A History of Mediaeval Jewish Philosophy
by Isaac Husik
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The purpose of prophecy is to guide the people in the right way. With this end in view God inspires a proper man as a prophet and gives him superior powers to perform miracles. Not every man is capable of prophecy, only one who has a pure soul. For the most part the prophetic gift is innate, at the same time study and good associations help to develop this power in him who has it. Witness the "company of prophets," whose example inspired Saul (1 Sam. 19, 20), and Elisha as the disciple of Elijah.

While we thus see Ibn Daud, unlike Halevi, adopting the philosophical explanation of prophecy, which tries to bring it within the class of natural psychological phenomena and relates it to dreams, he could not help recognizing that one cannot ignore the supernatural character of Biblical prophecy without being untrue to the Bible. He accordingly adds to the above naturalistic explanation a number of conditions which practically have the effect of taking the bottom out of the psychological theory. If Judah Halevi insists that only Israelites in the land of Palestine and at the time of their political independence had the privilege of the prophetic gift, we realize that such a belief is of the warp and woof of Halevi's innermost sentiment and thinking, which is radically opposed to the shallow rationalism and superficial cosmopolitanism of the "philosophers" of his day. But when the champion of Peripateticism, Abraham Ibn Daud, after explaining that prophecy is of the nature of true dreams, and though in most cases innate, may be cultivated by a pure soul through study and proper associations—repeats with Judah Halevi that the time and the place are essential conditions and that Israelites alone are privileged in this respect, he is giving up, it seems to us, all that he previously attempted to explain. This is only one of the many indications which point to the essential artificiality of all the medival attempts to harmonize a given system of philosophy with a supernaturalistic standpoint, such as is that of the Bible. It is not in this way that the Bible is to be saved if it needs saving.[242]

The next practical question Ibn Daud felt called upon to discuss was that of the possibility of the Law being repealed, abrogated or altered. This he found it necessary to do in order to defend the Jewish standpoint against that of Christianity in particular. How he will answer this question is of course a foregone conclusion. We are only interested in his manner of argument. He adopts a classification of long standing of the Biblical laws into rational and traditional. The first, he says, are accepted by all nations and can never be changed. Even a band of thieves, who disregard all laws of right and wrong as they relate to outsiders, must observe them in their own midst or they cannot exist. These laws bring people of different nationalities and beliefs together, and hence there can be no change in these. Nor can there be any alteration in that part of the Law which is historical in content. An event of the past cannot be repealed.

It only remains therefore to see whether abrogation may possibly be compatible with the nature of the traditional or ceremonial laws. Without arguing like the philosophers that change of a divine law is incompatible with the nature of God, which is unchangeable, our sages nevertheless have a method of explaining such phrases as, "And it repented the Lord that he had made man" (Gen. 6, 6), so as to reconcile the demands of reason with those of tradition. Now if there were laws of the traditional kind stated in the Bible without any indication of time and without the statement that they are eternal, and afterwards other laws came to change them, we should say that the Lord has a certain purpose in his laws which we do not know, but which is revealed in the new law taking the place of the old. But as a matter of fact the Bible states explicitly in many cases that the laws are not to be changed, "A statute for ever throughout your generations" (Num. 10, 8, and passim). Arguments from phrases like, "Your new moons and your appointed feasts my soul hateth, etc." (Is. 1, 14), have no validity, for there is no indication here that sacrifices are abolished. The meaning of Isaiah is that sacrifices in conjunction with wrong living are undesirable.

Our opponents also argue that Biblical expressions to the effect that the laws are eternal prove nothing, for we know of similar instances in which promises have been withdrawn as in the priesthood of Eli's family and the royalty of the house of David, where likewise eternity is mentioned. We answer these by saying, first, that in David's case the promise was withdrawn only temporarily, and will return again, as the Prophets tell us. Besides the promise was made only conditionally, as was that made to Eli. But there is no statement anywhere that the Law is given to Israel conditionally and that it will ever be taken away from them.

The claim of those who say that the laws of the Old Testament were true, but that they were repealed and the New Testament took its place, we meet by pointing to a continuous tradition against their view. We have an uninterrupted tradition during two thousand four hundred and seventy-two years that there was a man Moses who gave a Law accepted by his people and held without any break for two thousand four hundred and seventy-two years. We do not have to prove he was a genuine prophet since they do not deny it.

Some of them say that in the captivity in Babylon the old Law was forgotten and Ezra made a new law, the one we have now. This is absurd. The law could not have been forgotten, for the people did not all go into captivity at one time. They were not all put to death; they were led into exile in a quiet fashion, and there were great men among them like Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, Daniel and others who surely could not have forgotten the Law. Besides Ezra could never have had the consent of all the people scattered everywhere if he had made a law of his own. As a matter of fact the Law as we have it is the same in all details throughout the world.[243]

The next problem we must consider is the perennial one—the problem of evil and of freedom. It is the purpose of the entire book, as Ibn Daud tells us in his introduction.

The further a thing is removed from matter the more perfect is its knowledge. For, as we have already said, it is matter that hinders knowledge. All defect and evil is the result of the potential. Hence the farther a thing is removed from potentiality the more perfect it is and the freer it is from defect. God's essence is the most perfect thing there is; and as he knows his essence, his is the most perfect knowledge. God knows, too, that his perfection is not stationary in him, but that it extends and communicates itself to all other things in order. And the further a thing is from him the less is its perfection and the greater is its imperfection. We have thus a graduated series, at one end the most perfect being, at the other the least perfect, viz., matter.

Now it is impossible from any point of view, either according to reason or Bible or tradition, that evil or defect should come from God. Not by reason, for two contradictories in the same subject are impossible. Now if good and evil both came from God, he would have to be composite just like man, who can be the cause of good and evil, the one coming from his rational power, the other from the spirited or appetitive. But God is simple and if evil comes from him, good cannot do so, which is absurd. Besides, the majority of defects are privational in character and not positive, like for example darkness, poverty, ignorance, and so on, which are not things, but the negations of light, wealth, wisdom, respectively. Being negative, not positive, they are not made by any body.

One may argue that it is in the nature of man that he should have understanding and perfection; and if God deprives him of it, he does evil. The answer is that the evil in the world is very small in comparison with the good. For evil and defect are found only in things composed of the elements, which have a common matter, receiving forms in accordance with the mixture of the elementary qualities in the matter. Here an external cause sometimes prevents the form from coming to the matter in its perfection. The seed, for example, depends upon the character of the soil which it finds for its growth. Now it does not follow that God was bound to give things the highest perfection possible. For in that case all minerals would be plants, all plants animals, all animals men, all men angels; and there would be no world, but only God and a few of the highest angels. In order that there shall be a world, it was necessary to make a graduated series as we actually have it. And as a matter of fact the very defects in the material composites are a good when we have in view not the particular thing but the whole. Thus if all men were of a highly intellectual type, there would be no agriculture or manual labor.

Now there are men whose temperament is such that they cannot distinguish between right and wrong, and they follow their inclinations. To counteract these bad qualities God gave his commandments and warnings. This shows that it is not impossible to oppose these evil tendencies, for in that case the commandments would be useless. The acts of man come neither under the category of the necessary, nor under that of the impossible, but under the category of the possible.

There are two senses in which we may understand the term possible. A thing may be possible subjectively, i. e., in relation to our ignorance, though objectively it may be necessary and determined. Thus we in Spain do not know whether the king of Babylon died to-day or not; and so far as we are concerned, it is possible that he is dead or that he is alive. In reality it is not a question of possibility but of necessity. God knows which is true. The same thing applies to the occurrence of an eclipse in the future for the man who is ignorant of astronomy. Such possibility due to ignorance does not exist in God.

But there is another sense of the word possible; the sense in which an event is objectively undetermined. An event is possible if there is nothing in the previous chain of causation to determine the thing's happening in one way rather than another. The result is then a matter of pure chance or of absolute free will. Now God may make a thing possible in this objective sense, and then it is possible for him also. If you ask, but is God then ignorant of the result? We say, this is not ignorance. For to assume that it is, and that everything should be determined like eclipses, and that God cannot create things possible, means to destroy the order of the world, of this world as well as the next. For why shall man engage in various occupations or pursue definite lines of conduct since his destiny is already fixed?

The truth of the matter is that there are several orders of causes. Some are directly determined by God, and there is no way of evading them; others are entrusted to nature, and man is able to enjoy its benefits and avoid its injuries by proper management. A third class contains the things of chance, and one may guard against these also. So we are bidden in the Bible to make a parapet on the roofs of our houses to guard against the possibility of falling down. Finally there is the fourth class, those things which depend upon the free choice of the individual. Right and wrong conduct are matters of choice, else there would be no use in prophets, and no reward and punishment. When a person makes an effort to be good, his desire increases, and he obtains assistance from the angels.

