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College of Arts & Sciences
Jewish Studies Program

2008 Solomon-Tenenbaum Lectureship

Solomon-Tenenbaum Lecture 2008


Steven Nadler


Chair, Department of Philosophy 
William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy
Max and Frieda Weinstein-Bascom Professor of Jewish Studies
University of Wisconsin-Madison

SEPTEMBER 10, 2008

"The Spinoza Problem: Secular Judaism and the Question of Jewish Identity"
8:00 p.m.
Law School Auditorium


"Spinoza: Theist, Pantheist, or Atheist?"
1:30 - 2:45 p.m.
Lumpkin Auditorium, 8th Floor
Moore School of Business



Stanley Dubinsky, Interim Dean
Graduate School, University of South Carolina


Saskia Coenen-Snyder
Professor of History, University of South Carolina


Rabbi Hesh Epstein
Congregation Beit Midrash, Columbia, S.C.


Matthew Kisner
Professor of Philosophy, University of South Carolina


Steven Nadler 
Professor of Philosophy and Jewish Studies, University of Wisconsin-Madison


Katja Vehlow
Professor of Religious Studies, University of South Carolina


Lecture Description:
What are we to do with Baruch Spinoza? This seventeenth-century Dutch-Jewish thinker was expelled from Amsterdam¹s Portuguese-Jewish congregation as a young man for his "abominable heresies." His radical views on God, Jewish law, and the immortality of the soul were widely attacked by his contemporaries, and after his expulsion he seems to have had no use whatsoever for Judaism, or any organized religion. So how exactly does Spinoza fit into Jewish history and Jewish thought? Was he, in fact, as many have claimed, the first secular Jew? In this lecture, we will consider what Spinoza thought of Judaism and what he represents for the question of Jewish identity.

Steven Nadler, Guest Lecturer: 
Steven Nadler was born in New York City and grew up in Roslyn, Long Island. He attended Washington University in St. Louis and received a Ph.D. in Philosophy from Columbia University in 1986. He is the William H. Hay II Professor of Philosophy and the Max and Frieda Weinstein/Bascom Professor of Jewish Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. His research has focused primarily on Descartes and Cartesian philosophy, Spinoza, and Leibniz. He is the author of seven books and more than 60 articles, as well as being the editor of seven additional volumes. His published books include Spinoza: A Life (Cambridge, 1999, winner of the Koret Jewish Book Award), Spinoza¹s Heresy (Oxford, 2002), and Rembrandt¹s Jews (Chicago, 2003, named a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize). His new book, "The Best of All Possible Worlds: A Story of Philosophers, God, and Evil" (Farrar, Straus, & Giroux), will be out this fall.