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Women and Gender in Jewish Philosophy

Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, ed.

Publication Year: 2004

Women and Gender in Jewish Philosophy is the first systematic attempt to interpret the Jewish philosophical tradition in light of feminist philosophy and to engage feminist philosophy from the perspective of Jewish philosophy. Written by Jewish women who are trained in philosophy, the 13 original essays presented here demonstrate that no analysis of Jewish philosophy (historical or constructive) can be adequate without attention to gender categories. The essays cover the entire Jewish philosophic tradition from Philo, through Maimonides, to Levinas, and they rethink the subdisciplines of Jewish philosophy, including metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, political theory, and theology. This volume offers an invitation for a new conversation between feminist philosophy and Jewish philosophy as well as a novel contribution to contemporary Jewish philosophy.

Contributors are Leora Batnitzky, Jean Axelrad Cahan, Idit Dobbs-Weinstein, Claire Elise Katz, Nancy Levene, Sandra B. Lubarsky, Sarah Pessin, Randi Rashkover, Heidi Miriam Ravven, T. M. Rudavsky, Suzanne Last Stone, Hava Tirosh-Samuelson, and Laurie Zoloth.

Published by: Indiana University Press

Series: Jewish Literature and Culture

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. vii-viii

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pp. ix

The essays in this volume were either presented in or solicited for a conference held at Arizona State University on February 25–26, 2001. The funding for the conference came from the generous support of the Harold and Jean Grossman Chair of Jewish Studies at Arizona State University. I wish to thank Norbert M. Samuelson, Professor of Religious Studies and the ...

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Editor’s Introduction

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pp. 1-23

Feminism has thoroughly transformed contemporary Judaism. After centuries of being excluded, Jewish women have finally become active interpreters of their own tradition as rabbis, teachers, academic scholars, and communal leaders. Feminism has also transformed the academic discipline of Jewish studies. The flourishing of the field of Jewish studies in North America in the 1970s coincided with and was influenced by the emergence ...

Part One

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ONE: Loss, Presence, and Gabirol’s Desire: Medieval Jewish Philosophy and the Possibility of a Feminist Ground

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pp. 27-50

As placeholder for the secondary, the subordinate, and the recalcitrant, the feminine survives ancient and medieval philosophy, Jewish medieval philosophy notwithstanding, under a suppressive stronghold. Despite Dillon’s optimistic conclusion that “Chercher la femme can be a rewarding activity for the Platonic philosopher,”2 even the most well-intentioned glance at the Greek roots of medieval Jewish philosophy seems to suggest otherwise. ...

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TWO: Thinking Desire in Gersonides and Spinoza

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pp. 51-77

My preliminary remarks seek to articulate both the immediate and the mediated background for the following essay. These comments seek to clarify, first, the manner in which the essay should and should not be read, and second, what I understand by feminist Jewish philosophy. Before I begin with the substantive provisos, I wish to outline a very brief personal, purportedly less philosophical, background to the essay. ...

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THREE: Spinoza’s Ethics of the Liberation of Desire

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pp. 78-105

In bringing together Jewish feminist philosophers, this volume makes us consider what, if anything, Judaism, feminism, and philosophy have to do with each other besides residing uneasily in the authors of these collected essays. I wear these monikers with some fear and trembling. I have written feminist reflections on Judaism and Jewish identity and also offered a feminist reading of Hegel. ...

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FOUR: The Lonely Woman of Faith under Late Capitalism; or, Jewish Feminism in Marxist Perspective

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pp. 106-126

It is difficult to decide whether to characterize the current condition of Jewish philosophy generally as one that is optimal or one that is an instance of Brodskyian boredom.1 In either case, the field seems to be marked by complete agnosticism as to what to expect of itself, not to mention what is to be expected of theology or God; indecision as to whether it is or is not possible to “stand outside” one’s own identity in order to contemplate it; ...

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FIVE: Dependency and Vulnerability: Jewish and Feminist Existentialist Constructions of the Human

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pp. 127-152

Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, and Emmanuel Levinas describe the human being as dependent and vulnerable. Significantly, each of these philosophers uses gendered terms to make his arguments. This essay describes the ways in which their Jewish existentialist accounts of what it means to be human have a number of important affinities with contemporary “women-centered” feminist ...

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SIX: From Eros to Maternity: Love, Death, and “the Feminine” in the Philosophy of Emmanuel Levinas

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pp. 153-175

Plato’s Phaedo is often read as an “ode to death,” with the philosopher’s task being to live his (or her, but in this case his) life such that death will be welcome. The soul will be liberated and the body will no longer be a hindrance to the knowledge the soul desires. This view, though transformed in a variety of ways, culminates in Martin Heidegger’s philosophy (especially in Sein und Zeit), where being-toward-death (namely, my own death) is the anxiety that shapes my life. ...

Part Two

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SEVEN: To Know What Is: Feminism, Metaphysics, and Epistemology

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pp. 179-203

The interactions between feminism and philosophy, and feminism and Judaism, have undergone serious challenge in recent decades. Starting with the former, many feminists have argued that Western philosophy has systematically excluded women. More specifically, feminists have argued that what Western male philosophers have presented as “essentially human” is in fact rooted in the male experience and does not reflect women’s ...

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EIGHT: Into the Woods: Killer Mothers, Feminist Ethics, and the Problem of Evil

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pp. 204-233

Several years ago I was invited to give a philosophical presentation on the topic of “Women and Violence,” and the presumption of the organizers, which was indeed played out at the event itself, was that the important issue about violence, women, and philosophy concerned the situation of the victim and her rescue. Women were subjects of violence by individual men, or by a ...

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NINE: Judaism’s Body Politic

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pp. 234-262

Of all the sub-fields in Jewish philosophy, political philosophy is one of the most promising areas for feminist research. For one thing, the political sphere has occupied a central place in feminist thinking generally, and feminist philosophers have followed suit in this regard. If the very core of feminism was from the outset a critique of social and political inequality, feminist philosophers have contributed ...

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TEN: Feminism and the Rabbinic Conception of Justice

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pp. 263-288

This essay presents a detailed analysis of a rabbinic narrative that deals with the tension between justice and mercy, both divine and human, in terms of gender imagery.1 I dissect the narrative on two levels: first, as a meditation on the emotional attitudes that underlie the legal concepts of justice and mercy in rabbinic thought, and second, as a window onto the role of the feminine in the rabbinic ...

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ELEVEN: Reconstructing Divine Power: Post-Holocaust Jewish Theology, Feminism, and Process Philosophy

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pp. 289-313

No other event has crystallized the problem of evil and problematized power more than the Holocaust. In a midrash on Leviticus 21:1–3, 10–12, in which the priestly caste is forbidden from making contact with corpses for fear of a loss of their trust in God, Shlomo Carlebach wrote, “Ever since the Holocaust we are all like priests who have become contaminated by ...

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TWELVE: Theological Desire: Feminism, Philosophy, and Exegetical Jewish Thought

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pp. 314-339

Now that we are well into the twenty-


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pp. 341-343


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pp. 345-356

E-ISBN-13: 9780253111036
E-ISBN-10: 025311103X
Print-ISBN-13: 9780253343963

Page Count: 364
Illustrations: 1 index
Publication Year: 2004

Series Title: Jewish Literature and Culture