Center for Interdisciplinary Study of Monotheistic Religions(CISMOR)Doshisha University

> Past Research Activities > Presentation 1: A Genealogical Counterpoint of the Contemporary Jewish Ethics Presentation 2: Judaism and Islam as a Constitution- An Approach from the Greek Idea of Politeia

Past Research Activities

Project 1: Study Meeting #6

Presentation 1: A Genealogical Counterpoint of the Contemporary Jewish Ethics Presentation 2: Judaism and Islam as a Constitution- An Approach from the Greek Idea of Politeia

Date: 2011/01/23 9:00 − 12:00
Place: Conference Room, Kouen-kan B1F, Imadegawa Campus, Doshisha University
  • Presentation 1: Masato Goda, Professor, Meiji University
  • Presentation 2: Hiroshi Ichikawa, Professor, The University of Tokyo
  • Presentation 1: Yasuhiko Sugimura, Associate Professor, Kyoto University
  • Presentation 2: Yuu Takeuchi, Associate Professor, Kumamoto University
In the morning of the 2nd day of the conference, Professor Masato Goda and Professor Hiroshi Ichikawa made presentations. In his presentation, Professor Goda discussed controversies regarding contemporary Jewish ethics. The year 2011 marks the 50th anniversary of the publication of Totality and Infinity, authored by Emmanuel Lévinas, a Jewish philosopher of French nationality. On this occasion, he reread this work, and in this presentation, attempted to shed light on the state of Jewish ethics that have developed centering on the question of “Who is my neighbor?” by comparing the 17th century philosopher Spinoza with Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, and Lévinas, thinkers active in the 19th to 20th centuries.
He began his lecture by noting that Lévinas had found Spinoza’s “idea of conatus” egoistic and thus requested that engagement with others be placed at the foundation of ethics. Spinoza argued that only the brethren of Israel could be called “neighbors” in his A Theologico-Political Treatise, but he was fundamentally wrong in his understanding of Judaism, and he should be labeled as a betrayer for letting such misunderstanding prevail.
Hermann Cohen, in his On Judaism, criticized Spinoza’s understanding of neighbors for being biased, and argued that neighbors, too, could be taken as “others.” This means while “neighbors” are “others,” “strangers,” and “aliens,” they can be “brethren” under certain circumstances. In Totality and Infinity, Lévinas criticized the deficiency of the idea of “correlation” without naming Cohen. who invented the idea. However, Lévinas seemed to share something in common with Cohen in his exploration of the question “Who is my neighbor?”, especially in the way he used some keywords.
As well, The Star of Redemption authored by Rosenzweig addresses the notion of “neighbors and strangers” presented by Cohen. According to Professor Goda, Lévinas, in the process of expanding the concept of neighbors to include all of humanity, took note of the ideas of “third parties” and of the conjunction “and” (und), which originated in Rosenzweig, and, based on the latter idea, criticized the ethics behind the preposition “with” (mit) as used by Cohen.
Then followed a presentation by Professor Ichikawa, who argued that Jewish and Muslim communities are governed by theocracy where everyday life is ruled by law that is a manifestation of the will of God, and that the ideas behind these “religions” are somewhat similar to the ancient Greek idea of Politeia. In the Western world, there has been a distinction between political and religious communities, and how these two communities could be harmonized has been a historically important theme. However, such a distinction seems to be irrelevant to Judaism and Islam.
Professor Ichikawa pointed to the fact that Israeli researchers specializing in Islam have their own particular way of discussing Islam. They tend to explain the characteristics of this religion by applying the theory of Judaism, while referring to such topics as a religion as a divine law directly from God, canonical scriptures comprised of texts and oral traditions, the development of law, and the categorization of all actions. He then looked to theocracy, a religious structure commonly seen in Judaism and Islam, giving focus to the establishment of the concept of theocracy in Judaism. According to him, through contacts with Greece and Rome, Jews built up an awareness of their own special social system, which gave rise to a new word, Judaismos, and also led to the emergence of the idea of the “yoke of Heaven’s rule,” which can be translated into “obligations of the kingdom of God.” Clearly, this marked a return to the idea of Politeia. The concept of theocracy, with the idea of the “yoke of Heaven’s rule” behind it, is characteristic of the Rabbinic Judaism that was established around the period of the destruction of the temple, and such a concept could be new to history, said Professor Ichikawa.
Christianity, which emerged from Judaism, seems to have changed in nature from a religion in the sense of Politeia into a religion in a narrower sense, whether naturally or intentionally, as it was propagated to the Greek and Roman worlds. In the wake of the rise of Christianity, Jews faced a problem pertaining to spreading their faith among the gentiles. In this sense, the question of “Who is my neighbor?” raised in Luke was a question that had to be answered by Jews. In other words, a modern question of whether the gentiles should be accepted as gentiles or heretics, or whether they should be converted to Judaism and assimilated into Jewish society was recognized already in those days.
Professor Sugimura, who was present at the conference as a commentator asked questions about the possibility of translating the Jewish ethics that explore “Who is my neighbor?” and also about the genealogy from Spinoza to Nietzsche.
Another commentator, Professor Takeuchi, argued that the idea of Politeia is applicable to many different societies and thus may not be compatible with the unique Jewish community that is founded solely on God. He also maintained that, in Christianity, the denial did not extend to the concept of law as a philosophy or purpose. After discussion on these topics, Professor Ichikawa interestingly concluded that the two presentations addressed different periods of time—ancient and modern/contemporary, but both shared the same question, “Who is my neighbor?”
Kotaro Hiraoka
(Graduate Student of School of Theology, Doshisha University)