CFP: Pragmatism and Jewish Thought

Workshop at Yale University, April 7-8, 2019

Sponsored by the Yale Judaic Studies Program

Organized by Paul Franks and Nadav Berman Shifman

This workshop will focus on the possibility that there are illuminating connections between American Pragmatism and Jewish thought.  The development of Classical American Pragmatism by C. S. Peirce, William James, and John Dewey occurred during the period of mass Jewish immigration to the United States, and many Jewish thinkers have played roles in its inception and in its application.

Pragmatism emphasizes anti-foundationalism, the primacy of the social, fallibilism, democratic and humanistic pluralism, and the entanglement of fact and value. To what extent are these ideas addressed and developed in the works of Jewish thinkers? Those to be considered in this light may include Jewish thinkers who engage explicitly with Pragmatism – such as Hayyim Hirschensohn, Horace Kallen, Maurice Cohen, Nima (Hirschensohn) Adlerblum, Franz Rosenzweig, Sidney Hook, Mordecai Kaplan, Eliezer Berkovits, Hilary Putnam, Richard Bernstein, and Peter Ochs – as well as others who do not mention Pragmatism explicitly, if their thought may be illuminated by or illuminate Pragmatism. Are there significant connections, for example, between Halakhah and Pragmatist jurisprudence? Could Pragmatist currents in Sephardi Judaism challenge prevalent dichotomies between East and West? Could connections between Jewish thought and Pragmatism motivate a reconsideration of the supposed dichotomy between Jerusalem and Athens?

The workshop will take place at Yale University on April 7-8, 2019.

Invited speakers are:

* Dr. Hannah E. Hashkes: “The Halakhic Decisor and Truth in a Community of Inquiry: Halakhic Authority as a Test Case”. Hashkes is the author of Rabbinic Discourse as a System of Knowledge (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2015). Her PhD dissertation (The Hebrew University of Jerusalem, 2004) examined Rorty’s post-modernism along with classical American Pragmatism.

* Dr. Yonatan Y. Brafman, “Contingency and Critique: The Consequences of Neopragmatism for Modern Jewish Thought”. Brafman is Assistant Professor of Jewish Thought and Ethics and Director of the MA Program in Jewish Ethics at the Jewish Theological Seminary of America. He is the author of Critical Theory of Halakha (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, forthcoming).

We seek to bring together those who work on Jewish philosophy and those who work on American pragmatism, to create a vibrant intellectual forum for inter-disciplinary discussion. If you would like to present a paper at the workshop, please send a 300 word abstract and a C.V. to by December 15th.