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Review: WHAT IS IMMANENT IN JUDAISM? Transcending "A Secular Age"

Reviewed Work: A Secular Age by Charles Taylor
Review by: Martin Kavka
The Journal of Religious Ethics
Vol. 40, No. 1 (March 2012), pp. 123-137
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/41348823
Page Count: 15
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WHAT IS IMMANENT IN JUDAISM? Transcending
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Abstract

This essay takes on the implicit claim in Taylor's A Secular Age, forecast in some of his earlier writings, that the desire for a meaningful life can never be satisfied in this life. As a result, A Secular Age is suffused with a tragic view of existence; its love of narratives of religious longing makes no sense otherwise. Yet there are other models of religion that lend meaning to existence, and in the majority of this essay, I take up one model that Taylor ignores in A Secular Age, namely that of a God who is immanent in social life throughout religious law. Turning to Maimonides's account of divine law in the Guide of the Perplexed, I argue that a vision of the divine law that is divine because of its effects in society, namely the promotion of human welfare, can mend the relations between varying kinds of believers and unbelievers in a way that Taylor thinks is impossible. A God who commands laws is a God who inaugurates an "anthropocentric shift" long before current understandings of secularization see it beginning.

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