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Religions 2018, 9(10), 322; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel9100322

We Spring from that History: Bernard Lazare, between Universalism and Particularism

The University of Chicago Divinity School, Swift Hall, 1025 E. 58th St., Chicago, IL 60637, USA
Received: 15 September 2018 / Revised: 12 October 2018 / Accepted: 19 October 2018 / Published: 21 October 2018
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion and Modern Jewish Thought)
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Abstract

This paper examines the evolution of Jewish identity in the works of writer and critic Bernard Lazare. It suggests that Lazare’s oeuvre elucidates one of the central tensions in modern Jewish thought: the division between those thinkers who use the reputedly universalist Greek philosophical tradition as a lens to analyze and critique Judaism, and those who use the Jewish textual tradition to challenge and reconceive non-Jewish philosophy. Lazare situated himself on both sides of this divide during his life. In his early work, he used the universalist, laical ideology of French republicanism to attack what he perceived as the inflexible, regressive, anti-modernist character of Talmudic Judaism. Lazare’s thought later shifted in the wake of his involvement in the Dreyfus Affair, and he sought to reclaim an ethnic, nationalist conception of Jewish identity as the source for a communal Jewish political response to rising anti-Semitism. Yet through a close reading of Lazare’s writings, the paper suggests that Lazare’s intellectual evolution was never as complete or totalizing as he perhaps wished. His earlier work occasionally used Jewish sources to critique philosophical universalism, while hints of philosophical critiques of the particularism of Jewish texts such as the Talmud remained in his later revalorization of Jewish identity. Lazare thereby reveals how universalism and particularism remain mutually implicated within modern Jewish thought. The paper thus suggests avenues for Lazare to be productively read within the broader canon of modern Jewish thinkers. View Full-Text
Keywords: Judaism; modern Jewish thought; France; Jewish nationalism; Dreyfus Affair; Jewish question; philosophy of religion Judaism; modern Jewish thought; France; Jewish nationalism; Dreyfus Affair; Jewish question; philosophy of religion
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited (CC BY 4.0).
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Swanson, J. We Spring from that History: Bernard Lazare, between Universalism and Particularism. Religions 2018, 9, 322.

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