A History of Mediaeval Jewish Philosophy
by Isaac Husik
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5. An attribute may characterize a thing by reference to its effects or works, not in the sense that the thing or author of the effect has acquired a character by reason of the product, like carpenter, painter, blacksmith, but merely in the sense that he is the one who made a particular thing. An attribute of this kind is far removed from the essence of the thing so characterized by it; and hence we may apply it to God, provided we remember that the varied effects need not be produced by different elements in the agent, but are all done by the one essence.

Those who believe in attributes divide them into two classes, and number the following four as essential attributes, not derived from God's effects like "creator," which denotes God's relation to his work, since God did not create himself. The four essential attributes about which all agree are, living, powerful, wise, possessed of will. Now if by wise is meant God's knowledge of himself, there might be some reason for calling it an essential attribute; though in that case it implies "living," and there is no need of two. But they refer the attribute wise to God's knowledge of the world, and then there is no reason for calling it an essential attribute any more than the word "creator," for example. In the same way "powerful" and "having will" cannot refer to himself, but to his actions. We therefore hold that just as we do not say that there is something additional in his essence by which he created the heavens, something else with which he created the elements, and a third with which he created the Intelligences, so we do not say that he has one attribute with which he exercises power, another with which he wills, a third with which he knows, and so on, but his essence is simple and one.[277]

Four things must be removed from God: (1) corporeality, (2) affection, (3) potentiality, (4) resemblance to his creatures. The first we have already proved. The second implies change, and the author of the change cannot be the same as he who suffers the change and feels the affection. If then God were subject to affection, there would be another who would cause the change in him. So all want must be removed from him; for he who is in want of something is potential, and in order to pass into actuality requires an agent having that quality in actu. The fourth is also evident; for resemblance involves relation. As there is no relation between God and ourselves, there is no resemblance. Resemblance can exist only between things of the same species. All the expressions including "existent" are applied to God and to ourselves in a homonymous sense (cf. above, p. 240). The use is not even analogical; for in analogy there must be some resemblance between the things having the same name, but not so here. Existence in things which are determined by causes (and this includes all that is not God), is not identical with the essence of those things. The essence is that which is expressed in the definition, whereas the existence or non-existence of the thing so defined is not part of the definition. It is an accident added to the essence. In God the case is different. His existence has no cause, since he is a necessary existent; hence his existence is identical with his essence. So we say God exists, but not with existence, as we do. Similarly he is living, but not with life; knowing, but not with knowledge; powerful, but not with power; wise, but not with wisdom. Unity and plurality are also accidents of things which are one or many as the case may be. They are accidents of the category of quantity. God, who is a necessary existent and simple cannot be one any more than many. He is one, but not with unity. Language is inadequate to express our ideas of God. Wishing to say he is not many, we have to say he is one; though one as well as many pertains to the accidents of quantity. To correct the inexactness of the expression, we add, "but not with unity." So we say "eternal" to indicate that he is not "new," though in reality eternal is an accident of time, which in turn is an accident of motion, the latter being dependent upon body. In reality neither "eternal" nor "new" is applicable to God. When we say one, we mean merely that there is none other like him; and when Scripture speaks of him as the first and the last, the meaning is that he does not change.

The only true attributes of God are the negative ones. Negative attributes, too, by excluding the part of the field in which the thing to be designated is not contained, bring us nearer to the thing itself; though unlike positive attributes they do not designate any part of the thing itself. God cannot have positive attributes because he has no essence different from his existence for the attributes to designate, and surely no accidents. Negative attributes are of value in leading us to a knowledge of God, because in negation no plurality is involved. So when we have proved that there is a being beside these sensible and intelligible things, and we say he is existent, we mean that his non-existence is unthinkable. In the same way living means not dead; incorporeal is negative; eternal signifies not caused; powerful means not weak; wise—not ignorant; willing denotes that creation proceeds from him not by natural necessity like heat from fire or light from the sun, but with purpose and design and method. All attributes therefore are either derived from God's effects or, if they have reference to himself, are meant to exclude their opposites, i. e., are really negatives. This does not mean, however, that God is devoid of a quality which he might have, but in the sense in which we say a stone does not see, meaning that it does not pertain to the nature of the stone to see.[278]

All the names of God except the tetragrammaton designate his activities in the world. Jhvh alone is the real name of God, which belongs to him alone and is not derived from anything else. Its meaning is unknown. It denotes perhaps the idea of necessary existence. All the other so-called divine names used by the writers of talismans and charms are quite meaningless and absurd. The wonderful claims these people bespeak for them are not to be believed by any intelligent man.[279]