Since freedom is supported by reason, Scripture and tradition, the passages in the Bible which are in favor of it should be taken literally, and those against it should be interpreted figuratively. When the Bible says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, it means simply that Pharaoh was allowed to proceed as he began. All the ancient sages of our nation were in favor of freedom.[244]

If we compare the above discussion of the problem of freedom with that of Judah Halevi (above, p. 171), we see that Ibn Daud is more consistent, whatever we may think of his success in solving the insoluble problem. He frankly insists on the absolute freedom of the will and on the reality of the objectively contingent, not shrinking before the unavoidable conclusion that the events which are the results of such freedom or chance are no more known beforehand to God than they are to man. And he tries to avoid the criticism of attributing imperfection to God by insisting that not to be able to foretell the contingent is not ignorance, and hence not an imperfection. The reader may think what he pleases of this defence, but there seems to be a more serious difficulty in what this idea implies than in what it explicitly says.

If the contingent exists for God also, it follows that he is not the complete master of nature and the world. To say as Ibn Daud does that God made the contingent, i. e., made it to be contingent, sounds like a contradiction, and reminds one of the question whether God can make a stone so big that he cannot lift it himself.

His proofs in favor of freedom and the contingent are partially identical with those of Judah Halevi, but in so far as he does not explicitly admit that the will may itself be influenced by prior causes he evades, to be sure, the strongest argument against him, but he does so at the expense of completeness in his analysis. Halevi is less consistent and more thorough, Ibn Daud is more consistent, because he fails to take account of real difficulties.

In the final outcome of their respective analyses, Halevi maintains God's foreknowledge at the expense of absolute freedom, or rather he does not see that his admissions are fatal to the cause he endeavors to defend. Ibn Daud maintains absolute freedom and frankly sacrifices foreknowledge; though his defence of freedom is secured by blinding himself to the argument most dangerous to that doctrine.

Abraham Ibn Daud concludes his "Emunah Ramah" by a discussion of ethics and the application of the principles thus discovered to the laws of the Bible. He entitles this final division of his treatise, "Medicine of the Soul," on the ground that virtue is the health of the soul as vice is its disease. In his fundamental ethical distinctions, definitions and classifications he combines Plato's psychology and the virtues based thereon with the Aristotelian doctrine of the mean, which he also applies in detail. He omits wisdom as one of the Platonic virtues and, unlike Plato for whom justice consists in a harmony of the other three virtues and has no psychological seat peculiar to it, Ibn Daud makes justice the virtue of the rational soul.

The end of practical philosophy is, he says, happiness. This is attained, first, by good morals; second, by proper family life; and third, by means of correct social and political conduct.

The human soul consists of three principal faculties, vegetative, animal, rational. Corresponding to these the principal virtues and vices are also three. The vegetative power, whose functions are nourishment, growth and reproduction, is related to appetite, and is called the appetitive soul. The animal power as being the cause of sensation, voluntary motion, cruelty, revenge, mercy and kindness, is called the spirited soul, because these qualities are dependent upon the energy or weakness of the spirit. The rational power has two aspects. One is directed upwards and is the means of our learning the sciences and the arts. The other aspect is directed downwards, and endeavors to control (successfully or not as the case may be), the two lower powers of the soul, guarding them against excess and defect. This function we call conduct, and virtue is the mean between the two extremes of too much and too little. The mean of the appetitive power is temperance; of the spirited power, bravery and gentleness; of the rational soul, justice.[245]

Justice consists in giving everything its due without excess or defect. Justice is therefore the highest of all qualities, and is of value not merely in a person's relations to his family and country, but also in the relations of his powers one to another. The rational power must see to it that the two lower faculties of the soul get what is their due, no more and no less. This quality has an important application also in the relations of a man to his maker. It is just that a person should requite his benefactor as much as he received from him, if possible. If he cannot do this, he should at least thank him. Hence the reason for divine worship, the first of commandments. This quality, the greatest of men possessed in the highest degree. Moses "said to him that did the wrong, wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?" (Ex. 2, 13). And when the shepherds came and drove away the daughters of the priest of Midian, "Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock" (ib. 17). This is the reason why God sent him to deliver Israel.

God showed the care he had of his nation by revealing himself to them, and thus showing them the error of those who think that God gave over the rule of this world to the stars, and that he and the angels have no further interest in it. Hence the first commandment is "I am the Lord thy God," which is followed by "You shall have no other gods," "Thou shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" (Ex. 20, 2ff.). "Remember the Sabbath day" is for the purpose of condemning the belief in the eternity of the world, as is evident from the conclusion, "For in six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them is...." (ib. 11). "Honor thy father and thy mother" (ib. 12) is intended to inculcate the duty of honoring the cause of one's being, including God. Thus the first five commandments all aim to teach the revelation and Providence of God. The rest deal with social and political conduct, especially the last one, "Thou shalt not covet," which is important in the preservation of society.

The commandment to love God involves the knowledge of God, for one cannot love what one does not know. A man must know therefore God's attributes and actions. He must be convinced likewise that no evil comes from God, or he cannot love him as he should. He may fear him but not with the proper fear. For there are two kinds of fear, and the one that is commanded is fear of majesty and awe, not fear of punishment.

Divine service means not merely prayer three times a day, but constant thought of God. To develop and train this thought of God in us we are commanded to put on phylacteries and fringes, and to fasten the "mezuzah" to our door posts. For the same reason we celebrate the festivals of Passover, Tabernacles, Hanukkah and Purim, as a remembrance of God's benefits to our people. All these observances are ultimately based upon the duty of thanking our benefactor, which is part of justice, the highest of the virtues.

Among moral virtues we are also commanded to practice suppression of anger, and its inculcation is emphasized by making it a divine attribute, "The Lord, the Lord, a God full of compassion and gracious...." (Ex. 34, 6). Other virtues of the same kind are, not to repay evil for evil, not to be jealous, to practice humility like Moses, and so on. In fact all the virtues laid down by ethical philosophers are found better expressed in the Bible.

In respect to family virtues, we are bidden to care for and protect the members of our family, wife, children and slaves. Of social virtues we have love of our neighbor, honesty in dealing, just weights and measures, prohibition of interest and of taking a pledge from the poor, returning a find to the loser, and a host of other teachings.

There are, however, some of the traditional laws, the purpose of which is not known, especially the details of sacrifices and the like. In explanation of these we must say that the law consists of a rule of life composed of several parts. First is belief; second, moral qualities; third, family life; fourth, social and political life; fifth, the commandments above referred to, which we shall characterize as dictated by divine wisdom, though we do not understand them. Not all the parts of the Law are of the same order of value. The fundamental portion and the most important is that dealing with belief. Next in importance are the laws governing social and moral conduct, without which society is impossible. That is why all nations agree about these; and there is honesty even among thieves. The last class of commandments, whose purpose is not known, are the least in importance, as is clear also from statements in the Bible, such as, "I spake not unto your fathers, nor commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt, concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices...." (Jer. 7, 22). At the same time we cannot deny that there are some reasons for their observance. Thus sacrifice leads to repentance as a result of reflection, even if the person does not confess his sin, as he is bidden to do in certain cases.

In fact there is one aspect which gives this class of commandments even greater importance than the social duties. It is the principle of implicit obedience even when we do not see the value of the commandment. I do not mean that a man should not study science, particularly what concerns the knowledge of God. This is not to be recommended. But when a man is convinced that there is such a thing as genuine prophecy, showing God's providence, as we see in the case of Moses who delivered his nation, performed wonders for them and was always honored and believed—he should not balk at the acceptance of some laws given by such a divine man simply because he does not understand them. Abraham is a good example. For when God promised him that Isaac would become a great nation, and then commanded him to sacrifice his only child, he did not ask any questions and was ready to do God's behest. His example is meant to be followed by all. This is the purpose of these subtle commandments, which are made with wisdom. Through them we may see the difference between belief and unbelief.[246]

The above discussion is extremely typical of the rationalistic attitude of Ibn Daud and his school, which includes such men as Maimonides, Gersonides and others. Reason, theory, science, explanation—these are the important considerations in things philosophical, as well as things religious. Theory is more important than practice, and belief stands higher than mere conduct. No wonder that Maimonides was not satisfied until he elaborated a creed with a definite number of dogmas. Dogmas and faith in reason go together. It is the mystic who is impatient of prescribed generalities, for he is constantly refreshed by the living and ever flowing stream of individual experience. The rationalist has a fixed unchangeable Idea or reason or method, whose reality and value consists in its unity, permanence and immutability. In favor of this hypostatised reason, the rationalist Ibn Daud is ready to sacrifice so fundamental an institution as sacrifice in the face of the entire book of Leviticus, pretending that a single verse of Jeremiah entitles him to do so. But the Jew Ibn Daud in the end asserted himself, and he finds it necessary to admit that in a sense these non-rational laws may be of even greater importance than the rational; not, however, as a simple believer might say, because we must not search the wisdom of God, but for the reason that unreasoned obedience is itself a virtue.

