Sunday, December 16, 2007

God, Man and Nietzsche

- Sponsored Review -
Learn more about God, Man and Nietzsche: A Startling Dialogue between Judaism and Modern Philosophers by Zev Golan here

One of the important innovations of Existentialist Philosophers was in radically changing the topics of discussion from those of classical philosophy. In doing so, it not only added new topics but also fresh perspectives that gave new answers to standard questions of philosophy. For Jewish philosophy, Existentialism offers the same opportunities to look at life from a fresh perspective and to evaluate age-old questions in a new light. But are these new approaches and conclusions compatible with Judaism? Various Jewish philosophers have tried to apply the approaches of Existentialism to Judaism--a few notable examples being Franz Rosenzweig, Martin Buber and R. Joseph B. Soloveitchik.

In a recent book, God, Man and Nietzsche, Zev Golan sets out to examine some of the specific approaches of Existentialists and both compare and contrast them with traditional Jewish texts. In chapters with titles such as "The Eternal Occurrence: A Dialogue between Nietzsche and Kabbalah" and "The Gates of Eden: God and Evil, Man and Evil: A Dialogue between Schelling Luria and Maimonides", Golan extracts corresponding concepts and approaches in Existentialism and Judaism, showing where they are similar and different, and where Existentialists may have gone on a different path had they been more familiar with Jewish texts. In the process, Golan builds his own Existentialist description of Judaism, utilizing Kabbalah in particular.

It is this last aspect that leaves me a little concerned. I am insufficiently qualified to evaluate how accurately Golan represents Kabbalah and much of Jewish philosophy. Most of his readings are deep and one wonders whether this depth is on the entire literature or merely on a single passage, thus perhaps being a misrepresentation of the general thrust due to an over-reliance on a single passage. I simply don't know. One generally relies on the scholarship of an author but in this case I am unfamiliar with the author's qualifications.

Regardless, the book is a breath of fresh air. It is written with extreme care but is not overly complicated. In the areas in which I had pre-existing thoughts, I found Golan to be accurate and to carefully avoid common pitfalls. For example, when discussing Quantum Mechanics and its implications on Free Will, Golan is careful to note that human beings do not live in the quantum realm and he therefore proceeds very carefully and works hard to make his argument viable. And his one mention of R. Soloveitchik (p. 61), regarding repentance and the future determining the past, was an insightful reading that I had not previously appreciated.

You can learn more about the book here: link

Twitter Delicious Facebook Digg Favorites More