Record Group 35: Quarterly on Ethics

JM, 3/30/94

Table of Contents:

A Note on Folder Headings

Individual folders are identified in the following way: record group# -- box# -- folder#, as in R.G.1-10-32. Please use this format in citations and when referring to files for any other reason.

Historical Note

In 1965 Louis Finkelstein, chancellor of The Jewish Theological Seminary, conceived the idea of starting a quarterly journal devoted to ethics. As a secondary function the quarterly, which was to be directed to a popular audience, was meant to serve as a public relations tool for the Seminary.

Ethics, particularly Judaism's interpretation of ethical questions, had been a preoccupation of Finkelstein's since the 1950s. His Conference on Science, Philosophy, and Religion, founded at the Seminary in 1940, dealt with ethical problems during the 1950s. In addition, the Institute on Ethics (part of the Institute for Religious and Social Studies) and the Herbert H. Lehman Institute of Talmudic Ethics were both founded in 1956. A World Academy of Ethics, planned during the 1950s and 1960s, never came to fruition.

Finkelstein's vision for the quarterly encompassed more than just the publication of a journal. In his 1965 statement of purpose Finkelstein expressed the hope that the dialogues generated by the quarterly would have the same lasting and meaningful effect as did those which produced the Talmud:

This is nothing less than re-opening the series of discussions and dialogues which ultimately became the Talmud. We would be turning back the pages of history many centuries, and introducing into modern life the type of discussions which in ancient times proved so helpful and stiumulating and has become useful for all ages. ("Statement of Purpose Regarding the Proposed Quarterly," March, 1965, 1, R.G.35-2-7)

To accomplish this in practical terms, the quarterly would publish articles dealing with such contemporary issues as the war in Vietnam, the role of ethics in psychotherapy, and its place in business and in government. While Jewish ethics would be drawn upon in the quarterly's articles, there would also be room for perspectives on ethics from other religions and cultures.

In 1965 a prospectus for the quarterly was written by William McCleery, editor of Princeton's quarterly journal, University (in R.G.35-2-5). During the next few years articles were commissioned, received, paid for, and edited. Authors included Walter Kaufman, Reinhold Niebuhr, Arnold Toynbee, Earl Warren, and Finkelstein himself. Editors were proposed and considered (although it appears that one was never hired). Yet despite this activity the quarterly did not appear. By 1967 it was being thought of as an annual, and from 1968 to 1970 the idea developed that the articles would be gathered into a single volume called Ethics for Today. The volume seems never to have been published, and plans were probably scrapped in 1970 when these files end.

Collection Description

Records documenting the planning for and editorial work on the proposed ethics quarterly cover the years 1965 to 1970 and consist of: annotated drafts of articles with related correspondence, 1968-1970 (see the box list for a complete list of authors and article titles); Louis Finkelstein's correspondence, 1965-1970; and a group of administrative files, 1965-1969.

Louis Finkelstein's correspondence is with Ann Ash, the person at the Seminary who appears to have been most closely involved with the project; authors and potential authors; potential editors; and people Finkelstein consulted about the project. These include editors, publishers, public relations people (from the firm Ruder & Finn, with which the Seminary was already associated), scholars, rabbis, and the British scholars Finkelstein met with during his annual summer visit to London. Mixed in with the correspondence are draft versions of statements of purpose, minutes of meetings, notes and memoranda on conversations, and copies of publications considered as models for the quarterly.

The records also contain a group of administrative records. These consist of: lists of article commitments; McCleery's prospectus for the quarterly; minutes; Finkelstein's statements of purpose; minutes and memoranda documenting a meeting between representatives of The Jewish Theological Seminary and Union Theological Seminary about the quarterly, February 19, 1968 (attending were Finkelstein, John Bennett, Steven Rockefeller, Seymour Siegel, Ronald Stone, Eugene Wiener, Ann Ash); and a group of statements about ethics produced by Robert M. MacIver for use in the quarterly.

Box List

Box Folder(s) Description 
  I. Articles (Texts With Related Correspondence), 1968-1970
11Ackerman, Nathan, "Some Ethical Issues in Psychotherapy, Past and Present," 1968
 2Finkelstein, Louis, "The Age of Revolution and of Social Responsibility," 1970
 3Finletter, Thomas, "Morality and Policy Making in the United States Government," 1968
 4Jackson, Esther, "Drama: A Mirror of Conflict, A Prophecy of the Future," 1970
 5Kaufman, Walter, "Doubts About Justice," 1970
 6Konvitz, Milton, "Law and Morals in the Hebrew Scriptures, Plato, and Aristotle," n.d.
 7Merrill, Charles, "Some Reflections on Over-Population," 1968- 1970
 8Niebuhr, Reinhold, "Mission and Opportunity: Religion in a Pluralistic Culture," 1970
 9Sporn, Philip, "Ethics and Business," 1970
 10Steiner, George, untitled speech delivered in Israel about Israel, 1968
 11-12Toynbee, Arnold, "The Collapse of the Graeco-Roman Civilisation," 1968
 13Warren, Earl, "Toward a New Cultural Federalism," 1968-1970
 14Williams, Daniel Day, "Law and Disorder: Some Reflections on the Political Philosophy of Edmond Cahn," 1969
 15-25II. Correspondence, 1965-1970
  III. Other Administrative Records, 1965-1969
21Article commitments, 1967-1969
 2-3MacIver, Robert, statements, 1968-1969
 4Memorandum on files, 1968
 5Prospectus, 1965
 6Staff meetings, 1967-1968
 7Statements of purpose, 1965-1966; n.d.
 8Union Theological Seminary, meeting with, February, 1968