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So I bought this book written by a philosopher by the name of Edward Feser. His book is called "Five Proofs for the Existence of God". It can be found here: https://www.amazon.com/Five-Proofs-Existence-Edward-Feser/dp/1621641333

Anyhow, I read a few pages of it and generally he doesn't seem to be arguing for any specific religion simply for the concept of philosophically proving monotheism. However, when I told my Dad about this book he had strong objections because the book was written by a Catholic so he says that a Jew is not supposed to read such books. His objections mainly stem from the fact that he uses Greek philosophers arguments such as Aristotle and Plotinus and claims that Jews do not use Greek philosophy because it is pagan and foreign to us. To my knowledge this is not true because Rambam used Aristotle in his "Guide for the Perplexed", when I told him this he claims that Rambam had a special mind to separate the good from the bad (not sure what kind of argument that is) and that I don't have the mind for it and will get brainwashed and become a heretic by reading this book. He also objects because the author uses arguments put forth by Aquinas who was a Catholic and Augustine who was also Catholic. Lastly the author uses Leibniz who I believe was also a Christian.

My dad tells me that I should look for specifically Jewish philosophers who philosophically argue for the existence of G-d, problem is a lot of the arguments were effective in the time they were living and not as relevant today. This book was published rather recently and is considered some of the best proofs of G-d we have today. So yeah, should I listen to my dad and toss the book away?

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – msh210 Jan 14 at 6:12
  • Ben Shapiro (who is an orthodox Jew) says that "If you want to read a good book about proofs of G-d, then Edward Freser is a book I recommend on the show." He likes it and its good enough for him. – Jonathan Feb 5 at 23:44
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It depends. Why do you want to learn about this topic?

If it's just casual curiosity, I see no reason not to listen to your father.

But, if it's out of a personal intellectual need, I would say your father's approach is foolish and dangerous.

We live in an age of overexposure. Plain and simple. Anyone harboring any doubts will be quickly exposed to those that challenge religious belief and worldview. Far more can be lost because you don't "דע מה להשיב לאפיקורס" than if you look "krum" because you read a goyish book.

That being said I believe it is imperative to find theists that pack intellectual muster. Unfortunately, the so called "apologists" of the frum world are pseudo-intellectuals on a good day. Rabbi Doniel Mechanic and Lawrence Kelleman do not compare to the elite of Christian Scholarship.

I believe that frum people have much to benefit from the likes of William Lane Craig, Alvin Plantinga, Aron Wall and of course Edward Feser.

Additionally, it should be noted that none of the traditional arguments for theism are religion specific. The only exception being the argument from Jesus's ressurection ( most notably William Lane Craig.)

Read away, and you will learn much. Use what you gain to serve HaShem!

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Your dad is right.

If you want to learn mathematics, learn from a mathematician, even though many chemists could do a creditable job. If you want to learn French, learn from a Frenchman, even though many Italians could do a creditable job.

Who did God choose to reveal His Torah to? Who introduced God and the word of God to the people? Who has an uninterrupted connection to that time thousands of years ago when God spoke to Abraham? The Jews. So go to the source and stay with it. Why would you NOT want to do that?

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  • If I want to learn how to hit a baseball, should I go to the first person who ever hit a baseball, or the person who is the best at hitting a baseball? (All other things being equal.) – Alex Jan 14 at 2:37
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    Who is to say who is "best"? We are talking about trust. That chemist may well be better at teaching math than the mathematician you picked. But you don't know that. – Maurice Mizrahi Jan 14 at 2:38
  • The question doesn't seem to be about trust. It seems to be about finding a compelling argument. – Alex Jan 14 at 2:39
  • ok what are the best, contemporary Jewish philosophy books that argue for the existence of G-d? – azathor Jan 14 at 2:53
  • I like Rabbi Joseph Telushkin's works: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Telushkin. "Nine questions" is good. – Maurice Mizrahi Jan 14 at 3:02
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If you are prohibited from reading Five Proofs for the Existence of G-d, try Rebecca Goldstein's (Jewish) 36 Arguments for the Existence of G-d. Jokes aside, Maimonides wrote in his monumental Guide of the Perplexed that, the truth is the truth no matter what its source. He, therefore, had no quarrels accepting the philosophy from the Greek pagan Aristotle. Some scholars even feel that Maimonides considered Aristotle to be a prophet. In any event, Rambam derived most of his philosophy from non-Jews. As a result, he did not always cite his philosophical sources since the vast majority of them came from non-Jews. He feard that if he had they could prompt Jews to abandon his works altogether.

My own view is that I think you are right to study works from Jews, as well as non-Jews. For example, the Charedi community in Israel teaches no secular curriculum in an effort to control or brainwash the young minds of the students.[1] For this reason, Maimonides felt that people should study the truth, even if it comes from non-Jews. One should not dismiss Feser because he is a non-Jew or Einstein because he was irreligious. That would be foolish. People make a terrible mistake when they think that only their own religion communicates the truth.

Even Rabbi Attar said that "in all generations, there are non-Jews with greater knowledge than Jews."[2]

Ben Zoma captures this idea when he said:

"Who is wise? He who learns from all men,” as it is written (Psalm 119:99) “I have gained understanding from all my teachers.”

Thus, Maimonides was correct when he said, "listen to the truth from whoever speaks it."

[1] See Rabbi Natan Slifkin's essay here

[2] Midrash Rabba Eikha 2:13 and the Babylonian Talmud Sanhedrin 39b

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    Which scholars feel that Maimonides considered Aristotle a prophet? – Alex Jan 14 at 6:14
  • I can’t remember the name but I will try to write to you tomorrow when I find it. Additionally, Maimonides felt that the biblical prophets were what we’d call today modern philosophers. – Jonathan Jan 14 at 6:38
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    At the end of his letter to Ibn Tibbon he indicates that Aristotle was not a prophet. – Alex Jan 14 at 13:01
  • "For example, the Charedi community in Israel teaches no secular curriculum in an effort to control or brainwash the young minds of the students." I don't get the relevance of this statement. – robev Jan 16 at 3:13
  • @robev Rabbi Slifkin explains that the Charedi community does not study secular subjects, and as a result, they are often ignorant of the secular world. It is, of course, good to study Torah, but one should also learn the secular subjects, as well. – Jonathan Jan 16 at 4:57

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