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.