Jewish Philosophy: Perspectives and Retrospectives

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Generally, such a belief is based on tradition and on interpretations of Holy Scriptures, which are not indisputable Mirmoosavi In the human rights mission, religion has played its part right from the start in two ways.

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First, freedom of worship or non worship is one of the fundamental human freedoms. Strikingly, realisation of this freedom is particularly problematic in a multi-religious context as absolutism easily permeates organised Faith. Secondly, religion, with all that belongs to it, i. People determined to discriminate or even kill others for religious reasons, collide with human rights. Indeed, fossilisation of a certain cultural context from the past runs the inherent risk of incompatibility with current human rights standards.

Moreover, contemporary religion may be subject to socio-political manipulation. For instance, right after the Rwandan genocide, Justin Hakizimana, an elder in the Presbyterian Church, observed that the church and the government had become too close: The church went hand in hand with the politics of Habyarimana. We did not condemn what was going on because we were corrupted. None of our churches, especially the Catholics, has condemned the massacres.

That is why all the church leaders have fled, because they believe they may be in trouble with their own people. McCullum, 73 The corruption of religious institutions here described is a gradual process that may strongly embarrass people retrospectively.

This was strikingly expressed in the reaction of Reverend Mugamera, who lost his whole family his wife and six children in the Rwandan bloodshed: Why did the message of the gospel fail to reach the people who were baptised? What did we lose? We lost our lives. We lost our credibility. We are ashamed.

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We are weak. But, most of all, we lost our prophetic mission. We could not go to the President and tell him the truth because we became sycophants to the authorities. We have had killings here since No one condemned them. During the First Republic, they killed slowly, slowly, but no one from the churches spoke out.


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No one spoke on behalf of those killed. During the Second Republic, there were more killings and more people were tortured and raped and disappeared; and we did not speak out because we were comfortable. Now there has to be a new start, a new way. The Bible does not know Hutu and Tutsi; neither should we. McCullum 75 Who would deny a crucial role for human rights in such a new start after genocide? Indeed, religion per se appeared to be insufficiently equipped to deal with the politically inspired processes of exclusion us, not them!

Mutually Exclusive or Supportive? In fact, justifications for continuing violations of human rights in the name of religion tend to come from alliances of politicians with radical exclusivist religious leaders as opposed to moderate religious establishments — be it Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Buddhist or whatever religion. Religion is, indeed, subject to strong political manipulation.

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The strategic question is how to avoid clashes between religion and human rights effectively. Actually, that whole incident is just one of numerous illustrations of the tremendous challenges of rooting the global human rights mission in distinct local realities. One conclusion, then, refers to religion as being subject to both ideologisation and institutionalisation. Gorbachev, this glasnost of yours, as I understand it hopefully correctly , is an idea for just outside the church? Religion needs human rights — including the fundamental freedom to critique power. Training programmes for human rights monitors were set up all over the country.

Would such a response lead to better protection against ethnicism, structural discrimination, and genocide than the teaching of the churches had apparently failed to offer? A sceptical undertone is already detectable in the question itself.

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The global human rights project possesses its own institutions: inter-governmental and non-governmental centres, complaints procedures with commissions, committees and courts of law, training programmes and academic teaching courses. It is precisely as such a new religion—which, implicitly, one would be free to either adopt or reject—that human rights loses its appeal as a truly global justice venture.

The real challenge remains, however, to get the global faith in a dignified and well-protected existence for everyone, rooted in all hearts and minds. Yet, as people do not usually learn human rights out of books, this tends to entail periods of sharp confrontation with the powers that be, as the recent Arab Spring has markedly illustrated. It is, indeed, the context that tends to determine whether religion and human rights manifest themselves as mutually exclusive or supportive. Inescapably, in other words, the nature of that relationship remains dialectical.

De Gaay, Fortman, B. Groot, H. Jansen, and H. De Gaay Fortman, B.

De Swaan, A. Fukuyama, F. Hoffmann, S. McCullum, H. Geneva: WCC Publications. Lasch, C. Leary, V. Mirmoosavi, A. Martens and M. Rawls, J. Wronka, J. At the same time, in relation to its quasi-autobiographical elements, Montefiore combines this study with the more personal and possibly even more vexed question of defining Jewish identity. And one of the central retrospective elements is his coming to understand his earlier philosophical preoccupations as a conceptually refined mirroring, whether conscious or not, of his real life struggles with this more personal question - as Montefiore puts it, "philosophy may very often start before it knows itself as philosophy" ix.

While the book is relatively short, it is multi-faceted, with the material therefore so difficult to contain that Montefiore appends an extended postscript to deal further with some of the philosophical issues bubbling beneath -- sometime overflowing onto -- the surface. But this is not accidental. It reflects an "anticompartmentalizing view of philosophy" x , a view that emerges fully as the book develops, whereby philosophy is characterized by its "ultimate lack of any sharp boundaries" In a sense this is likely to be at once the book's greatest strength and greatest weakness, depending on the reader's own philosophical sensibility.


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Nailing my colors to the flag, Montefiore's general view is one that I share, and thus while the book may strike some as overambitious, I found it to be a fascinatingly nuanced, dignified and, at certain points, even quite moving account of these complex and in the Jewish case often emotive issues. At the most mundane level the "fact" that I am a university professor commits me to, for example, turning up to teach certain classes at certain times.

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In this way, facts regarding personal identity can clearly be seen to yield obligations. But we each wear many such hats that bring specific obligations in their wake. Montefiore's question turns on whether any hat "can ever be so tightly attached to a person's head as to make it impossible to conceive of him or her without it" While admitting that it makes no sense to view certain biological facts about us as mere hats of choice, many of our social roles are of precisely this nature: I can decide to take them on, and can equally re-assess such decisions, with all of the attendant consequences.

The central question that is formulated and reformulated, at times a little repetitiously, throughout the chapter and the remainder of the book pertains to how Jewish identity fits into this picture.