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Moses Mendelssohn (1725–1786) is considered the foremost representative of Jewish Enlightenment. In No Religion without Idolatry, Gideon Freudenthal offers a novel interpretation of Mendelssohn's general philosophy and discusses for the first time Mendelssohn's semiotic interpretation of idolatry in his Jerusalem and in his Hebrew biblical commentary. Mendelssohn emerges from this study as an original philosopher, not a shallow popularizer of rationalist metaphysics, as he is sometimes portrayed. Of special and lasting value is his semiotic theory of idolatry. From a semiotic perspective, both idolatry and enlightenment are necessary constituents of religion. Idolatry ascribes to religious symbols an intrinsic value: enlightenment maintains that symbols are conventional and merely signify religious content but do not share its properties and value. Without enlightenment, religion degenerates to fetishism; without idolatry it turns into philosophy and frustrates religious experience. Freudenthal demonstrates that in Mendelssohn's view, Judaism is the optimal religious synthesis. It consists of transient ceremonies of a “living script.” Its ceremonies are symbols, but they are not permanent objects that could be venerated. Jewish ceremonies thus provide a religious experience but frustrate fetishism. Throughout the book, Freudenthal fruitfully contrasts Mendelssohn's views on religion and philosophy with those of his contemporary critic and opponent, Salomon Maimon. No Religion without Idolatry breaks new ground in Mendelssohn studies. It will interest students and scholars in philosophy of religion, Judaism, and semiotics. "In this lucid and provocative study, Gideon Freudenthal offers an original and compelling reading of Mendelssohn as well as a defense of the possibility of religious rationalism more generally. This book is not only an excellent contribution to a growing body of scholarship on Mendelssohn and early modern philosophy, but it also significantly sharpens and advances contemporary conversations about the relations between religion and reason." —Leora Batnitzky, Princeton University "In this masterful study, Gideon Freudenthal demonstrates how Mendelssohn's philosophy, including his philosophy of religion, is grounded in semiotics. The result is a landmark work that not only successfully challenges standard interpretations of Mendelssohn's 'enlightened Judaism' and its alleged inconsistency but also effectively invites reconsideration of the very possibility of 'religion without idolatry.'" —Daniel O. Dahlstrom, Boston University "In focusing on Mendelssohn's 'semiotics of idolatry,' Gideon Freudenthal writes as a philosopher fully at home in multiple traditions: contemporary philosophy, eighteenth-century philosophy, Jewish biblical exegesis, and comparative religion. The result is a systematic and penetrating study, based on the Hebrew as well as the German texts, that engages Mendelssohn on perhaps the most critical issue of his understanding of religion with unprecedented philosophical rigor and imagination." —David Sorkin, City University of New York Graduate Center
Moses Mendelssohn (1729–1786) is often described as the founder of modern Jewish thought and as a leading philosopher of the late Enlightenment. One of Mendelssohn's main concerns was how to conceive of the relationship between Judaism, philosophy, and the civic life of a modern state. Elias Sacks explores Mendelssohn's landmark account of Jewish practice--Judaism's "living script," to use his famous phrase--to present a broader reading of Mendelssohn's writings and extend inquiry into conversations about modernity and religion. By studying Mendelssohn's thought in these dimensions, Sacks suggests that he shows a deep concern with history. Sacks affords a view of a foundational moment in Jewish modernity and forwards new ways of thinking about ritual practice, the development of traditions, and the role of religion in society.
This book presents an extended dialogue in essay form between specialists in the work of Moses Mendelssohn, and experts in important trends in related late-seventeenth and eighteenth century thought. The first group of contributors explores themes in Mendelssohn’s metaphysics and aesthetics, presenting both their internal argumentative coherence and their historical context. The second outlines the context of Mendelssohn’s views on specific topics, and describes his contribution to the discussion of them. The essays are organized in four sections. The first pairs two essays on Mendelssohn’s theory of language and writing. The second section offers three essays addressing a number of topics in Mathematics and philosophy in Mendelssohn. A group of eight essays follows, dealing with Metaphysics in a historical context. The fourth section presents five essays discussing Mendelssohn’s Aesthetics in a historical context. Moses Mendelssohn’s Metaphysics and Aesthetics arises from a conference held in Amsterdam in 2009, which gathered numerous authorities to address the central theme. Taken together, these eighteen essays present a sophisticated portrait of Mendelssohn, packed with detail and rich in complexity.
Around the globe religion is under attack. Humanists, secularists and atheists depict believers as deluded and dangerous. The aim of this book is to challenge this perception. Sensible Religion defends the validity and emphasises the excitement of the religious quest across the faiths. It demonstrates that the practice of sensible religion is often a courageous path pitted against religious extremism and secularism. Written by committed believers from the major world's faiths, the book endorses the term 'sensible' as expressing religious reasonableness as well as sensitivity to criticism and new insights. Followers of the different traditions live ordinary lives in the mainstream of the world. This volume therefore addresses beliefs and the manner in which these convictions relate to social, political and ethical action. Countering the argument that religion is at root extremist and irrational, Sensible Religion brings together thoughtful and critical reflections by leading thinkers about humanity's spiritual quest.
In this volume, scholars draw deeply on negative theology in order to consider some of the oldest questions in the philosophy of religion that stand as persistent challenges to inquiry, comprehension, and expression. The chapters engage different philosophical methodologies, cross disciplinary boundaries, and draw on varied cultural traditions in the effort to demonstrate that apophaticism can be a positive resource for contemporary philosophy of religion.
The preponderance and influences of religions in our world need not be established. Religions are largely represented in two categories of fundamental beliefs regarding the deity: those who claim monotheism and polytheists. If there is a single common thread between all religions, it is that they are all founded on at least some elements of beliefs that defy logic. Those unexplainable beliefs are accepted as faith by their devotees. If this observation is correct, one has to reflect on a few basic questions. If intelligent supernatural forces created humans, they are also the creators of logic. This suggests that the religions of our world should not be short on logic, but a simple analysis of their beliefs appear to show otherwise. The same could be said of the monotheist God; why does he expect a persons faith to be founded on elements lacking sound logic? The author answers the question in a rather surprising way. The lack of logic is only due to human interference in the affairs of God. The divine system designed to regenerate love originally created in the human heart has been corrupted beyond recognition. This book is a search for Gods rational plan of action to help humans grow true love in their hearts.
Ranging with authority from the Talmud to Maimonides, from Marx to Nietzsche and on to G.E. Moore, this account of a subject central to our culture also has much to say about metaphor, myth, and the application of philosophical analysis to religious concepts and sensibilities.
This book attempts to articulate the nature of a secular society, describe its benefits, and suggests the conditions under which such a society could emerge. To become secular, argues Fenn, is to open oneself and one's society to a wide range of possibilities, some interesting and exciting, some burdensome and dreadful. While some sociologists have argued that a "Civil Religion" is necessary to hold together our newly "religionless" society, Fenn urges that there is nothing to fear--and everything to gain--from living in a society that is not bound together by sacred memories and beliefs, or by sacred institutions and practices.
Proposes that the courage to live a full life can be attained by embracing life's difficulties and doubts rather than relying on God to remove suffering and provide answers.

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