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The Legacy of Liberal Judaism

Ernst Cassirer and Hannah Arendt's Hidden Conversation

Ned Curthoys

246 pages, bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-007-8 $120.00/£75.00 Hb Published (October 2013)

ISBN  978-1-78533-216-6 $29.95/£18.50 Pb Published (February 2016)

eISBN 978-1-78238-008-5 eBook

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“Most readers will finish this work with a renewed appreciation of the continuing significance of the moral vision articulated by these exemplars of liberal Judaism.” · Choice

“…this work is a fascinating revisionist intellectual history of its two key authors and of Judaism in the twentieth century, and one rich in avenues for further research.” · American Historical Review

“…an important [book], overflowing with worthwhile ideas and based upon good reading and research… Curthoys’ main theme is succinctly expressed and painfully relevant.” · European Judaism

“The book then provides various interesting challenges to scholarship on Arendt, as well as the material on thinkers brought together here as part of the tradition of Liberal Judaism. All this make The Legacy of Liberal Judaism of relevance beyond an exclusively scholarly debate.” · Patterns of Prejudice

“This is an important fresh look at modern intellectual history at the interface of philosophy and Jewish thought. It has a persuasive line of argument and illuminating discussions of the subject. It adds a crucial strand to the weave of modern intellectual history and argues that, unless close attention is paid to the dimension of Jewish thought in this project, this history remains misunderstood.” · Willi Goetschel, University of Toronto

“This is a very sharp and insightful intellectual history of the relationship between Liberal Judaism, a world view that stressed Enlightenment rationalism and universalism, along with ethical monotheism, and two important twentieth century German thinkers, Ernst Cassirer and Hannah Arendt.” · Richard H. King, Nottingham University

Comparing the liberal Jewish ethics of the German-Jewish philosophers Ernst Cassirer and Hannah Arendt, this book argues that both espoused a diasporic, worldly conception of Jewish identity that was anchored in a pluralist and politically engaged interpretation of Jewish history and an abiding interest in the complex lived reality of modern Jews. Arendt’s indebtedness to liberal Jewish thinkers such as Moses Mendelssohn, Abraham Geiger, Hermann Cohen, and Ernst Cassirer has been obscured by her modernist posture and caustic critique of the assimilationism of her German-Jewish forebears. By reorienting our conception of Arendt as a profoundly secular thinker anchored in twentieth century political debates, we are led to rethink the philosophical, political, and ethical legacy of liberal Jewish discourse.

Ned Curthoys is a Senior Lecturer in English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia. He has co-edited two edited collections, Edward Said: the Legacy of a Public-Intellectual (Melbourne University Press, 2007) and Representing Humanity in the Age of Enlightenment (Pickering and Chatto, 2013) and has contributed to journals including Theory and Event, Comparative Literature Studies, Intellectual History Review and Journal of Genocide Research.

Subject: Jewish Studies General History

LC: BM197 .C87 2013

BL: YC.2014.a.1448

BISAC: HIS022000 HISTORY/Jewish; POL042000 POLITICAL SCIENCE/Political Ideologies/General; PHI000000 PHILOSOPHY/General

BIC: JFSR1 Jewish studies; HP Philosophy




Chapter 1. ‘This Man of Our Destiny’: Moses Mendelssohn, Nathan the Wise, and the emergence of a Liberal Jewish Ethos
Chapter 2. Diasporic Visions:  the emergence of Liberal Judaism
Chapter 3. Abraham Geiger: Rabbi and Writer
Chapter 4. Hermann Cohen’s Prophetic Judaism
Chapter 5. Ernst Cassirer and the Ethical Legacy of Hermann Cohen
Chapter 6. Ernst Cassirer: The Enlightenment as Counter-History
Chapter 7. Hannah Arendt: The Task of the Historian
Chapter 8. Hannah Arendt: A Question of Character

Conclusion: The Legacies of Liberal Judaism


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