Smidt van Gelder-Fontaine, Resianne
Senior Fellow: October–November 2020 and April–June 2021
Research Project: Between Doubt and Certainty: Reason vs. Revelation in the Thirteenth Century
This project aims to examine the debate on the relationship between reason and revelation during the thirteenth century, when, during the so-called “Maimonidean controversy,” opinions were divided as to the necessity and reliability of philosophical knowledge and the limits of human reason. It will examine a number of contemporary Hebrew texts focusing on terms related to this problématique, such as truth, doubt, certainty, reason, belief, knowledge, opinion, wisdom, proof, argument, study, ignorance, and so on. It intends to draw up an inventory of epistemological terminology, the purpose of which is to bring into focus the conceptual framework within which the various parties in the controversy defended their positions and/or attacked others. How did advocates and opponents of rational inquiry into faith (and those who held an intermediate position) substantiate their respective claims, and what were their strategies for convincing their adversaries? Were the arguments of those who opposed rationalism inspired by religious constraints, or do they testify to an attitude that can be described as an a priori scepticism towards the authority of reason in general? How does a sustained critique of philosophical views relate to philosophical scepsis?
Resianne Smidt van Gelder-Fontaine is a senior lecturer in the Department of Hebrew and Jewish Studies at the Universiteit van Amsterdam.