In conclusion we remind the reader that Ibn Daud was the precursor of Maimonides, touching upon, and for the most part answering every question treated by his more famous successor. Ibn Daud was the first to adopt Aristotelianism for the purpose of welding it with Judaism. He showed the way to follow. Maimonides took his cue from Ibn Daud and succeeded in putting the latter in the shade. Historic justice demands that Ibn Daud be brought forward into the light and given the credit which is deservedly his due.



With Maimonides we reach the high water mark of medival Jewish philosophy. He was by far the most comprehensive mind of medival Jewry, and his philosophy was the coping stone of a complete system of Judaism. In his training and education he embraced all Jewish literature, Biblical and Rabbinic, as well as all the science and philosophy of his day. And his literary activity was fruitful in every important branch of study. He was well known as a practicing physician, having been in the employ of the Caliph's visier at Cairo (Fostat), and he wrote on medical theory and practice. He was versed in mathematics and astronomy, and his knowledge of these subjects served him in good stead not merely as an introduction to theology and metaphysics, but was of direct service in his studies and writings on the Jewish calendar. It goes without saying that he knew logic, for this was the basis of all learning in medival times; but in this branch, too, Maimonides has left us a youthful treatise,[247] which bears witness to his early interest in science and his efforts to recommend its study as helpful to a better understanding of Jewish literature.

But all these activities and productions were more or less side issues, or preparations for a magnum opus, or rather magna opera. From his youth we can trace the evident purpose, not finally completed until toward the end of his brilliant and useful career,—the purpose to harmonize Judaism with philosophy, to reconcile the Bible and Talmud with Aristotle. He was ambitious to do this for the good of Judaism, and in the interest of a rational and enlightened faith. Thus in his commentary on the Mishna,[248] the earliest of his larger works, he had already conceived the idea of writing a composition of a harmonizing nature, viz., to gather all the homiletical disquisitions of the Talmud (the "derashot") and explain them in a rationalistic manner so as to remove what appears on the surface to be offensive to sound reason. But instead of proceeding at once to the performance of this cherished object of his philosophic ambition, he kept it in his bosom, brooding over it during a life of intense literary and practical activity, until it was in the end matured and brought to fruition in a manner quite different from that at first intended. The book explanatory of the Rabbinic legends was given up for reasons which will appear later. But the object that work was to realize was carried out in a much more effective manner because it was delayed, and was published toward the end of his life as the systematic and authoritative pronouncement of the greatest Jew of his time. The "Guide of the Perplexed" would not have attracted the attention it did, it would not have raised the storm which divided Jewry into two opposed camps, if it had not come as the mature work of the man whom all Jewry recognized as the greatest Rabbinic authority of his time. Others had written on philosophy before Maimonides. We have in these pages followed their ideas—Saadia, Gabirol, Ibn Zaddik, Abraham Ibn Daud. The latter in particular anticipated Maimonides in almost all his ideas. None had the effect of upsetting the theological equilibrium of Jewry. Everyone had his admirers, no doubt, as well as his opponents. Gabirol was forgotten, Ibn Zaddik and Ibn Daud were neglected, and Jewish learning continued the even tenor of its course. Maimonides was the first to make a profound impression, the first who succeeded in stirring to their depths the smooth, though here and there somewhat turbid, Rabbinic waters, as they flowed not merely in scientific Spain and Provence, or in the Orient, but also in the strictly Talmudic communities of northern France. It was the Commentary on the Mishna and the Talmudic code known as the "Yad ha-Hazaka" that was responsible for the tremendous effect of the "More Nebukim" ("Guide of the Perplexed").

In these two Rabbinical treatises, and particularly in the "Yad ha-Hazaka," the Rabbinic Code, Maimonides showed himself the master of Rabbinic literature. And all recognized in him the master mind. Having been written in Hebrew the Code soon penetrated all Jewish communities everywhere, and Maimonides's fame spread wherever there were Jews engaged in the study of the Talmud. His fame as a court physician in Egypt and as the official head of Oriental Jewry enhanced the influence of his name and his work. Jealousy no doubt had its share in starting opposition to the Code itself even before the publication of the "Guide," and during the lifetime of its author. When the "More Nebukim" was translated from the original Arabic into Hebrew, so that all could read it, and Maimonides was no longer among the living, the zealots became emboldened and the storm broke, the details of which, however, it is not our province to relate.

For completeness' sake let us set down the facts of his life. Moses ben Maimon was born in the city of Cordova on the fourteenth of Nissan (30th of March) at one o'clock in the afternoon, on a Sabbath which was the day before Passover, in the year 1135. It is not often that the birth of a medival Jewish writer is handed down with such minute detail. Usually we do not even know the year, to say nothing of the day and the hour. Cordova had long fallen from its high estate. It was no longer the glorious city of the days before the Almoravid conquest. And it was destined to descend lower still when the fanatical hordes of the Almohades renewed the ancient motto of the early Mohammedan conquerors, "The Koran or the Sword."

Maimonides was barely thirteen when his native city fell into the hands of the zealots from Morocco, and henceforth neither Jew nor Christian dared avow his faith openly in Cordova. Adoption of Islam, emigration or death were the choices held out to the infidel. Many Jews adopted the dominant faith outwardly—that was all that was demanded of them—while in the secret of their homes they observed Judaism. Some emigrated, and among them was the family of Moses' father. For a time they wandered about from city to city in Spain, and then crossed over to Fez in Morocco. This seems to us like going from the frying pan into the fire, for Fez was the lion's den itself. The conquerors of Cordova came from Morocco. And there seems to be some evidence too that the Maimon family had to appear outwardly as Mohammedans. Be that as it may, Maimonides did not stay long in Fez. On the 18th of April, 1165, the family set sail for Palestine, and after a month's stormy voyage they arrived in Acco. He visited Jerusalem and Hebron, but did not find Palestine a promising place for permanent residence and decided to go to Egypt. He settled in Old Cairo (Fostat), and with his brother David engaged in the jewel trade. His father died soon after, and later his brother met an untimely death when the ship on which he was a passenger on one of his business trips was wrecked in the Indian Ocean. Thereafter Maimonides gave up the jewel business and began to practice medicine, which at first did not offer him more than the barest necessities. But in the course of time his fame spread and he was appointed physician to Saladin's grand visier Alfadhil. He was also made spiritual head[C] of the Jews of Egypt, and what with his official duties as court physician, leader of the Jewish community, practicing physician among the people, and his literary activities, Jewish and secular, Rabbinical and scientific, he was a busy man indeed; so much so that he dissuades Samuel Ibn Tibbon, the translator of the "Guide," from paying him a visit on the ground that he would scarcely have time to spare to see him, much less to enter into scientific discussions with him.[249] Maimonides died on Monday, December 13 (20 Tebeth), 1204.

[C] Not a paid post.

The philosophy of Maimonides is contained in the "Guide of the Perplexed," his last great work, which was published in Arabic in 1190.[250] Some philosophic and ethical material is also found in the introductory chapters of his commentary on the Mishnaic treatise "Abot" (the so-called "Eight Chapters"—"Shemonah Perakim"),[251] in the introduction to the eleventh chapter (Helek) of the Talmudic treatise "Sanhedrin," and in the introductory sections of the Code ("Hilkot Yesode ha-Torah" and "Hilkot Deot"). Here, however, the treatment is popular and elementary, and is intended for popular consumption. He lays down results in their simplest form without discussing their origin or the arguments pro and con. The "Guide of the Perplexed," on the other hand, is intended for a special class of persons, for the sophisticated; for those who are well trained in science and philosophy, not to speak of Bible and Talmud, and are as a result made uneasy by the apparent disagreement of philosophical teaching with the ideas expressed in the Biblical and Rabbinic writings. His purpose is deliberately apologetic and concordistic. The work is not a treatise of science or philosophy. The latter are presupposed. He introduces philosophic principles, Aristotelian or Kalamistic, only with a view to their relation to Jewish theology. And he either accepts them, provisionally or absolutely, if he regards them as proven, as true and useful; or he refutes and rejects them if untenable. In the former case he shows by proper interpretation that similar principles are taught in Bible and Talmud; in the latter he contents himself by proving that Aristotle or the Mutakallimun, as the case may be, did not prove their point.

