Two Models of Jewish Philosophy: Justifying One's Practices

Two Models of Jewish Philosophy: Justifying One's Practices

Two Models of Jewish Philosophy: Justifying One's Practices

Two Models of Jewish Philosophy: Justifying One's Practices


In a work that illustrates how Jewish philosophy can make a genuine contribution to general philosophical debate, Daniel Rynhold attempts to formulate a model for the justification of practices by applying the methods of modern analytic philosophy to approaches to the rationalization of thecommandments from the history of Jewish philosophy. Through critical analysis of the methods of Moses Maimonides and Joseph Soloveitchik, Rynhold argues against propositional approaches to justifying practices that he terms Priority of Theory approaches and offers instead his own method, termed thePriority of Practice, which emphasizes the need for a more pragmatic take on this whole issue.


Whether this book presents a convincing case or not, it would certainly have been even less convincing were it not for a number of people to whom I owe a debt of thanks. This book began life as a doctoral thesis written under the supervision of Professor David-Hillel Ruben to whom I owe the greatest scholarly debt. But whilst his intellectual contribution was invaluable, David also was and continues to be a constant source of support and advice as I attempt to make my way in the world of academia and for that I will be forever grateful. My other primary intellectual debts are to Oxford University Press's readers, both of whom allowed their identities to become known to me at various stages of the process. Professor Daniel H. Frank's helpful comments and suggestions enabled me to make the transition from thesis to book. Professor David Shatz's generous and detailed comments challenged me to rethink many points and hopefully improve my arguments, making this book far better than it would otherwise have been. Whilst both would continue to disagree with some of my substantive conclusions, I hope that the improvements I have made as a result of their comments will at least make it a little more difficult for them to articulate their objections.

On a more personal level I would also like to thank Dr Jonathan Rynhold, my most reliable sounding board and a source of friendship and advice on all matters intellectual and otherwise. I should also place on record my gratitude to Alan Davis. Were it not for Alan, my academic career would have ended before it began.

To my children Zack, Chloe, and Aimee, who never fail to bring a smile to my face, not least due to their delightful childhood belief that because daddy has written a book, he must be famous. And to my wife Sharon, who even without the benefit of that illusion continues with her unstinting faith and support.

Finally, I dedicate this book to my parents, Valerie and David Rynhold, living proof that religion can be a natural bedfellow of tolerance and an open mind. My greatest thanks are to them.


King's College, London

January 2004 . . .

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