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Encountering Scripture In Overlapping Cultures: Early Jewish, Christian And Muslim Strategies Of Reading And Their Contemporary Implications

[RG #121] Encountering Scripture In Overlapping Cultures: Early Jewish, Christian And Muslim Strategies Of Reading And Their Contemporary Implications

September 1, 2010 - February 28, 2011


Meir Bar-Asher (The Hebrew University)
Mordechai Cohen (Yeshiva University)

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Contemporary critical theory, which highlights the creative dimension of the reading process, is increasingly reorienting the study of the history of scriptural interpretation, situating it within the flux of literary and cultural movements at large. This international research group brings together scholars of Jewish, Christian and Muslim interpretation to conduct a close comparative analysis of shifting encounters with Scripture in three overlapping cultures. Drawing upon diverse yet complimentary perspectives, the participants in this group will investigate five fundamental subjects:

a. The critical role that interpretation played in the formation of Sacred Scripture;

b. Changing conceptions of the "plain sense" of Scripture;

c. The ways in which classical rhetoric and poetics informed scriptural interpretation;

d. Tensions created by the need to transplant Scripture into new linguistic media;

e. The ways in which the Bible has been reconfigured in literature, art and scholarship.



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Algorithmic Game Theory: The Next Decade

[RG # 123] Algorithmic Game Theory: The Next Decade

March 1 - August 31, 2011


Michal Feldman (Tel Aviv University)
Noam Nisan (The Hebrew University)

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The last decade has seen the emergence and growth of a new interdisciplinary field of research often termed "Algorithmic Game Theory". This field lies at the crossroads of computer science, game theory, and economics; a combination which is necessary for addressing many of the challenges posed by the Internet. Not only is this field full of intellectual excitement internally, and not only has it already begun to intellectually influence the three parent disciplines, but it also has significant implications for the Internet, as evidenced by the large number of researchers in the field hired by Google, Yahoo, and Microsoft.

At the approximate age of ten years, it seems that the field of Algorithmic Game Theory is maturing. The goal of this group is to elucidate the main challenges of the field and attempt to chart the future course of the field for the next decade.

Some research topics that will be explored:

- Networks with contagious risk, the different aspects of how the evaluation of the Generalized Second Price mechanisms are used for selling ads on the Internet, and the understanding of the performance of simple auctions and modeling auctions used in practice (Eva Tardos)

- Interviewing in stable matching problems and cost-sharing mechanisms (Nicole Immorlica)

- Sketching valuation functions, the equilibria of simple market mechanisms, and optimal multi-item auctions (Noam Nisan)

- Auction design for agents with uncertain, private values (Anna Karlin)

- A general framework for computing optimal correlated equilibria in compact games, computing Nash equilibria of action-graph games via support enumeration, mechanical design and auctions, and computational equilibrium analysis of voting games (Kevin Leyton-Brown)

- Envy-free mechanisms for multiunit auctions with budgets, cost sharing games with capacitated network links, and game theoretic perspectives of the facility location problem (Michal Feldman)

- Bargaining in networks (Amos Fiat)


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Computation and the Brain

[RG # 124] Computation and the Brain

March 1 - August 31, 2011


Eli Dresner (Tel Aviv University)
Oron Shagrir (The Hebrew University)

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The concept of computation plays a major role in the current research of brain function. As Peter Stern and John Travis wrote in "Of Bytes and Brains" in Science (2006:75), "Computational neuroscience is now a mature field of research. In areas ranging from molecules to the highest brain functions, scientists use mathematical models and computer simulations to study and predict the behaviour of the nervous system". Another typical statement of the centrality of computation to the study of the brain can be found in Christof Koch's introduction to his book, The Biophysics of Computation: "The brain computes! This is accepted as a truism by the majority of neuroscientists engaged in discovering the principles employed in the design and operation of nervous systems".

