Jewish Thought

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A clear definition of Jewish thought has been tested in modern times by thinkers who are Jewish, but whose work isn't concerned with explicating Judaism, as well as thinkers who split their time between general thought and Jewish thought. Were Karl Marx, the father of communism, and Ludwig Wittgenstein, the philosopher of language--both of whom were of Jewish heritage--Jewish thinkers? Are all of Hermann Cohen's works, even his commentaries on Immanuel Kant, "Jewish"?

The contemporary French philosopher Jacques Derrida represents an interesting recent example of these uncertainties. Derrida, whose philosophy of deconstruction is one of the most influential intellectual movements of our time, has rarely written on explicitly Jewish themes and sources. However, the question of his "Jewishness" has generated great debate, resulting in symposia, articles, and at least one book, Gideon Ofrat's, The Jewish Derrida.

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