New Books in Philosophy

I enjoyed having the chance to talk about my new book with Bob Talisse on the podcast New Books in philosophy! 


s. wallerstein said...

Great interview!

I can sympathize with your childrens' experience in Jewish religious school

I was sent to Jewish religious school in the 2nd grade. As you say, the teacher teaches Moses receiving the 10 commandments just as a history teacher in public school might teach the signing of the Declaration of Independence.

I was thrown out numerous times for arguing with the teacher, sometimes very scornfully on my part, even for arguing with the rabbi. I considered them to be idiots and I told them so. They did seem like very stupid people to me and still do: while in public school I had some very bright teachers, I had none in Jewish religious school.

My father was a big man on the board of the synagogue, so each time I was thrown out, he got me back in. He was not a religious person himself (my mother is slightly religious, but not excessively), but they both considered that belonging to a synagogue was very important and that I should follow their steps. Since the last time I was obliged by them to attend synagogue, about 55 years ago, I have not set foot in one.

My nephew will be a father soon, and I'll forward him the podcast to listen to.

Jean Kazez said...

Hi Amos, Thanks for listening! One of the problems is that the teachers were not at all sophisticated about religion, so couldn't leave it ambiguous what kind of "truth" they were teaching. My kids' teacher was in fact a cake decorator by profession, as I recall. When I went and talked to the rabbi he was plenty sophisticated (and supportive), but that didn't get transmitted in the classroom. It was all just Moses did this, Moses did that, etc! All very hard to swallow for my kids, and so I let them stop. But we kept going with other aspects of Jewish life that were a matter of just doing things instead of being told to believe things.

s. wallerstein said...

Hello Jean,

It's incredible that 60 years later in a Reform synagogue they are still talking about how Moses parted the Red Sea and chatted with the burning bush. I would have imagined that they would be emphasizing the ethical elements in Jewish culture and the great contributions that Jews have made to Western civilization: Spinoza, Marx, Freud, Einstein, Kafka, even our recent Nobel Prize winner Bob Zimmerman, etc.

My parents insisted that I continue in Jewish school, and they never explained their own beliefs to me. Just maybe 10 or 15 years ago my father told me that he was an agnostic and that after the Holocaust he found the conventional Jewish idea of a just God completely unconvincing. If he had taken the trouble to explain why he thought that belonging to the Jewish community was important and that you could go to synagogue from time to time without necessarily believing in God, I could have given him my reasons and maybe we might have reached some kind of compromise agreement.

However, kids read their parents very well and I undoubtedly sensed that he was not a devout person by any means and that he considered Bible stories to be unbelievable and so when sent to Jewish school, I transmitted his real beliefs without his adult sense of diplomacy or of the wisdom of adapting what one says to the circumstances.

Good luck with your new book!