The epistemology of religiosity: an Orthodox Jewish perspective
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This paper focusses on the Rabbinic suggestion that the attitude of awe, rather than any particular belief, lies at the heart of religiosity. On the basis of these Rabbinic sources, and others, the paper puts forward three theses: (1) that belief is not a sufficiently absorbing epistemic attitude to bear towards the truths of religion; (2) that much of our religious knowledge isn’t mediated via belief; and (3) that make-believe is sometimes more important, in the cultivation of religiosity than is mere belief.
KeywordsJudaism Religiosity Make-belief Midrash Epistemology
This paper was born of a talk that I was invited to give at the David Cardozo Academy. I am grateful to Rabbi Nathan Lopez Cardozo, to Yael Unterman, and to the members of the public who were in attendance. Many of these ideas grew to maturity through discussion with members of the Association for the Philosophy of Judaism (www.theapj.com). I am ever so grateful to my dear friends, and partners in creating and running that association, Dani Rabinowitz and Aaron Segal. I must also express my thanks to Eleonore Stump and Howard Wettstein for their mentorship and inspiration; to my other mentors Dean Zimmerman and Mike Rota for helping me to realise, at their summer seminar at the University of St. Thomas, that I could write on the philosophy of religion; to my many Rabbis, and finally, to my students in Midrash at Har Etzion Rabbinical Seminary (2012–2013).
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