The Maimonides Centre’s Summer Schools are interdisciplinary by design and are open to advanced students and graduates. The duration of the Summer School is six days, during which approximately ten lecturers and ten to twenty participants come together to present and discuss diverse approaches to the topic of Jewish scepticism and to jointly study a variety of primary sources.
2024: The Significance of Scepticism in Philosophy, Judaism, and Culture
THE SIGNIFICANCE OF SCEPTICISM IN PHILOSOPHY, JUDAISM, AND CULTURE
16–19 July 2024
Topic and Purpose
The value of scepticism in philosophy has been judged in different ways throughout history. To name but a few examples: Pyrrhonists conceived of scepticism as a means of reaching happiness, while later philosophers, especially in early modern times, came to equate a sceptical attitude with an incurable malady.
Despite their differences, however, all thinkers agreed on seeing scepticism as something deeply bound up with the human condition; that is, with the fundamental contradiction of both being finite and also having to come to terms with an infinitely complex world.
As MCAS’s research from the last years has shown, however, scepticism is also relevant beyond philosophy, in other domains of human thought and practice that are characterised by a finite nature and are therefore far from certain. In Judaism, for instance, scepticism has been considered a threat to religion because of its tendency to undermine religious beliefs, but also as a useful set of dialectical strategies to prove opponents wrong or to lead them back to (relatively) certain matters, such as the halakha. Cultural scepticism, moreover, plays an important role in questioning authoritative norms, thereby paving the way for change and renewal.
The fourth summer school convened by the Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies—Jewish Scepticism will explore the varied significance of scepticism from a novel, interdisciplinary point of view, paying particular attention to Jewish thought and culture. More precisely, it will bring together philosophers, experts in religious and Jewish studies, art historians, and literary scholars, in order to investigate the multifaceted phenomenon of early modern scepticism from three perspectives:
1. The Significance of Scepticism in Philosophy: What makes scepticism such a pervasive and persistent topic in philosophy? Why did it matter to philosophy, and is it still important to it?
2. The Significance of Scepticism in Judaism: To what extent is scepticism an element of Jewish life, thought, and culture? And is there a form of scepticism that is distinctively Jewish?
3. The Significance of Scepticism in the Fine Arts: To what extent do some works of art reflect a sceptical attitude on the part of the artist and to what extent do they seek to elicit such an attitude from their audience? And what is the precise significance of the scepticism involved in the fine arts?
The aim of this summer school is to explore the various ways in which scepticism can be significant in different domains. It is intended for students and scholars from different backgrounds (ranging from history of philosophy to Jewish studies, religious studies, theatre and literary studies, and art history). MA and PhD students as well as early postdocs are invited to consider the multifaceted significance of scepticism and to share their unique views on it.
The participants will also have the opportunity to present their work at the “Significance of Scepticism in Philosophy, Judaism, and Culture” conference, which will take place after the summer school from 21 to 24 July.
The course leaders are Stephan Schmid and Giuseppe Veltri. They will be supported by an international team of experts in philosophy, religious and Jewish studies, art history, and literature—such as Daniel Boyarin, Annalisa Coliva, Michael Della Rocca, Yehuda Halper, Christine Hayes, Adi Louria-Hayon, Diego Machuca, and others.
Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies at the University of Hamburg
The Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies is a Humanities Research Institute at the University of Hamburg funded by the Deutsche Forschungsgemeinschaft (German Research Foundation). Its central aim is to explore and research scepticism in Judaism in its dual manifestation as a purely philosophical tradition and as a more general expression of sceptical strategies, concepts, and attitudes in the cultural field.
This summer school is intended for MA students and PhD candidates from the humanities. Depending on capacity, BA students in their last year of studies may also be accepted.
Participants can gain up to 5 ECTS credit points for successful participation in the summer school.
For further information and to apply, please contact Dr. Beniamino Fortis:
2021: Facets of Early Modern Scepticism
Date and Place
July 18–23, 2021, online
Topic and Purpose
The early modern period is well known as a period when engagement with scepticism (or the question of the extent to which we can know anything) was widespread. While, of course, not all early modern thinkers were sympathetic to sceptical thought (some, such as Spinoza, considered it to be incomprehensible), scepticism was a persistent and pertinent issue of the period between 1500 and 1700. But whence this fascination with scepticism? And what shape did it take?
