My Favorite Books

The Walking Drum
Ender's Game
The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy
The Curse of Chalion
The Name of the Wind
Chronicles of the Black Company
The Faded Sun Trilogy
The Tar-Aiym Krang

Sunday, November 5, 2023

Review: Putting God First: Jewish Humanism after Heidegger

Putting God First: Jewish Humanism after Heidegger Putting God First: Jewish Humanism after Heidegger by Alick Isaacs
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

This book was a struggle for me. To begin with, I am in no way, shape or form a fan of the typically philosophy texts … most of which hurt my head trying to understand the wordy, sesquipedalian attempts to describe such existential basics such as Why is there air? Here my struggle was aggravated by my lack of familiarity with both German and Hebrew, which served to compound the number of words that had no clear meaning or understanding for me. That is a long winded way to say that this text is not very accessible to the average reader … but if you are a glutton for head games, there are some interesting concepts that you still might be able to tease out here.

The book is divided into four (4) parts, each dedicated to some aspect of Jewish life: Segulah (Being Jewish), Galut (Exile), Churban (Destruction) and Tikkun (Rehabilitation) and how they relate to the the humanism of Nazi existentialists Heidegger (I should have down a deeper dive on this guy as existentialism is my least favorite tradition within philosophy in general). The central concept used is Heidegger’s Dasein (Being) and the various ways to interact with this with an apparently focus and the how and why Dasein hides from itself to permit such evils (corruption) as the Holocaust … and why [zionist] Israel provides an opportunity to purge the “Greek” influences of "Survival and System” (Conformity) that were derived from the Age of Enlightenment from their collective spiritual life. In other words, the author wants to rehabilitate God’s role in politics … and more specially, convince western jews that they need to make their own way with Torah and stop relying upon conforming to Western, humanist ideals.

That is not to say that you won’t find gems within … I especially enjoyed the treatment of Haidt and his moral framework … which I believe I understood okay (more or less). The problem for me is the my near total lack of comprehension with respect to the connecting text between them and how all of this relates to “putting God first.” To use Issacs own words to describe the issue: "Meaning derives not from what the words stand for but from the ways in which we use them.” … When after re-reading several sentences that use a considerable number of terms with which I am unfamiliar enough to miss how they related to each other, I still don’t know what he is trying to say … but I think I can still get the overall gist …

Part I: Segulah
Chapter 1: Tikkun Olam from the Perspective of Segulah
Chapter 2: Sparks of Segulah
Chapter 3: The Psychology of the Rational Self

Part II: Galut
Chapter 4: Structures of Concealment
Chapter 5: Deconstruction and De-con-struction
Chapter 6: Deconstruction as Galut
Chapter 7: The Genealogy of Deconstruction as Galut
Chapter 8: De-con-struction and the Edge of Galut

Part III: Churban
Chapter 9: Heidegger’s Nazism and the Methodology of Chruban
Chapter 10: Concern and the Ontological Meaning of Faith
Chapter 11: The Spaciality of Dasein
Chapter 12: Hiding in Society
Chapter 13: Attunement and the Exilic Absorption of Being in the “They”
Chapter 14: The Temporal Analysis of Dasein

Part IV: Tikkun
Chapter 15: Negating Heidegger from the Perspective of Segulah
Chapter 16: Being-toward-Netzach
Chapter 17: The Space/Time on Inner Torah and the Gateways to Netzach
Chapter 18: The Architecture of Segulah

Some of the other points that really got my attention are:
First, contrary to the principles of post-Enlightenment moral philosophy, Haidt’s psychological analysis calls into question the idea that rational thought can and even should dominate human choices. Second, despite the incredible achievements and benefits of modern science, Kahneman’s research forces us to rethink the basic assumption that rational thought can provide the means for making a moral distinction between truth and untruth. 
Even if there is no evidence to corroborate the claim, the self-generative power of the rumor itself is enough to substantiate it. It becomes so because everybody says so. The “everybody that says so” is what Heidegger refers to as the non-being of the they-self. It is this non-being that maintains its everydayness through idle talk. Idle talk is how everyday Dasein discloses itself in the there and keeps itself sufficiently busy to distract itself from the ennui that would necessarily set in were life any less turbulent.

I was given this free advance reader copy (ARC) ebook at my request and have voluntarily left this review.

#PuttingGodFirst #LibraryThing

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My Ratings Explained ...

  • [ ***** ] Amazing Read - Perfect story, exciting, engrossing, well developed complex characters, solid plot with few to no holes, descriptive environments and place settings, great mystery elements, realistic dialogue, believable reactions and behaviors; a favorite that I can re-read many times.
  • [ **** ] Great Read - Highly entertaining and enjoyable, exciting storyline, well developed characters and settings, a few discrepancies but nothing that can’t be overlooked. Some aspect of the story was new/refreshing to me and/or intriguing. Recommended for everyone.
  • [ *** ] Good Read - Solid story with a 'good' ending, or has some other redeeming feature. Limited character development and/or over reliance on tropes. Noticeable discrepancies in world building and/or dialog/behavior that were distracting. I connected enough with the characters/world to read the entire series. Most of the books I read for fun are here. Recommended for fans of the genre.
  • [ ** ] Okay Read - Suitable for a brief, afternoon escape … flat or shallow characters with little to no development. Over the top character dialog and/or behavior. Poor world building with significant issues and/or mistakes indicating poor research. Excessive use of trivial detail, info dumps and/or pontification. Any issues with the story/characters are offset by some other aspect that I enjoyed. Not very memorable. May only appeal to a niche group of readers. Recommended for some (YMMV).
  • [ * ] Bad Read - Awkward and/or confusing writing style. Poor world building and/or unbelievable (or unlikeable) characters. Victimization, gaslighting, blatant abuse, unnecessary violence, child endangerment, or any other highly objectionable behaviors by Main characters. I didn't connect with the story at all; significant aspects of this story irritated me enough that I struggled to finished it. Series was abandoned. Not recommended.