Yehuda H. Zeilberger's Essay on Isaac Benrubi in the Encyclopedie Philosophique Universelle

Translated from French by Doron Zeilberger (Dec. 29, 2004)

This is a translation of the article on Isaac Benrubi written, in French, by Yehuda Zeilberger, that appeared on pp. 2244-2245 of v. 3 of Encyclopedie Philosophique Universelle (PUF).

Benrubi Isaac 1876-1943

Geneva Philosopher of Greek-Jewish extraction, born in Thessaloniki, died in Geneva. Benrubi was a descendant of an old family of Sephardic rabbis- the same Jewish community, of Portugese provenance, to which Spinoza belonged in Amsterdam. He studied philosophy and education in Iena, Berlin, and Paris (1898-1914). In 1914, he participated in the 2nd Congress of Philosophy in Geneva, where he stayed, teaching the history of European philosophy (German and French) until his death-with the exception of six years: between 1927 and 1933, when he was appointed by the Prussian Government to teach French philosophy at Bonn, a job that he considered as a cultural mission for fostering the intellectual ties between France and Germany. Furthermore, Benrubi is a model of a polyglotte philosopher: even though he only knew Ladino until age eighteen. He presented his thesis in German, under the direction of the great philosopher Eucken, on the "Moral ideal of J.J. Rousseau" (1904). His historiographical works on French philosophy, that he wrote both in German and French, is one of a kind. According to Benrubi, Rousseau is the source of all German philosophy- from Kant to Nietzche-and the spiritual father of the great poets Goethe, Schiller, and Holderlin.

[Summary of Benrubi's Works]

Introduction to a Moral Treatise on the Knowledge and Unity of Things

(undated manuscript)

Benrubi tries to go beyond the agnosticism and timidity of modern philosophical reflection, to re-establish the bridge between the Self and the things, to abolish the dualism of speculative and practical thinking. Hence he opposed the conventional character of the act of knowing in "subject" and "object" to the reality that is interested in both subject and object. "I can't exist without the universe, neither can the universe exist without me". The author attempts to exhibit the universe as a whole: terrestrial unity, solidarity of the living, the existence of a human race, united in its diversity, arriving in conclusion at a moral: Natural obligation of cosmic and human solidarity. In a second work, Bendrubi studied at depth the great movements of moral philosophy (leaving us a manuscript of more than 600 pages, that is archived at the Geneva BPU (Bibliotheque Public et Universitaire)), where the essential ideas of the sceptics, relativists and utilitarians are analyzed in detail and compared - from the Greek Sophists to Max Srirner and Herbert Spencer, passing through Montaigne, Pascal, La Rochefoucauld, and Helvetius, among others. (J. H. Zeilberger)

Works by Benrubi: [omitted]

Articles on Benrubi: S. H. Bergmann, entry in Encylopedia Judaica, IV, Jerusalem, p. 546.
H. Reverdin, "Isaac Benrubi" in Annales de la Societe J.J. Rouseau, 1943.
J. H. Zeilberger, "Isaac Benrubi, Juif fidele, patriot genevois, cosmopolite fervent", manuscript deposited at the Bibliotheque Public et Universitaire de Geneve, 1981. (Cote BPU BVM 282).

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