Jewish Philosophy as a Guide to Life: Rosenzweig, Buber, Levinas, Wittgenstein

Jewish Philosophy as a Guide to Life: Rosenzweig, Buber, Levinas, Wittgenstein

Jewish Philosophy as a Guide to Life: Rosenzweig, Buber, Levinas, Wittgenstein

Jewish Philosophy as a Guide to Life: Rosenzweig, Buber, Levinas, Wittgenstein

Synopsis

Distinguished philosopher Hilary Putnam, who is also a practicing Jew, questions the thought of three major Jewish philosophers of the 20th century-Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, and Emmanuel Levinas-to help him reconcile the philosophical and religious sides of his life. An additional presence in the book is Ludwig Wittgenstein, who, although not a practicing Jew, thought about religion in ways that Putnam juxtaposes to the views of Rosenzweig, Buber, and Levinas. Putnam explains the leading ideas of each of these great thinkers, bringing out what, in his opinion, constitutes the decisive intellectual and spiritual contributions of each of them. Although the religion discussed is Judaism, the depth and originality of these philosophers, as incisively interpreted by Putnam, make their thought nothing less than a guide to life.

Excerpt

The essays that make up this volume grew out of the invitation to give the Helen and Martin Schwartz Lectures on Jewish Studies at Indiana University in 1999. I gave two lectures, on December 1st and 2nd, under the overall title Jewish Philosophy as a Way of Life. Those lectures were earlier versions of chapter 1 and chapter 4 of the present volume. Those versions were included in volumes published by Harvard University Press and Cambridge University Press, and I am grateful to those presses for permission to incorporate them (or, in the case of chapter 1, a number of paragraphs) in the present volume. Chapter 1, which was originally an essay on Rosenzweig’s Understanding the Sick and the Healthy [Das Büchlein vom Gutem und Kranken Menschenverstand], has become an essay on Wittgenstein and Rosenzweig. Chapter 2 is a new essay on Rosenzweig’s great book The Star of Redemption, and chapter 3 is an essay on Martin Buber’s best-known book, I and Thou. the whole enterprise grew out of a course on Jewish Philosophy that I taught at Harvard University in 1997 and repeated in 1999; the impact of teaching that course on my thinking is described in the introduction. Like the course from which it grew, this is not a book for “specialists,” but an attempt to make clear to a general reader what these great Jewish thinkers were saying and why I find them so impressive.

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