"The reissue of Guttmann's edition of Rabin's translation is a welcome event. There has long been a need for a readable, judicious edition, for classroom use, of this large and complex work." --Michael L. Morgan, Indiana University.
Maimonides’ moral psychology undergoes development, which this essay attempts to detail. In the early Shemonah Peraqim Maimonides charts out a seemingly anti-Aristotelian view that underscores the specificity of each part of the human soul and the utter distinctiveness of the human species. Human beings share nothing with non-human animals, prima facie not even the most “animalistic” features. Over time, however, a change in Maimonides’ position is to be noted. In his philosophical magnum opus, the Guide of the Perplexed, Maimonides adopts (...) a more Aristotelian position, understanding human beings as sharing with nonhumananimals certain sub-rational faculties, but differing from them in their ratiocinative capacities. As in Aristotle, human beings turn out to be essentially rational animals. (shrink)
The communitarian critic of liberalism argues that the socio-political context is fundamental to any understanding of the individual as such. This debate is advanced by particularising it to the experience of Jews in the modern world. Essays focus on the variety of views of the relationships between the individual Jew and the communities, religious and secular, of which he or she is a member.
Saadya ben Joseph al-Fayyumi, gaon of the rabbinic academy at Sura and one of the preeminent Jewish thinkers of the medieval period, attempted to create a complete statement of Jewish religious philosophy in which all strands of philosophical thought were to be knit into a unified system. In _The Book of Doctrines and Beliefs_, Saadya sought to rescue believers from "a sea of doubt and the waters of confusion" into which they had been cast by Christianity, Islam, and other faiths. (...) By employing philosophical--or kalamic--argumentation to examine and defend traditional Jewish beliefs, Saadya hoped to turn blind faith into conviction based on rational understanding. First published in 1946, and reprinted here without alteration, Alexander Altmann’s judicious abridgment of his own translation has remained the standard edition of this influential work. A new Introduction by Daniel Frank sets Saadya’s work in its broader historical, cultural, and philosophical contexts. (shrink)
Daniel H. Frank - The Book of Job in Medieval Jewish Philosophy - Journal of the History of Philosophy 44:2 Journal of the History of Philosophy 44.2 318-319 Robert Eisen. The Book of Job in Medieval Jewish Philosophy. New York: Oxford University Press, 2004. Pp. xii + 324. Cloth, $55.00 Robert Eisen has written a very good book on medieval philosophical interpretations of the Book of Job. In it he discusses the varying interpretations of Saadia Gaon, Maimonides, Samuel Ibn Tibbon, (...) Zerahiah Hen, Gersonides, and Simon ben Zemah Duran. For readers of this journal, the aforementioned, with the exception of Maimonides and possibly Gersonides, may be just names, but in the context of medieval Jewish philosophy they together present a wonderful discussion.. (shrink)
Daniel H. Frank - Spinoza and the Irrelevance of Biblical Authority - Journal of the History of Philosophy 40:2 Journal of the History of Philosophy 40.2 263-264 Book Review Spinoza and the Irrelevance of Biblical Authority J. Samuel Preus. Spinoza and the Irrelevance of Biblical Authority. New York: Cambridge University Press, 2001. Pp. xvi + 228. Cloth, $54.95. This book is the history of ideas at its best. In lesser hands, volumes in the genre tend to be reductionist to the (...) point of redundancy and irrelevance, forcing the reader to wonder about the originality of the thinker under discussion and the ideas in question. If the relevant ideas are no more than those of others, then why should one take an interest in them ? Accounting for originality and genius bedevils the history of ideas. Preus is well aware of the problem of reductionism and redundancy throughout his book and works hard to show how Spinoza is.. (shrink)
G.E.L. Owen was, with Harold Cherniss and Gregory Vlastos, the most influential scholar of Greek philosophy in the English-speaking world since the War. Of the three his views were, in their time, the most controversial. And if it seems today to be uncontroversial that Plato's thought grew and matured and even altered throughout his career, that Aristotle was not a monolithic system builder committed to explaining everything by means of a small, favored set of principles, and that Aristotle was never (...) a Platonist, an adherent of Plato's theory of Forms, not even at the outset of his career, this is in no small measure due to the degree of acceptance of Owen's views. Owen's essays, collected here in their entirety, are required reading for anyone seriously working in Greek philosophy. (shrink)
From the ninth to the fifteenth centuries Jewish thinkers living in Islamic and Christian lands philosophized about Judaism. Influenced first by Islamic theological speculation and the great philosophers of classical antiquity, and then in the late medieval period by Christian Scholasticism, Jewish philosophers and scientists reflected on the nature of language about God, the scope and limits of human understanding, the eternity or createdness of the world, prophecy and divine providence, the possibility of human freedom, and the relationship between divine (...) and human law. Though many viewed philosophy as a dangerous threat, others incorporated it into their understanding of what it is to be a Jew. This Companion presents all the major Jewish thinkers of the period, the philosophical and non-philosophical contexts of their thought, and the interactions between Jewish and non-Jewish philosophers. It is a comprehensive introduction to a vital period of Jewish intellectual history. (shrink)
This chapter analyzes Maimonides' revisionist reading of Job, which is a good example of the ‘naturalizing’ of Judaism – a reductive and deflationary analysis that revisions grand theological categories which tended to magnify the gulf between divine and human. In the Jewish philosophical tradition, such a reductive analysis is typified by thinkers such as Saadia Gaon, the first systematic Jewish philosopher; Maimonides himself; and at the very end of the classical tradition, Spinoza. Saadia's defence of rabbinic Judaism against its detractors (...) and Spinoza's vigorous critique of Maimonides are discussed. (shrink)
This article reviews the thoughts of some major Jewish philosophers. It presents a case study of Jewish philosophical theology, which demonstrates how Maimonides explicates the reasons for the revealed commandments. Prima facie, some of the commandments appear to be quite arbitrary and irrational, and it is shown how Maimonides deals with this. Further, this ‘theoretical’ discussion in legal philosophy about the reasons for the commandments has manifestly practical implications, specifically aretaic implications about the inculcation and establishment of certain dispositions. Jewish (...) philosophical theology muddies the grand dichotomy of theory and practice. Study is commanded for the sake of moral and social reform. And the law itself becomes most effective in a human life when obedience follows on consideration of its grounds. (shrink)
Spinoza scholars have had good reason to be in Shirley's debt in the past on account of his excellent translations of the Ethics and the Tractatus Theologico-Politicus. Now again, they will be no less in his debt with his translation of Spinoza's correspondence. The text translated is "based largely on Gebhardt, but takes into account the more recently discovered letters and additional critical work published through 1995". Shirley's is the first complete English translation of the correspondence since Wolf's pioneering effort (...) in 1928. Curley's translation has, to date, presented only letters 1-29. (shrink)