(A Modest Proposal) Subjects-Of or Objects-For (Jewish Philosophy & Thought)


[Richard Serra, One Ton Prop (House of Cards), 1969] Here’s a thought. As a historical thing, Jewish Philosophy and Thought has been the practice in which Jews and a putative Judaism are the subjects of thought and the objects of thinking. An example: Philo, Maimonides, Buber and Plaskow are clearly identifiable Jewish subjects thinking about Judaism and other things from within a Judaism. But what if we remove the subject position from Jewish philosophy and thought? Can this be done? What if we separate the object from the subject? No longer subjects-of thought, Jews and Judaism become objects for-thought. I don’t know precisely how this would work. It is an experiment in which  critical distance might let all kinds of people, things, and thinking into the force-field. The otherwise heavy one ton prop that is Jewish philosophy and thought might assume a certain a new form of plausibility.

About zjb

Zachary Braiterman is Professor of Religion in the Department of Religion at Syracuse University. His specialization is modern Jewish thought and philosophical aesthetics. http://religion.syr.edu
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3 Responses to (A Modest Proposal) Subjects-Of or Objects-For (Jewish Philosophy & Thought)

  1. dmf says:

    earlier today i hit a paywall trying to access the article mentioned in this interview* but i would guess it might be along the lines yer suggesting if only indirectly
    * http://c-j-l-c.org/portfolio/things-beyond-commodities-an-interview-with-branka-arsic/

  2. The Editor says:

    Dear Zachary:
    In my humble opinion, If you take the Jew out of the Philosophy there is no more Jewish Philosophy. There is no specific object, no a specific set of problems that pertain to Judaism that can be explored in insolation from what I feel is the essence of JP. JP does not exist beyond the need to give an account to others and self (but in Greek, as Levinas would say) and others . While jewish tradition may have examples of self reflection, this apparently do not raise to the level of complexity of a philosophical discourse. Probably because J theology is in principle not missionary and therefore does not need to explain itself to others in the same way as, e.g., Christianity. Also J theology is both plain and marginal (I would add, optional), and whatever philosophy it produced did not become part of the religious canon. There is no equivalent to a St Augustine or a St Thomas whose philosophical theories are part of the catholic church’s creed.
    While the sages of the Mishna and the Talmud may have been aware of the existence of Philosophical schools, they did not feel obviously the need to engage with their teachings. Philon is an exception, but he is not a rabbi and is not included in the traditional curriculum. All the best. Michael

    • zjb says:

      (you’re probably right) (but the question still remains: is the jew the subject of jewish philosophy or an object of Jewish philosophy)

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