I am a professor in the Department of Philosophy at Johns Hopkins University. I hold an MA in philosophy and the history of science and logic from Tel Aviv University, and a PhD in philosophy from Yale University (2005). I have been awarded the Fulbright, Mellon, and American Academy for Jewish Research Fellowships. Recently, I have also won the ACLS Burkhardt (2011), NEH (2010), and Humboldt (2011) fellowships for my forthcoming book on Spinoza and German Idealism.
I work at the intersection of philosophy (primarily metaphysics), Jewish and religious studies, the history of science, and the humanities in general. I focus on foundational questions, which I aspire to approach with both philosophical and historical rigor. In particular, I am interested in well-argued views that are commonly treated as “counter-intuitive”; such views, I think, may help us challenge our own well-fortified beliefs, force us to motivate what we deem to be obvious, and reveal our conceptual blind spots. To that end, I study bold past philosophers (e.g., Spinoza), and less familiar theoretical analyses (e.g., Rabbinic thought), which may not only expand our philosophical imagination, but also help us develop a more inclusive attitude to philosophy and its history. I have written a brief manifesto outlining my philosophy for the history of philosophy (“Charitable Interpretations and the Political Domestication of Spinoza, or, Benedict in the Land of the Secular Imagination”).
My first book—Spinoza’s Metaphysics: Substance and Thought (Oxford University Press, 2013) —- offers a new and systematic interpretation of the core of Spinoza's metaphysics. If my chief claims in this book are accepted, it should result in a major revision of our understanding of Spinoza (and the unfolding of an original metaphysics of thought).
In my next major book project, Spinoza and German Idealism: A Metaphysical Dialogue, I attempt to reconstruct the philosophical dialogue between Spinoza and the German Idealists. This dialogue, I argue, has shaped the modern discourse on some of the most fundamental questions of the past two centuries: the possibility of human freedom and agency, the nature of God, the veracity and adequacy of teleological explanations, the illusory nature of our perception of the world as human-centered, the rights of the State and its citizens, the nature of religion, the nature of thought, the nature of time, the value of beauty, and the limits of human thought. On each of these questions Spinoza and the German Idealists had utterly opposed views, while still sharing substantial common ground. This fruitful dialogue has crucial implications for many branches of the humanities and the social sciences, from religious studies, to aesthetics, narratology, the study of time, political theory, German intellectual history, modern Jewish and Christian thought, historiography, biblical criticism, and the history of science.
I am also about to complete a manuscript for a book on Spinoza’s political and religious thought. In this book, I articulate Spinoza’s uncompromising critique of anthropocentrism and study his delicate and critical dialogue with medieval Jewish sources (philosophy, biblical commentaries, and, to a certain extent, Kabbalah). I also criticize the common tendency to associate Spinoza with secularism. Instead of domesticating Spinoza by making him a twenty-first-century liberal-democrat (like us), I suggest that we should carefully examine his highly sophisticated political realism, with all of its blind spots, insights, vices, and virtues.
In addition to these monographs, I have edited two volumes: Spinoza’s Theological Political Treatise: A Critical Guide (Cambridge University Press, 2010; coeditor: Michael Rosenthal), and Spinoza and German Idealism (Cambridge University Press, 2012; coeditor: Eckart Förster). I am currently editing a volume on the history of the concept of eternity for Oxford University Press. I have also been invited to edit two other books: a Handbook of Jewish Philosophy for Oxford University Press, and a Critical Guide to Spinoza’s Ethics for Cambridge University Press.
I have also published a large number of shorter studies on medieval, early modern philosophy, and German idealism; about a dozen more are in press. I am currently working on issues in contemporary metaphysics (time, mereology, and identity).
To download my articles, check: http://johnshopkins.academia.edu/YitzhakMelamed.