Question of God's Perfection

December 20, 2015 - December 23, 2015
The Herzl Institute

Konrad Adenauer Conference Center, Mishkenot Sha'ananim,

Keynote speakers:

Oliver Crisp
Fuller Theological Seminary
James Diamond
University of Waterloo
Lenn E. Goodman
Vanderbilt University
Zvi Grumet
The Jerusalem College
Moshe Halbertal
Ed Halper
University of Georgia
Yoram Hazony
The Herzl Institute
Brian Leftow
Oxford University
Berel Dov Lerner
Western Galilee College
Michael Miller
University of Nottingham
Alan Mittleman
Jewish Theological Seminary
Heather Ohaneson
Columbia University
Randy Ramal
Claremont Graduate University
Shalom Rosenberg
Hebrew University
Eleonore Stump
Saint Louis University
Alex Sztuden
Independent Scholar
Alan Torrance
University of St. Andrews
Shmuel Trigano
University of Paris X-Nanterre
Joshua Weinstein
The Herzl Institute
Roslyn Weiss
Lehigh University
Howard Wettstein
University of California, Riverside

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Philosophers often describe theism as the belief in the existence of a “perfect being” — a being that is said to possess all possible perfections, so that it is all-powerful, all-knowing, immutable, perfectly good, absolutely simple, and necessarily existent, among other qualities. However, there are reasons to question whether this conception of God’s nature is appropriate as a basis for Jewish theology, and indeed, for religious belief more generally. This conference seeks to bring together philosophers, theologians, scholars of Bible and scholars of rabbinic literature to take a fresh look at this notion of God as perfect being, asking whether it is consistent with Judaism’s foundational texts, or whether it needs to be revised or replaced by a theology that is better suited to Jewish thought.

What are the sources of the claim that God is “perfect being”? What philosophical purposes have been served by making this claim, and are they still relevant? Does the view of God as perfect being express the theological standpoint of the Jewish Bible? Of the Talmud and Midrash? If not, can it be modified so as to reflect genuine biblical or classical rabbinic views? Or do the Bible and Talmud just offer a very different view of God’s nature? If the latter, is a philosophically coherent account of this alternative biblical or rabbinic theology possible? Do later developments in philosophy, theology and science—whether Jewish, Christian, or other—provide resources for recognizing a distinctive Hebrew Bible or classical rabbinic view of God’s nature? Do such views have any advantages or disadvantages over “perfect being” theology as contributions to a compelling contemporary account of God and his relationship to the world?

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December 15, 2015, 11:00am +02:00

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