Guttmann, Julius

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GUTTMANN, JULIUS (Yitzhak ; 1880–1950), philosopher of religion and historian of Jewish philosophy; son of *Jacob Guttmann. In 1903 he received his Ph.D. at the University of Breslau and in 1906 he was ordained as rabbi by the Juedisch-Theologisches Seminar of that town. From 1911 he lectured as Privatdozent in general philosophy at the University of Breslau. In 1919, a year after the death of Hermann *Cohen, he received a call from the Hochschule fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums in Berlin to serve as Cohen's successor. He was a professor of Jewish philosophy at that institute until 1934. In 1922 he was also nominated as the principal of the Akademie fuer die Wissenschaft des Judentums in that city. A year after National Socialism took power in Germany, Guttmann fled from the country and immigrated to Jerusalem, where he became professor of Jewish philosophy at the Hebrew University. In Jerusalem Guttmann could shape the philosophical and scholarly groundings for the research of Jewish philosophy in the new Zionist, Hebrew environment and worked hand in hand with Gershom *Scholem, the founder of modern research in Kabbalah and Jewish mysticism.

Guttmann's literary activity focused solely almost from its very first steps on the philosophy of monotheism in general and the philosophy of Jewish religion in particular. Guttmann was a close student of Hermann Cohen and his neo-Kantian school, though he never studied with him personally. Some of his early works deal directly with the Kantian philosophy (among others: Der Gottesbegriff Kants (dissertation), Breslau, 1903; "Kant und das Judentum," in: Schriften, Hrsg. Gesellschaft zur Forderung der Wissenschaft des Judentums, Leipzig, 1908, pp. 41–61 (Hebrew: "Kant ve-ha-Yahadut," in: Dat u-Madda [see below], pp. 218–29); Kants Begriff der objektiven Erkentniss, 1911). Guttmann's attachment to the philosophy of Cohen is evident in all his writing. He followed his master's philosophy of religion and ethics in his early stages (see for example his: "Hermann Cohens Ethik," mgwj, Jahrg. 29, Neue Folge 13 (1905), pp. 385–404) and was heavily influenced by the new notions developed by Cohen in his Religion der Vernunft aus den Quellen des Judentums (1919; Religion of Reason out of the Sources of Judaism). These notions and the new discourse they open are at the bases of Guttmann's fundamental article Religion und Wissenschaft im mittelalterlichen und im modernen Denken (Berlin, 1922; English: "Religion and Science in Medieval and Modern Thought," in: A. Jospe [ed.], Studies in Jewish Thought (1981), pp. 281–339). In that article Guttmann formulated explicitly the task of the philosophy of religion and its rootedness in the medieval encounter between monotheistic religions and Greek philosophy: "These religions, by the virtue of the strength of their claims to truth and to the profundity of their spiritual content, confront philosophy as an autonomous spiritual power. They believe that they possess the ultimate and unconditional truth that needs no validation by science, and that they provide a consistent and conclusive answer to the questions with whose solution philosophy is wrestling. The meeting between these two spiritual worlds that differ so completely in their origins creates the philosophy of religion." The examination of the philosophic account of religion and its truth-claims was Guttmann's main object in his research and philosophy, foremost in regards to Jewish religion. Guttmann's approach rests on two basic presuppositions: (a) philosophy and religion, especially philosophy and Jewish religion, are anchored in two – totally different and alien – spiritual environments. Philosophy of religion is hence an expression of the encounter between these two and is, therefore, apologetic in nature; (b) the philosopher of religion – in particular, the Jewish philosopher of Judaism – must have a clear well established notion, not only of the philosophy he adheres to, but also of the nature and content of (Jewish) religion. This notion is rooted in the non-philosophic reading of the formative writings of (Jewish) religion as well as in the personal evidence of religion that the philosopher shares as a religious person. This notion of religion serves as a methodological basis for the philosophical analysis of (Jewish) religion and the defense of religion from philosophic conceptions that counter its nature and teachings. These two presuppositions dominate Guttmann's entire work and especially his magnum opus Die Philosophie des Judentums (1933; Heb. trans. with corrections and additions by the author, Ha-Filosofiyah shel ha-Yahadut, 1951; English: Philosophies of Judaism (from Heb. version), 1964; The Philosophy of Judaism, 1988). In this as yet unrivaled book Guttmann attempts to give an account of the various ways Jewish philosophers – from Philo to modern times – tried to deal with that fundamental question. The book opens with an analysis of formative biblical (and to a lesser extent rabbinic) religious notions. The diversity of such efforts – grounded in the diversity of philosophical and cultural contexts in which those Jewish philosophers worked – does not contradict, in Guttmann's eyes, the fact that all those attempts are stages in one coherent journey of a "Jewish philosophy" that will serve as a theoretical grounding and defense of those biblical notions.

