This book explores the norms we have and where we want to go with them. The project began by asking people what they think is the central value in society today. The responses point to notions of what seems “right” to people. We can move forward with these intuitions about the main tenet of our moral lives. Respondents named values regarding freedom of the Self, and concern for the Other. Indeed with freedom, we can respect others. And we must. People’s lives are intertwined, and so freedom as a concept cannot be understood without taking account of this reality. The author suggests that the value to be taken as central is the moral freedom of respect. It ought to guide us in designing the society we want to build. The law can be a bridge towards that normative world. Jewish ethics may illuminate the path.
Kim Treiger-Bar-Am is a legal academic in Israel.
About the Author
In this brave and unusual book, Kim Treiger-Bar-Am takes a leaf from Socrates’ notebook and engages a wide variety of Jews on the street, as it were, in order to understand the moral intuitions that inform their lives. Moving on from this empirical base, Treiger-Bar-Am then brings the moral positions thus uncovered into conversation with the texts and teachings of Judaism. This engaging and accessible book is not a philosophical work about ethics, but a work of Jewish ethics. The first-person nature of the book’s narrative adds to its charm.
The crux of this book is in the title. Rather than a property that describes individuals acting in isolation from one another, freedom requires respect for other people. This claim is both true and important. What is unique about this book is that rather than demonstrate her claim by appeal to abstract principles, Kim Treiger-Bar-Am has interviewed people to get their views of what it means to be free. She is widely read in contemporary ethical theory as well as the specifics of Jewish ethics. Her passion for her subject is evident on practically every page.
In Freedom and Respect in Jewish Ethics, Treiger-Bar-Am highlights deep connections between ideas and ideals integral to Jewish tradition and to modern liberal democracy. Freedom and respect inform both traditions at a fundamental level—and they can be seen as mutually reinforcing as each continues to develop through engagement with numerous contemporary challenges. The interconnection of freedom and respect emerges vividly from starting points in people’s perspectives on society, values, and what matters about being a human being. The discussion brings out the common resonances in Judaism and liberal democracy in an especially timely articulation.