Normal individuals, when they expose themselves to the society around them, tend to fit their views to this society. And this is especially so when that society will determine the course of their careers. In a world in which philosophical success, for example, is determined by materialists and Christians, almost any Jew who strives for such success will find himself accommodating his views either to those of the materialist camp, or to those of the Christian camp. I do not say that this is done intentionally, although sometimes it is. But for most purposes, it makes no difference. What passes for “Jewish” philosophy is usually the product of a strenuous, if often unconscious, effort to be pleasing to the surrounding environment. One need only consider the great Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen writing about Jesus as the “Messiah of mankind” (Cohen 1995, 239-240), or Martin Buber arguing that what “erroneously and misleadingly is called early, original Christianity… could with greater justification be called original Judaism,” to have a sense of what I am talking about (Buber 1967, 45). What had been anathema to all the generations of Jews that came before them, was for them entirely natural and desirable, as a result of their immersion in a Christian (and post-Christian) environment whose judgments they accepted as their own. Nor was this a superficial and cosmetic gesture. Rather, it reflected a deep affinity between their philosophical systems and those of the dominant civilization of which they sought to be a part...Jewish philosophy in the accommodatonist style of Cohen or Buber should be a cautionary tale. In the end, their pursuit of theological accommodation with Christianity failed to win the acceptance they sought from their German surroundings. Nor did their efforts contribute significantly to Christianity’s understanding of Judaism, for what their teachings were in fact able to do was primarily to hold up a small mirror to German Protestantism, in which it could gaze at a Jewish-tinted image of itself. [Hazony, pp. 196-7]
Precisely because our exegetical traditions and training are so different from those of much of the Christian community, Jews have a decisive role to play in bringing such facts to light, and in moving philosophical and theological discourse in directions that might not otherwise emerge. But for this to happen, Jews have to be resolute and unyielding in everything having to do with maintaining the theological autonomy of our tradition in its reading of Scripture and rabbinic texts. The moment we Jews begin to speak, for example, as though Christological doctrines of salvation are Jewish no less than Christian, any creative tension that might have existed in an open discussion and debate between our two traditions collapses, and the entire enterprise becomes worthless, or worse. Worthless for Christians, who need no assistance from us in elaborating their doctrine of salvation; worse than worthless for Jews, who in speaking in this way, brush aside (or soft pedal, or shortchange) commitments that have stood at the very heart of the Jews’ theological and philosophical understanding from prophetic times until now.
Christian philosophers, I note with admiration (and not a little envy), have succeeded in recent years in bringing their own philosophies into the academic mainstream, publishing and teaching in light of their tradition—although it is certain that Christian philosophy causes no little discomfort among some of their materialist colleagues. The uncompromising posture of Christian philosophy and its success in the contemporary academic setting should be an inspiration to Jewish philosophers and theologians, encouraging us to present our own tradition with clarity and force to a broad audience that is seeking such a presentation of our views at this time.--Yoram Hazony, Three Replies: On Revelation, Natural Law and Jewish Autonomy in Theology 201-2.
In critically reflecting on earlier so-called attempts at Jewish philosophy Hazony notes, correctly, that incentives matter and that these have shaped the accomodationist content of some such philosophy. It does not follow, however, as Hazony claims that earlier Jewish philosophers (Cohen, Buber, etc.), sought "acceptance" (as opposed to truth, understanding, etc.) or even "theological accommodation with Christianity." Part of the problem of framing these thinkers in this way (which I won't explore now) is that, say, Cohen's Kantianized understanding of Christianity that Hazony is mocking is a different beast than the reformed Christianity of Plantinga (recall) or even the Christianity we find in Stump's "Franciscan mode of knowledge" (recall).
As an aside, Hazony relies on the idea that German Jewish philosophy was a failure because it sought and failed to receive acceptance from German surroundings. Hazony offers this thought without examining the intentions and the option-space available to, say, Cohen. More subtly, even if it were true that such acceptance were sought, Hazony relies on the post-Holocaust (and Zionist) idea that this was a deluded strategy. [In the bit that I cut Hazony quotes Soloveitchik's "authorized by our history, sanctified by the martyrdom of millions," approvingly.] But all of this seems odd for three reasons: first, Cohen, who chose to end his career in the Academy of Jewish Sciences, died in 1919 and we can't know how he would have responded to the failures of Weimar (and Cassirer's debate with Heidegger) not the least on the question of Zionism. Second, it obscures the ways in which Hazony's own enterprise, in which the Hebrew Bible should be seen as philosophical, is anticipated by Cohen's reading of the Bible. (This is not to deny the huge differences between Hazony and Cohen.) Third, it seems to suggest that philosophical contribution is to be evaluated in light of subsequent political history--but, as Hazony ought to recognize, judging by that standard ought to be revisable in light of subsequent history. Spinoza's prophecy of Zionism looks different in 1670 (or 1770 or 1870) from the vantage point of 1970.
Having said that, what to make of Hazony's admonition to Jewish philosophers to be resolute and unyielding in everything having to do with maintaining the theological autonomy of our tradition in its reading of Scripture and rabbinic texts? While I share Hazony's aversion toward reading Christology into the Hebrew Bible, I am doubtful he has offered the hermeneutical resources to prevent such readings (recall). More important, Hazony quotes, for example, Philo and Maimonides approvingly, yet neither seems to have maintained the stance he advocates in theological matters. That is to say, on a tactical (or conceptual) level Hazony slips a bit too easily between theology and christology; on a strategic level, Hazony suggests that in order to advance the tradition we need to break with the best practices of the tradition.
It's a perfectly legitimate aspiration for Hazony to try to emulate Plantinga (ca 1984). But as I have noted before, the Hebrew Bible has Moses receive if not philosophy then political theory from Jethro (a non-Jew). Moreover, Jewish thought has shaped not just Christianity, but also (it is worth emphasizing) Islam, which, in turn, have shaped Jewish thought (for some tentative remarks in this direction see here). In his piece, Hazony emphasizes that Jewish thought "can be understood as reasonable by non-Jews" (185 n. 37--I am quoting a bit out of context, but not against the spirit of the piece); but even if we grant his neo-Kantian (!) confidence in a dynamics of reason that accompanies the "creative tension" (between Jewish and Christian thought) that Hazony advocates, the Jewish tradition also offers us vibrant exemplars -- from Moses to Herzl-- that teach us that we can reinvent our tradition by way of a stuttering, intellectual heteronomy.