Rice University Department of Religion

Jewish Thought and Philosophy

This area of concentration in training for the Ph.D. ranges over all genres of Jewish thought as it intersects with philosophical inquiry and the history of philosophy. Questions about ethics, metaphysics, poetics, politics, theology, hermeneutics, and cultural criticism are central to understanding how Jewish thinkers read philosophy and how philosophy treats the Jews and Judaism.

The goal of the program is to enable students to teach both Judaism and philosophy of religion as well as to pursue innovative research on Jewish thought with theoretical sophistication and in its historical context. Objectives of study include the acquisition of a broad knowledge of the history of Jews and Judaism as well as philosophical texts and methods. Research agendas will primarily involve important thinkers, major books, or topical issues.

Coursework and research projects will include medieval thinkers such as Saadya Gaon, Judah Halevi and Moses Maimonides; modern thinkers such as Baruch Spinoza, Moses Mendelssohn, and Franz Rosenzweig; and recent thinkers such as Emmanuel Levinas, Leo Strauss, and Rachel Adler. Study of biblical and rabbinical era texts, from Job to Philo, is also incorporated. Work on a variety of Hellenistic, Islamic, Christian, continental European, and analytic philosophers, texts and schools will provide frameworks for assessing the influences of philosophy on Jewish thought and the contributions that Jews and Judaism have made to philosophical studies.

Due to a wide array of valuable resources at Rice, this concentration welcomes students with research interests ranging from medieval Judeo-Arabic to modern European to contemporary American Jewish thought. Students with additional interests in mysticism and esotericism, racial and ethnic identity, and evil and violence will benefit especially from the curriculum and faculty expertise. We also offer unique research opportunities in Holocaust and genocide studies. Rice offers instruction in Hebrew, Arabic, and relevant European languages.

In addition to Assistant Professor Brian Ogren, who specializes in early modern Jewish thought, with a research emphasis on philosophy and kabbalah during the Italian Renaissance, Rice boasts several faculty members who would contribute to training in Jewish thought and philosophy. They include Matthias Henze (Hebrew Bible and Second Temple Judaism), David Cook (Judeo-Arabic, Islam), April DeConick (New Testament and early Christianity), John Stroup (modern Christianity), Paula Sanders (Islamic-Jewish history), Jack Zammito (intellectual history), Mark Kulstad (modern philosophy), Steven Crowell (phenomenology), and others.