Reclaiming the Wicked Son

Reclaiming the Wicked Son

Finding Judaism in Secular Jewish Philosophers

By Stephen Stern & Steven Gimbel

This book takes the ideas of six well-known secular Jewish philosophers and views them through the lens of Jewish thought, thereby understanding their writings as part of the Jewish intellectual tradition.

PDF, 138 Pages


September 2022

£25.00, $40.00

EPUB, 138 Pages


September 2022

£25.00, $40.00

  • About This Book
  • Reviews
  • Author Information
  • Series
  • Table of Contents
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  • Podcasts

About This Book

Reclaiming the Wicked Son: Finding Judaism in Secular Jewish Philosophers takes the ideas of six well-known secular Jewish philosophers—Karl Marx, Ludwig Wittgenstein, Ayn Rand, Peter Singer, Noam Chomsky, and Judith Butler—and views them through a wide range of Jewish lenses from the Talmudic tradition and prophetic Judaism to Kabbalist approaches, thereby understanding the 20th-century secular thinkers as on-going elements of a living Jewish intellectual tradition.

Jewish Studies as a field focuses on Judaism, but Jewishness is broader than Judaism, and as a result, a number of thinkers who come from Jewish backgrounds are excluded from the discourse in Jewish Studies. The goal of this volume is to act as a bridge between the religious and secular Jewish discourse communities, allowing a more inclusive and more comprehensive account of Jewish thought. 

While the philosophers who discussed may not have considered themselves to be Jewish philosophers. But, by reading them Judaically, they can be understood in terms of a more robust historical and intellectual context in which they partake of a tradition to which they are not often connected.


"Steven Gimbel and Stephen Stern have taken on one of the major challenges in Jewish Studies: how does one read the outliers, those thinkers who contentious approaches both challenged and restructured Jewish Studies as a transdisciplinary field? From Karl Marx to Ayn Rand, from Peter Singer to Judith Butler, the authors frame the debates and innovations of a range of major Western thinkers both in terms of their affiliation with and alienation from their own sense of Jewishness. An important and readable coming-to-terms with the uncomfortable edges of modern Jewish thought" — Sander L. Gilman, Author of I Know Who Caused COVID-19: Xenophobia and Pandemics.

"Gimbel and Stern have set themselves the admirable and illuminating scholarly task of discovering Jewish affinities implicit in the work of six disparate contemporary thinkers who for their part eschew such associations. Far from the reductions of identity politics, their suggestive re-contextualizations illuminate and augment our understanding of their thought". —Richard A. Cohen, Professor of Jewish Thought and Philosophy, University at Buffalo (SUNY), USA; author of Out of Control: Confrontations between Spinoza and Levinas (2016).

"In this scholarly and erudite, yet playful, book, Professors Stern and Gimbel explore the hidden connections between a fascinating range of secular Jewish thinkers and their Judaic tradition as well as the broader non-Jewish world in which their works can be located".— Professor Nathan Abrams, Bangor University, UK; Author of Stanley Kubrick: New York Jewish Intellectual

"As clever as it is insightful, Reclaiming the Wicked Son places Jewish thought where it belongs, integrated into the Western philosophical tradition.”— Dr. Cheyney Ryan, Director, Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford, UK.

Author Information

Stephen Stern is the Chair of Jewish Studies at Gettysburg College where he is an Associate Professor of Jewish Studies and Interdisciplinary Studies.

Steven Gimbel is a Philosophy Professor and Jewish Studies affiliate at Gettysburg College.


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Table of Contents

Introduction: Reclaiming the Wicked Son; 1. Karl Marx and Materialistic Messianism; 2. Ludwig Wittgenstein and Neo-Talmudic Thought, 3. Ayn Rand and the Hassidic Courts; 4. Peter Singer: The Amos of Animals; 5. Judith Butler and Orthopraxy; 6. Noam Chomsky, Kabbalist; Conclusion: Re-Membering the Tribe; Bibliography; Index


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