What Can Judaism Learn from Analytic Philosophy?

Jan. 12 2021

Analytic philosophy—which since World War II has dominated the discipline in British and American universities—focuses on logic, mathematics, the meaning of words, and the construction of valid arguments. While many of its foremost practitioners rejected religion, along with all claims not grounded in empirical proof, a group of scholars have recently produced a volume that tries to apply analytic thinking to Judaism.

Thus one author seeks to elucidate arguments among medieval commentators over a thorny talmudic legal discussion. In his review, Cole Aronson contends that yeshiva students studying this passage would benefit from this essay. “To ignore tools that explicate a key text or conceptual problem just because those tools were forged outside the tradition would be to miss an opportunity,” writes Aronson.

In another essay, Tyron Goldschmidt, drawing on an argument made by the 12th-century philosopher and poet Judah Halevi, makes an analytical case for the historicity of the Exodus. Aronson comments:

Whether you love or hate (or are pareve about) Goldschmidt’s argument, consider what it represents—a renaissance of Jewish philosophical theology in an analytic mode. Together with his collaborator Samuel Lebens—who’s penned a brilliant article in this collection about midrashic views about meaning in language—Aaron Segal, and others in and out of this volume, Goldschmidt is doing something that to my knowledge hasn’t been attempted by philosophers in English: defending a key empirical thesis of Judaism. Also, Goldschmidt, along with most of the other contributors to this volume, writes like a regular person rather than a member of a clandestine order.

Physicists, historians, psychologists, and linguists may not always (or ever) thank philosophers for their interest, but philosophy has a proud record of learning from and spurring advances in other disciplines. I suspect the same will be true for Jewish thought and analytic philosophy.

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Read more at Jewish Review of Books

More about: Jewish Philosophy, Judah Halevi, Judaism, Philosophy

 

UN Peacekeepers in Lebanon Risk Their Lives, but Still May Do More Harm Than Good

Jan. 27 2023

Last month an Irish member of the UN Interim Force in Lebanon (UNIFIL) was killed by Hizballah guerrillas who opened fire on his vehicle. To David Schenker, it is likely the peacekeeper was “assassinated” to send “a clear message of Hizballah’s growing hostility toward UNIFIL.” The peacekeeping force has had a presence in south Lebanon since 1978, serving first to maintain calm between Israel and the PLO, and later between Israel and Hizballah. But, Schenker explains, it seems to be accomplishing little in that regard:

In its biannual reports to the Security Council, UNIFIL openly concedes its failure to interdict weapons destined for Hizballah. While the contingent acknowledges allegations of “arms transfers to non-state actors” in Lebanon, i.e., Hizballah, UNIFIL says it’s “not in a position to substantiate” them. Given how ubiquitous UN peacekeepers are in the Hizballah heartland, this perennial failure to observe—let alone appropriate—even a single weapons delivery is a fair measure of the utter failure of UNIFIL’s mission. Regardless, Washington continues to pour hundreds of millions of dollars into this failed enterprise, and its local partner, the Lebanese Armed Forces.

Since 2006, UNIFIL patrols have periodically been subjected to Hizballah roadside bombs in what quickly proved to be a successful effort to discourage the organization proactively from executing its charge. In recent years, though, UN peacekeepers have increasingly been targeted by the terror organization that runs Lebanon, and which tightly controls the region that UNIFIL was set up to secure. The latest UN reports tell a harrowing story of a spike in the pattern of harassment and assaults on the force. . . .

Four decades on, UNIFIL’s mission has clearly become untenable. Not only is the organization ineffective, its deployment serves as a key driver of the economy in south Lebanon, employing and sustaining Hizballah’s supporters and constituents. At $500 million a year—$125 million of which is paid by Washington—the deployment is also expensive. Already, the force is in harm’s way, and during the inevitable next war between Israel and Hizballah, this 10,000-strong contingent will provide the militia with an impressive human shield.

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Read more at Tablet

More about: Hizballah, Lebanon, Peacekeepers, U.S. Foreign policy