Hirsch Zvi Goitein's opinon on "Happiness and unhappiness as a "Jewish question". "

Started by György Ujlaki, Jr. on Saturday, February 26, 2011

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2/26/2011 at 5:56 AM

Of the leading Jewish thinkers of the 1890s, the Copenhagen rabbi and scion of a notable Rabbinic family, Hirsch Goitein (1863-1903) rebranded Judaism as a true pessimistic religion, the Schopenhauerian religion par excellence.

In 1890, Hirsch Goitein wrote that the Jewish philosophy of religion combines a pessimist view of life with a transcendental theological optimism allowing for understanding the evil in this world as part of the divine plan. For him, even with the impact of various readings of pessimism within Jewish thought from the Bible through the early modern era and Spinoza, Judaism showed that pessimism could exist within religious belief (Goitein 1890: 109). "Such pessimism does not lead to a dismissal and negation of this life but to a transcendence of the world (Weltuberwindung) and a domination over life." (Lebensbeherrschung) (Goitein 1890: 111) But for Goitein "action" is the one necessity for a truly pessimistic religion. For Goitein, happiness is never to be imagined in terms of actual lived experience, but, following the views of the philosopher Eduard yon Hartmann (1842-1906) that an individual's happiness is indeed unattainable either here and now or in the future, Goitein imagines the eventual release of the Unconscious from its sufferings by a collective social effort and not through Schopenhauer's individualistic asceticism. Goitein's happiness is always to be understood as a transcendental optimism. He sees this as identical to the Jewish view that discourages any individualistic asceticism in favor of the correct manner of controlling life through action. The Jews demand action in the world as the corollary to a pessimistic, illusory universe. Acting means dealing with the pessimism of illusion. Thus Jewish philosophy (and Goitein) focuses on action (often through unhappiness) instead of happiness. This is a very abstract notion but it reappears in the most extraordinary place.

2/26/2011 at 5:57 AM
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