My search for Jewish ethics pointed me back to this little classic, Modern Jewish Ethics: Theory and Practice, edited by the inestimable Marvin Fox. Full of surprises, this anthology of essay is a neat little time capsule from the 1970s. Published in 1975, the essays were originally presented in 1972 and 1971 at the Institute for Judaism and Contemporary Jewish Thought at Bar Ilan University.
Is it the first ever study of its kind? A product of its time, the book includes essays by Fox along with Ernst Simon, David Sidorsky, Jackob Petuchowski, and the famous essay by Aharon Lichtenstein about halakhah and ethics. To my eyes very surprising is the appearance of Emmanuel Levinas making a very early entrance onto the Jewish philosophical scene in English and in Israel, and by Meir Pa’il, one of the great heroes of the progressive Zionist left.
More on particular contents are to follow. For now, I wanted only to comment on the volume itself, its object-like and iconic character, and the way it sits in place in the early to mid 1970s, a unique and understudied historical moment. Consider in this respect the thesis by Samuel Moyn about the relatively late appearance of “human rights” at around the same period. It might well be the case that, going back only so far, the current vogue in “Jewish ethics” as a distinct phenomenon has a discrete genealogical starting point, much later than one might have originally thought.