Maimonides and Jewish Philosophy

Abraham Ibn Daud (Abraham ben David): ca. 1110-1180?
Sefer Hakabala ('Book of Tradition')


Moses Maimonides 14 Nisan, 1135—20 Tebeth, 1204 (March 30 1135-December 13, 1204)

The Guide for the Perplexed: published in Arabic in 1190. The work is apologetic and concordistic; it is not a treatise on philosophy or science.


Theory of Homonyms

In the Bible, a number of important names and words have double meanings, or rather, the same word is used for two entirely different concepts. Confusion arises when people wrongly assume that there is some connection or other beyond accidental usage between the two concepts. Thus, Maimonides' exposition must deal with these 'ambiguous terms'.

The Guide assumes a sophisticated audience that believes in the existence of God. But that He has a spiritual nature, and the nature of that Nature, are unclear to many serious people. This is a special problem for Jews living in a Moslem world.


The earliest philosophical-theological sect in Islam. The question of free will and determinism are paramount in the emergence of the sect. Orthodoxy empahsizes man's complete dependence on Allah's divine will and the fact that Allah has determined each person's destiny. Kadariya takes a position in favor of free will.


an opposition group. Anti-Kadariya, and also reacting against Aristotelian influences. Reason is the source of knowledge, alongside the Koran and the Sunna (tradition). They sought to prove the creation of the world (as against the notion of an unchanging God), the reality of miracles (as against Natural Law).


A Muslim branch of the Mutakallimun, noted for philosophic rationalism. Fascinated by the idea of the absolute unity of God and his absolute justice. They believed in the absolute character of good and evil. Reason makes an act good or bad, and God commands it because it is objectively good. The Jewish position is that what God commands is good, whether it seems rational (to us) or not.


A later party of interpreters (founded in the 10th century by Al-Ashari) : denial of natural law, the necessity of cause and effect, denial of the ability of man to determine his actions. Very un-Jewish, but part of the intellectual discussion of God and the Universe.


January 22, 2010 8:42 PM

John Paul Adams, CSUN

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