The guide to the perplexed: a new translation

Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. Edited by Lenn Evan Goodman & Phillip I. Lieberman (2024)
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Abstract

Maimonides' Guide to the Perplexed is among the most influential texts within Jewish philosophy: a twelfth-century masterwork that seeks to navigate the straits between religion and philosophy. The Guide was written around 1190 in Classical Arabic by Moses ben Maimon, commonly known as Maimonides or as Rambam, a medieval Sephardic Jewish philosopher who became one of the most prolific and influential Torah scholars of the Middle Ages. The Guide to the Perplexed, written as a letter from a teacher to his "perplexed" student, is Maimonides' magnum opus. In this new translation by philosopher Lenn E. Goodman and Jewish historian Phillip I. Lieberman, Maimonides' intimate, conversational voice comes through as never before in English. Written in the form of a three-part letter to Maimonides' student, Rabbi Joseph ben Judah of Ceuta, the Guide seeks to resolve the apparent contractions between Aristotelian thought and Rabbinical Jewish theology. Maimonides is all too cognizant of the challenges serious inquirers face at the confluence of the two great streams of thought and learning that Arabic writers labeled 'aql and naql, reason and tradition. The object of the Guide, as Maimonides declares near the start of the work, is to probe the mysteries of physics and metaphysics. But mysteries, for him, are not conundrums to be celebrated for their impenetrability, but problems to be solved. Maimonides' ideas echo throughout the work of philosophers including Aquinas, Spinoza, Leibniz, and Newton, and the Guide continues to inspire vigorous debate among philosophers and theologians today. Goodman and Lieberman's detailed commentary provides historical context and philosophical scaffolding, allowing readers to more fully understand the complexities of the most significant text in medieval Jewish thought.

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