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Colgate University (Hamilton, NY 13346-1338)
Jonathan A. Jacobs (Project Director: March 2009 to March 2011)

Seminars for Higher Education Faculty
Education Programs

$137,528 (approved)
$137,528 (awarded)

Grant period:
10/1/2009 – 9/30/2010

Free Will and Human Perfection in Medieval Jewish Philosophy

A five-week college and university teacher seminar for sixteen participants to explore key elements of medieval Jewish moral thought, focusing on the works of Saaida Gaon and Moses Maimonides.

The seminar explores key elements of medieval Jewish moral thought, focusing on the works of Saadia Gaon and Moses Maimonides. We will examine their conceptions of the rational justification of commandments in Torah, their conceptions of free will, moral responsibility, the virtues, and the highest end for a human being. Also, we will explore key texts of Anselm and Aquinas, to highlight contrasts with influential Christian thought on some of the issues. The seminar will show the importance and relevance of medieval Jewish thought to central, enduring problems of moral theorizing. It will enlarge participants' knowledge of the history of philosophy and add texture and substance to their appreciation of important conceptions of the relation between reason and revelation. The nature and role of tradition, and the issue of the relation between a particular faith-community (and its tradition) and the universal validity of moral requirements are topics of special interest.