The Maimonides Centre for Advanced Studies—Jewish Scepticism’s third summer school pursued these questions from a novel interdisciplinary perspective with a special focus on Jewish thought and culture. More specifically, the summer school brought together philosophers, experts in religious and Jewish studies, art historians, and literary scholars in order to investigate the multifaceted phenomenon of early modern scepticism from three perspectives:
1. Scepticism and Religion: Which impact did scepticism have on early modern theology and on practices and conceptions of religion both within and without Judaism?
2. Scepticism and Philosophy: What made scepticism so popular in the early modern period and what (novel?) forms of (anti-)scepticism were developed in this period?
3. Scepticism and Fine Art: How did sceptical doubts shape early modern fine art: theatre, literature, and painting? And how did fine art contribute to the sceptical imagery of these times?
The aim of the summer school was to reveal the multidimensional meaning of early modern scepticism. Both MA and PhD students as well as early postdocs were invited to appreciate the multifaceted structure of early modern scepticism and to share their unique perspective on it. To this end, participants were asked to present their object of investigation in light of the interdisciplinary insights they hoped to have gained by the end of the summer school.
The course leaders were Stephan Schmid and Giuseppe Veltri, and they were supported by an international team of experts in philosophy, religious and Jewish studies, art history, and literature: Alessandro Guetta, Grit Schorch, Jeremy Fogel, Guido Bartolucci, Michael Della Rocca, Sonja Schierbaum, Jennifer Marušić, Sandra Richter, and Margit Kern.
It was intended for students and scholars from various backgrounds (ranging from history of philosophy to Jewish studies, religious studies, theatre and literary studies, etc.). Ten participants from Argentina, Germany, Israel, Italy, Pakistan, Poland, and the USA attended the summer school.
2018: Sceptical Strategies, Methods, and Approaches in the Middle Ages: Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Traditions
Date and Place
July 29–August 3, 2018 in Hamburg
Topic and Purpose
In the second Summer School we focussed on major sceptic concepts, strategies and key terms in medieval Hebrew, Arabic, and Latin literature. Participants and instructors were introduced to sceptical and anti-sceptical enquiry of concepts of truth and knowledge as well as sceptical methods of doubting and arguing. The Summer School offered a unique platform to discuss the tension between philosophy and faith, and between reason and revelation within medieval discourses. Participants were engaged with primary Hebrew, Latin, and Arabic texts. The aim was to provide participants with the tools to examine scepticism and anti-scepticism within Christian, Islamic, and Jewish contexts in relation to attaining true knowledge.
Course leaders were Racheli Haliva and Giuseppe Veltri. They were supported by an international team of experts in scepticism from the fields of medieval philosophy and religious studies: Elena Baltuta, Guido Bartolucci, Daniel Davies, Heidrun Eichner, Amira Eran, Yehuda Halper, Elon Harvey, Steven Harvey, Gitit Holtzman, Henrik Lagerlund, Giovanni Licata, Ariel Malachi, Yoav Meyrav, and Ronny Vollandt.
The Summer School was intended for MA students and PhD candidates from the Humanities. 15 participants from Argentina, Austria, China, Germany, Israel, Italy, Morocco, the United Kingdom, and the United States attended the summer school.
2016: Sceptical Thought in Antiquity: The Greek, Hebrew and Latin Traditions
Date and Place
July 31– August 5, 2016 in Hamburg
The Summer School addressed major concepts, strategies and key terms of ancient sceptical traditions in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin literature. Participants were introduced to the sceptical enquiry of concepts of truth and knowledge and to skeptical methods of doubting and arguing. Participants were made familiar with the original Greek, Hebrew, and Latin texts. The aim was to provide participants with tools and means by which they can examine scepticism in relation to the attainment of knowledge and truth—within each of the three traditions. Course leader was Giuseppe Veltri. He was supported by an international team of experts in scepticism from the fields of ancient philosophy and religious studies.
The first Summer School of the Centre was attended by 15 participants from Brazil, Canada, Hungary, Iran, Israel, Italy, Russia, the United Kingdom and the United States.