Tradition in the Public Square: A David Novak Reader

Tradition in the Public Square: A David Novak Reader

Tradition in the Public Square: A David Novak Reader

Tradition in the Public Square: A David Novak Reader

Synopsis

Tradition in the Public Square collects key essays by David Novak, one of the world's leading contemporary Jewish thinkers. Novak's insightful writings in this reader address the inextricable relationship between philosophical and theological matters and present the implications of his philosophical theology for social ethics and theo-politics.

"One of the marks -- perhaps the most important mark -- of a great thinker is the ability to respond to the conditions and problems of one's time by changing the terms of the conversation. By this standard, David Novak ranks as one of the great American theologians of our time. His work, a response to the primary issue confronting modern Judaism -- namely, what it means to be a part of Western culture yet separate from its secularized form of life -- has helped to make Jewish theology and philosophy thriving fields in North American university life." -- from the introduction

Excerpt

One of the marks — perhaps the most important mark — of a great thinker is the ability to respond to the conditions and problems of one’s time by changing the terms of the conversation. By this standard, David Novak ranks as one of the great American theologians of our time. His work, a response to the primary issue confronting modern Judaism (namely, what it means to be a part of Western culture yet separate from its secularized form of life), has helped to make Jewish theology and Jewish philosophy thriving fields in North American university life. It was not all that long ago that the project of a publicly engaged Jewish theology or philosophy seemed to be impossible within the strictures of North American culture. in his inaugural lecture as the J. Richard and Dorothy Shiff Chair of Jewish Studies at the University of Toronto, Novak recalled a philosophy class he took as a freshman at the University of Chicago in the late 1950s:

We were assigned to write an essay on a section of a book which to this
day I still think is the greatest philosophical work ever written, Aristotle’s
Nicomachean Ethics. At the same time, I was actively pursuing my Talmudic
studies with a pious and learned rabbi who lived in the neighborhood of
the university, although as far as the culture of the university was con
cerned, he could have been living on Mars. Anyway, in writing my essay for
class, dealing with Aristotle’s discussion of justice in the fifth book of the
work we were studying, I was struck by certain similarities between what
the great philosopher was saying and what some of the great rabbis were
saying in the section of the Talmud, the tractate Baba Kama, I was studying
with my rabbi. So, I decided to incorporate some of the Talmudic material
into my essay in philosophy.

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