Atlas, Samuel

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ATLAS, SAMUEL (1899–1977), philosopher and talmudist. Born in Kamai, Lithuania, Atlas studied at rabbinic schools there and afterward at universities in Russia and Germany. He taught in Warsaw and in England before going to the United States in 1942. He joined the faculty of the Hebrew Union College in Cincinnati as professor of philosophy and Talmud, and from 1951 taught in its New York school. Despite his Reform institutional affiliation, Atlas retained a life-long, intimate friendship with the outstanding Orthodox rabbinic scholar, Jehiel Jacob *Weinberg. Atlas was essentially a follower of Hermann *Cohen's critical idealism, in the light of which he pursued his studies in both Jewish legal and philosophical thought. For Atlas, God is the idea of the ultimate coincidence of the "ought" and the "is" that occurs only in infinity. Until then all action and thought strive toward this noumenal goal; these strivings constitute, respectively, human ethical history and the history of philosophy. However, as opposed to Cohen who held that God "guarantees" the ultimate consummation, Atlas stressed that God only assures "the possibility of its realization," and it is up to man to bring about the realization ("Man and the Ethical Idea of God," in: the Central Conference of American Rabbis Journal, 15 (1968), no. 1, 40–53). Atlas wrote From Critical to Speculative Idealism: The Philosophy of Solomon Maimon (1965), a series of monographs, especially on Maimonides and Maimon, and was the editor of texts from medieval Jewish legal literature. He published an annotated edition of R. Abraham b. David's (Ravad's) novellae to the Talmud on tractate Bava Kamma, and miscellaneous chapters of Maimonides' Yad. Atlas' Netivim ba-Mishpat ha-Ivri (1978) was published posthumously.

add. bibliography:

S. Atlas, "Portrayal of the Gaon Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg" (Heb.), in: Sinai, 58 (1966), 281–92; M. Shapiro, "Scholars and Friends: Rabbi Jehiel Jacob Weinberg and Professor Samuel Atlas," in: Torah u-Madda Journal, 7 (1997), 105–21.

[Steven S. Schwarzschild /

Marc B. Shapiro (2nd ed.)]