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History of Jewish Philosophy (Routledge History of World Philosophies)

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This volume is planned as a companion to the Routledge History of Islamic Philosophy, and both take their place in the Routledge History of World Philosophies, a series designed to supplement and amplify the Routledge History of Philosophy. The idea of placing histories of Islamic and Jewish philosophy in such close proximity to a history of Western philosophy is in our view timely and important. Jewish and Islamic philosophy are often viewed as mere footnotes in general histories of Western philosophy. The reason for this is not hard to discover. The ‘West’ has historically been defined in exclusivist terms, in ways which make no reference to Judaism or Islam, by contrast to Greco-Roman, Christian, and Enlightenment culture. All these designations seem to bypass the traditions of Judaism and Islam. Of course, there are liminal cases, Spinoza perhaps being the prime example. But the example tends to prove the rule: Spinoza was excommunicated from the Jewish community.

But as scholarship proceeds apace, such cultural imperialism as supports an exclusivist understanding of the ‘West’ cannot stand. More and more we learn about Jewish Hellenism (no oxymoron), the Jewish roots of Christianity, and a Jewish Enlightenment, and what we learn is that Jews gave as much as they took. Such a dialectical interchange makes most timely the appearance of a history of Jewish philosophy which strives to present Jewish philosophy as part of the general history of Western philosophy. In this regard it is to be noted that our authors are not simply concerned with direct historical influences of Jewish thinkers upon non-Jewish thinkers, such as Maimonides upon Aquinas, but they are also concerned to show how the philosophical issues which concerned Greek, Latin, and German thinkers had parallel developments in Jewish thought. The philosophical influences move in both directions, and this is as it should be if one views the philosophical traditions in the West as inclusive of non-Christian philosophical traditions. Jewish philosophy is desegregated by seeing both how it influences and how it is influenced by extra-Jewish sources. There simply is no Jewish philosophy apart from general philosophy. In this way, then, we hope that this volume will begin to break down long-established barriers.

This project commenced in autumn 1991 and was completed in summer 1995. That such a large undertaking proceeded so expeditiously is in no small measure due to the seriousness and hard work of all involved. We thank our contributors and the staff at Routledge (London) for their assistance. We are very grateful to Nina Edwards for her work on the index.
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