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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Edited by Daniel H. Frank

Volume 76, Issue 1, Winter 2002
Maimonides

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Displaying: 1-11 of 11 documents


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1. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 76 > Issue: 1
Daniel H. Frank Introduction
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2. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 76 > Issue: 1
Kenneth Seeskin Sanctity and Silence: The Religious Significance of Maimonides’ Negative Theology
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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.
3. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 76 > Issue: 1
Diana Lobel “Silence Is Praise to You”: Maimonides on Negative Theology, Looseness of Expression, and Religious Experience
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Guide I: 68 presents two challenges to Maimonides’ negative theology. In I: 50–60 Maimonides insists that we cannot ascribe positiveattributes to God; however, in I: 68, he affirms that God is intellect. Second, I: 56 and III: 20 assert that divine and human knowledge have nothing in common; “knowledge” is a purely equivocal term. However, I: 68 emphasizes that both divine and human knowledge exhibit a unity between subject, object, and the act of intellection. Guide I: 53 and I: 58 offer a resolution to the first contradiction: intellect can be seen as an attribute of action. Guide I: 57 offers a resolution to the second problem: Maimonides describes a similarity between God’s knowledge and ours through “looseness of expression” [tasāmuh], which directs the mind towards a mystery it cannot fully grasp. Looseness of expression, attributes of action, and the way of negation ensure that the being we worship is truly God, and make room for genuine religious experience.
4. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 76 > Issue: 1
Charles H. Manekin Maimonides on Divine Knowledge—Moses of Narbonne’s Averroist Reading
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In various writings Maimonides claims that God’s knowledge encompasses sublunar things, including human affairs, that we are incapable of understanding the nature of this knowledge, and that the term “knowing” is equivocal when said of God and of humans. In the fourteenth century these claims were given widely divergent interpretations. According to Levi ben Gershom (Gersonides, 1288–1344), Maimonides was compelled by religious considerations to maintain that God knows sublunar particulars in all their particularity, and to adopt a position that was diametrically opposed to the Aristotelian one. By contrast, Moses of Narbonne (Narboni, d.1362) found Maimonides’ views on divine knowledge to be identical with those of the “ancient philosophers,” that is to say, the Peripatetics, as presented by Averroes. Whether ultimately convincing or not, Narboni’s Averroist interpretation forces the reader to admit that Maimonides shares a great deal more in common with Averroes on this topic than is often thought. By examining briefly the view of Maimonides and Averroes on these matters I hope to make Narboni’s interpretation appear less far-fetched.
5. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 76 > Issue: 1
Sarah Pessin Matter, Metaphor, and Privative Pointing: Maimonides on the Complexity of Human Being
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This study shows how, in its overall ability to shed light on the vexing complexity of human being, Maimonides’ discourse on matter—treated via metaphors or seen as itself a metaphor—emerges as a venerable guide, pointing the careful reader to the most important truths about perfected humanity within the Guide of the Perplexed. After examining and harmonizing Maimonides’ dual metaphors of matter (matter as the married harlot and the woman of valor) in this way, I show how metaphor as a literary form is itself an illustration of matter’s positive role in the life of the soul. Following upon this consideration of the importance of metaphorical discourse, I end by briefly suggesting how the metaphysics of matter may itself quite generally be characterized as a kind of metaphor.
6. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 76 > Issue: 1
Daniel H. Frank The Development of Maimonides’ Moral Psychology
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Maimonides’ moral psychology undergoes development, which this essay attempts to detail. In the early Shemonah Peraqim (Eight Chapters) 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.
7. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 76 > Issue: 1
Oliver Leaman Ideals, Simplicity, and Ethics: The Maimonidean Approach
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There has been a long controversy about the opinions of Aristotle and Maimonides on the best way of life for human beings. They often seem to emphasize a life based on intellectual pursuits as the highest form of existence and to deprecate more social but less rationally demanding forms of existence. This is particularly problematic for Maimonides, for it would imply that the life of a pious person is of little value unless it is combined with intellectual excellence. It is argued that this is not the view of Maimonides, and that he has enough resources in his system to show how a whole gamut of human activities and the lifestyles which go along with them are worthy of respect.
8. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 76 > Issue: 1
Menachem Kellner Is Maimonides’ Ideal Person Austerely Rationalist?
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Maimonides is regularly thought to have seen the ideal human as nothing more than a rational animal. In this essay I show that this picture of Maimonides is insufficiently nuanced and reflects a notion of intellectualism thinner and more pallid than that actually held by him. But first I adduce evidence for the standard view from Maimonides’ positions on perfected and imperfected human beings, and from his discussions of immortality, morality, providence, prophecy, and the distinction between humans and animals. Maimonides’ universalism and his messianic vision are also shown to reflect his intellectualism. In the second half of the essay I argue that Maimonides holds that knowledge is transformative. Through an analysis of his discussions of human perfection, prophecy, and love of God, it is shown that learning carried out properly transforms the learner into a new kind of person.
9. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 76 > Issue: 1
Jonathan Jacobs Aristotle and Maimonides: The Ethics of Perfection and the Perfection of Ethics
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Maimonides uses Aristotelian philosophical idiom to articulate his moral philosophy, but there are fundamental differences between his and Aristotle’s conceptions of moral psychology and the nature of the moral agent. The Maimonidean conception of volition and its role in repentance and ethical self-correction are quite un-Aristotelian. The relation between this capacity to alter one’s character and the accessibility of ethical requirements given in the Law is explored. This relation helps explain why for Maimonides practical wisdom is not recognized as a virtue, and why ethical perfection (a requirement for human perfection) is achievable even by those long-established in ethically unsound dispositions. The power of will to “restore the soul” (by following the prescriptions of the Law) when character is disordered is a significant departure from Aristotelian philosophical anthropology.
10. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 76 > Issue: 1
Hannah Kasher Animals as Moral Patients in Maimonides’ Teachings
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Maimonides’ attitude to animals in his ethical teachings is not the same in all his works. His cosmological outlook changed over the years, as shown in the justification he gives for the existence of animals. In a youthful work he presents a teleological, anthropocentric viewpoint, according to which animals are merely a means to an end and were created solely to serve man. However, in The Guide of the Perplexed, written in his old age, he argues that every creature was created for its own sake, since existence is good in itself. Another difference is the expansion of his rationalistic approach to the precepts of the Torah. Only in his late works does he argue that every divine command can be explained. As a consequence, one finds in The Guide of the Perplexed ethical explanations of precepts concerning animals, as well as the argument that there is sometimes no difference between the suffering of animals and human beings. In his earlier works, however, he had stated that such precepts were entirely arbitrary.
review article
11. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 76 > Issue: 1
David B. Burrell A Philosophical Foray into Difference and Dialogue: Avital Wohlman on Maimonides and Aquinas
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It would be difficult to find two more paradigmatic interlocutors of Christian theology and Jewish thought than Thomas Aquinas and Moses Maimonides. Yet we are privileged to have in our midst a contemporary philosopher who can be said to have mastered the thought of both and can present them in dialogue. This essay offers a glimpse into Avital Wohlman’s reading of the rich exchange (or lack of exchange) between these two medieval thinkers, assessing the implications of her presentation of their interaction for the “unending discussion between Judaism and Christianity.”