Sanctity and Silence: The Religious Significance of Maimonides’ Negative Theology

Abstract

Maimonides’ negative theology has generated controversy ever since it was advanced in The Guide of the Perplexed. Unlike Aquinas,Maimonides does not allow predication by analogy or anything else that compromises the radical separation between God and creatures. The standard objection to Maimonides is that his view is so extreme that it undermines important features of religious life, most pointedly the institution of prayer. I argue that Maimonides was well aware of the problems caused by negative theology and provides us with ingenious ways to handle them. Overall I attempt to show that for Maimonides, religious language is not referentialbut heuristic: rather than depict the structure of an underlying reality, its function is to prepare the mind for a particular kind of reflection

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Kenneth Seeskin
Northwestern University

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