Distinguished philosopher Hilary Putnam, who is also a practicing Jew, questions the thought of three major Jewish philosophers of the 20th century—Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, and Emmanuel Levinas—to help him reconcile the philosophical and religious sides of his life. An additional presence in the book is Ludwig Wittgenstein, who, although not a practicing Jew, thought about religion in ways that Putnam juxtaposes to the views of Rosenzweig, Buber, and Levinas. Putnam explains the leading ideas of each of these great thinkers, bringing out what, in his opinion, constitutes the decisive intellectual and spiritual contributions of each of them. Although the religion discussed is Judaism, the depth and originality of these philosophers, as incisively interpreted by Putnam, make their thought nothing less than a guide to life.
1. Rosenzweig and Wittgenstein
2. Rosenzweig on Revelation and Romance
3. What I and Thou Is Really Saying
4. Levinas on What Is Demanded of Us
In these attractive and important essays, Hilary Putnam, one of the most brilliant, influential, and important philosophers of the second half of the 20th century, invites us to listen in as he talks about how his turn to Judaism has involved an encounter with these major Jewish philosophers and thinkers and what the result has been in terms of the significance of Judaism for him and potentially for others.
Michael L. Morgan
author of Interim Judaism
Written by the distinguished emeritus professor of analytical philosophy, this intriguing little study is a concise presentation of three figures in modern Jewish thought: Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, and Emmanuel Levinas.Vol. 33/2
Putnam succeeds in his goals of introducing Anglo-American philosophers to some of the 'post-modernist' philosophy of Judaism; and of providing a reminder of a central task of philosophy as a directional guide for living a worthwhile life.
Studies in Religion
Rosenzweig, Buber, and Levinas are for Putnam the great Jewish philosophers of the twentieth century. As their thought has intrigued him in his struggle with his Jewish heritage, he wrote this slim volume to 'help a reader who is struggling with these difficult authors to understand their difficult and spiritually deep writings.'72 Winter/Spring 2010
. . . Putnam has . . . discovered a barely contemplated terrain, where American pragmatism and Continental Jewish existentialism are happily intermarried. Mazel tov.Volume 15, Number 2 (rec'd 6/09)
Putnam is a master teacher, and his elucidations of four difficult thinkers are valuable in themselves.Vol. 28, No. 3, 2010
Hilary Putman has been in the thick of philosophical discussion for more than half a century . . . engagingly personal . . . there are interesting, characteristically Putnamian insights to be had throughout.November 7, 2008
Times Literary Supplement
One of the most distinguished analytical philosophers, Putnam has written an unusual book that uses the thought of key philosophers to find points of commonality between the religious and the philosophical. October 1, 2008
Philosopher Hilary Putnam, who is also a practicing Jew, examines the thought of three major Jewish philosophers of the 20th century—Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber, and Emmanuel Levinas—to help him reconcile the philosophical and religious sides of his life. . . . Although the religion discussed is Judaism, the depth and originality of these philosophers, as incisively interpreted by Putnam, make their thought nothing less than a guide to life.Vol. 28.1 Fall 2009
In yoking Jewish thought to his efforts to give philosophy a human face, and in giving us glimpses of three men who helped shape a vibrant and beautiful form of Jewish thought, Hilary Putnam—to his profit, and to ours—has sided with Isaiah.October 2008