Room locations and courses are subject to change. Please see the Class Schedules for updates.
"A law that is not just is not law" said recently a protester against racial discrimination. This argument exemplifies a problem we will address in this course through reading, discussing, theatrically staging, and critically applying the work of the best writers and thinkers, both ancient and contemporary, who addressed the problem of justice in relationship to equality, law, and freedom. In that way, we will conduct a comparative study of the relationship between justice, law, and society in pagan, Jewish, Christian, and Muslim Thought.
JDS199: Modern Revolution: Industrial, Political, Social
Hardly any other events in human history have contributed more greatly to the transformation of humanity and its self-understanding after the rise of modern science, than the industrial revolution (steam engine, railroad, factory line), the spread of democracy (American and French revolutions) and the spectre of socialism (Russian revolution). They opened prospects such as the universal spread of democracy, the liberal transformation of religion, the growth of a worldwide metropolitan culture, and the prospect of general prosperity. Seeking to better understand these ends by examining their beginnings, we will explore the old and the new in the prose and poetry of such thinkers and artists as Kant, Hegel, Feuerbach, Marx, Dostoyevsky, Darwin, Bergson and Nietzsche, among others.
JDS199: Origin of Good and Evil
Determining the origin of our moral beliefs and values is one of the central debates that has animated Western philosophers and theologians across time. One culture may consider a certain action morally correct and another culture may consider the same action morally incorrect. Why is that? How do we know what is good and evil, right and wrong? Is there one standard that unites different value systems or are all systems equally correct and variable? This course will not directly tackle the specific beliefs themselves (whether it be the ethics of war and peace, euthanasia, suicide, abortion or any such issue), but will seek to examine the different reasons that groups may arrive at diverse answers. We will read selections of classical works such as Platos Republic, Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics, Hebrew Bible, Aquinas, Summa Theologicae, Nietzsche’s Genealogy of Morals, Martin Buber’s I and Thou, and view a movie: Woody Allen’s Crimes and Misdemeanors.
JDS199: Human and Animal
The course will examine various depictions of human-animal relationship in Western literature and culture, from classical times to modern times. By looking at these texts, we will chart the emergence of a figure that occupies a borderline state between human and animal, and explore its implications for our understanding of Jewish and Christian relationships as well as human and animal nature. Readings include: Ovid, Marie de France, Hobbes, Shakespeare, Heine, Baudelaire, Tolstoy, Nietzsche, Kafka, and more.
JDS208: The Holocaust: History, Culture, and Memory
How did the Holocaust happen? How was the ¿Final Solution¿ developed and executed? How have victims, perpetrators, and bystanders written and re-written the accounts of what happened? And how do we remember this today? This course places the Holocaust in the broad context of Western history, thought, and culture by focusing on a variety of sources that include survivor testimonies, novels, and political theory. We will study classic texts such as Elie Wiesel¿s Night, Hannah Arendt¿s Eichmann in Jerusalem, and Art Spiegelman¿s Maus. We will also view selected films, among them Claude Lanzmann¿s Shoah, and Alain Resnais Night and Fog.
JDS210: Introduction to the Old Testament
Gender and Scripture: Who wrote the Bible? For whom did they write it? Why did they do it? What was its purpose? And how did gender figure into the process? Many interpretations of the Bible focus on the history of the patriarchs, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, and in so doing they simplify the society of the Bible. Like so many others in the Ancient Middle East, this one functioned by complex interaction of matriarchal and patriarchal powers, and it was written for an audience of both women and men. So too, the Bible provides social models for hierarchy and equality. In this course we will carefully read parts of the Hebrew Bible to understand the narratives in it, their social context, how they generate meaning, and what they can tell us about their social world and ours.
JDS396: Science and Politics in Jewish Thought
Hybrid: Clemens 708/Remote
What is the relationship between science and religion? Is science true and religion merely a myth? How does the relationship between the two affect the structure of human societies? A group of contemporary critics of religion, known as the "New Atheists," such as Christopher Hitchens, Charles Dawkins and Sam Harris, present a scathing and harsh attack on traditional religious doctrines and beliefs seeking to liberate the public sphere from the influence of religion. This course will seek to explore some of the major players in this debate in the Jewish tradition throughout the last thousand years. Topics to be discussed include prophecy, rationality of the commandments, ethics, providence, election, God, creation, dogmas and the meaning of life.
JDS420/526/720: Ethics of Emmanuel Levinas
The 20th century philosopher Emmanuel Levinas was a philosopher of ethics, but with a new emphasis: he argued that ethics lies at the foundation of all intelligibility, including that of science, art, technology, politics and religion. Hence he radically challenged the traditional Western privileging of "the true" over "the good," science over ethics. Instead of basing ethics in "rules" or "norms," whether natural or religious, for Levinas the ethical begins in the imperative responsibility one person has for another (morality), to alleviate the other's suffering and, building on this, in the responsibility each person has for everyone else (justice). The aim of this course is first to explicate Levinas's thought. It will also highlight its differences from other relevant thinkers, ancient, modern and contemporary.
*Undergraduates can take graduate level courses with special permission from the instructor. Please contact the instructor for more information
JDS526: Special Topics Jewish Thought
The course will explore how the Bible emerged as a site of intersection between Jewish, Christian, and allegedly non-theological but rather literary-theoretical and political theoretical interpretation in the major theoretical frameworks of the XX century literary, critical, and political Jewish and Christian thought. This course is the same as COL703 and course repeat rules will apply. Students should consult with their department regarding any restrictions on their degree requirements
HEB101: Elementary Modern Hebrew 1
Hybrid: Clemens 708/Remote
The beginning course of Modern Israeli Hebrew. Essentials of grammar, syntax and conversational practice; elementary reading and writing. Note: Students with other previous experience in Hebrew must take a placement exam.