His method, in general, of quieting the doubts of the "perplexed" is the old one—as old as Philo and beyond—of regarding Biblical phrases as metaphors and allegories, containing an esoteric meaning beside or opposed to the literal. Accordingly he lays the greatest stress on the explanation of Scriptural "homonyms," as he calls them, borrowing an Aristotelian term. A homonym is a word which has more than one meaning; a word which denotes several things having nothing in common. Thus when I apply the word dog to the domestic animal we know by that name, as well as to Sirius, known as the dog-star, I use dog as a homonym. The star and the animal have nothing in common. So the word "merciful," one of the attributes of God in the Bible, is a homonym. That is, we denote by the same word also a quality in a human being; but this quality and that which is denoted by the same word when applied to God have nothing in common. They are not merely different in degree but in kind. In fact, as Maimonides insists, there is really nothing in God corresponding to the word merciful.

There are besides certain passages in the Bible which while having an acceptable meaning when taken literally, contain besides a deeper signification which the practiced eye can detect. Thus in the description of the harlot in the seventh chapter of Proverbs there is beside the plain meaning of the text, the doctrine of matter as the cause of corporeal desires. The harlot, never faithful to one man, leaving one and taking up with another, represents matter which, as Aristotle conceives it, never is without form and constantly changes one form for another.

There is really nothing new in this, and Philo apart, whom Maimonides did not know, Ibn Daud anticipated Maimonides here also in making use of the term "homonym" as the basis of this method of interpretation.[252] But whereas Ibn Daud relegates the chapter treating of this principle to a subordinate place, his interest being as he tells us primarily ethical—to solve the problem of free will; Maimonides places it in the very centre of his system. The doctrine of attributes as leading to a true conception of God,—of God as absolutely incorporeal and without any resemblance or relation whatsoever to anything else—is the very keystone of Maimonides's philosophical structure. His purpose is to teach a spiritual conception of God. Anything short of this is worse than idolatry. He cannot reconcile the Bible to such a view without this "homonymic" tool. Hence the great importance of this in his system; and he actually devotes the greater part of the first book of the "Guide" to a systematic and exhaustive survey of all terms in the Bible used as homonyms.[253] All this is preparatory to his discussion of the divine attributes.

This consideration will account also for the fact that, systematic and logical thinker as he was, he perpetrates what might appear at first sight as a logical blunder. Instead of first proving the existence of God and then discussing his nature and attributes, as Saadia, Bahya, Ibn Daud and others did before him, he treats exhaustively of the divine attributes in the first book, whereas the proof of the existence of God does not appear until the second book. This inversion of the logical order is deliberate. Maimonides's method is directed ad hominem. The Jews for whom he wrote his "Guide" did not doubt the existence of God. But a great many of them had an inadequate idea of his spiritual nature. And apparently the Bible countenanced their anthropomorphism. Hence Maimonides cast logical considerations to the wind, and dealt first with that which was nearest to his heart. The rest could wait, this could not.

I promised in my commentary on the Mishna, he tells us in the introduction to the "Guide," to explain the allegories and "Midrashim" in two works to be entitled "The Book of Reconciliation" and "The Book of Prophecy." But after reflecting on the matter a number of years I decided to desist from the attempt. The reasons are these. If I expressed my explanations obscurely, I should have accomplished nothing by substituting one unintelligible statement for another. If, on the other hand, I were really to make clear the matters that require explanation, the result would not be suitable for the masses, for whom those treatises were intended. Besides, those Midrashim when read by an ignorant man are harmless because to such a person nothing is impossible. And if they are read by a person who is learned and worthy, one of two things is likely to happen. Either he will take them literally and suspect the author of ignorance, which is not a serious offence; or he will regard the legendary statements as containing an esoteric meaning and think well of the author—which is a good thing, whether he catch the meaning intended or not. Accordingly I gave up the idea of writing the books mentioned. In this work I am addressing myself to those who have been philosophizing; who are believers in the Bible and at the same time know science; and are perplexed in their ideas on account of the homonymous terms.

Having made clear Maimonides's chief interest and purpose in his masterpiece we need not follow his own method of treatment, which often gives the impression of a studied attempt to conceal his innermost ideas from all but the initiated. At least he is not willing that anyone who has not taken the trouble carefully to study and scrutinize every chapter and compare it with what precedes and follows, should by a superficial browsing here and there arrive at an understanding of the profound problems treated in the work. He believes that the mysterious doctrines passing by the name of "Maase Bereshit" and "Maase Merkaba" in the Talmud (cf. Introduction, p. xvi) denote respectively Physics and Metaphysics—the very sciences of which he treats in the "Guide." Accordingly he tells us that following the instructions of the Rabbis he must not be expected to give more than bare allusions. And even these are not arranged in order in the book, but scattered and mixed up with other subjects which he desires to explain. For, as he says, "I do not want to oppose the divine intention, which concealed the truths of his being from the masses."

"You must not suppose," he continues, "that these mysteries are known to anybody completely. By no means. But sometimes the truth flashes upon us and it is day; and then again our natural constitution and habits shut them out, and we are again in darkness. The relative proportion of light and darkness which a person enjoys in these matters, makes the difference in the grade of perfection of great men and prophets. The greatest of the prophets had comparatively little if any darkness. With those who never see light at all, namely the masses of the people, we have nothing to do in this book."

Finally he adjures the reader not to explain to anyone else the novel ideas found in his work, which are not contained in the writings of his predecessors. Heaven knows, he exclaims, I hesitated long before writing this book, because it contains unknown matters, never before treated by any Jewish writer in the "Galut." But I relied on two Rabbinic principles. One is that when it is a question of doing something for a great cause in a critical time, it is permitted to transgress a law. The other is the consciousness that my motives are pure and unselfish. In short, he concludes, I am the man who, when he finds himself in a critical position and cannot teach truth except by suiting one worthy person and scandalizing ten thousand fools, chooses to say the truth for the benefit of the one without regard for the abuse of the great majority.

As we are not bound by Maimonides's principle of esoterism and mystery, nor are we in fear of being an offence and a stumbling block to the fools, we shall proceed more directly in our exposition of his philosophy; and shall begin with Maimonides's general ideas on the need of science for intelligent faith and the relation thereto of Jewish history and literature.

The highest subject of study is metaphysics or theology, the knowledge of God (cf. below, p. 285). This is not merely not forbidden in the Bible, but it is directly commanded. When Moses says, "That I may know thee, to the end that I may find grace in thy sight" (Exod. 33, 13), he intimates that only he finds favor with God who knows him, and not merely who fasts and prays.[254] Besides, the commandment, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," cannot be fulfilled without a study and understanding of the whole of nature.[255] Thus, as we shall see, it is only by a study of physics that we come to understand that affection is a defect and must therefore be removed from the conception of God. The same thing applies to the ideas of potentiality and actuality. We should not know what they signify without a study of physics, nor should we understand that potentiality is a defect and hence not to be found in God. It is therefore a duty to study both physics and metaphysics for a true knowledge of God.[256] At the same time we must recognize that human reason has a limit and that there are matters which are beyond its ken. Not to realize this and to deny what has not been proved impossible is dangerous, and may lead a man astray after the imagination and the evil desires which quench the light of the intellect. And it is this the Bible and the Rabbis had in mind in such passages as, "Hast thou found honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee; lest thou be filled therewith, and vomit it" (Prov. 25, 16); or in the following from the Mishna, "Whoever pries into four things, had better not come into the world, viz., what is above and what is below, what was before and what will be after" (Hagigah, ch. 2). The meaning is not, as some fools think, that the Rabbis forbid the use of the reason entirely to reach what is in its power. It is abuse of the reason that they prohibit, and neglect of the truth that the human reason has a limit.[257]

Accordingly while the study of metaphysics and the explanation of the allegories of Scripture are thus shown to be a necessity of intelligent belief, it is not proper to begin with these difficult subjects. One must first be mature intellectually and possessed of the preliminary sciences. Otherwise the study of metaphysics is likely not merely to confuse the mind in its belief, but to destroy belief entirely. It is like feeding an infant on wheat bread and meat and wine. These are not bad in themselves, but the infant is not prepared to digest them. That is why these matters are given in the Bible in the form of allegories, because the Bible is intended for all—men, women and children—not because metaphysical ideas are injurious in themselves, as some fools imagine, who believe they are wise men. For beginners it is sufficient that they have the right view by tradition and know the existence of certain beings, without being able to prove the opinions they hold, or to understand the essence of the being in the existence of which they believe. This they will acquire gradually if they are capable.[258]

