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Major Trends in Modern Jewish Thought


Admission requirements

A global knowledge of philosophy and a working knowledge of the core notions in Jewish tradition are presupposed.
Knowledge of German is recommended, although English translations are available.


In the Enlightenment and its aftermath, tensions between Reason and Revelation, or between Philosophy and Tradition became acute. Jewish thinkers, like their Christian contemporaries, engaged in criticism of their religion. Some abandoned their faith; others attempted to create a synthesis between faith and reason. The conflict between Reason and Revelation is, however, not new and is already attested to in the works of Maimonides (12th Century), one of the most influential Jewish thinkers ever. Maimonides to a large degree rationalised the Jewish tradition, heavily relying on Aristotle. The tensions brought on by modernity with its supposedly self-contained character continue to play a role in the writings of Jewish philosophers today.
In this course we will discuss Maimonides and four modern Jewish philosophers – Hermann Cohen, Leo Strauss, Joseph Soloveitchik and David Hartman – who engage with Maimonides’ thoughts while struggling to do justice to both their Jewish heritage and the demands of reason.

Course objectives

 This course aims to provide an introduction to the main issues and topics in Jewish thought through an in depth focus on several thinkers.
 Students will improve their capacity for reading primary philosophical and theological texts.
 Students will be stimulated to reflect on some essential themes concerning the relation between religion and reason as such.



Mode of instruction

  • Seminar, with weekly assignments.

Assessment method

Each student will be expected to: – be present weekly (attendance is mandatory) and participate actively – complete weekly assignments relating to the topic and philosopher being discussed per week – give a presentation during class as well as – submit a final paper of 2500 words by June 30, 2015.
Grades will be based on an evaluation of the weekly assignments (15%), presentation 30% and the paper 55%.
Students must score no less than 5.5 per component and no less than an average of 6 in order to successfully complete the course


Blackboard will be used for providing texts, links and documents. Students will have to submit their assignments on blackboard.

Reading list

Gershon Greenberg, Modern Jewish Thinkers. From Mendelssohn to Rosenzweig, Brighton, MA, Academic Studies Press, 2011.
Primary works of Maimonides, Cohen, Strauss, Soloveitchik and Hartman as well as secondary literature related to the primary works.


Via Usis and blackboard.

Registration Studeren à la carte and Contractonderwijs


Extension of this seminar to 10 ects is possible upon approval of the course instructors. Please contact the course instructors.
BA-students who are interested can attend this seminar as well. Their work will be assessed on a BA level.