Request for Proposals

I. Fellowship Announcement

The Herzl Institute in Jerusalem, in collaboration with the John Templeton Foundation, invites proposals for a funding initiative in “Jewish Philosophical Theology.” Our aim is to encourage research from both new and established scholars working on philosophical projects in the area of Jewish theology. We anticipate applications from philosophers interested in Jewish theology, but welcome applicants from other areas including Hebrew Bible and rabbinics, Jewish Studies and allied disciplines.

 

II. Fellowship Description

Project Directors:

Yoram Hazony, The Herzl Institute

Joshua Weinstein, The Herzl Institute

This $560,000 funding initiative is intended to support work in Jewish philosophical theology. Proposals can request between $40,000 and $100,000 for projects not to exceed two years in duration. We intend to make 7-10 awards.

 

III. Background and Key Questions

1. What can we know about God’s nature and his relationship with the world?

2. What can be learned about the fundamental structure of reality and the human mind observing it?

3. What can we know about human virtue and flourishing?

4. What is the relationship between the realities depicted through classical Jewish philosophical-theological concepts and concepts current in modern science, philosophy and academic discourse?

5. How can the sources of Judaism and constructive Jewish philosophical-theological investigation inspired by these sources produce new spiritual information for the benefit of contemporary women and men?

The project will investigate key questions such as the following (these topics are intended as examples):

  • God’s Perfection. What are the sources of the claim, central to the Western theological tradition, that God is “perfect being”? Can this view be squared with the tradition of Jewish and Christian Scripture (taken not as authority but as sources of potential insight)? Can this view be maintained, in whole or in part, in the face of modern advances in philosophical and theological understanding? If only in part, then what needs to be done to update this conception of God so it remains viable? If not, what kinds of accounts of God might be needed to replace the view of God as perfect being?
  • Knowledge of God and Man’s Image. Scripture reports that man was made in God’s image, and the biblical authors go on to present God as resembling man in key ways. Can the pursuit of this analogy between man and God still be considered a viable way of gaining insights into God’s nature? What can we learn about divine reality through the instrument of envisioning God as resembling human beings? What about God’s proposed resemblance to a king, a father, a husband? God’s proposed capacities of thought, speech and action?
  • God and the Created Character of the World. God’s creation is often said to be revealed in Scripture, although some have sought to connect between the creation described in Genesis and that proposed by modern physics. What is taught by the scriptural account of creation concerning the nature of the created world? Can the scriptural account, which seems to imply that goodness and therefore normativity are intrinsic to the created order, be reconciled with modern philosophical approaches to the nature of reality? Does the scriptural account describe something akin to our origins in scientific cosmology, or is it describing something else altogether? Is the intrinsic normativity of created things only an assertion of the biblical text, or is it something that can be recognized through the empirical experience of the created world?
  • God’s Speech. The Bible depicts God as speaking much as if he were a human being, yet nearly all philosophical theologies avoid the claim that God’s speech is the same as human speech. What, then, are we to make of the biblical claim that God speaks? And of the suggestion that God’s words or decrees find fulfillment in events in the world? Do such descriptions refer to putatively miraculous events, or can they be seen as describing characteristics of the natural order in much the way that God’s imputing normativity to the world can be seen as part of nature? What does the possibility of divine speech teach us about the place of human beings in God’s world, and about what could count, if anything, as hearing divine speech today?
  • Biblical Metaphysics. Twentieth century philosophers and theologians have argued that biblical metaphysics departs radically from Aristotelian models and their modern successors in depicting reality as fundamentally changeable and lacking in stability. If this is right, then biblical concepts of God, truth, and reality may be quite different from those that are familiar from medieval theological conceptions. Can philosophical investigation of biblical and classical rabbinic metaphysics offer new insights into the nature of ultimate reality? Of basic metaphysical categories such as truth, goodness, and being? How do biblically derived metaphysical positions affect our understanding of God’s nature and the possibility of God’s word? How do they effect man’s epistemic predicament, and the reasons for humility and pluralism in theological, philosophical and scientific investigation?
  • The Concept of Torah (“Instruction”) from Heaven. One of the central theological concepts in Jewish tradition is the concept of “Torah from heaven.” But this belief is not literally understood to mean that God’s teaching comes from the sky. What can a philosophical clarification of this idea teach us about the relationship between God’s command and the world of human experience? About the normative character of reality? About the significance of tradition and its relationship with other means of exploring God’s will such as human reasoning?
  • Additional Basic Theological Concepts in Judaism. Additional fundamental theological concepts in Judaism that might be clarified in the framework of this project include: God’s hester panim and gilui panim (God’s hiddenness and appearance), brit (covenant), mitzva (commandment), tzedek and tzedaka (justice and righteousness), yirat hashem and ahavat hashem (fear and love of God), teshuva and hidush (repentence and renewal), kedusha (holiness), nefesh, ruah and neshama (soul and spirit), and olam haba (“the world to come”), among others.

