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1. Faith and Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 4
Hilary Putnam On Negative Theology
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In addition to being arguably the greatest Jewish philosopher, Moses Maimonides was also the most radical of the medieval proponents of “negative theology”. Building on some recent important work by Ehud Benor, I propose to discuss the puzzles and paradoxes of negative theology not as simply peculiar to Maimonides’ thought, but as revealing something that can assume great importance for religious life at virtually any time. My discussion will begin with a brief review of well known aspects of Maimonides’ view; following that I will say something about Wittgensteinian views of religious language; then I will return to Maimonides’ negative theology; and finally I will consider some philosophical criticisms, not only of Maimonides’ view but of the medieval discussion as a whole.
2. Faith and Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 4
Howard Wettstein Doctrine
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I argue that theological doctrine, the output of philosophical theology, is not a natural tool for thinking about biblical/rabbinic Judaism. Fundamental to my argument is the claim that there is a tension between constellations of theological doctrine of medieval vintage and the primary religious literature---the Hebrew Bible as understood through, and supplemented by, the Rabbis of the Talmud. This tension is a product of the genesis of philosophical theology, the application of Greek philosophical thought to a very different tradition, one that emerged from a very different world.
3. Faith and Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 4
Joshua L. Golding Maharal’s Conception of the Human Being
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This paper discusses Maharal’s conception of the human being and its four major aspects, namely body, soul, intellect, and tselem (image or form). I suggest that some of his apparently inconsistent remarks concerning the human body may be reconciled by distinguishing two different senses of badness or evil. Secondly, I show that Maharal embraces what might be termed “moderate rationalism.” Thirdly, I elucidate his conception of the tselem by discussing parallel ideas in Kabbalistic literature.
4. Faith and Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 4
T. M. Rudavsky Creation and Temporality in Medieval Jewish Philosophy
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Of the many philosophical perplexities facing medieval Jewish thinkers, perhaps none has been as challenging or as divisive as determining whether the universe is created or eternal. Not unlike contemporary cosmologists who worry about the first instant of creation of the universe, or Christian scholastics who attempted to define the nature of an instant, so too medieval Jewish thinkers were aware of the philosophical complexities surrounding the issues of creation and time. Jews were immensely affected by Scripture and in particular by the creation account found in Genesis I-II. In the context of this tension, perhaps the most important word of Scripture is b’reishit, “in the beginning.” The very term b’reishit designates the fact that there was a beginning, i.e., temporality has been introduced if only in the weakest sense that this creative act occupies a period of time. In this paper I shall focus my study upon Jewish philosophical attempts to clarify what is entailed by postulating a first instant of creation. I shall begin with early Rabbinical commentaries upon Genesis, and then turn to three paradigmatic medieval Jewish thinkers who, influenced by these Rabbinical texts, represent the range of positions taken with respect to this issue.
5. Faith and Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 4
David Shatz Freedom, Repentance and Hardening of the Hearts: Albo vs. Maimonides
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The doctrine that God hardens some agents’ hearts generates philosophical perplexities. Why would God deprive someone of free will and the opportunity to repent? Or is God’s interference compatible with the agent’s free will and his having an opportunity to repent? In this paper, I examine how two Jewish philosophers, Moses Maimonides and Joseph Albo, handled these questions. I analyze six approaches growing out of their writings and argue that a naturalistic interpretation of hardening --- as irreversible habituation --- has advantages over alternative approaches. This account of hardening, however, fits best with the thesis that God does sometimes intervene to improve an agent’s will.
6. Faith and Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 4
Robert Oakes Creation as Theodicy: In Defense of a Kabbalistic Approach to Evil
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The doctrine of Tzimzum (or divine “withdrawal”) occupies pride of place in the Jewish mystical tradition as a response to what is arguably the chief theological or metaphysical concern of that tradition: namely, how God’s Infinity or Absolute Unlimitedness does not preclude the existence of a distinct domain of finite being. Alternatively, how can it be that God, by virtue of His Maximal Plenteousness, does not exhaust the whole of Reality? I attempt to show that, while a plausible argument - one that does not involve the idea of Tzimzum --- can be mounted against this “pantheism” problem, the doctrine of Tzimzum has considerable force as the nucleus of a theodicy.
7. Faith and Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 4
Eleonore Stump Saadia Gaon on the Problem of Evil
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Considerable effort has been expended on constructing theodicies which try to reconcile the suffering of unwilling innocents, such as Job, with the existence and nature of God as understood in Christian theology. There is, of course, abundant reflection on the problem of evil and the story of Job in the history of Jewish thought, but this material has not been discussed much in contemporary philosophical literature. I want to take a step towards remedying this defect by examining the interpretation of the story of Job and the solution to the problem of evil given by one important and influential Jewish thinker, Saadia Gaon.
notes and news
8. Faith and Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 4
Notes and News
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index
9. Faith and Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 4
Index Volume 14, 1997
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articles
10. Faith and Philosophy: Volume > 14 > Issue: 3
John Hick The Epistemological Challenge of Religious Pluralism
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A critique of responses to the problem posed to Christian philosophy by the fact of religious plurality by Alvin Plantinga, Peter van lnwagen, and George Mavrodes in the recent Festschrift dedicated to William Alston, and of Alston’s own response to the challenge of religious diversity to his epistemology of religion. His argument that religious experience is a generally reliable basis for belief-formation is by implication transformed by his response to this problem into the principle that Christianity constitutes the sole exception to the general rule that religious experience is an unreliable basis for belief-formation, thus undermining his central thesis. Plantinga’s and van Inwagen’s defenses of the logical and moral permissability of Christian exclusivism fail to address the problem posed by the existence of other equally well-based religious belief-systems with equally valuable fruits in human life. Mavrodes’ discussion of polytheism, and his clarifying questions about religious pluralism, are also discussed.