoza's Philosophy of Culture

The Pale God: Israeli Secularism and Spinoza's Philosophy of Culture


Gideon Katz

Series: Israel: Society, Culture, and History
ISBN: 9781936235384 (hardcover)
Pages: 222 pp.
Publication Date: August 2011

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The Pale God examines the relationship between secularism and religious tradition. It begins with a description of the secular options as expressed by Israeli intellectuals, and describes how these options have led to a dead end. A new option must be sought, and one of the key sources for this option is the works of Spinoza. The author explains that unlike Nietzsche, who discussed “the death of God,” Spinoza tried to undermine the authority of religious virtuosos and establish the image of a rational “Pale God.” Such changes could channel religious tradition to the basic principles of secular political rule. The author demonstrates that the secular option is inherent in Israeli society, fits the type of secularism that Zionism instilled in the Jewish people, and complements the traditional trends deeply rooted in that society.

Gideon Katz (PhD Haifa University) is a lecturer at the Ben-Gurion Research Institute, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev. His publications include articles on Israeli culture, Jewish Thought and Ancient Philosophy. He is the author of the book The Soul is Big, Life is Small: The Duality of the Soul According to Plato's Phaedo and Republic (Hebrew University Press, 2005), and co-editor of Iyunim bitkumat yisrael. 

Table of Contents


Chapter 1: Three Options for Secularism in Israel
I. Foreword
II. Judaism as culture
III. Reservations about Judaism
IV. Spiritual Judaism
V. The distress of secularism
Chapter 2: Why Spinoza? 
I. The historical-cultural context
II. Special philosophical relevance
Chapter 3: Imagination and the Masses: An Outline of the Object of Politics
I. Non-reflective consciousness and the image of the dream: the epistemological aspect
II. Instability, associations and egocentrism: the psychological aspect
III. Inconsistency, conformism and hostility in the life of the masses: the political aspect
Chapter 4: Political Secularism
I. Undermining religion
II. Rationalization of the masses and political power
III. Does rationalization mean overcoming religion?
IV. The importance of religion in the establishment of political power
V. Moderating religious tradition
VI. Invigorating the life of the masses and the spirit of obedience
Chapter 5: The Role of the Philosopher in His Society in Times of Secularization
I. The “Healthy Judgment,” the radiance of theology and the problem of the philosopher’s sincerity
II. The resonance of truth
III. Metaphysical secularism
IV. The schematic nature of Spinoza’s thought
Chapter 6: Traditionalism as an Optional
Form of Secularism in Israel
I. Traditionalism in Israel
II. Spinozian articulation and the secular nature of traditionalism