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Diana Lobel takes readers on a journey across Eastern and Western philosophical and religious traditions to discover a beauty and purpose at the heart of reality that makes life worth living. Guided by the ideas of ancient thinkers and the insight of the philosophical historian Pierre Hadot, The Quest for God and the Good treats philosophy not as an abstract, theoretical discipline, but as a living experience.For centuries, human beings have struggled to know why we are here, whether a higher being or dimension exists, and whether our existence is fundamentally good. Above all, we want to know whether the search for God and the good will bring happiness. Following in the path of the ancient philosophers, Lobel directly connects conceptions of God or an Absolute with notions of the good, illuminating diverse classical texts and thinkers. She explores the Bible and the work of Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Maimonides, al-Farabi, and al-Ghazali. She reads the Tao Te Ching, I Ching, Bhagavad Gita, and Upanishads, as well as the texts of Theravada, Mahayana, and Zen Buddhism, and traces the repercussions of these works in the modern thought of Alfred North Whitehead, Iris Murdoch, Alasdair MacIntyre, and Charles Taylor.While each of these texts and thinkers sets forth a distinct and unique vision, all maintain that human beings find fulfillment in their contact with beauty and purpose. Rather than arriving at one universal definition of God or the good, Lobel demonstrates the aesthetic value of multiple visions presented by many thinkers across cultures. The Quest for God and the Good sets forth a path of investigation and discovery culminating in intellectual and spiritual communion.
Written in Judeo-Arabic in eleventh-century Muslim Spain but quickly translated into Hebrew, Bahya Ibn Paquda's Duties of the Heart is a profound guidebook of Jewish spirituality that has enjoyed tremendous popularity and influence to the present day. Readers who know the book primarily in its Hebrew version have likely lost sight of the work's original Arabic context and its immersion in Islamic mystical literature. In A Sufi-Jewish Dialogue, Diana Lobel explores the full extent to which Duties of the Heart marks the flowering of the "Jewish-Arab symbiosis," the interpenetration of Islamic and Jewish civilizations.Lobel reveals Bahya as a maverick who integrates abstract negative theology, devotion to the inner life, and an intimate relationship with a personal God. Bahya emerges from her analysis as a figure so steeped in Islamic traditions that an Arabic reader could easily think he was a Muslim, yet the traditional Jewish seeker has always looked to him as a fountainhead of Jewish devotion. Indeed, Bahya represents a genuine bridge between religious cultures. He brings together, as well, a rationalist, philosophical approach and a strain of Sufi mysticism, paving the way for the integration of philosophy and spirituality in the thought of Moses Maimonides.A Sufi-Jewish Dialogue is the first scholarly book in English about a tremendously influential work of medieval Jewish thought and will be of interest to readers working in comparative literature, philosophy, and religious studies, particularly as reflected in the interplay of the civilizations of the Middle East. Readers will discover an extraordinary time when Jewish, Christian, and Islamic thinkers participated in a common spiritual quest, across traditions and cultural boundaries.
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