There are five causes preventing the study of metaphysics on the part of the general masses. First, the difficulty of the subject itself. Second, the limitations of all people's minds at the beginning. Third, the great amount of preparatory training that is necessary, and which everybody is not ready to undertake, however eager he may be to know the results. And to study metaphysics without preliminary training is worse than not to study it at all. For there is nothing in existence except God and his creation. To know God's existence and what is and is not proper to ascribe to him we must examine his creation; and thus arithmetic, the nature of number, and the properties of geometrical figures help us a great deal in determining what attributes are inapplicable to God. Even much more important for metaphysics is the study of spherical astronomy and physics, which throw light on the relation of God to the world. Then there are some theoretical topics which, while not directly of help in metaphysics, are useful in training the mind and enabling it to know what is true demonstration. One who wishes therefore to undertake the study of metaphysics, must first study logic, then the mathematical sciences in order, then physics, and not until he has mastered all these introductory branches should he take up metaphysics. This is too much for most people, who would die in the midst of their preparatory studies, and if not for tradition would never know whether there is a God or not, not to speak of knowing what attributes are applicable to him and what are not.

The fourth cause which keeps people away from the study of metaphysics is their natural disposition. For it has been shown that intellectual qualities are dependent upon moral; and the former cannot be perfect unless the latter are. Now some persons are temperamentally incapable of right thinking by reason of their passionate nature; and it is foolish to attempt to teach them, for it is not medicine or geometry, and not everybody is prepared for it. This is the reason, too, why young men cannot study it, because of the passions which are still strong in them. Finally as a fifth reason, the necessities of the body and its luxuries, too, stand in the way of a person's devoting enough time and attention to this subject.[259]

Like many others before him, Christians as well as Jews, Maimonides also believed that in ancient times the Jews diligently cultivated the sciences, which were gradually forgotten on account of foreign domination. Maimonides adds another reason for their disappearance, namely, that they were not disseminated abroad. They were confined to a select few and were not put down in writing but handed down by word of mouth. As a result only a few hints are found in the Talmud and Midrashim, where the kernel is small and the husk large, so that people mistake the husk for the kernel.[260]

He then traces the history of philosophical thinking in Jewish medival literature from the time of the Geonim, and tells us that the little that is found of the Kalam concerning the Unity of God and related topics in the works of some of the Geonim and the Karaites in the East is borrowed from the Mutakallimun of the Mohammedans and constitutes a small fraction of the writings of the latter on this subject. The first attempt in this direction among the Moslems was that of the party known as the Mu'tazila, whom our people followed. Later came the party of the Ashariya with different opinions which, however, were not adopted by any of our people. This was not due, he tells us, to a deliberate decision in favor of the Mu'tazila, but solely to the historical accident of their chronological priority. On the other hand, the Spanish Jews of Andalusia adopted the views of the philosophers, i. e., the Aristotelians, so far as they are not in conflict with our religion. They do not follow the Mutakallimun, and hence what little of the subject is found in the works of the later writers of this class resembles our own method and views.[261]

There seems no doubt that whatever other Spanish writers Maimonides had in mind, whose works are not extant, his characterization fits admirably the "Emunah Ramah" of Abraham Ibn Daud (cf. above, p. 217), and in a less degree it is also true of Ibn Gabirol, Bahya, Judah Halevi, Moses and Abraham Ibn Ezra. Bahya as we saw above (p. 86) still retains a good deal of Kalamistic material and so does Ibn Zaddik (p. 126). As for Mukammas, Saadia and the two Karaites Al Basir and Jeshua ben Judah, we have seen (pp. 17, 24, 48, 56) that they move wholly in the ideas of the Mutakallimun. It becomes of great interest for us therefore to see what Maimonides thinks of these Islamic theologians, of their origins, of their methods and of their philosophical value. Maimonides's exposition and criticism of the principles of the Mutakallimun is of especial interest, too, because up to recent times his sketch of the tenets of this school was the only extensive account known; and it has not lost its value even yet. We shall, however, be obliged to abridge his detailed exposition in order not to enlarge our volume beyond due limits. Besides, there is no occasion for repeating what we have already said of the Kalam in our Introduction (p. xxi ff.); though the account there given was not taken from Maimonides and does not follow his order.

Maimonides is aware that the Arabs are indebted to the Christians, Greeks as well as Syrians. The Mu'tazila and Ashariya, he says, base their opinions upon premises and principles borrowed from Greek and Syrian Christians, who endeavored to refute the opinions of the philosophers as dangerous to the Christian religion. There was thus a Christian Kalam prior to the Mohammedan.[262] Their method was to lay down premises favorable to their religion, and by means of these to refute the opinions opposed to them. When the Mohammedans came upon the scene and translated the works of the philosophers, they included in their work of translation the refutations composed by the Christians. In this way they found the works of Philoponus, Yahya ben Adi and others; and adopted also the opinions of the pre-Socratic philosophers, which they thought would be of help to them, though these had already been refuted by Aristotle, who came after. Such are the atomic theory of matter and the belief in the existence of a vacuum. These opinions they carried to consequences not at all contemplated by their authorities, who were closer to the philosophers.

To characterize briefly the methods of the Mutakallimun, Maimonides continues, I would say that the first among them, the Greeks and the Mohammedans, did not follow reality, but adopted principles which were calculated to help them in defending their religious theses, and then interpreted reality to suit their preconceived notions. The later members of the school no longer saw through the motives of their predecessors and imagined their principles and arguments were bona fide refutations of philosophical opinions.

On examination of their works I found, he continues, that with slight differences they are all alike. They do not put any trust in reality and nature. For, they say, the so-called laws of nature are nothing more than the order of events to which we are accustomed. There is no kind of necessity in them, and it is conceivable they might be different. In many cases the Mutakallimun follow the imagination and call it reason. Their method of procedure is as follows. They first state their preliminary principles, then they prove that the world is "new," i. e., created in time. Then they argue that the world must have had an originator, and that he is one and incorporeal. All the Mutakallimun follow this method, and they are imitated by those of our own people who follow in their footsteps.

To this method I have serious objections, continues Maimonides, for their arguments in favor of the creation of the world are not convincing unless one does not know a real demonstration from a dialectical or sophistic. The most one can do in this line is to invalidate the arguments for eternity. But the decision of the question is by no means easy, as is shown by the fact that the controversy is three thousand years old and not yet settled. Hence it is a risky policy to build the argument for the existence of God on so shaky a foundation as the "newness" of the world. The best way then, it seems to me, is to prove God's existence, unity and incorporeality by the methods of the philosophers, which are based upon the eternity of the world. Not that I believe in eternity or that I accept it, but because on this hypothesis the three fundamental doctrines are validly demonstrated. Having proved these doctrines we will then return to the problem of the origin of the world and say what can be said in favor of creation.[263]

This is a new contribution of Maimonides. All the Jewish writers before Halevi followed in their proofs of the existence of God the method designated by Maimonides as that of the Kalam. Judah Halevi criticised the Mutakallimun as well as the philosophers in the interest of a point of view all his own (pp. 176 ff., 182). Ibn Daud tacitly ignored the Kalam and based his proof of the existence of God upon the principles of motion as exhibited in the Aristotelian Physics, without, however, finding it necessary to assume even provisionally the eternity of motion and the world (p. 217 ff.). His proof of the incorporeality of God is, as we have seen (ibid.), weak, just because he does not admit the eternity of motion, which alone implies infinity of power in God and hence incorporeality. Maimonides is the first who takes deliberate account of the Mutakallimun, gives an adequate outline of the essentials of their teaching and administers a crushing blow to their principles as well as their method. He then follows up his destructive criticism with a constructive method, in which he frankly admits that in order to establish the existence, unity and incorporeality of God—the three fundamental dogmas of Judaism—beyond the possibility of cavil, we must make common cause with the philosophers even though it be only for a moment, until they have done our work for us, and then we may fairly turn on our benefactors and taking advantage of their weakness, strike them down, and upon their lifeless arguments for the eternity of the world establish our own more plausible theory of creation. The attitude of Maimonides is in brief this. If we were certain of creation, we should not have to bother with the philosophers. Creation implies the existence of God. But the question cannot be strictly demonstrated either way. Hence let us prove the existence of God on the least promising hypothesis, namely, that of eternity, and we are quite secure against all possible criticism.

