Faith, Reason, Politics: Essays on the History of Jewish Thought

Faith, Reason, Politics: Essays on the History of Jewish Thought


Michah Gottlieb

Series: Reference Library of Jewish Intellectual History
ISBN: 9781936235872 (hardcover)
Pages: 270 pp.
Publication Date: February 2013

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The past decade has witnessed renewed interest in the faith-reason debate. But all too often the debate is treated in generic terms, without paying attention either to differences between religious traditions or to the historical development of these traditions. Judaism, with its emphasis on religious law, yields insights into the political ramifications of the problem that differ greatly from Christian approaches. In Faith, Reason, and Politics, Michah Gottlieb explores Jewish approaches to the faith-reason debate through detailed analyses of Jewish thinkers from the twelfth to the twentieth centuries, including Judah Halevi, Maimonides, Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, Samson Raphael Hirsch, and Leo Strauss, This book will appeal to scholars and students interested in the problem of faith versus reason and in the relationship between religion and politics.

Michah Gottlieb (PhD Indiana University) is assistant professor in the Skirball Department of Hebrew and Judaic Studies at NYU. Previously he taught at Brown University. He had held fellowships at Princeton University, at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, and the Humanities Initiative at NYU. He is author of Faith and Freedom: Moses Mendelssohn’s Theological-Political Thought (Oxford University Press, 2011) and editor of Moses Mendelssohn: Writings on Judaism, Christianity and the Bible (University Press of New England, 2011). 

Faith, Reason, Politics: Essays in the History of Jewish Thought brings together several penetrating studies of the relationship between faith and reason in the history of Jewish thought. Gottlieb writes with rigor and cogency about the medieval thinkers Judah Halevi and Moses Maimonides and the modern tradition beginning with Baruch Spinoza and Moses Mendelssohn, and highlights the diversity and complexity of approaches to the relationship between reason, faith, morality, mysticism, and religious practice. The essays offer probing and novel analyses and methodological insights; the volume ends with a passionate defense of the contemporary significance of religious rationalism. Gottlieb’s historical and philosophical investigations are astute, his writing lucid and engaging. The volume is a superb contribution to the analysis of the Jewish philosophical tradition.
— Diana Lobel, Boston University
With Faith and Freedom: Moses Mendelssohn’ Theological Political Thought, Michah Gottieb has established himself as a top scholar of modern Jewish philosophy. The current collection of essays is another superb contribution to the field.
— Yitzhak Y. Melamed, Johns Hopkins University
This is an excellent collection of essays by a learned and perceptive young scholar. Michah Gottlieb’s insights into the relation between medieval and modern Jewish philosophy are fascinating and thought-provoking.
— Warren Zev Harvey, The Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Table of Contents


I: Two Paradigms of the Nexus Between Philosophy and Mysticism: Judah Halevi and Moses Maimonides
II: Spinoza’s Method(s) of Biblical Interpretation Reconsidered
III: Moses Mendelssohn’s Metaphysical Defense of Religious Pluralism
IV: Aesthetics and the Infinite: Moses Mendelssohn on the Poetics of Biblical Prophecy
V: Counter-Enlightenment in a Jewish Key: Anti-Maimonideanism in Nineteenth-Century Orthodoxy
VI: Publishing the Moses Mendelssohn Jubiläumsausgabe in Weimar and Nazi Germany
VII: Leo Strauss on Lessing’s Spinozism
VIII: Between Judaism and German Enlightenment: Recent Work on Moses Mendelssohn in English
IX: Sincere Irony: A Review of William Egginton’s In Defense of Religious Moderation