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Sinai since Spinoza: Reflections on revelation in modern jewish thought

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Chapter Summary

Spinoza was the first to understand that modern philosophy, with its new conception of nature, issued an enormous challenge to Judaism as it had been interpreted in the Jewish philosophical tradition, with which he was intimately familiar. Spinoza thematized the conception of nature articulated in modern physics and metaphysics, and the disjunction between nature so conceived and law. Thus he undermined the connection drawn hitherto within Jewish philosophy between Torah and nature. This chapter brings this challenge into focus by thematizing the role of Sinai in some strands of Jewish philosophy. Some brief remarks on the linkage between Sinai and nature in the Maimonidean tradition well-known to Spinoza will enable author to characterize the challenge of modernity and to show both that Mendelssohn's pioneering response was problematic, and that it contained the seeds of two contrasting approaches developed by twentieth century Jewish thinkers.

Keywords: Jewish philosophy; Judaism; Maimonidean tradition; Mendelssohn; Revelation; Sinai; Spinoza; Torah



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