Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies – Jewish Scepticism approved!

The German Research Foundation has approved the application of Prof Veltri to the Humanities Centre for Advanced Studies - Jewish Scepticism (HCAS-JS). The Centre will be located at the Universität Hamburg. The Project is designed to span 8 years, its first funding period spanning four years will begin at October 1st, 2015.

The central aim of the HCAS-JS is the exploration and research of scepticism in Judaism in its dual manifestation of a purely philosophical tradition and a more general expression of sceptical strategies, concepts, and attitudes in the cultural field. Scepticism is understood here as an enquiry of the ‘perpetual student’ who harbours doubts about different dimensions and systems of (secular or revealed) knowledge and raises the question of authority. It is not merely an intellectual or theoretical worldview, it also certainly implies an attitude toward life that provides a basis for numerous and diverse phenomena and informs essential processes and categorisations within Jewish philosophy, religion, literature, and society. More specifically, scepticism is applied to expressions of social deviance from, and conformity with, political structures, as well as to systems of governance when responding to and being in exchange with adjacent cultures. By further opening up this rarely explored field, scholars will considerably profit from comparative perspectives. Gaining new insights into both Western philosophy and culture and its more or less inherent connections to texts and manifestations of Eastern cultures and thought, is essential to mapping the transcultural dimensions of the research field.

The wealth of untapped sources for the study of (Jewish) sceptical thinking and the need for a reformulation of the question of what scepticism is, turns this topic into an exceptionally fertile ground for enquiry that requires an academic institution, a school of learning – something similar to the ancient ‘academies’ –, where scholars and students can closely collaborate. Since the subject of ‘scepticism’ is also a method of enquiry, it necessarily depends on a widely connected academic community of scholars and experts in different fields to comprehensively cover the range of research and to develop innovative approaches and methods. To be able to fully explore and respond to the complexity of Jewish scepticism and its interconnectedness with other traditions of Western philosophy and culture, the particular format and programme of the HCAS-JS will offer unprecedented structures and conditions.

The HCAS-JS will intensify and complement already existing research at the University of Hamburg by creating an exploratory focus on the history of ideas, concepts, paradigms and structures of thinking present not only in European philosophy – to which Jewish thought substantially belongs – but also in other cultures. Particular attention will be devoted to the Early Modern period (which constitutes a main research focus in the Humanities at the University of Hamburg). Being a period of rediscovery and reinterpretation of early scepticism, Humanist and Early Modern Europe was a melting pot of ideas and concepts. Structures of sceptical origin generated and influenced successive forms of culture, such as philosophy, religion, sciences, art, literature and theatre.