Essay on Jewish Philosophers on Reason and Revelation

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Jewish Philosophers on Reason and Revelation
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ABSTRACT: Are reason and revelation different sources of truth? Do they contradict or complement each other? The present essay tries to give an answer to these ancient questions from a Jewish pluralistic point of view. I describe the essential views of the most important representatives of the two main schools of Jewish thought: the rationalists Maimonides, Moses Mendelssohn, and Hermann Cohen, and the antirationalists Judah Halevi and Solomon Levi Steinheim. I show that even the antirationalists use the tools of rationalism, by which Talmudic-rabbinic thought is characterized, in an attempt to show that they are not irrationalists. The comparison of this attitude
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Hegel, though agreeing with the necessity of both approaches, emphasizes the decisive role of philosophy, because according to him the absolute spirit reaches it's highest level only in the pure form of thought, while religion is the presentation of spirit as mere feeling. As opposed to these two thinkers, who hold that religion and philosophy are two independently legitimate ways of recognizing truth, there are other philosophers (such as Thomas Aquinas), who are of the opinion that philosophy can only prove certain principles while other principles can only be proven by revelation. And finally there are those thinkers who espouse a complete dichotomy between the theological and philosophical approches.

Theologians like Karl Barth, Schleiermacher and others speak about the priority of belief, while philosophers like Kant and others speek about that of reason.(1) Our main question is if reason is capable of making decisive statements in the mundus sensibilis ac intelligibilis. Perhaps our faculty of reason can only be used in the realm of the mundus sensibilis, as Kant holds, and as a result the metaphysical world is left to our beliefs.(2) Or may be, we should leave this Kantian notion after Feuerbach and Nietzsche and accept Wittgenstein's advice to keep silent about matters which we cannot comprehend?

The Rationalistic School

In order to attempt at giving an answer to the aforementioned questions, I now turn to the
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