Of the twelve propositions of the Mutakallimun enumerated by Maimonides as the basis of their doctrine of God, we shall select a few of the most important.[264]

1. The Theory of Atoms. The entire universe is made up of indivisible bodies having no magnitude. Their combination produces magnitude and corporeality. They are all alike. Genesis and dissolution means simply the combination or rather aggregation of atoms and their separation. These atoms are not eternal, as Epicurus believed them to be, but created.

2. This atomic theory they extend from magnitude to time. Time also according to them is composed of moments or atomic units of time. Neither magnitude, nor matter, nor time is continuous or infinitely divisible.

3. Applying these ideas to motion they say that motion is the passage of an atom of matter from one atom of place to the next in an atom of time. It follows from this that one motion is as fast as another; and they explain the apparent variation in speed of different motions, as for example when two bodies cover unequal distances in the same time, by saying that the body covering the smaller distance had more rests in the intervals between the motions. The same thing is true in the flight of an arrow, that there are rests even though the senses do not reveal them. For the senses cannot be trusted. We must follow the reason.

Maimonides's criticism of the atomic theory of matter and motion just described is that it undermines the bases of geometry. The diagonal of a square would be the same length as its side. The properties of commensurability and incommensurability in lines and surfaces, of rational and irrational lines would cease to have any meaning. In fact all that is contained in the tenth book of Euclid would lose its foundation.

4. The atom is made complete by the accidents, without which it cannot be. Every atom created by God, they say, must have accidents, such as color, odor, motion, and so on, except quantity or magnitude, which according to them is not accident. If a substance has an accident, the latter is not attributed to the body as a whole, but is ascribed to every atom of which the body is composed. Thus in a white body every atom is white, in a moving body every atom is in motion, in a living body every atom is alive, and every atom is possessed of sense perception; for life and sense and reason and wisdom are accidents in their opinion like whiteness and blackness.

6. Accident does not last more than one moment of time. When God creates an atom he creates at the same time an accident with it. Atom without accident is impossible. The accident disappears at the end of the moment unless God creates another of the same kind, and then another, and so on, as long as he wants the accident of that kind to continue. If he ceases to create another accident, the substance too disappears.

Their motive in laying down this theory of accidents is in order to destroy the conception that everything has a peculiar nature, of which its qualities and functions are the results. They attribute everything directly to God. God created a particular accident at this moment, and this is the explanation of its being. If God ceases to create it anew the next moment, it will cease to be.

7. All that is not atom is accident, and there is no difference between one kind of accident and another in reference to essentiality. All bodies are composed of similar atoms, which differ only in accidents; and animality and humanity and sensation and reason are all accidents. Hence the difference between the individuals of the same species is the same as that between individuals of different species. The philosophers distinguish between essential forms of things and accidental properties. In this way they would explain, for example, why iron is hard and black, while butter is soft and white. The Mutakallimun deny any such distinction. All forms are accidents. Hence it would follow that there is no intrinsic reason why man rather than the bat should be a rational creature. Everything that is conceivable is possible, except what involves a logical contradiction; and God alone determines at every instant what accident shall combine with a given atom or group of atoms.

8. It follows from the above also that man has no power of agency at all. When we think we are dyeing a garment red, it is not we who are doing it at all. God creates the red color in the garment at the time when we apply the red dye to it. The red dye does not enter the garment, as we think, for an accident is only momentary, and cannot pass beyond the substance in which it is.

What appears to us as the constancy and regularity of nature is nothing more than the will of God. Nor is our knowledge of to-day the same as that of yesterday. Yesterday's is gone and to-day's is created anew. So when a man moves a pen, it is not he who moves it. God creates motion in the hand, and at the same time in the pen. The hand is not the cause of the motion of the pen. In short they deny causation. God is the sole cause.

In respect to human conduct they are divided. The majority, and the Ashariya among them, say that when a person moves a pen, God creates four accidents, no one of which is the cause of the other. They merely exist in succession, but no more. The first accident is the man's will to move the pen; the second, his ability to move it; the third, the motion of the hand; the fourth, the motion of the pen. It follows from this that when a person does anything, God creates in him a will, the ability and the act itself, but the act is not the effect of the ability. The Mu'tazila hold that the ability is the cause of the effect.

9. Impossibility of the Infinite. They hold that the infinite is impossible in any sense, whether actual or potential or accidental. That an actual infinite is impossible is a matter of proof. So it can be and has been proved that the potential infinite is possible. For example extension is infinitely divisible, i. e., potentially. As to the accidental infinite, i. e., an infinity of parts of which each ceases to be as soon as the next appears, this is doubtful. Those who boast of having proved the eternity of the world say that time is infinite, and defend their view against criticism by the claim that the successive parts of time disappear. In the same way these people regard it as possible that an infinite number of accidents have succeeded each other on the universal matter, because here too they are not all present now, the previous having disappeared before the succeeding ones came. The Mutakallimun do not admit of any kind of infinite. They prove it in this way. If past time and the world are infinite, then the number of men who died up to a given point in the past is infinite. The number of men who died up to a point one thousand years before the former is also infinite. But this number is less than the other by the number of men who died during the thousand years between the two starting points. Hence the infinite is larger than the infinite, which is absurd. If the accidental infinite were really impossible the theory of the eternity of the world would be refuted at once. But Alfarabi has shown that the arguments against accidental infinity are invalid.

10. Distrust of the Senses. The senses, they say, cannot be regarded as criteria of truth and falsehood; for many things the senses cannot see at all, either because the objects are so fine, or because they are far away. In other cases the senses are deceptive, as when the large appears small at a distance, the small appears great in the water, and the straight appears broken when partly in water and partly without. So a man with the jaundice sees everything yellow, and one with red bile on his tongue tastes everything bitter. There is method in their madness. The motive for this sceptical principle is to evade criticism. If the senses testify in opposition to their theories, they reply that the senses cannot be trusted, as they did in their explanation of motion and in their theory of the succession of created accidents. These are all ancient theories of the Sophists, as is clear from Galen.[265]

Having given an outline of the fundamental principles of the Mutakallimun and criticised them, Maimonides next gives their arguments based upon these principles in favor of creation in time and against eternity. It will not be worth our while to reproduce them here as they are not adopted by Maimonides, and we have already met some of them though in a somewhat modified form before (cf. above, pp. 29 ff.).[266]

The Kalamistic proofs for the unity of God are similarly identical for the most part with those found in Saadia, Bahya and others, and we need only mention Maimonides's criticism that they are inadequate unless we assume with the Mutakallimun that all atoms in the universe are of the same kind. If, however, we adopt Aristotle's theory, which is more plausible, that the matter of the heavenly bodies is different from that of the sublunar world, we may defend dualism by supposing that one God controls the heavens and the other the earth. The inability of the one to govern the domain of the other would not necessarily argue imperfection, any more than we who believe in the unity of God regard it as a defect in God that he cannot make a thing both be and not be. This belongs to the category of the impossible; and we should likewise class in the same category the control of a sphere that is independent of one and belongs to another. This is purely an argumentum ad hominem, for Maimonides does not regard the sublunar and superlunar worlds as independent of each other. He recognizes the unity of the universe.[267]

Maimonides closes his discussion of the Kalamistic system by citing their arguments for incorporeality, which he likewise finds inadequate, both because they are based upon God's unity, which they did not succeed in proving (Saadia, in so far as he relates the two, bases unity upon incorporeality), and because of inherent weakness.[268]

Having disposed of the arguments of the Mutakallimun, Maimonides proceeds to prove the existence, unity and incorporeality of God by the methods of the philosophers, i. e., those who, like Alfarabi and Avicenna, take their arguments from Aristotle. The chief proof[269] is based upon the Aristotelian principles of motion and is found in the eighth book of Aristotle's Physics. We have already met this proof in Ibn Daud (cf. above, p. 217), and the method in Maimonides differs only in form and completeness, but not in essence. There is, however, this very important difference that Ibn Daud fights shy of Aristotle's theory of the eternity of motion and time, thus losing his strongest argument for God's infinite power and incorporeality (cf. p. 218); whereas Maimonides frankly bases his entire argument from motion (provisionally to be sure) upon the Aristotelian theory, including eternity of motion. With this important deviation there is not much in this part of the Maimonidean discussion which is not already contained, though less completely, in the "Emunah Ramah" of Abraham Ibn Daud. We should be tempted to omit these technical arguments entirely if it were not for the fact that it is in the form which Maimonides gave them that they became classic in Jewish philosophy, and not in that of Ibn Daud.

