Comparing the liberal Jewish ethics of the German-Jewish philosophers Ernst Cassirer and Hannah Arendt, this book argues that both espoused a diasporic, worldly conception of Jewish identity that was anchored in a pluralist and politically engaged interpretation of Jewish history and an abiding interest in the complex lived reality of modern Jews. Arendt's indebtedness to liberal Jewish thinkers such as Moses Mendelssohn, Abraham Geiger, Hermann Cohen, and Ernst Cassirer has been obscured by her modernist posture and caustic critique of the assimilationism of her German-Jewish forebears. By reorienting our conception of Arendt as a profoundly secular thinker anchored in twentieth century political debates, we are led to rethink the philosophical, political, and ethical legacy of liberal Jewish discourse.
Ned Curthoys is an Associate Professor in English and Cultural Studies at the University of Western Australia. With Debjani Ganguly he is co-editor of Edward Said: The Legacy of a Public-Intellectual (Melbourne University Press, 2007).