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Leo Strauss and Judaism: Epicureanism and its Discontents

Leo Strauss once wrote that in order to comprehend “the [moral] antagonism between Baruch Spinoza and Judaism, between belief and unbelief...the Jewish designation of the unbeliever as Epicurean seemed to be helpful.”

Eugene Sheppard, associate professor of modern Jewish history and thought at Brandeis University, examines the influence of Epicureanism within Strauss’ critique of religious thought and his own life. Sheppard’s research focuses on modern European Jewish intellectual history with a special interest in modern German Jewish thought, and has written on Jewish political thought, the radicalization of intellectuals, and the impact of European Jewish refugees on the American public sphere and academy. His book Leo Strauss and the Politics of Exile (Brandeis, 2006) places Strauss’ philosophy within the context of German-Jewish intellectual history, and examines Strauss’ own experience of living in exile and the competing loyalties of living as a philosopher and a Jew.

Professor Sheppard’s Athenaeum lecture is first in the series Leo Strauss and Modern Jewish Thought, planned in conjunction with Professor Gary Gilbert and co-sponsored by the Center for the Study of the Holocaust, Genocide, and Human Rights.