Josef Stern

Josef Stern
William H. Colvin Professor of Philosophy Emeritus
Columbia University, PhD (1979) and BA (1972)
Teaching at UChicago since 1979
Research Interests: History of Philosophy, Medieval Philosophy, Philosophy of Language

Josef Stern is William H. Colvin Professor of Philosophy Emeritus and was the Inaugural Director of the Chicago Center for Jewish Studies (2009-14). Since his retirement from the Department, he continues to work on contemporary philosophy of language and medieval philosophy, especially Jewish and Arabic philosophy, and he is pondering the fine distinction between being and not being retired, what one might call "the law of the excluded end." At present he is completing a book manuscript on quotations and pictures and, in medieval philosophy, a number of projects that focus on epistemological and metaphysical issues in the philosophy of the twelfth-century Jewish philosopher Moses Maimonides, in particular, the epistemology of prophecy and a skeptical critique of certainty. In 2016-17 he was a Senior Fellow at the Maimonides Center for Advanced Studies–Jewish Skepticism at the University of Hamburg. When not in Germany or Chicago, he can be found in Jerusalem—and if you sight him on the Quads, check that it is not an identical twin.

Selected Publications


Quotations as Pictures (MIT Press) in February 2022.

Problems and Parables of Law: Maimonides and Nahmanides on Reasons for the Commandments (Ta’amei Ha-Mitzvot), Series in Judaica: Hermeneutics, Mysticism, and Religion (Albany, NY, SUNY Press, 1998)

Metaphor in Context (Cambridge, MA, M.I.T. Press/Bradford Books, 2000); paperback edition 2016

The Matter and Form of Maimonides’ Guide (Cambridge, MA, Harvard University Press, 2013)

Ha-homer ve-ha-tzurah Be-Moreh Nevukhim Le-RaMBaM (Heb.), Sifriyat Heillel ben Hayyim (Kibbutz Ha-Me’uhad Publishers, Israel, 2017)

Ha-homer ve-ha-tzurah Be-Moreh Nevukhim Le-RaMBaM (Heb. translation of The Matter and Form of Maimonides’ Guide), Sifriyat Heillel ben Hayyim, Kibbutz Ha-Me’uhad Publishers, Israel, 2017.

Quotations and Pictures, (Cambridge, MA, M.I.T. Press, 2022)

Edited Volumes:

Adaptations and Innovations: Studies on the Interaction between Jewish and Islamic Thought and Literature from the Early Middle Ages to the Late Twentieth Century, Dedicated to Professor Joel L. Kraemer,  ed. with Y. T. Langermann (Paris-Louven: Peeters, 2007)

Themes in the Thought of Eliezer Berkovits  Special Issue of Shofar: An Interdisciplinary Journal of Jewish Studies 31, no. 4 (Summer 2013)

Editorial Board (with responsibility for Judaism), Religion, War, and Ethics: A Sourcebook of Textual Traditions, ed. Gregory Reichberg and Henry Syse (Cambridge University Press, 2014)

Maimonides' Guide of the Perplexed in Translation: A History from the Thirteenth Century to the Twentieth, co-ed. with James T. Robinson and Yonatan A. Shemesh, University of Chicago Press, 2019.

Recent Papers:

“Maimonides’ Modalities,” in D. Frank and A. Segal, eds. Cambridge Critical Guide to Maimonides's Guide of the Perplexed, Cambridge University Press, 2021: 184-205.