Goetschel, Willi

Research Project
Secularization and Jewish Modernity

Despite their claims to universal validity, secularization theories remain products of the traditions of religious thought from which they emerged. Secularization is a term and concept that originates in the context of the early modern church and state politics that followed in the wake of the Reformation. It is based on a particular notion of religion that is limited to the experience of European Christianity and its conflicted relationship with the emerging modern nation state. It is not until the declaration of the Weimar Republic that, in Germany, the issue reaches a promising new stage.

During this period, Jewish philosophers from Spinoza and Moses Mendelssohn to Hermann Cohen, Martin Buber, Franz Rosenzweig, and others formulate philosophical approaches that engage with this problem creatively, rethinking the problem of secularization as a problem that touches the nerve of theory itself. Examining the contribution of these and other Jewish philosophers in the context of the debate on theories of secularization reveals a critical edge to modern Jewish thought that offers a more differentiated approach to rethinking secularization in a global context.

Selected Publications

Goetschel, W. 1990. Kant als Schriftsteller. Wien: Passagen-Verlag.

Goetschel, W. 1994. Constituting Critique: Kant’s Writing as Critical Praxis. Durham: Duke University Press.

Goetschel, W. 2003. Spinoza’s Modernity: Mendelssohn, Lessing, and Heine. Madison, Wis.: University of Wisconsin Press.

Goetschel, W. (1992). Herausgeber der Werkausgabe von Hermann Levin Goldschmidt in neun Bänden. Wien: Passagen-Verlag.

Goetschel, W. Gründer und Herausgeber der Zeitschrift Bamidbar: Journal for Jewish Thought and Philosophy (seit 2011).