Is Philosophy Jewish?

No, philosophy is not Jewish. Philosophy originated in ancient pagan Greece. The practice of philosophy is not at all Jewish. In fact we believe philosophy is antithetical to both biblical and Talmudic modes of thought.

Yes, prominent Jews have written philosophical books, including Maimonides, Rav Soloveitchik and our dad. Rabbi Dr. Zev Zahavy wrote a wonderful book about cosmology and religious philosophy called Whence and WhereforeIf you haven't bought a copy yet, do so today.

An article by Jim Holt that our dad would have liked appeared today, "What Physics Learns From Philosophy" also titled "Physicists, Stop the Churlishness" on NYTimes.com.

It begins in a rather adversarial manner:
A KERFUFFLE has broken out between philosophy and physics. It began earlier this spring when a philosopher (David Albert) gave a sharply negative review in this paper to a book by a physicist (Lawrence Krauss) that purported to solve, by purely scientific means, the mystery of the universe’s existence. The physicist responded to the review by calling the philosopher who wrote it “moronic” and arguing that philosophy, unlike physics, makes no progress and is rather boring, if not totally useless. And then the kerfuffle was joined on both sides.

This is hardly the first occasion on which physicists have made disobliging comments about philosophy. Last year at a Google “Zeitgeist conference” in England, Stephen Hawking declared that philosophy was “dead.” Another great physicist, the Nobel laureate Steven Weinberg, has written that he finds philosophy “murky and inconsequential” and of no value to him as a working scientist. And Richard Feynman, in his famous lectures on physics, complained that “philosophers are always with us, struggling in the periphery to try to tell us something, but they never really understand the subtleties and depths of the problem.”...
Our dad understood that you must respect the scientist of cosmology and offer to engage him in dialog. That is what he does in his brilliant book.

Rabbi Soloveitchik does other things in his writings. In for instance "The Lonely Man of Faith" he proclaims his opinions as existentialist philosophical postulates. We've read a new edition of the essay with an introduction by Reuven Ziegler, The Lonely Man of Faith (Maggid Books, Koren Publishers 2012).

The essay talks about human needs to attain elusive goals called "dignity" and "redemption". In our view in its thrust it never actually goes beyond a highly personal brand of theology and into the mainstream discourse of any brand of philosophy that we know of.

We wish that our incredibly gifted teacher had spent more of his of energy in his writings explaining the Talmud in accord with the Brisker method of study. The Talmud and its modes of thought are core to what is Jewish. Philosophy is extrinsic to Judaism and ought not be assumed to be a Jewish endeavor.

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