Historie – Otázky – Problémy

Speculation and tradition in modern Jewish philosophy


Abstract: Jewish philosophy as a specific theoretical reflection of the Jewish historical and existential situation never separated from the religious experience of the Jewish people. Philosophy in general, originally a mode of thinking foreign to Judaism, due to the Diaspora existence became an issue that Judaism had to struggle and come to terms with. In this sense, Judaism never contributed anything radically original to the development of philosophical thought, its main achievement in this field being the application of philosophy to a traditional religious world view. Since the Enlightenment there have been attempts among philosophers of Jewish origin to emancipate themselves from their religious heritage and to think in a “purely” philosophical way, but the crisis of the rational and scientific ideal with its tragic connotations for the Jews proved to be a dead end for them. In modern Jewish philosophical thinking we can distinguish two convergent lines: On the one hand there are initially “universal” philosophers whom external pressure forced to return to their own religious tradition, on the other hand there are exceptional Talmudic and Hasidic figures that try to overcome the particularism of their own tradition and give it more universal meaning. A representative of the first kind is Hermann Cohen, while representatives of the second kind are Joseph Dov Soloveitchik and Abraham Joshua Heschel. The works of all those (and other) Jewish philosophers bring clear evidence that philosophical speculation can not rest on rational grounds alone, but it has to seek support in the religious texts of their own Jewish tradition.

Keywords: Jewish philosophy; speculation; tradition; particularism; universalism; Hermann Cohen; Joseph Dov Soloveitchik; Abraham Joshua Heschel

PhDr. Milan Lyčka, Ph.D., se v devadesátých letech minulého století podílel na obnovení oboru religionistiky. V současné době vyučuje na Ústavu filosofie a religionistiky Filozofické fakulty Univerzity Karlovy fenomenologii náboženství, judaismus a židovskou filosofii ( mlycka@quick.cz).