“I do not know how to teach philosophy without being a disturber of established religion.” -Benedict Spinoza
This last semester, I had the pleasure of taking an Intro to Jewish Philosophy course with Rabbi Bradley Shevit Artson. He himself is a philosopher, who brings riveting passion, knowledge and brilliant awareness to every moment. Taking a class with him on this topic was a true pleasure, as the readings he assigned were both thought-provoking and awakening. Many-a-time I left class discovering what I thought I knew or believed had been ripped apart and shred in front of my eyes. In some moments, serious realizations were made and I would be left for speechless (that’s pretty tough to do). We used two text books that would cover from Aristotle to Dorff (ancient to modern) – reading several philosophers per week, we covered topics such as God, Creation, Revelation, Holocaust (yes, as a philosophical topic!), Feminism, …and eventually were able to read some of Artson’s own work on Process Theology.
Throughout the semester, what was expected of us to do were the readings and engage in class. Our final would be a philosophical paper comparing two philosophers on some subject matter. The assignment is due before the beginning of the Spring semester, so I have just a couple weeks.
While on the hunt for my topic and writers, I strolled down to AJU’s new library and quickly the name Benedict Spinoza reached out and grabbed me. I grabbed all the books I could. Could this man have been the first philosophical rebel in medieval times? Born in 1632 (as Baruch), he was raised in the Jewish Portuguese community of Amsterdam. Before the age of 23, he had become incredibly learned in science and Torah – and challenged the current religious infrastructure on their views of God (and other things). His against-the-grain and nonconformist views got him quickly banned from “the people Israel” – and it wasn’t until long after his death that his works were to be recognized as some of the most important and influential in Jewish thought and philosophy. What a pick!
While doing some research, I stumbled across this fantastic film done on Spinoza. If you are interested in this subject matter, I HIGHLY suggest watching!
So what will my subject matter be? Who will I compare him to? Stay tuned and find out!