Charles Explorer logo

Jewish Religious Philosophy in the Middle Ages

Class at Faculty of Arts |


October 7, 2011  

Philosophical reflection of Judaism in the Bible and the Talmud. Hellenistic Jewish philosophy: Philo of Alexandria  

Reading: Guttmann, pp. 3-49  

October 14  

Historical and intellectual context of the birth of Jewish philosophy in the Middle Ages. Jewish kalām: Saadiah Gaon  

Reading: Guttmann, pp. 53-83; or Husik, pp. xiii-l, 23-47; or Sirat, pp. 1-13, 18-37  

October 21  

Neo-Platonism: Isaac Israeli, Bahya ibn Paquda  

Reading: Guttmann, pp. 95-101, 117-124; or Husik, pp. 1-16, 80-105; or Sirat, pp. 57-68, 81-85  

November 4  

Solomon ibn Gabirol  

Reading: Guttmann, pp. 101-117; or Husik, pp. 59-79; or Sirat, pp. 68-81  

November 11  

Judah Halevi  

Reading: Guttmann, pp. 136-151; or Husik, pp. 150-183; or Sirat, pp. 113-131  

November 18  

Aristotelianism: Abraham ibn Daud  

Reading: Guttmann, pp. 152-172; or Husik, pp. 197-235; or Sirat, pp. 141-155  

November 25  

Maimonides I  

Reading: Guttmann, pp. 172-207; or Husik, pp. 236-311; or Sirat, pp. 157-203  

December 2  

Maimonides II  

Reading: Guttmann, pp. 172-207; or Husik, pp. 236-311; or Sirat, pp. 157-203    

December 9  

Maimonidean controversies. Jewish philosophy in the 13th century  

Reading: Guttmann, pp. 207-236  

December 16  

The decline of Jewish medieval philosophy. Levi ben Gershom, Hasdai Crescas, Joseph Albo  

Reading: Guttmann, pp. 236-291; or Husik, pp. 328-361, 388-427; or Sirat, pp. 282-308, 357-372, 374-381  

January 6, 2012  

The echo of Jewish medieval philosophy in modern Jewish thought  

Reading: Guttmann, pp. 275-324


Traditional, Orthodox Judaism is not interested in systematic reflection on the "Jewish faith"-its focus is rather on religious practice. The motivation for a rational, conceptual definition of traditional religious ideas comes, instead, from outside-first, through the direct influence of Greek and Hellenistic thought; then, and to a greater extent, through the influence of rationalistic branches of Islamic theology. While Jewish philosophy has accepted forms and terminology originally foreign to Judaism, it has always conserved the specific content that is bound up with interpretations of the distinctive role of Israel in world history.

The course aims to give a historical survey of the development of Jewish philosophy, from its beginnings in the ancient Greco-Roman world, the confrontation with medieval Islamic thinking, the full development of autonomous Jewish philosophical reflection, to its decline at the end of the Middle Ages. The main religious and philosophical ideas will be discussed and the most important Jewish philosophers will be presented.