Amos Funkenstein

Robert Alter, David Biale, Anthony Long, Isaac Miller, and Steven J. Zipperstein
March 1996
Photo of Robert Alter.

This unusual Festschrift for Amos Funkenstein, introduced by Professor Robert Alter, was made possible through the collaborative efforts of the Townsend Center, the Department of History, and the Koret Chair in Jewish Studies. Professor Funkenstein held the Koret Chair at the time of his death in November 1995. This volume contains four essays selected from a memorial conference held to honor the memory of Funkenstein.

The first essay, “The last German-Jewish Philosopher,” by Professor David Biale of the Graduate Theological Union, celebrates the breadth of Funkenstein’s achievements in his major published works. Biale contends that Funkenstein’s work is as much a biography of God in Judaeo-Christian thinking as it is a record of the transformation from theology to secular reason in the modern period.

In the second essay, Classics Department Professor Anthony Long, who was teaching a Townsend Center Interdisciplinary Graduate Seminar with Funkenstein at the time of Funkenstein’s death, discusses the themes of that seminar, and their connections with Funkenstein’s unfinished study, The Disenchantment of Knowledge: Moments of Transition in the History of Western Epistemologies.

Isaac Miller’s “Reflections on Pedagogy in the Academy” provides a graduate student’s perspective of working under Funkenstein’s direction, an experience Miller likens to a “complex hall of mirrors,” where making ideas relevant to one another produced a dynamic environment that was constantly engaged, inspiring, and full of surprises.

Professor Steven J. Zipperstein of Stanford’s History Department reminisces about his former teacher and colleague in much the same manner. “Genius and its Vicissitudes” recalls a professor who was both casual and regal and whose engagement with his material and his students led from intense discussion in the seminar room to late-hour chess playing.