|Professor of Religion
Departmental Area: Religion, Ethics, and Philosophy
Address: Department of Religion
For the 2015-16 academic year, I am a Ruth Meltzer Fellow at the Herbert D. Katz Center for Advanced Judaic Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. During this year, I am both finishing my long-gestating second book, The Perils of Covenant, and beginning a new project on the role played by the German philosophy G.W.F. Hegel in modern Jewish philosophy.
My publications over the last fifteen years have treated how Jews in the modern West have appropriated, and resisted appropriating, various ideas and arguments in the canon of modern Western philosophy, in the service of two interests that do not always mesh well with one another: articulating Jews’ commonality with Western culture, and articulating their difference from Western culture. My first book, Jewish Messianism and the History of Philosophy (Cambridge University Press, 2004), argued that a significant strand of thinkers in the modern Jewish philosophical canon—Hermann Cohen, Franz Rosenzweig, and Emmanuel Levinas, with some premonitions in the writings of Moses Maimonides—used the premises of various philosophical accounts of nonbeing and potentiality to ground their defense of the belief in a messiah who has not yet arrived. It received the inaugural Jordan Schnitzer Book Award in Philosophy and Jewish Thought from the Association of Jewish Studies in 2008, awarded to outstanding scholarship in that subfield published between 2004 and 2008. The forthcoming Perils of Covenant, comprised of several essays I have published over the last decade, is an argument that the so-called “covenant theology” that became popular in American Jewish thought after World War II, as a means of distinguishing Jews from secular culture, is politically obsolete these days, when Jews’ and Americans’ “enemies” are no longer godless communists but other religionists, and is philosophically powerless to deal with the suffering and evil that occurs in history.
I have also co-edited four books. Two of these are expressions of my deep love for my teachers: a reader of essays by David Novak (of the University of Toronto) entitled Tradition in the Public Square, and a volume of essays on the work of the late Edith Wyschogrod (or Rice University) entitled Saintly Influence. In addition, in April 2012, Cambridge University Press published The Cambridge History of Jewish Philosophy: The Modern Era, which is the most substantial multi-author volume to take a thematic approach to the field. In late 2013, Indiana University Press published Judaism, Liberalism, and Political Theology (co-edited with Randi Rashkover), a constellation of essays treating the relationship between Judaism and the political in the canons of modern Jewish philosophy, European "political theology," and scholarship on Judeophobia.
My CV, accessible from this page, lists my articles and sundry short pieces. I am happy to send copies of my work upon request to other scholars who do not have access to various databases, journals, or volumes.
REL3431 Critics of Religion
This course is an introduction to the major thinkers and texts in the critique of religion as it developed in the 19th and 20th centuries in the west. Beginning with Schleiermacher, the course moves on to consider the so-called “masters of suspicion” – Feuerbach, Marx, Nietzsche, and Freud. By means of a close examination of central texts, students explore the meaning of a critique of religion, the structure of religious consciousness, the place of religion with respect to other forms of culture, the problem of religion and alienation, and the possibility of a critical faith. Meets Liberal Studies: Ethics and Social Responsibility (ETH/SR).
REL 4304-4 / RLG5305-4 SEM. History of Rel.: Zionism & its Discontents Drs. Gonzalez & Kavka
This course is a survey of understandings of Zionism—broadly understood, the conviction that Jewish existence is always and everywhere the existence of a nation. The goals of the course are twofold. First, students will learn about the diversity of understandings of Zionism among Jews—especially Jews of different ethnic backgrounds—since the nineteenth century. Second, students will learn about the arguments about what Jewish existence could and should be that are found not only in critics of Zionists by non-Jews and Jewish non-Zionists or post-Zionists, but by other Jewish Zionists.
Requirements: regular participation in discussion, two seminar presentations, and one final paper on a topic reached in consultation with the instructors. This course fulfills the Department of Religion’s seminar requirement for religion majors.
During my time at FSU, I have taught the following courses (in addition to several reading courses in response to student requests):
- REL 3054 Critics of Religion
- REL 3112 Religion and Fantasy Literature
- REL 3194 Responses to the Holocaust
- REL 3607 The Jewish Tradition
- REL 4044 Majors Colloquium: What Is Religion?
- REL 4304/5305 American Judaism
- REL 4491/5497 God After Nietzsche
- REL 4491/6498 Pragmatism and Theology
- REL 4613/5616 Modern Judaism
- REL 4671/5675 Gender and Judaism
- REL 6498 Postmodern Ethics
- REL 6498 Phenomenology and Religion