However, the instrumental and explanatory role of the notion of computation in neuroscience is still in need of analysis and clarification. There are various different ways in which computational models and the notion of computation are applied in the study of the brain, and it is important for these to be distinguished and assessed. For example, as attested by the two quotations in the previous paragraph, the term "computational neuroscience" may refer to two different enterprises: Stern and Travis talk of the extensive use of computer models and simulations in the study of brain functions, while Koch gives expression to the view that the modelled system itself, i.e. the brain, computes. Both perspectives are part of what is one of the major scientific projects of our time -- the effort to explain how the brain, as a physical systme, works. However, together these two perspectives manifest a duality that is not found in other sciences, where e.g. stomachs, planetary systems, and tornadoes are studied through the use of computational models and simulations, but are not perceived as computing systems.

Thus what is called for is a systematic, philosophical analysis of the role of computation in neuroscience. What is the exact role of computer models and simulations in brain research? What is the explanatory role of the view that the brain itself performs computations? How are the two enterprises (of using computer models in brain research, and of viewing the brain as a computer) related: Do they employ the same concept of computation? Are they components of a wider exaplanatory framework? These are the questions that our research group set out to consider, discuss, and offer answers to.


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Cultural Archaeology of Jews and Slavs: Medieval and Early Modern Judeo-Slavic Interaction and Cross-Fertilization

[RG # 125] Cultural Archaeology of Jews and Slavs: Medieval and Early Modern Judeo-Slavic Interaction and Cross-Fertilization

March 1-August 31, 2011


Alexander Kulik (The Hebrew University)
Moshe Taube (The Hebrew University)

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The aim of the group is to bring together historians, philogists and scholars of comparative religion to help bring down disciplinary barriers and to show how the Slavic and the Jewish cultures can be revealed, each one of them respectively, as unique repositories of the lost texts, sensibilities, and traditions of the other's culture. It seeks to examine, on the one hand, unique data which Slavic cultures preserve on Medieval and Early Modern East European Jews, and on the other hand, key elements of Slavic cultural traditions preserved by Medieval and Early Modern East European Jews.

We will explore cultural exchange within the Khazarian-Slavic, Judeo-Greek-Church Slavonic, Old Russian-Jewish, early modern Polish-Jewish, and other cultural realms from the late 9th - early 10th celturies to late 17th - ealry 18th centuries. The topics are not limited to direct Judeo-Slavic contacts, but include, inter alia, issues such as Slavic reception of ancient Jewish sources, Slavonic Bible and pseudepigrapha, Slavonic Josephus, Biblical iconography, etc.


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Sovereignty, Global Justice and The Ethics of War

[RG # 126] Sovereignty, Global Justice And The Ethics Of War

March 1, 2011 - August 31, 2011


Eyal Benvenisti (Tel Aviv University)
Yitzhak Benbajo (Bar-Ilan University)

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In an era of globalization and massive institutional change in the international community, developing a workable set of ideas about global or international justice is one of the most important tasks facing philosophers, political theorists, lawyers and economics. Current events raise imperative political and moral questios concerning the moral standing of states and ethnocultural communities, states' rights against interventional in their internal affairs, their right to use force to protect their territorial integrity, and their right to protect their citizens or to protect citizens of other states.

Similarly, the growing interdependence among states introduces an entire set of concerns regarding global distributive justice, whereas the histories of relationships among states (colonialism, wars, secessions, etc.) suggest concerns regarding global corrective justice. These questions focus on the duties of affluent states to aid poor countries and refugees, the duties of colonial states to compensate their former colonies, the just treatment of statelessness and the just distribution of cultural rights, citizenship, residency, wealth, and the world's natural resources. These ample practical applications of global justice are what make it one of the most viable and increasingly important subfields of political philosophy.

Some of the most fundamental themes of global justice have been widely discussed in the context of just war theory. 

The research group will study three areas:

(1) The morality of the laws of war, with special attention to the institutional arrangements recommended by the statist and the cosmopolitan competing theories of just wars

(2) The statist and cosmopolitan theories of global justice, mainly distributive, but also corrective

(3) How debates between statists and cosmopolitans in these two fields -- international justice and just war theory -- are related, and how morality and the laws of war are implemented in the different conceptions of international justice.



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