Projects whose primary purpose is historical or exegetical are not eligible for this RFP.

For further information about the Jewish Philosophical Theology project, please consult the project website at www.bibleandphilosophy.org.

 

IV. Application Instructions

The Jewish Philosophical Theology project will accept applications for funding in two stages: First, Letters of Intent are due by December 15, 2014 for research to begin by September 1, 2015. Second, selected applicants will be invited to submit full proposals, which will be due by February 1, 2015, with final award decisions issued by March 1, 2015.

Details are as follows:

A. Letter of Intent Stage: Deadline December 15, 2014

Applicants are required to submit:

  1.  A letter of intent that includes a brief description of the proposed project, the central questions to be investigated, the significance of these questions, the way in which the proposed project addresses the goals and one or more of the Key Questions of this RFP, and a summary of the methodology. The letter of intent should be no longer than 1,000 words.
  2.  A curriculum vitae.

 

B. Full Proposal Stage: Deadline February 1, 2015

A full application will include:

  1. A cover letter with the title of the proposed project, amount requested, and duration of the project.
  2. An abstract of no more than 250 words.
  3. A full project description of up to 5,000 words. The description should describe the central questions to be addressed by the project; the significance of these questions both for Jewish theology and more generally; the way in which the project addresses the goals and at least one of the Key Questions of this RFP; methodology; the researcher’s qualifications; and plans for the publication of the results of the project. Proposals should include a Summary of the main ideas and arguments to be investigated.
  4. A time line for the proposed work.
  5. A detailed budget with accompanying narrative explaining line items.

 

Application materials should be submitted by e-mail to gavriell@herzlinstitute.org. Please submit all materials as Word documents or pdf files. Questions about the application process should be directed to this address as well.

 

V. Selection Criteria

Grants will be selected on the basis of the following criteria:

  • Relevance of the project to the questions and topics of the RFP
  • Prior accomplishments of the applicant
  • Originality of the proposed project
  • Potential academic and general significance of the proposed project
  • Feasibility of the project in the specified timeframe
  • Soundness of methodology
  • Quality of the budget justification

Proposals will be refereed by a committee consisting of Yoram Hazony, Andrew Johnson, and Joshua Weinstein. 

 

VI. Grant Eligibility and Requirements

Grant awardees will normally have a Ph.D. and be professionally active in disciplines such as philosophy, Jewish thought, Bible, rabbinics or Jewish Studies.

All applications must be submitted in English or Hebrew. RFP awardees able to conduct their work in residency at the Herzl Institute in Jerusalem may be eligible for an additional relocation stipend.

Candidates must be willing to commit to the following conditions of the grant. Successful awardees will be required to:

  1. Submit interim and final reports, which will detail progress and outcomes of the funded project. Reports will be in accordance with a timetable to be agreed upon at the outset of the project.
  2. Agree to be physically present and to present their work at two three-day midterm conferences at the Herzl Institute to be scheduled for Jerusalem during winter 2015 and winter 2016. Reasonable travel and accommodations expenses will be reimbursed in addition to the research grant.
  3. Agree to seek publication of completed research funded by the grant in a reasonable timeframe, and to present references to the published work to the project directors.
  4. Abide by such additional provisions of the grant award as will be required in the grant agreement.

 

 VII. Correspondence

All inquiries and application materials should be forwarded to Gavriel Lakser at gavriell@herzlinstitute.org; or at the Herzl Institute, 5 Wyndham Deedes St., POB 8048, Jerusalem 9108001, ISRAEL.