The second proof of God's existence, unity and incorporeality, that based upon the distinction between "possible" and "necessary" existent,[270] which has its origin in Alfarabi and Avicenna, is also found in Ibn Daud.[271] The other two proofs[272] are Maimonides's own, i. e., they are not found in the works of his Jewish predecessors.

As in the exposition of the theory of the Mutakallimun Maimonides began with their fundamental principles, so here he lays down twenty-six propositions culled from the Physics and Metaphysics of Aristotle and his Arabian commentators, and applies them later to prove his points. He does not attempt to demonstrate them, expecting the reader to take them for granted, or to be familiar with them from a study of the philosophical sources. Ibn Daud presupposed less from his readers, having written as he said, for beginners; hence he proves many of the propositions which Maimonides lays down dogmatically. Possibly Maimonides expected his readers to be familiar with the work of his immediate Jewish predecessor.

The twenty-six propositions of the philosophers are as follows:

1. There can be no infinite object possessing magnitude.

2. There cannot be an infinite number of bodies possessing magnitude, all at the same time.

3. There cannot be an infinite chain of cause and effect, even if these links are not possessed of magnitude, for example, intellects.

4. Change is found in four categories. In substance—genesis and decay. In quantity—growth and diminution. In quality—qualitative change. In place—motion of translation.

5. All motion is change, and is the realization of the potential.

6. Motion may be per se, per accidens, forcible, partial, the latter coming under per accidens. An example of motion per se is the motion of a body from one place to the next; of motion per accidens, when the blackness of an object is said to move from one place to another. Forcible motion is that of the stone when it is forced upward. Partial motion is that of a nail of a ship when the ship moves.

7. Every changeable thing is divisible; hence every movable thing is divisible, i. e., every body is divisible. What is not divisible is not movable, and hence cannot be body.

8. That which is moved per accidens is necessarily at rest because its motion is not in itself. Hence it cannot have that accidental motion forever.

9. A body moving another must itself be in motion at the same time.

10. Being in a body means one of two things: being in it as an accident, or as constituting the essence of the body, like a natural form. Both are corporeal powers.

11. Some things which are in a body are divided with the division of the body. They are then divided per accidens, like colors and other powers extending throughout the body. Some of the things which constitute the body are not divisible at all, like soul and intellect.

12. Every power which extends throughout a body is finite, because all body is finite.

13. None of the kinds of change mentioned in 4 is continuous except motion of translation; and of this only circular motion.

14. Motion of translation is the first by nature of the motions. For genesis and decay presuppose qualitative change; and qualitative change presupposes the approach of the agent causing the change to the thing undergoing the change. And there is no growth or diminution without antecedent genesis and decay.

15. Time is an accident following motion and connected with it. The one cannot exist without the other. No motion except in time, and time cannot be conceived except with motion. Whatever has no motion does not come under time.

16. Whatever is incorporeal cannot be subject to number, unless it is a corporeal power; in which case the individual powers are numbered with their matters or bearers. Hence the separate forms or Intelligences, which are neither bodies nor corporeal powers, cannot have the conception of number connected with them, except when they are related to one another as cause and effect.

17. Everything that moves, necessarily has a mover, either outside, like the hand moving the stone, or inside like the animal body, which consists of a mover, the soul, and a moved, the body proper. Every mobile of the last kind is called a self-moving thing. This means that the motor element in the thing is part of the whole thing in motion.

18. If anything passes from potentiality to actuality, the agent that caused this must be outside the thing. For if it were inside and there was no obstruction, the thing would never be potential, but always actual; and if there was an obstruction, which was removed, the agency which removed the obstruction is the cause which caused the thing to pass from potentiality to actuality.

19. Whatever has a cause for its existence is a "possible" existent in so far as itself is concerned. If the cause is there, the thing exists; if not, it does not. Possible here means not necessary.

20. Whatever is a necessary existent in itself, has no cause for its existence.

21. Every composite has the cause of its existence in the composition. Hence it is not in itself a necessary existent; for its existence is dependent upon the existence of its constituent parts and upon their composition.

22. All body is composed necessarily of two things, matter and form; and it necessarily has accidents, viz., quantity, figure, situation.

23. Whatever is potential and has in it a possibility may at some time not exist as an actuality.

24. Whatever is potential is necessarily possessed of matter, for possibility is always in matter.

25. The principles of an individual compound substance are matter and form; and there must be an agent, i. e., a mover which moves the object or the underlying matter until it prepares it to receive the form. This need not be the ultimate mover, but a proximate one having a particular function. The idea of Aristotle is that matter cannot move itself. This is the great principle which leads us to investigate into the existence of the first mover.

Of these twenty-five propositions, Maimonides continues, some are clear after a little reflection, some again require many premises and proofs, but they are all proved in the Physics and Metaphysics of Aristotle and his commentators. My purpose here is, as I said, not to reproduce the writings of the philosophers. I will simply mention those principles which we must have for our purpose. I must add, however, one more proposition, which Aristotle thinks is true and more deserving of belief than anything else. We will grant him this by way of hypothesis until we explain what we intend to prove. The proposition is:

26. Time and motion are eternal and actual. Hence there must be a body moving eternally and existing actually. This is the matter constituting the substance of the heavenly bodies. Hence the heavens are not subject to genesis and decay, for their motion is eternal. This presupposes the possibility of accidental infinity (cf. above, p. 251). Aristotle regards this as true, though it does not seem to me that he claims he has proved it. His followers and commentators maintain that it is a necessary proposition and demonstrated. The Mutakallimun, on the other hand, think it is impossible that there should be an infinite number of states in succession (cf. ibid.). It seems to me it is neither necessary nor impossible, but possible. This is, however, not the place to discuss it.[273]

Now follows the classical proof of the existence of God from motion. It is in essence the same as that given by Ibn Daud, but much more elaborate. We shall try to simplify it as much as possible. The numbers in parentheses in the sequel refer to the preliminary propositions above given.

We start with something that is known, namely, the motion we see in the sublunar world, the motion which is involved in all the processes of genesis and decay and change generally. This motion must have a mover (25). This mover must have another mover to move it, and this would lead us to infinity, which is impossible (3). We find, however, that all motion here below ends with the motion of the heaven. Let us take an example. The wind is blowing through an opening in the wall. I take a stone and stop up the hole. Here the stone is moved by the hand, the hand by the tendons, the tendons by the nerves, the nerves by the veins, the veins by the natural heat, the natural heat by the animal soul, the animal soul by a purpose, namely, to stop the hole from which the wind comes, the purpose by the wind, the wind by the motion of the heavenly sphere. But this is not the end. The sphere must also have a mover (17). This mover is either outside the sphere it moves or within it. If it is something outside, it is either again a body like the sphere, or an incorporeal thing, a "Separate Intelligence." If the mover of the sphere is something within the sphere, two alternatives are again possible. The internal moving power of the sphere may be a corporeal force extended throughout the body of the sphere and divisible with it like heat, or an indivisible power like soul or intellect (10, 11). We thus have four possibilities in all. The mover of the heavenly sphere may be (a) a body external to the sphere; (b) a separate incorporeal substance; (c) an internal corporeal power divisible with the division of the sphere; (d) an internal indivisible power. Of these four, (a) is impossible. For if the mover of the sphere is another body, it is likewise in motion (9) and must have another to move it, which, if a body, must have another, and so on ad infinitum, which is impossible (2). The third hypothesis, (c), is likewise impossible. For as the sphere is a body it is finite (1), and its power is also finite (12), since it is divisible with the body of the sphere (11). Hence it cannot move infinitely (26). Nor can we adopt the last alternative, (d). For a soul residing within the sphere could not alone be the cause of continuous motion. For a soul that moves its body is itself in motion per accidens (6); and whatever moves per accidens must necessarily sometime stop (8), and with it the thing set in motion by it will stop also. There is thus only one alternative left, (b), viz., that the cause of the motion of the sphere is a "separate" (i. e., incorporeal) power, which is itself not subject to motion either per se or per accidens; hence it is indivisible and unchangeable (7, 5). This is God. He cannot be two or more, for "separate" essences which are not body are not subject to number unless one is cause and the other effect (16). It follows, too, that he is not subject to time, for there is no time without motion (15).

