Modernity is often thought of as characterized by a series of contradictions: freedom vs. order, religion vs. culture, morality vs. freedom, and tradition vs. progress. Many liberals and conservatives establish their political positions by placing emphasis on one category at the expense of another, and many Jewish and Christian scholars argue that a good life involves achieving the right balance or relationship between these categories.
But are these concepts really contradictions? Or are they mutually dependent upon one another? And if they are mutually dependent, why do they seem to conflict so often?
This course will examine the question of what it means to be religious and cultured in the West. It will consider how Western Civilization created unique poetic and philosophical approaches to these concepts, as well as how their development created serious crises for religious and traditional individuals. It will examine how great minds have grappled with these crises, and how we might chart a new way forward by reexamining the origins of religion and culture and their relevance to our rapidly changing world.
Throughout our discussions, we will address the following questions: What does it mean to be religious? What does it mean to be cultured? How are religion and culture related to each other? What is tradition? What is progress? Are tradition and progress compatible with each other?
Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin
Rabbi Mitchell Rocklin serves as the president of the Jewish Coalition for Religious Liberty and is also a resident research fellow at the Tikvah Fund. He received his PhD in history from the CUNY Graduate Center, held postdoctoral fellowships at Princeton University and Yeshiva University, and taught at both CUNY and Princeton. He is also a Chaplain in the Army National Guard with the rank of Major. Rabbi Rocklin has served as a member of the Rabbinical Council of America’s Executive Committee and Military Chaplaincy Committee, and as a congregational rabbi in Connecticut. His writings have appeared in a number of publications, including The Los Angeles Times, National Review Online, The Daily Wire, The Forward, The Public Discourse, and Mosaic.
Director, Tikvah Scholars Program