Is There a Jewish Political Thought? The Medieval Case Reconsidered

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Abstract: Whether there exists a political thought that can be characterized as distinctly Jewish is not something that scholars have agreed upon. Educated opinions on this question have ranged from the claim that Judaism is inherently averse to dealing with political philosophy or unable to do so; to the claim that all Jewish philosophy, at least in medieval times, is political philosophy. This controversy will only be resolved, and Jewish political thought recognized and defined, if the Jewish tradition is excavated for political thought on its own terms, rather than on the terms of the Greek tradition. The Middle Ages present an ideal case study for our question, as this was both a golden age for Jewish philosophy, of which Jewish political philosophy is a branch, and the ultimate period in which to examine the terms of the Jewish tradition as it interacted with the Greek, Christian, and Muslim traditions.

Biography: Abraham Melamed was born in Israel in 1944. He is the director of the Center for the Study of Jewish Culture and holds the Wolfson Chair for Jewish Thought at the University of Haifa. He is the director of the Department of Jewish History and Thought and professor of Jewish philosophy, teaching medieval and early modern Jewish thoughtHis recently published books are: The Philosopher-King in Medieval and Renaissance Jewish Political Thought (SUNY, 2003); The Black in Jewish Culture: A History of the Other (Haifa University and Zemorah Bitan, 2002; [English version] Routledge-Curzon, 2003); and On the Shoulders of Giants: A History of the Debate between Moderns and Ancients in Medieval and Early Modern Jewish Thought (Bar-Ilan University, 2003). His latest book, The Myth of the Jewish Origins of Philosophy and Science: A History (Hebrew) was accepted for publication by Haifa University Press. Professor Melamed’s advanced course on Medieval Jewish Political Philosophy (3 volumes) for the Open University of Israel is now being prepared for publication. He lives in Zichron Yaakov, Israel, with his wife, who is a psychologist, and their three children.

Volume 1, Number 1 (Fall 2005) pp. 24-56