Philosophy of the Talmud
By Hyam Maccoby
Routledge – 2002 – 240 pages
Series: Routledge Jewish Studies Series
This is a new presentation of the philosophy of the Talmud. The Talmud is not a work of formal philosophy, but much of what it says is relevant to philosophical enquiry, including issues explored in contemporary debates. In particular, the Talmud has original ideas about the relation between universal ethics and the ethics of a particular community. This leads into a discussion on the relation between morality and ritual, and also about the epistemological role of tradition.
The book explains the paradoxes of Talmudic Judaism as arising from a philosophy of revolution, stemming from Jewish origins as a band of escaped slaves, determined not to reproduce the slave-society of Egypt. From this arises a daring humanism, and an emphasis on justice in this world rather than on other-worldly spirituality. A strong emphasis on education and the cultivation of rationality also stems from this. Governing the discussion is a theory of logic that differs significantly from Greek logic. Talmudic logic is one of analogy, not classification and is peculiarly suited to discussions of moral and legal human situations.
This book will be of interest to those in the fields of philosophy, religion and the history of ideas, whether students, teachers and academics, or the interested general reader.
Preface and Acknowledgements 1. Does the Talmud Contain Philosophy? 2. The Aggadah as a Source of Philosophy 3. The Talmud and Moral Theory 4. The Rabbinic Social Contract 5. Judaism and Revolution 6. Revolutionary Thought in the Rabbinic Writings 7. The Problem of Morality I 8. The Problem of Morality II 9. Transgressional Sacralism 10. Absolute Values in Talmudic Judaism 11. Political Theory in Torah and Talmud 12. Rabbinic Epistemology 13. The Day God Laughed 14. Talmudic Logic 15. Two Modern Talmudic Thinkers Appendix A Qal va-chomer^n in Aggadah Appendix B Talmudic Rectification of Abuses References Index of Quotations General Index
Hyam Maccoby is Professor of Jewish Stuides at the University of Leeds. He has published many books and articles on rabbinic literature, Christian origins, and the origins of antisemitism.