I grew up in London, attending an Orthodox Jewish day school from the age of five to eighteen. I then read Philosophy as an undergraduate at UCL, doing an MA in Philosophy at Bedford College London (which, alas, no longer exists). While my training was in analytic philosophy, my MA dissertation was on Sartre and Heidegger. This interest took me to Chicago, where the Philosophy Department at De Paul University was orientated towards phenomenology. I spent three years at DePaul as a Visiting Lecturer and then transferred to the Committee on Social Thought, University of Chicago, where my PhD thesis (‘After Wittgenstein: Writing on the Verge of Philosophy’) was supervised by Stephen Toulmin. I remained in the city to teach Philosophy at Saint Xavier University. After six years as head of the department, I came to St Benet’s Hall as a Visiting Fellow for a one-year sabbatical. This led to a split year, with six months at Saint Xavier and six months at St Benet’s, for several years until, around 2005, I reverted to full-time living in England.
I give tutorials in Philosophy to students at St Benet’s and other colleges, often from overseas. I mainly teach Plato, Early Modern Philosophy and Wittgenstein, though other subjects I have taught include Ethics, Philosophy of Religion and Philosophy of Mind. Among the tutorial courses I have given to visiting students are ‘Thinking and Acting: an Introduction to Hannah Arendt’, ‘Philosophy after Auschwitz: Ethics and Modernity in the Light of the Nazi Holocaust’ and ‘Zion and Zionism: Conceptions of Jewish Identity in the Nineteenth and Twentieth Centuries’. I have acted as co-supervisor of a doctoral thesis at Oxford on ‘The Culture of Jewish Identity in Britain’. Currently I have two graduate advisees, both writing doctoral theses in Theology.
My research is divided between academic philosophy and certain contemporary social and political issues (notably racism, Islamophobia, antisemitism and Jewish identity). I try to bring tools and methods from the former to bear upon the latter. In this vein, in summer 2012, as Visiting Scholar, I taught a senior seminar course at the International Centre for Muslim and Non-Muslim Understanding, University of South Australia, on ‘Wittgenstein on Culture and Religion’. In Trinity 2013 I gave a paper ‘Grammar from Heaven: the Language of Revelation in Light of Wittgenstein’ at the Oxford Seminar in Advanced Jewish Studies’. While Philosophy of Religion has moved increasingly to the centre of my work, I continue to write on social and political questions, largely with a view to exploring concepts that are either contested or give rise to confusion.
ed, with Francis Dunlop, Ethics, Value and Reality: Selected Papers of Aurel Kolnai (Hackett, 1977)
ed, with Kathleen Alaimo, Children as Equals: Exploring the Rights of the Child (University Press of America, 2002)
Offence: The Jewish Case (Seagull Books, 2009)
Being Jewish and Doing Justice: Bringing Argument to Life (Vallentine Mitchell, 2011)
‘Islamophobia: A Concept Comes of Age’ in Ethnicities, vol 12, no 5 (October 2012)
‘Interrogating “New Anti-Semitism”’ in Racialization and Religion, ed Nasar Meer (Routledge, 2014)
'The Limits of Analogy: Comparing Islamophobia and Antisemitism', Patterns of Prejudice (December 2014)
'Moses: the Significant Other' in /Ulrich Schmiedel and James M Matarazzo, Jr. (eds), Dynamics of Difference: Christianity and Alterity (Bloomsbury T&T Clark, 2015)
Work in Progress
'New Antisemitism: Analysis and Assessment' in Jonathan Adams and Cordelia Hess (eds), Antisemitism: Continuity and Change from the Middle Ages to the Present Day (Ashcroft, forthcoming 2016)
'Implicit Islamophobia? Behind the "Muscular Liberalism" of the British Prime Minister" in Seyyed-Abdolhamid Mirhosseini and Hossein Rouzbeh (eds), Instances of Islamophobia: Demonizing the Muslim 'Other' (Lexington Books, forthcoming 2016)
'Speaking of God: Ludwig Wittgenstein and the Paradox of Religious Experience' in an edited volume of essays by various authors on religious language and religious experience (Brill, forthcoming 2016)
'To Whom Does Europe Belong?' in an edited volume of essays by various authors on contemporary Europe (Bruno Kreisky Forum, Vienna, forthcoming 2016)
'Placing Time: Redemption, Hope and Justice in a Diasporic Light', European Judaism (forthcoming 2016)
Article on the January 2015 Paris attacks on Charlie Hebdo and the Hyper Cacher supermarket, International Journal of Public Theology (forthcoming 2016)