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Menachem Fisch wins Prestigious Humboldt Research Award

Award is given to academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements.
Image: Friedrich Georg Weitsch / Wikimedia Commons
Image: Friedrich Georg Weitsch / Wikimedia Commons

Shalom Hartman Institute Senior Research Fellow Menachem Fisch has been awarded a 2016 Alexander von Humboldt Foundation Research Award in recognition of the academic achievements in his career.

The Bonn, Germany, foundation’s award is given to “academics whose fundamental discoveries, new theories, or insights have had a significant impact on their own discipline and who are expected to continue producing cutting-edge achievements in the future.”

Award winners are invited to spend a period of up to one year cooperating on a long-term research project with specialist colleagues at a research institution in Germany.

Fisch described himself as overwhelmed. “Intitiated by my closest colleague at Frankfurt, the Humboldt Prize is a humbling and moving acknowledgment of my work, with special reference to how its diverse threads mesh,” he said. He said that the prize money will allow him to fund his research in Germany, among other items.

The nomination letter submitted to the award committee from Christian Wiese of Frankfurt University said, in part, that Fisch belongs to the leading intellectual historians and philosophers in the area of modern history and philosophy of science, and, at the same time, to the most acknowledged contemporary Jewish philosophers.

“It is, indeed, this rare and exceptionally creative dialogue between general philosophy and Jewish thought, i.e., the manner in which his pioneering writings on the history and philosophy of science in Victorian England as well as on epistemology and rationality have inspired him to an innovative interpretation of rational discourse in the Talmudic literature, that explains his widespread international reputation and constitutes his extraordinary academic achievements,” the letter said in part.

“The openness, critical scholarship and moral character of Menachem Fisch’s main scholarly endeavor, the establishment of a dialogue between Judaism, Christianity and Islam based on innovative methods as well as on a fundamental respect for the Other’s tradition, provides a model for academic engagement in the interreligious and intercultural encounter between Judaism, Christianity and Islam which are meaningful on a global scale, particularly in view of the conflicts in the Middle East, but also with regard to current debates in Germany about mutual cultural understanding in increasingly multicultural and multi-religious immigrant societies. Due to his internationally acknowledged role as a prolific scholar and public intellectual working on philosophical issues of contemporary relevance, Menachem Fisch’s presence in the German academic context will, therefore, be of particular significance.”

Fisch is spending the 2016-2017 academic as a visiting scholar at the Martin-Buber-Professur and as a fellow at the Forschungskolleg Humanwissenschaften in Bad Homburg. He is there to working on the project, “The Dialogical Project of Judaism’s Formative Canon: Re-defining Rational Theology.”

Fisch is the Joseph and Ceil Mazer Professor emeritus of History and Philosophy of Science, Director of the Center for Religious and Interreligious Studies and former Chair of the Graduate School of Philosophy at Tel Aviv University.

He is trained in physics, philosophy, and the history and philosophy of science. The Brill Library of Contemporary Jewish Philosophers, edited by H. Tirosh-Samuelson and A. Hughes, recently devoted a volume to Professor Fisch entitled, The Rationality of Religious Dispute.

His publications include: The View from Within: Normativity and the Limits of Self-Criticism, with fellow Hartman Institute scholar Yitzhak Benbaji, Rational Rabbis: Science and Talmudic Culture, and “To Know Wisdom”: Science, Rationality and Torah-study.

His book, Creatively Undecided: Toward a History and Philosophy of Scientific Agency, is from Chicago University Press.

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