This brilliant and absorbing study examines the image of Judaism and the Jews in the work of two of the most influential modern philosophers, Hegel and Nietzsche. Hegel was a proponent of universal reason and Nietzsche its opponent; Hegel was a Christian thinker and Nietzsche a self-proclaimed 'Anti-Christ'; Hegel strove to bring modernity to its climax, while Nietzsche wanted to divert the evolution of modernity into completely different paths. In view of these conflicting attitudes and philosophical projects, how did each of them assess the historical role of the Jews and their place in the modern world? The mature Hegel partly overcame the fierce anti-Jewish attitude of his youth, yet continued to see Judaism as the alienation of its own new principles. Post-Christian Judaism no longer had a real history, only a contingent protracted existence, and although modern Jews deserved civil rights, Hegel saw no place for them in modernity as Jews.
Nietzsche, on the contrary, who grew to be a passionate anti- anti- Semite, admired Diaspora Jews for their power and depth and assigned them a role as Jews in curing Europe of the decadent Christian culture which their own ancestors, the second-temple Jewish "priests", had inflicted upon Europe by begetting Christianity. The ancient corrupters of Europe are thus to be its present redeemers. Through his masterly analysis of the writings of Hegel and Nietzsche, Yovel shows that anti-Jewish prejudice can exist alongside a philosophy of reason, while a philosophy of power must not necessarily be anti-Semitic.