Jewish Philosophy and Ethics

Unit code : RELT20652
Credit rating : 20
Teaching period(s) : Semester 2

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Aims | Objectives | Assessment | Information | Course unit content |
Tutors | Timetable | Teaching methods |

  • To introduce students to the philosophical study of the Jewish religious and non-religious tradition from historical and contemporary points of view.
  • To explore Jewish philosophy thematically through topics such as the Body, Creation and Gender; notions of Time and History; Language and Revelation; and Society, Ethics and Commandments.

Objectives (Learning outcomes)

By the end of this course students should have acquired:

  • Explain the main periods and groups of sources of philosophies of Judaism and Jewishness
  • Appreciate the variety of the modern philosophical discussion of some of the “classical” topics of Jewish philosophy
  • Critically assess the strength of the detail of the philosophical arguments of some thinkers of Judaism and Jewishness
  • Take effective notes during lectures
  • Plan their time effectively
  • Use internet and physical information resources with confidence
  • Communicate clearly in written and oral forms
  • Participate appropriately in a learning group;
  • Demonstrate enhanced aptitude for independent work
  • Demonstrate enhanced aptitude for self-motivation.

Assessment methods


Assessment task


Weighting within unit

Mock introduction to an essay (formative) (week 4)

500 words

0% (formative)

Essay 1 (Tuesday of week 7, summative)

3,000 words


Essay 2 (Tuesday of week 12, summative)

3,000 words




Available on which programme(s)?

Religions and Theology, Theological Studies in Philosophy and Ethics, Comparative Religion and Social Anthropology, Middle Eastern Studies, Arabic and Middle Eastern Studies.

A full description of this course can be found in MyManchester.




Course unit overview

The course aims to help students engage with the philosophical discourse surrounding the Jewish tradition.  We will examine some key strands in the historical development of “Jewish” philosophy, but also ask what “Jewish” here means; examine key contributions to the development of the contemporary philosophical agenda with regard to Judaism and Jewishness; and study in detail a sample of thinkers of Judaism and Jewishness in English translation, with text selections from the works of Saadia, Maimonides, Spinoza, Mendelssohn, Cohen, Rosenzweig, Buber, Levinas, Ochs and Ross. Students will be encouraged to examine critically philosophical arguments and to develop philosophical questions in response to texts read in the seminars, and in their assessed Essays.

Teaching staff
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Lectures - 22 hours
Seminars - 11 hours

Teaching and learning methods

There will be 11 one-hour lectures (11 x 1 = 1) and 11 seminars of two hours, i.e. 33 class contact hours. In the lecture the main topics and academic methodologies will be introduced and discussed. Students are expected to participate actively during the lectures, which include regular opportunities for discussions and questions. The readings relating to each lecture topic are discussed in the seminars. Students are expected to prepare the lecture materials (available on Blackboard) and the reading in the days before and after the lecture. They will have an opportunity to introduce the compulsory reading at the seminar, and contribute critically to its discussion. The weekly reading assignments therefore require regular work outside classes and in advance of the seminars, including close study of assigned texts, note taking, summarizing or excerpting, as well as the creation of texts in note form. Preparation of the assessed Essay will be guided by formal advice in the lecture and on documents on Blackboard.