TAU's Cohn Institute Adding New Senior Academic Position Wednesday, July 15, 2009
Expanded faculty enhances partnership between renowned research institute and Max Planck Society
TAU's Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science and Ideas is expanding its already formidable intellectual base, adding a new professor thanks to a $1.5 million endowment by the founding Cohn family.
The new scholar will join the distinguished research and graduate study institute at a time when the institute is also inaugurating the activities of its Minerva Center for the Humanities, recently created by the Minerva Foundation following a vigorous competition among the major centers of higher education in Israel. The Minerva Foundation is a subsidiary of the acclaimed Max Planck Society for the Advancement of Science in Germany.
New York businessman, portfolio manager, and philanthropist Bertram J. Cohn calls the new professorship "motivated by enthusiasm for the joint venture with the Max Planck Society." Cohn and his wife, Barbara, endowed the Cohn Institute for the History and Philosophy of Science in 1983, and have actively encouraged advanced scholarship throughout its history.
Prof. Yossi Schwartz will become The Cohn Institute's new director when the 2009-10 academic year begins in October. Prof. Schwartz is a leading expert on the history of medieval scientific, philosophical and theological thought, and on the history of the interactions between Christianity and Judaism from the 13th century on. He replaces Prof. Leo Corry, a well-respected historian of contemporary exact sciences, whose term as director is ending.
The Cohn Institute established and continues to edit Science in Context, an international academic journal devoted to the study of the sciences from historical, philosophical and sociological viewpoints. Published by Cambridge University Press, it is widely acknowledged as one of the leading publications in its field.
Prof. Rivka Feldhay will lead the institute's new Minerva Center for the Humanities, a home for three ambitious research programs that seek to transcend the borders of the academic world — the embodiment of the Cohn Institute's intellectual credo. Its efforts to understand and activate knowledge will be driven by three teams guided by the idea that each of today's cultures has grown out of cross-fertilization and dialogue with other cultures.
"This is a worthy and exciting challenge for our top thinkers and scholars," says Cohn. "Ideas have the power to influence and shape history. Our interdisciplinary research could, with luck and tenacity, set in motion a serious cross-cultural dialogue between Israeli and Arab intellectuals — with the potential for historic change. The work could influence peace efforts in the region."
Prof. Feldhay, a former director of the Cohn Institute who led its participation in the Minerva Foundation competition, will direct a research group on migration of knowledge. Her team will examine the intellectual legacy of early modernity in Europe and the Middle East as the product of movements of large groups of scholars carrying their manuscripts, books, linguistic expertise and bodies of knowledge along different trajectories of migration.
The institute's Prof. Adi Ophir will continue and expand the work of an existing research group that studies key concepts in political thought in the framework of "Encyclopedia in the Making." Guided by the old philosophical question "What is X?" (e.g., what is a state, power, violence, family, class), the group will write original essays on key traditional and novel, even "bastard," concepts.
Dr. Raef Zreik, of the Faculty of Law at Haifa University, will lead comparative research on forms of political communities inspired by Moslem and Jewish traditions, as well as contemporary critical philosophy. By broadening the perspectives of recent debates between liberalism and its contemporary Western critics, this team will enrich the repertoire of available options for living together within a political community.
A unique international partnership
Named for a towering intellect of 20th century Germany, the Max Planck Society comprises nearly 80 research institutes and facilities, primarily on German soil. An independent, non-profit organization, its Institutes conduct original research to high scientific standards in both the sciences and the arts and humanities. Through international networks, these Institutes cooperate with leading research establishments and universities in Western Europe, Israel, the USA, Japan and China.
The Minerva Foundation, based at the Max Planck House in Munich, is dedicated to building bridges between Israel and Germany to facilitate the exchange of research and foster deeper cooperation in innovative and promising research areas. In addition to grants for fellowships and research programs, it has awarded funding for 39 Minerva Centers — "centers of excellence" — since 1977.
TAU has been awarded four other Minerva Centers — the Minerva Institute for German History and Wiener Library, the Dead Sea Minerva Center, the Minerva Center on Cholesterol Gallstones and Lipid Metabolism in the Liver, and the Hermann Minkowski Minerva Center for Geometry. It is also a partner in three Minerva Centers housed at other Israeli universities.