Topic outline

  • General

    One of the most influential Jewish thinkers of the 20th century, Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) has left his imprint on various domains of human intellectual and social endeavour, from poetry, theology and philosophy to political activism and interreligious dialogue. This course will focus on his religious philosophy that is not only a rational reflection on his religious commitment as a devout Jew, but it covers in a sense all areas of his life experience, which started in a Hasidic community in pre-war Warsaw, went on at the Berlin university and in Nazi Germany, and culminated in his life-long vocation of a professor in the Jewish Theological Seminary in New York.

     

    As might be clear from the syllabus, each session is devoted to specific topics highlighting different segments of Heschelʼs thought that have had their impact on the articulation of his philosophy. In the last four sessions the main principles of his general philosophy of religion and philosophy of Judaism will be discussed. Each title is illustrated with quotations from Heschelʼs texts that serve as the motto for the respective themes.

  • Topic 1

    October 6, 2017

     

    Who is A. J. Heschel?

    “I am a brand plucked from the fire…”

     

    Samuel H. Dresner, Heschel, Hasidism, and Halakha. New York, 2002, pp. 1-35

  • Topic 2

    October 20, 2017

     

    Heschel´s philosophy and theology

    “A philosophy that begins with radical doubt ends in radical despair.”

     

    Samuel H. Dresner, Heschel, Hasidism, and Halakha. New York, 2002, pp. 84-123

     

    Karl Grözinger, The Jewish Tradition in the Philosophy of A. J. Heschel, in: Abraham Joshua Heschel. Philosophy, Theology and Interreligious Dialogue. Wiesbaden 2009, pp. 29-35

     

    Edward K. Kaplan, Heschel as Philosopher: Phenomenology and the Rhetoric of Revelation, in: Modern Judaism, Volume 21, No 1, February 2001, pp.1-14

     

    Milan Lyčka, Abraham Heschel´s Philosophy of Judaism as a Phenomenology of Religion, in: Abraham Joshua Heschel. Philosophy, Theology and Interreligious Dialogue. Wiesbaden 2009, pp. 47-51

  • Topic 3

    October 27, 2017

     

    Phenomenological analysis of prophetic consciousness

    “Prophecy … may be described as exegesis of existence from a divine perspective.”

     

    David Novak, Heschel´s Phenomenology of Revelation, in: Abraham Joshua Heschel. Philosophy, Theology and Interreligious Dialogue. Wiesbaden 2009, pp. 37-46

     

    Abraham J. Heschel, The Prophets. New York, 2001, pp. 285-298; 318-357

  • Topic 4

    November 3, 2017

     

    Social action as a religious commitment

    “Few are guilty, all are responsible.”

     

    Abraham J. Heschel, Religion in a Free Society, in: Abraham J. Heschel, The Insecurity of Freedom. Essays on Human Existence. New York, 1967, pp. 3-23

     

    Abraham J. Heschel, No Religion Is an Island, in: Abraham J. Heschel, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity, New York, 1997, pp. 235-250

  • Topic 5

    November 10, 2017

     

    The Hasidic background of Heschel´s religious philosophy

    “The Baal Shem dwelled in my life like a lamp, while the Kotzker struck like lightning.”

     

    Samuel H. Dresner, Heschel, Hasidism, and Halakha. New York, 2002, pp. 36-83

     

    Samuel H. Dresner, Heschel as a Hasidic Scholar, in: Abraham J. Heschel, The Circle of the Baal Shem Tov. Studies in Hasidism. Chicago and London, 1985, pp. vii-xlv

     

    Milan Lyčka, A Quest for Holiness. The Hasidic Background of A. J. Heschel’s Philosophy of Religion (to be published in 2018)

  • Topic 6

    November 24, 2017

     

    The religious foundation of human existence

    “Religion is … an order of being, the holy dimension of existence.”

     

    Abraham J. Heschel, An Analysis of Piety, in: Review of Religion, IX (1942), pp. 293-307

     

    Abraham J. Heschel, The Holy Dimension, in: Abraham J. Heschel, Moral Grandeur and Spiritual Audacity, New York, 1997, pp. 318-327

  • Topic 7

    December 1, 2017

     

    Who is man?

    “If man is not more than human, then he is less than human.”

     

    Abraham J. Heschel, Who is Man? Stanford, 1978, pp. 18-32; 94-119

  • Topic 8

    December 8, 2017

     

    Man is not alone. Philosophy of religion: The problem of God

    “Philosophy begins with man´s question; religion begins with God´s question and man´s answer.”

     

    Abraham J. Heschel, Man is not Alone. A Philosophy of Religion. New York, 1966, pp. 3-56

  • Topic 9

    December 15, 2017

     

    Man is not alone. Philosophy of religion: The problem of living

    Happiness, in fact, may be defined as the certainty of being needed. But who is in need of man? … Man is needed, he is a need of God.”

     

    Abraham J. Heschel, Man is not Alone. A Philosophy of Religion. New York, 1966, pp. 179-215

  • Topic 10

    December 22, 2017

     

    God in search of man. Philosophy of Judaism: God and revelation

    “The central thought of Judaism is the living God.”

     

    Abraham J. Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism. New York, 1986, pp. 125-144; 257-278

  • Topic 11

    January 5, 2018

     

    God in search of man. Philosophy of Judaism: Response

    The beginning of awe is wonder, and the beginning of wisdom is awe.”

     

    Abraham J. Heschel, God in Search of Man: A Philosophy of Judaism. New York, 1986, pp. 281-313; 414-426