Tuesday, April 03, 2007


I believe the real problem for Jews is not the problem of identity - namely, who are are - but the problem of identification - with whom should we identify. Whose values and views and qualities do we want to adopt as our own? The so called identity crisis should more accurately be seen as an identification crisis. Spinoza, in my view, is not a problem for the Jews but a solution for them. He is a saintly 'secular' Jew who, unlike religious saints, does not believe we should be burdened by our sense of guilt. Spinoza is an ethically serious man with whom Jews, or at least secular Jews, can and should identify, in feeling, thought and action.
--So writes Avisahai Margalit in a review of books about Spinoza, Leibniz and modernity. This is well and good, but I guess that Margalit might agree this analysis can have bearing on many in the other 99.78% of humanity (including when it comes to the guilt thing those from Christian backgrounds), who are still struggling towards ethical, coherent modernity. And, of course, there are others besides Spinoza to learn from.

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