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Chapter Five Romantic Positivism

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Chapter Summary

Simon Dubnow's early Comtean Positivism had been based on empiricism and on faith in inexorable progress as humanity passed through certain clearly-defined steps to self-understanding. He recognized that human consciousness should be conceived as an independent level of existence with its own internal principles of development. Dubnow's views on Hasidic history indicate that he agreed with Renan that the scholar could combine a rejection of dogmatism and fanaticism with an appreciation for religion's ability to answer the longings of the common people. Dubnow's epitomizes the Graetzian concept of Jewish history with the statement that the special destiny of the Jews was "to think and to suffer". The highest stage of psychological development is represented by the adult who, following the Delphic maxim "know yourself", realizes that one's tastes, convictions, and character result from the imprint of past experience, reworked by thought, and crystallized into a definite form.

Keywords: Ernest Renan; Hasidic history; Heinrich Graetz; Jewish history; New Judaism; romantic positivism; Simon Dubnow



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