“What is at Stake in the Early Modern Debate over Jewish Ceremonial Law? Agency, Reform, and A Defense of Toleration”


Mar. 1, 2024, 3pm to 5pm

Office/Remote Location

Room 210


Michael Rosenthal, Dept. of Philosophy, University of TorontoIn this paper I shall discuss a debate that developed among early modern Jewish philosophers (Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, and Lazarus Bendavid) over whether Jews should abandon ceremonial (or ritual) law as a condition of their political emancipation and cultural “improvement.” I shall take this debate as paradigmatic of certain philosophical tensions within the discourse of religious toleration and the contemporary critique of this discourse as such. In particular, the demand to reform Jewish beliefs and practice as a condition of emancipation highlights the tension between minority agency and majority domination in the discourse and practice of toleration. I shall argue that despite its apparent problems, if we understand it properly, this episode illustrates the value of religious reform and a possible pragmatic justification of toleration that does not ignore but rather depends upon the recognition of asymmetrical power relations.



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Open to the public

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Philosophy Department
Nicole Moore

External Sponsor

UNLV Department of Philosophy