[Mendele] MENDELE Personal Notices and Announcements--Agushewitz translated

Victor Bers victor.bers at yale.edu
Fri Aug 8 09:27:24 EDT 2008

MENDELE Yiddish Language and Literature
Personal Notices and Announcements

Aug. 8, 2008

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Date: Sun, 3 Aug 2008 15:32:32 +0300
From: Mark Steiner <marksa at vms.huji.ac.il>
Subject: Translation of Rueven Agushewitz, Principles of Philosophy

I am happy to announce the publication of my translation of Reuven
Agushewitz' work of philosophy, Principles of Philosophy [Printsipn],
originally published in 1942 in Yiddish.  This is my second translation from
Agushewitz' three philosophical works.  (The first one was Faith and Heresy
[emune un apikorses]--Agushewitz' last philosophy book.  A complete
autodidact, Agushewitz nevertheless reached remarkable heights in
philosophy; Faith and Heresy received accolades from prominent Western
philosophers as original (!), lucid, and charming.  I am not aware of any
other philosopher who wrote in the Yiddish language, who achieved such
heights of originality (there is, of course, a voluminous Yiddish literature
ABOUT philosophy, but that is not the same thing).

Reuven Agushewitz was a Lithuanian iluy; a socialist activist; a roshyeshive
(Antwerp).  He became a citizen of the U. S. in 1929, and made a living by
tutoring boys in gemore.  Having no family, he frequented the New York
Public Library on 42th Street, and his works are the result of this

Principles of Philosophy is an attempt to explain to the Yiddish public the
value of philosophy in an age of science.  He regards philosophy as of a
piece with religion, perhaps the first Orthodox rabbi since Maimonides to
hold this view.  He attempts to give an account of natural, psychological,
economic, and sociological phenomen using basic principles that hold of all
existence.  Writing in the midst of Hitler's reign of terror, he has acute
things to say about National Socialism, as well as Stalinist collectivism;
why Republicans in the United States continued to vote for that party in
1932, when the consequences of electing a Republican were obvious to all;
the secret of Jewish unity; the joys of intellectual creativity; the role of
teleological [goal directed] accounts of natural phenenomena, and many other

Both of my translations are published by Yeshiva University Press.

I am now at work on my third translation--actually, the first book he
published on philosophy--"Ancient Greek Philosophy."  You ask me maybe, why
do we need another English book on Greek philosophy when there are
thousands?  The teretz is, when a Gentile writes on Greek philosophy, he
tells you what Anaximander said; when Agushewitz writes on Greek philosophy,
he tells you what Anaximander SHOULD have said...

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