Jewish thought and political philosophy are inextricably linked in their examination of society and law, Assistant Professor of Government Peter Berkowitz said in a dinner discussion at Harvard-Radcliffe Hillel last night.
As approximately 40 listeners ate dinners of fish and macaroni, Berkowitz said that thought about Jewish law leads inevitably to thought about political philosophy.
"Within the law, questions that we associate with political philosophy naturally arise," Berkowitz said. "Rabbinic literature is rich with [information about] the organization of local communities."
Berkowitz discussed a number of Jewish philosophers, from the biblical era to the present. Jewish thinkers have provided some answers to political questions about individualism in society, he said.
According to Berkowitz, both Jewish thinkers and political philosophers grapple with the best way for humans to live together.
"Jewish tradition [produces] a close society, but also celebrates the values we moderns cherish," he said.
Berkowitz is affiliated with the Hartman Institute, which studies topics such as politics from both secular and traditional Jewish perspectives. He will soon publish a book on Nietzsche.
The Hillel Committee on Religious, Ethical and Social Thought sponsored Berkowitz's talk, which was followed by a question and answer period.