New Direc­tions in Jew­ish Philosophy

Aaron W. Hugh­es and Elliot R. Wolf­son, ed.
  • Review
By – October 10, 2011

Phi­los­o­phy has always had a tricky rela­tion­ship with the­ol­o­gy in Jew­ish thought. Mai­monides and Spin­oza both found their books burned and their ideas reject­ed by tra­di­tion­al­ists wor­ried about out­side philo­soph­i­cal ideas under­min­ing Judaism. This prob­lem has been exac­er­bat­ed in mod­ern schol­ar­ship by a dis­com­fort with the terms. Is Jew­ish phi­los­o­phy part of the gen­er­al philo­soph­i­cal endeav­or or locat­ed in the Jew­ish the­o­log­i­cal conversation? 

New Direc­tions is a first stab at locat­ing Jew­ish phi­los­o­phy firm­ly as its own dis­tinc­tive dis­ci­pline. This is a book about phi­los­o­phy rather than actu­al­ly being phi­los­o­phy. This makes it a mar­velous book to bet­ter under­stand, say, the con­nec­tion between Lev­inas and oth­er Jew­ish philoso­phers or the role of visu­al arts in the Jew­ish tex­tu­al” tra­di­tion. How­ev­er, the ques­tions are a bit abstruse for the aver­age read­er, or even a more seri­ous read­er of phi­los­o­phy out­side an aca­d­e­m­ic context. 

While New Direc­tions ulti­mate­ly fails to live up to its promise or premise, it is a wor­thy first effort toward a seri­ous con­sid­er­a­tion of the Jew­ish con­tri­bu­tion to phi­los­o­phy and the way in which phi­los­o­phy influ­ences Judaism.

Daniel­la Bloch enjoys read­ing, play­ing bas­ket­ball, cook­ing and many kinds of crafts. She attends 5th grade at a day school in sub­ur­ban Marylan

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