Secular “Jewishness:” The Case of Isaac Deutscher

Somehow, all of this recent talk and thought about philosophy and biography, or philosophy as biography, has gotten me thinking about identity.  In his 1954 essay “The Non-Jewish Jew” Isaac Deutscher writes, “The Jewish heretic who transcends Jewry belongs to a Jewish tradition.”  Such heretics for Deutscher are Spinoza, Heine, Marx, Rosa Luxemburg, Trotsky and Freud:

All of them had this in common, that the very conditions in which they lived and worked did not allow them to reconcile themselves to ideas which were nationally or religiously limited and induced them to strive for a universal Weltanshauung.

Deutscher’s argument is basically that the Jewish backgrounds of these thinkers was critical to their becoming revolutionaries, but yet, each of these thinkers could not reach their dream of “universal human emancipation” within the borders that mark the Jewish tradition.  Continue reading