JTS’s Dr. Alan Mittleman Awarded Grant to Write Book on Philosophy of Holiness

Dr. Alan Mittleman, professor of Jewish Thought at The Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), has received a two year grant for $70,000 from the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem’s project on Jewish philosophical theology. Funded by the John Templeton Foundation, the Institute aims to promote original Jewish theological work using the philosophical methods and approaches of contemporary analytic philosophy. The grant will allow Dr. Mittleman to take a yearlong leave in 2016 to work on a book tentatively titled The Good and the Holy: A Philosophical Essay on the Jewish Way of Life

Dr. Mittleman’s project aims to explore the various ideas of holiness in Jewish texts and analyze them in terms of their relationships to ethical concepts. What relation does holiness bear to more familiar evaluative concepts such as goodness or saintliness? Is a holy person an exceptionally good person, or is something else or something more implied? The Good and the Holy will argue that these distinctions are not just semantic, but essential to clarifying the fundamental relations and tensions between religion and ethics. Sometimes, holiness is used as a justification for violence. It is critical to understand the relationship between goodness and holiness, both generally and in a Jewish religious context. This is essential to cultivating a nuanced perspective on religion and ethics in our time. 

“I eagerly look forward to this opportunity to explore what holiness can mean for us today, to understand what it can contribute to our modern ideas of a life well-lived,” Dr. Mittleman said. 

Dr. Mittleman’s teaching focuses on the intersection between Jewish thought and Western philosophy in the fields of ethics, political theory, and metaphysics. He is the author of six books, most recently Human Nature and Jewish Thought: Judaism’s Case for Why Persons Matter (Princeton University Press, 2015).  

The Herzl Institute of Jerusalem is a research institute and training center dedicated to intellectual renewal, content development, and capacity building in the following core areas: Jewish political thought; Jewish philosophy and theology; history of Jewish ideas in the Christian and Islamic worlds; history of Zionism and the State of Israel; human nature and philosophical psychology; philosophy of science; interfaith encounter and coalition building; the new anti-Semitism; higher education and the university curriculum; and Jewish education and curriculum.