We have thus proved with one stroke God's existence as well as his unity and incorporeality. But, it will be observed, if not for the twenty-sixth proposition concerning the eternity of motion, which implies an infinite power, we should not have been forced to the alternative (b), and could have adopted (c) as well as (d). That is, we might have concluded that God is the soul of the heavenly sphere resident within it, or even that he is a corporeal force pervading the extension of the sphere as heat pervades an ordinary body. But we must admit that in this way we prove only the existence of a God who is the cause of the heavenly motions, and through these of the processes of genesis and decay, hence of all the life of our sublunar world. This is not the God of Jewish tradition, who creates out of nothing, who is the cause of the being of the universe as well as of its life processes. Maimonides was aware of this defect in the Aristotelian view, and he later repudiates the Stagirite's theory of eternal motion on philosophical as well as religious grounds. Before, however, we speak of Maimonides's attitude in this matter, we must for completeness' sake briefly mention three other proofs for the existence of God as given by Maimonides. They are not strictly Aristotelian, though they are based upon Peripatetic principles cited above and due to the Arabian commentators of Aristotle.

The second proof is as follows. If we find a thing composed of two elements, and one of these elements is also found separately, it follows that the other element is found separately also. Now we frequently find the two elements of causing motion and being moved combined in the same object. And we also find things which are moved only, but do not cause motion, as for example matter, or the stone in the last proof. It stands to reason therefore that there is something that causes motion without being itself subject to motion. Not being subject to motion, it is indivisible, incorporeal and not subject to time, as above.

The third proof is based upon the idea of necessary existence. There is no doubt that there are existing things, for example the things we perceive with our senses. Now either all things are incapable of decay, or all are subject to genesis and decay, or some are and some are not. The first is evidently untrue for we see things coming into, and passing out, of being. The second hypothesis is likewise untrue. For if all things are subject to genesis and decay, there is a possibility that at some time all things might cease to be and nothing should exist at all. But as the coming and going of individuals in the various species in the world has been going on from eternity, the possibility just spoken of must have been realized—a possibility that is never realized is not a possibility—and nothing existed at all at that moment. But in that case how could they ever have come into being, since there was nothing to bring them into being? And yet they do exist, as ourselves for example and everything else. There is only one alternative left, therefore, and that is that beside the great majority of things subject to genesis and decay, there is a being not subject to change, a necessary existent, and ultimately one that exists by virtue of its own necessity (19).

Whatever is necessary per se can have no cause for its existence (20) and can have no multiplicity in itself (21); hence it is neither a body nor a corporeal power (12).

We can also prove easily that there cannot be two necessary existents per se. For in that case the element of necessary existence would be something added to the essence of each, and neither would then be necessary per se, but per that element of necessary existence which is common to both.

The last argument against dualism may also be formulated as follows. If there are two Gods, they must have something in common—that in virtue of which they are Gods—and something in which they differ, which makes them two and not one. If each of them has in addition to divinity a differential element, they are both composite, and neither is the first cause or the necessary existent (19). If one of them only has this differentia, then this one is composite and is not the first cause.

The fourth proof is very much like the first, but is based upon the ideas of potentiality and actuality instead of motion. But when we consider that Aristotle defines motion in terms of potentiality and actuality, the fourth proof is identical with the first. It reads in Maimonides as follows: We see constantly things existing potentially and coming into actuality. Every such thing must have an agent outside (18). It is clear, too, that this agent was first an agent potentially and then became one actually. This potentiality was due either to an obstacle in the agent himself or to the absence of a certain relation between the agent and its effect. In order that the potential agent may become an actual agent, there is need of another agent to remove the obstacle or to bring about the needed relation between the agent and the thing to be acted upon. This agent requires another agent, and so it goes ad infinitum. As this is impossible, we must stop somewhere with an agent that is always actual and in one condition. This agent cannot be material, but must be a "separate" (24). But the separate in which there is no kind of potentiality and which exists per se, is God. As we have already proved him incorporeal, he is one (16).[274]

We must now analyze the expressions incorporeal and one, and see what in strictness they imply, and how our logical deductions agree with Scripture. Many persons, misled by the metaphorical expressions in the Bible, think of God as having a body with organs and senses on the analogy of ours. Others are not so crude as to think of God in anthropomorphic terms, nor are they polytheists, and yet for the same reason, namely, misunderstanding of Scriptural expressions, ascribe a plurality of essential attributes to God. We must therefore insist on the absolute incorporeality of God and explain the purpose of Scripture in expressing itself in anthropomorphic terms, and on the other hand emphasize the absolute unity of God against the believers in essential attributes.

Belief in God as body or as liable to suffer affection is worse than idolatry. For the idolater does not deny the existence of God; he merely makes the mistake of supposing that the image of his own construction resembles a being which mediates between him and God. And yet because this leads to erroneous belief on the part of the people, who are inclined to worship the image itself instead of God (for the people cannot discriminate between the outward act and its idea), the Bible punishes idolatry with death, and calls the idolater a man who angers God. How much more serious is the error of him who thinks God is body! He entertains an error regarding the nature of God directly, and surely causes the anger of God to burn. Habit and custom and the evidence of the literal understanding of the Biblical text are no more an excuse for this erroneous belief than they are for idolatry; for the idolater, too, has been brought up in his wrong ideas and is confirmed in them by some false notions. If a man is not himself able to reason out the truth, there is no excuse for his refusing to listen to one who has reasoned it out. A person is not an unbeliever for not being able to prove the incorporeality of God. He is an unbeliever if he thinks God is corporeal.[275]

The expressions in the Bible which have led many to err so grievously in their conceptions of God are due to a desire on the part of their authors to show all people, the masses including women and children, that God exists and is possessed of all perfection, that he is existent, living, wise, powerful, and active. Hence it was necessary to speak of him as body, for this is the only thing that suggests real existence to the masses. It was necessary to endow him with motion, as this alone denotes life; to ascribe to him seeing, hearing, and so on, in order to indicate that he understands; to represent him as speaking, in order to show that he communicates with prophets, because to the minds of common people this is the only way in which ideas are communicated from one person to another. As we are active by our sense of touch, God, too, is described as doing. He is given a soul, to denote that he is alive. Then as all these activities are among us done by means of organs, these also are ascribed to God, as feet, hands, ear, eye, nose, mouth, tongue, voice, fingers, palm, arm. In other words, to show that God has all perfections, certain senses are ascribed to him; and to indicate these senses the respective organs are related to them, organs of motion to denote life, of sensation to denote understanding, of touch to denote activity, of speech to denote revelation. As a matter of fact, however, since all these organs and perceptions and powers in man and animals are due to imperfection and are for the purpose of satisfying various wants for the preservation of the individual or the species, and God has no wants of any kind, he has no such powers or organs.[276]

Having disposed of crude anthropomorphism we must now take up the problem of attributes, which endangers the unity. It is a self-evident truth that an attribute is something different from the essence of a thing. It is an accident added to the essence. Otherwise it is the thing over again, or it is the definition of the thing and the explanation of the name, and signifies that the thing is composed of these elements. If we say God has many attributes, it will follow that there are many eternals. The only belief in true unity is to think that God is one simple substance without composition or multiplicity of elements, but one in all respects and aspects. Some go so far as to say that the divine attributes are neither God's essence nor anything outside of his essence. This is absurd. It is saying words which have nothing corresponding to them in fact. A thing is either the same as another, or it is not the same. There is no other alternative. The imagination is responsible for this error. Because bodies as we know them always have attributes, they thought that God, too, is made up of many essential elements or attributes.

Attributes may be of five kinds:

1. The attributes of a thing may be its definition, which denotes its essence as determined by its causes. This everyone will admit cannot be in God, for God has no cause, hence cannot be defined.

2. An attribute may consist of a part of a definition, as when we say, "man is rational," where the attribute rational is part of the definition of man, "rational animal" being the whole definition. This can apply to God no more than the first; for if there is a part in God's essence, he is composite.

3. An attribute may be an expression which characterizes not the essence of the thing but its quality. Quality is one of the nine categories of accident, and God has no accidents.

4. An attribute may indicate relation, such as father, master, son, slave. At first sight it might seem as if this kind of attribute may be applicable to God; but after reflection we find that it is not. There can be no relation of time between God and anything else; because time is the measure of motion, and motion is an accident of body. God is not corporeal. In the same way it is clear that there cannot be a relation of place between God and other things. But neither can there be any other kind of relation between God and his creation. For God is a necessary existent, while everything else is a possible existent. A relation exists only between things of the same proximate species, as between white and black. If the things have only a common genus, and still more so if they belong to two different genera, there is no relation between them. If there were a relation between God and other things, he would have the accident of relation, though relation is the least serious of attributes, since it does not necessitate a multiplicity of eternals, nor change in God's essence owing to change in the related things.

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