Shira Billet received her PhD in the Religion, Ethics, and Politics subfield of the Department of Religion in 2019, and she is currently a postdoctoral associate in the departments of Judaic Studies and Philosophy at Yale University.
Shira’s doctoral work at Princeton University focused on the German Jewish philosopher Hermann Cohen in his historical and intellectual contexts, particularly the intellectual contexts of both German Idealism and the Jewish intellectual movement Wissenschaft des Judentums, and the German political contexts that contributed to rising antisemitism in Germany in the 1880s. Her dissertation, entitled “The Philosopher as Witness: Hermann Cohen’s Philosophers and the Trials of Wissenschaft des Judentums,” offered a new account of Cohen’s understanding of the role of the Jewish philosopher in light of his readings of Socrates, Philo of Alexandria, Maimonides, and Spinoza. Cohen, a founder of Marburg Neo-Kantianism and an interpreter of Kant’s oeuvre, later became a Jewish philosopher in response to experiences of Jewish marginalization in the academy and civil life, but Cohen understood the role of the Jewish philosopher within the context of longstanding strand in the history of philosophy dating back to the trial of Socrates, namely the philosopher’s role as “witness,” in several senses of that word. The notion of the philosopher as witness is key to Cohen’s understanding of the history of Jewish philosophy.
Shira’s work has been supported by several fellowships and institutions, including the Leo Baeck Fellowship Programm (Germany), the Laurance S. Rockefeller Graduate Prize Fellowship at the University Center for Human Values (Princeton University), the Religion and Culture Fellowship at the Center for the Study of Religion (Princeton University), and the Shalom Hartman Institute of North America, where she serves as a Faculty Fellow.