Shlomo Pines: The Jewish Philosopher Who Presupposed Nothing

Even at the Hebrew University at mid-century, when the likes of Martin Buber and Gershom Scholem walked the halls, Pines stood out for his prodigious knowledge of everything.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1941. ullstein bild via Getty Images.

The Hebrew University of Jerusalem in 1941. ullstein bild via Getty Images.

Observation
May 31 2022
About the author

Warren Zev Harvey is professor emeritus of Jewish thought at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem, where he has taught since 1977.

To English-language readers, the scholar Shlomo Pines (1908-1990) is undoubtedly best known for his superb English translation of Moses Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed (1963). Some may also be aware of his uncanny fluency in dozens of ancient and modern languages and his extraordinary familiarity with the history of philosophy, science, and religion. Still others may have heard about his reputation as an absent-minded professor who would shuffle into his classroom at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem clutching a crumpled newspaper, proceed to lecture brilliantly without notes in a gentle monotone while staring at the floor or the ceiling, and, if asked a question, smile softly, turn around, scribble two or three sentences on the blackboard in Greek, Arabic, or Latin, and, forgetting occasionally to turn around, resume his lecture while addressing the blackboard.

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More about: Gershom Scholem, Hebrew University, History & Ideas, Israel & Zionism, Jewish Philosophy, Maimonides, Martin Buber