ABSTRACT

In this chapter we shall discuss Jewish philosophy within the milieus of the prevailing Islamic and Christian civilizations up to about the eighteenth century. The reason is primarily that practicing Jews during these times found themselves partly or wholly segregated, and classified as belonging to their religious tradition. It is true that they were often able to play a leading role in the professional and mercantile life of these wider civilizations (a fact which gave them the wealth to patronize such activities as philosophy). Nevertheless, there was a sufficient degree of segregation and separate interest for it to make sense to treat Jewish philosophy separately. In the modern period, after the re-entry of Jews into the main stream of Western life it makes much less sense to talk of Jewish philosophy, though I shall be noting ways in which a specifically Jewish worldview is defended and articulated in modern circumstances (for instance, through work of Moses Mendelssohn and Franz Rosenzweig).