Pragmatism and Jewish Thought
Workshop at Yale University, April 7-8, 2019
Sponsored by the Yale Judaic Studies Program
Organized by Paul Franks and Nadav Berman Shifman
This workshop will focus on the possibility that there are illuminating connections between American Pragmatism and Jewish thought. The development of Classical American Pragmatism by C. S. Peirce, William James, and John Dewey occurred during the period of mass Jewish immigration to the United States, and many Jewish thinkers have played roles in its inception and in its application.
Pragmatism emphasizes anti-foundationalism, the primacy of the social, fallibilism, democratic and humanistic pluralism, and the entanglement of fact and value. To what extent are these ideas addressed and developed in the works of Jewish thinkers? Those to be considered in this light may include Jewish thinkers who engage explicitly with Pragmatism – such as Hayyim Hirschensohn, Horace Kallen, Maurice Cohen, Nima (Hirschensohn) Adlerblum, Franz Rosenzweig, Sidney Hook, Mordecai Kaplan, Eliezer Berkovits, Hilary Putnam, Richard Bernstein, and Peter Ochs – as well as others who do not mention Pragmatism explicitly, if their thought may be illuminated by or illuminate Pragmatism. Are there significant connections, for example, between Halakhah and Pragmatist jurisprudence? Could Pragmatist currents in Sephardi Judaism challenge prevalent dichotomies between East and West? Could connections between Jewish thought and Pragmatism motivate a reconsideration of the supposed dichotomy between Jerusalem and Athens?