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Chapter Summary

The category of normativity, in its generality, allows the interpreter to steer clear of a priori assumptions about the position and permeability of boundaries between different kinds of normative categories. By giving expression to the continuity underlying these different kinds of oughts, normativity provides a lens through which interactions among them can be appreciated. The combination of philosophical and historical-critical perspectives makes for better history and better philosophy: we gain insight both into tannaitic thought, in its unity and diversity, and into the varieties of ethical and religious formation. The basic rhetoric of tannaitic literature, particularly of the Mishnah and the Tosefta, is deontological: this act is obligatory, that act prohibited, etc. Scholars of rabbinic literature have long been interested in supererogation, and have more recently turned their attention to virtue ethics.

Keywords: historical-critical perspectives; Mishnah; normativity; rabbinic literature; tannaitic literature; Tosefta



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