10555 Religion and State: Philosophical Aspects 1

Credits: 6 advanced credits in Philosophy

Prerequisites: 36 credits, including one of the following: Problems in Moral Philosophy or Introduction to Political Thought. Students must also fulfill all English requirements and take bibliographic instruction in the Library.

Author: Elazar Weinryb

The course aims at providing an understanding of contemporary political thought, in order to shed light on the religion-state relationship which is one of the pressing problems on Israel’s public agenda. It also enhances the student’s ability to read contemporary philosophic material. While only touching on Jewish philosophy, it focuses on four approaches: political liberalism of “late” Rawls; communitarianism; perfectionist liberalism of Joseph Raz; and the multi-cultural approach. The course examines the concept of toleration and discusses its relationship with the concepts of human dignity and autonomy as basic values in the liberal philosophic tradition.

Topics: Characterization of religion; Various types of pluralism – pluralism resulting from reasonable disagreement (Rawls) vs. pluralism stemming from incommensurability (Berlin and Raz); Compromise and silencing; The equal opportunity principle, the problem of compensation for arbitrary disadvantage and the role of religion in considerations of justice; Hypothetical contract theory – Rawls and Scanlon; Rawls’ argument in favor of freedom of religion and conscience; The state’s neutrality and the separation of religion and state; The concept of public reason; Communitarian critics of Rawls; Perfectionism according to Aristotle and Maimonides; The ideal of personal autonomy (according to Kant, Mill and Raz); Raz’s perfectionist liberalism; The concepts of toleration and human dignity; Autonomy, toleration, human dignity and religion; The multi-cultural perspective and its implications for the rights of religious minorities.

1Students may write a seminar paper in this course, although it is not required.

There is some overlap in the content of this and other courses. For details, see Overlapping Courses.