Professor Jonathan Jacobs Awarded NEH Grant to Direct a Summer Seminar for College and University Faculty on Medieval Jewish Philosophy

Professor Jonathan Jacobs Awarded NEH Grant for Summer Seminar on Medieval Jewish Philosophy

Jonathan Jacobs, professor and chair of the Department of Philosophy, director of the Institute of Criminal Justice Ethics at John Jay, editor of the journal Criminal Justice Ethics, and Presidential Scholar was recently awarded the National Endowment for the Humanities Summer Seminar for College and University Faculty Grant.  The NEH grant, in the amount of $120,000, was awarded to fund a summer seminar, one of only seven seminars nationwide to receive such funding.

To date, Jacobs has received five grants from the NEH, including another Summer Seminar grant back in 2010. Faculty members from colleges and universities across the U.S. may apply to participate in Jacobs’ seminar, which will take place in the summer of 2017, but only sixteen participants will be selected. The seminar will run for four weeks during the month of July and will take place at Colgate University in Hamilton, NY.

The subject of Jacobs’ seminar next summer will be “Will, Commandment, and Human Perfection in Medieval Jewish Philosophy.” “One thing I’m interested in doing is showing how philosophers from earlier periods, and medieval philosophers in particular, are of interest not just historically but also because they have insights and arguments that are relevant to contemporary thought,” said Jacobs. The Seminar will focus on the works of Saadia (10th century) and Maimonides (12th century) who are key figures in medieval Jewish thought.

Jacobs’ two areas of expertise – criminal justice and medieval philosophy – may seem disparate, but for the professor they are actually quite connected. “In both contexts, questions about the relation between law and morality are very important, as are questions about the nature of moral agency, moral responsibility, and moral reasoning,” he said.

Jacobs was on the faculty at Colgate University for 23 years before he began teaching at John Jay in 2011.  He has been a visiting scholar or visiting professor at Oxford, Cambridge, the University of Edinburgh, St. Andrews University, and the Chinese University of Hong Kong. He also teaches at the Graduate Center where he will be offering a course there on Medieval Philosophy in fall 2016.

NEH funding has supported several of Prof Jacobs’ research projects, including 3 of his books, numerous articles, and two months as Visiting Scholar at the Oxford Center for Hebrew & Jewish Studies.