The vibrant culture of the West—its distinctive religious and political traditions, philosophical and scientific inquiries, and literary and artistic modes of imagination— springs from the creative tension between Hebraic and Greek thought. We cannot understand the challenges of the present or chart a path into the future without returning to these two intertwined roots of our civilization. What do Greek and Jewish approaches to the fundamental human problems—of life and death, war and peace, family and friendship, love and loss, justice and cruelty, hope and history— have in common? Where do they diverge? How do these ancient traditions help us to identify, and begin to correct, the errors of modern life and thought?
The books of the Greek philosophers, the Hebrew Bible or Tanakh, and the writings of the rabbis all contain profound teachings on the origins and purposes of law, the nature of moral virtue, wisdom, and holiness, and the importance of law and virtue for human flourishing. This course brings those teachings into conversation. What is the good life for human beings? What is virtue, and what role do the virtues play in the good life? Which virtues are most important? Why do human beings need law?
What are the authoritative foundations of law, and what are its aims? What is the relationship between law, holiness, and virtue? Is politics part of the good life, or merely a precondition for it? Can a community thrive without a meaningful connection to G-d or the gods? These are some of the questions we shall explore in this course.
Rabbi Mark Gottlieb
Rabbi Mark Gottlieb is Senior Director of the Tikvah Fund and founding Dean of the Tikvah Institute for High School Students at Yale University. Prior to joining Tikvah, Rabbi Gottlieb served as Head of School at Yeshiva University High School for Boys and Principal of the Maimonides School in Brookline, MA, and has taught at The Frisch School, Ida Crown Jewish Academy, Hebrew Theological College, Loyola University in Chicago, and the University of Chicago. He received his BA from Yeshiva College, rabbinical ordination from the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, and an MA in Philosophy from the University of Chicago, where his doctoral studies focused on the moral and political thought of Alasdair MacIntyre. Rabbi Gottlieb is a member of the Orthodox Forum Steering Committee and serves on the Editorial Committee of Tradition: A Journal of Orthodox Jewish Thought. He lives in Teaneck, NJ, with his wife and family.
Dr. Jacob Howland
Jacob Howland is McFarlin Professor of Philosophy (emeritus) at the University of Tulsa. He earned a BA from Swarthmore College and a PhD from Penn State. His research focuses on ancient Greek philosophy, history, epic, and tragedy; the Hebrew Bible and the Talmud; Kierkegaard; and literary and philosophical responses to the Holocaust and Soviet totalitarianism. His most recent book is Glaucon’s Fate: History, Myth, and Character in Plato’s Republic (Paul Dry, 2018). His other books include Plato and the Talmud (Cambridge University Press, 2011) and Kierkegaard and Socrates: A Study in Philosophy and Faith (Cambridge University Press, 2006).
Dr. Jonathan Yudelman
Jonathan Yudelman is currently a Thomas W. Smith Postdoctoral Research Associate at the James Madison Program at Princeton University, and in 2021-2022 will be a postdoctoral fellow at the Program on Constitutional Government, Harvard University. His main area of research is ancient and modern political theory and the early modern origins of liberalism. He earned a PhD from Boston College in political science, and holds an MA in philosophy and a BA in Jewish thought, both from the Hebrew University. He has written on cultural, political, and religious issues in the American Mind, Azure, City Journal, First Things, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and other publications.
Director, Tikvah Scholars Program