Wednesday, November 02, 2005

A 'Search' for a Dead-End

In a review of “We Jews: who we are and what we should do”, by Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz ( - ‘if only Moses knew…’), Atlanta, Georgia, 1 November, Jay Michaelson writes:

“Only rarely does Steinsaltz attempt to give evidence for his assertions that there is an essential theocentrism to every Jewish soul. At one point, he claims that Marx, Freud, and Einstein demonstrate that, even absent a traditional Jewish culture or religiosity, a quintessentially Jewish "search for unifying principles" is inherent in every Jew. Setting aside the close familiarity with Jewish culture which all three thinkers did, in fact, possess, one could obviously ascribe the same "search" to Adam Smith, Immanuel Kant and, Stephen Hawking, none of whom were, or are, Jewish. Elsewhere, Steinsaltz attributes Jewish survival in diaspora to the Jewish aptitude for faith, even though he readily admits that most diaspora Jews assimilate into other cultures. Perhaps it goes without saying, though, that a committed, faithful Jew's analysis of the essence of Jewish identity will be colored less by empiricism than by faith and tradition—even if it pretends to be otherwise.”

My problem with treating human characteristics through dispersed generations (from Marx, mid-19th century to Einstein early-20th century) is that the ‘physics’ of such a transmission system sufficient to impose a similarity of thought on disparate people involved a ‘search for unifying principles’ is obscure to say the least. Hence, I find racial theories so absurd.

I agree with the reviewer's comment on Smith, Kant and Hawking. Smith considered the evolution of philosophy as arising from the search to explain discordant events that troubled those of a philosophical inclination. It had nothing to do with race; most philosophers were not Jewish and most had no 'connections' (hidden or otherwise) with each other.


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