Ethics of Maimonides

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Univ of Wisconsin Press, Jan 12, 2003 - Philosophy - 248 pages

Hermann Cohen’s essay on Maimonides’ ethics is one of the most fundamental texts of twentieth-century Jewish philosophy, correlating Platonic, prophetic, Maimonidean, and Kantian traditions. Almut Sh. Bruckstein provides the first English translation and her own extensive commentary on this landmark 1908 work, which inspired readings of medieval and rabbinic sources by Leo Strauss, Franz Rosenzweig, and Emmanuel Levinas.
Cohen rejects the notion that we should try to understand texts of the past solely in the context of their own historical era. Subverting the historical order, he interprets the ethical meanings of texts in the light of a future yet to be realized. He commits the entire Jewish tradition to a universal socialism prophetically inspired by ideals of humanity, peace, and universal justice.
Through her own probing commentary on Cohen’s text, like the margin notes of a medieval treatise, Bruckstein performs the hermeneutical act that lies at the core of Cohen’s argument: she reads Jewish sources from a perspective that recognizes the interpretive act of commentary itself.

 

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Contents

Founders of Ethics
1
A Radical Platonist
23
EthicoPolitical Intricacies of a Medieval Debate
49
How Not to Know God
77
On Love and Longing Where Ethical Method Fails
107
How Not to Walk in Middle Ways
127
How Suffering Commands Self or Soul
145
Zionism as Betrayal of the Ideal
161
A Jewish Critique of Political Utopia
169
Anticipating a Future that Is Prior to the Past
179
Abbreviations
195
Notes
197
Bibliography
221
Index
245
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About the author (2003)

Hermann Cohen (1842–1918) was professor of philosophy at the University of Marburg and the Institute for the Science of Judaism in Berlin. Founder of the Marburg school of neo-Kantian philosophy, he is the author of Logik der reinen Erkenntnis, Ethik des reinen Willens, and Aesthethik des Gefühls. Almut Sh. Bruckstein is lecturer in Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and author of Die Maske des Moses. She has been a visiting professor of Jewish philosophy at Goethe University in Frankfurt and the Free University of Berlin.

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