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Columbia University

1. Brafman, Yonatan Yisrael. Critical Philosophy of Halakha (Jewish Law): The Justification of Halakhic Norms and Authority.

Degree: 2014, Columbia University

Contemporary conflicts over such issues as abortion, same-sex marriage, circumcision, and veiling highlight the need for renewed reflection on the justification of religious norms and authority. While abstract investigation of these questions is necessary, inquiry into them is not foreign to religious traditions. Philosophical engagement with these traditions of inquiry is both intellectually and practically advantageous. This does not demand, however, that these discussions be conducted within a discourse wholly internal to a particular religious tradition; dialogue between a religious tradition and philosophical reflection can be created that is mutually beneficial. To that end, this dissertation explores a central issue in philosophy of halakha (Jewish law): the relation between the justification of halakhic norms and halakhic-legal practice. A central component of philosophy of halakha is the project of ta'amei ha-mitzvot (the reasons for the commandments). Through such inquiry, Jewish thinkers attempt to demonstrate the rationality of Jewish religious practice by offering reasons for halakhic norms. At its best, it not only seeks to justify halakhic norms but also elicits sustained reflection on issues in moral philosophy, including justification and normativity. Still, there is a tendency among its practitioners to attempt to separate this project from halakhic-legal practice. Legal practice is thus isolated from philosophical reflection, and the reasons for the norms do not guide their application. Ta'amei ha-mitzvot therefore also provokes queries in legal philosophy concerning the relation between normative and legal justification. This study explores the relation between the justification of halakhic norms and halakhic-legal practice in modern Jewish thought by placing it into dialogue with both moral and legal philosophy. This occurs in two stages: First, the philosophies of halakha of three influential twentieth-century Jewish thinkers, Yeshayahu Leibowitz (1903-1994), Joseph Soloveitchik (1903-1993), and Eliezer Berkovits (1908-1992) are examined and critically assessed. It is shown that despite the denials of Leibowitz and Soloveitchik, all their accounts of the reasons for the commandments influence their approaches to halakhic-legal practice; they each combine a foundationalist approach to justification with skepticism about the practical normativity of reason; and none of them adequately grounds halakhic-legal authority. However, their skepticism is based on unduly constricted conceptions of reason and untenable alternative sources of normativity, such as will, metaphysics, or revelation. Second, through engagements with the work of Jürgen Habermas and Joseph Raz an alternative to their accounts of the justification of halakhic norms and authority is developed. This alternative is described as critical philosophy of halakha, for it does not attempt to justify halakhic norms or authority but articulates the rational constraints on, and practical consequences of, their justification.…

Subjects/Keywords: Jewish law – Interpretation and construction; Jurisdiction; Jewish law – Philosophy; Religion – Philosophy; Jews; Philosophy

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APA (6th Edition):

Brafman, Y. Y. (2014). Critical Philosophy of Halakha (Jewish Law): The Justification of Halakhic Norms and Authority. (Doctoral Dissertation). Columbia University. Retrieved from https://doi.org/10.7916/D8TB15JJ

Chicago Manual of Style (16th Edition):

Brafman, Yonatan Yisrael. “Critical Philosophy of Halakha (Jewish Law): The Justification of Halakhic Norms and Authority.” 2014. Doctoral Dissertation, Columbia University. Accessed November 13, 2019. https://doi.org/10.7916/D8TB15JJ.

MLA Handbook (7th Edition):

Brafman, Yonatan Yisrael. “Critical Philosophy of Halakha (Jewish Law): The Justification of Halakhic Norms and Authority.” 2014. Web. 13 Nov 2019.

Vancouver:

Brafman YY. Critical Philosophy of Halakha (Jewish Law): The Justification of Halakhic Norms and Authority. [Internet] [Doctoral dissertation]. Columbia University; 2014. [cited 2019 Nov 13]. Available from: https://doi.org/10.7916/D8TB15JJ.

Council of Science Editors:

Brafman YY. Critical Philosophy of Halakha (Jewish Law): The Justification of Halakhic Norms and Authority. [Doctoral Dissertation]. Columbia University; 2014. Available from: https://doi.org/10.7916/D8TB15JJ

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