Though Guttmann's entire work is anchored in a clear notion of the nature and content of religion, it is important to note that throughout his life this notion was gradually developed. At his early stage he fully adopted Kant's and the young Cohen's notion that religion was no more than popular ethics and that its uniqueness is only of a psychological-sociological nature. Following Cohen's late philosophy Guttmann started in the early 1920s (see above: Religion und Wissenschaft) to search for a deeper understanding of religion and its particularity. Under the influence of Schleiermacher's philosophy, that can easily also be traced to Cohen's late work, he gradually moved in the last 30 years of his life towards a dialogical notion of God and His relationship with the human as the center of the teaching of religion. Though ethics remained a highly important component in Guttmann's account of religion, it was seen now only as one sphere of the religious being, accompanied by the notion of holiness and mystery. This new notion reaches its full expression in Guttmann's Devarim al ha-Filosophyah shel ha-Dat (1959, ed, by Nathan Rotenstreich; English: On Philosophy of Religion, 1976), where he examines a wide range of borderlines between religion and various philosophic dimensions. Such an examination could not cover, to his mind, religion in its full meaning, but could only locate the question of religion from an external point of view.

In the early 1940s Guttmann was active in the "religious circle," an intellectual group that aimed at a renewal of religious Jewish life in Israel in line with the notions of Liberal Judaism in Central Europe. Among the lectures he gave in this frameworks are "Al Yesodot ha-Yahadut" (Dat u-Madda, pp. 259–280; English trans. in Conservative Judaism, 14:4 (1960), pp. 1–23) and "Ha-Muḥlat ve-ha-Yaḥasi be-Ḥayyenu" (1942). A full account of his critique of (Heidigerian) existentialism is given in his "Existenẓia ve-Ide'ah" (Dat u-Madda, pp. 281–304). A close analysis of this article reveals, that though Guttmann wishes to stick to idealistic notions, he basically adopts not only the semi-idealistic notions of the late Cohen but also some clear dialogical notions, that place him in a close relationship with the philosophy of Franz *Rosenzweig.

Guttmann's Philosophie des Judentums was heavily criticized, from a fundamentally different approach, by *Leo Strauss in his Philosophie und Gesetz (1933; Philosophy and Law, 1987). Guttmann responded to this critique in an article titled, "Philosophie der Religion oder Philosophie des Gesetzes." It is not clear why he never published this article, which appeared posthumously (in: Proceedings of the Israeli Academy of Science and Humanities, 5 (1971–76), pp. 146–173; Hebrew: "Filosofiya shel ha-Dat o filosofiya shel ha-Ḥok,"Divrei ha-Akademya ha-Le'ummit ha-Yisra'elit le-Madda'im, 5, pp. 190–207).


J. Guttmann, Dat u-Madda (1955); ibid., "Establishing Norms for Jewish Belief," in: A. Jospe (ed.), Studies in Jewish Thought (1981), 54–69. bibliographies of j. guttmann: Iyyun, 2 (1951), 11–19 and 182–84; M. Schwarcz, "Ha-Haskalah ve-Hashlakhoteha al ha-Filosofya ha-Yehudit ba-Et ha-Ḥadashah (le-Divrei ha-Pulmus bein L. Strauss le-J. Guttmann)," in: Daat, 1 (1978), 7–16; E. Schweid, "Religion and Philosophy – the Scholarly-Theological Debate between Julius Guttmann and Leo Strauss," in: Maimonidean Studies 1 (1990), 163–95; ibid., Toledot Filosofyat ha-Dat ha-Yehudit ba-Zeman he-Ḥadash, vol. 3, 2 (2005), 199–238; Y. Amir, "Yitzhak Julius Guttmann ve-Ḥeker ha-Filosofyah ha-Yehudit," in: H. Lavski (ed.), Toledot ha-Universitah ha-Ivrit bi-Yrushalayim – Hitbassesut u-Ẓemiḥah (i) (2005), 219–55; J. Cohen, "Yesodot Shitatiyyim be-Ḥeker ha-Filosofyah ha-Yehudit bi-Zemanenu," in: Daat, 38 (1997), 105–12.

[Yehoyada Amir (2nd ed.)]