The above account of Maimonides's doctrine of attributes shows us that he followed the same line of thought as his predecessors. His treatment is more thorough and elaborate, and his requirements of the religionist more stringent. He does not even allow attributes of relation, which were admitted by Ibn Daud. Negative attributes and those taken from God's effects are the only expressions that may be applied to God. This is decidedly not a Jewish mode of conceiving of God, but it is not even Aristotelian. Aristotle has very little to say about God's attributes, it is true, but there seems no warrant in the little he does say for such an absolutely transcendental and agnostic conception as we find in Maimonides. To Aristotle God is pure form, thought thinking itself. In so far as he is thought we may suppose him to be similar in kind, though not in degree, to human thought. The only source of Maimonides's ideas is to be sought in Neo-Platonism, in the so-called Theology of Aristotle which, however, Maimonides never quotes. He need not have used it himself. He was a descendant of a long line of thinkers, Christian, Mohammedan and Jewish, in which this problem was looked at from a Neo-Platonic point of view; and the Theology of Aristotle had its share in forming the views of his predecessors. The idea of making God transcendent appealed to Maimonides, and he carried it to the limit. How he could combine such transcendence with Jewish prayer and ceremony it is hard to tell; but it would be a mistake to suppose that his philosophical deductions represented his last word on the subject. As in Philo so in Maimonides, his negative theology was only a means to a positive. Its purpose was to emphasize God's perfection. And in the admission, nay maintenance, of man's inability to understand God lies the solution of the problem we raised above. Prayer is answered, man is protected by divine Providence; and if we cannot understand how, it is because the matter is beyond our limited intellect.

Having discussed the existence and nature of God, our next problem is the existence of angels and their relation to the "Separate Intelligences" of the philosophers. In this matter, too, Ibn Daud anticipated Maimonides, though the latter is more elaborate in his exposition as well as criticism of the extreme philosophic view. He adopts as much of Aristotelian (or what he thought was Aristotelian) doctrine as is compatible in his mind with the Bible and subject to rigorous demonstration, and rejects the rest on philosophic as well as religious grounds.

The existence of separate intelligences he proves in the same way as Ibn Daud from the motions of the celestial spheres. These motions cannot be purely "natural," i. e., unconscious and involuntary like the rectilinear motions of the elements, fire, air, water and earth, because in that case they would stop as soon as they came to their natural place, as is true of the elements (cf. above, p. xxxiii); whereas the spheres actually move in a circle and never stop. We must therefore assume that they are endowed with a soul, and their motions are conscious and voluntary. But it is not sufficient to regard them as irrational creatures, for on this hypothesis also their motions would have to cease as soon as they attained the object of their desire, or escaped the thing they wish to avoid. Neither object can be accomplished by circular motion, for one approaches in this way the thing from which one flees, and flees the object which one approaches. The only way to account for continuous circular motion is by supposing that the sphere is endowed with reason or intellect, and that its motion is due to a desire on its part to attain a certain conception. God is the object of the conception of the sphere, and it is the love of God, to whom the sphere desires to become similar, that is the cause of the sphere's motion. So far as the sphere is a body, it can accomplish this only by circular motion; for this is the only continuous act possible for a body, and it is the simplest of bodily motions.

Seeing, however, that there are many spheres having different kinds of motions, varying in speed and direction, Aristotle thought that this difference must be due to the difference in the objects of their conceptions. Hence he posited as many separate Intelligences as there are spheres. That is, he thought that intermediate between God and the rational spheres there are pure incorporeal intelligences, each one moving its own sphere as a loved object moves the thing that loves it. As the number of spheres were in his day thought to be fifty, he assumed there were fifty separate Intelligences. The mathematical sciences in Aristotle's day were imperfect, and the astronomers thought that for every motion visible in the sky there must be a sphere, not knowing that the inclination of one sphere may be the cause of a number of apparent motions. Later writers making use of the more advanced state of astronomical science, reduced the number of Intelligences to ten, corresponding to the ten spheres as follows: the seven planetary spheres, the sphere of the fixed stars, the diurnal sphere embracing them all and giving all of them the motion from east to west, and the sphere of the elements surrounding the earth. Each one of these is in charge of an Intelligence. The last separate Intelligence is the Active Intellect, which is the cause of our mind's passing from potentiality to actuality, and of the various processes of sublunar life generally.

These are the views of Aristotle and his followers concerning the separate Intelligences. And in a general way his views, says Maimonides, are not incompatible with the Bible. What he calls Intelligences the Scriptures call angels. Both are pure forms and incorporeal. Their rationality is indicated in the nineteenth Psalm, "The heavens declare the glory of God." That God rules the world through them is evident from a number of passages in Bible and Talmud. The plural number in "Let us make man in our image" (Gen. 1, 26), "Come, let us go down and confuse their speech" (ib. 11, 7) is explained by the Rabbis in the statement that "God never does anything without first looking at the celestial 'familia.'" (Bab. Talm. Sanhedrin 38b.) The word "looking" ("Mistakkel") is striking;[280] for it is the very expression Plato uses when he says that God looks into the world of Ideas and produces the universe.[281]

For once Maimonides in the last Rabbinic quotation actually hit upon a passage which owes its content to Alexandrian and possibly Philonian influence. Having no idea of the Alexandrian School and of the works of Philo and his relation to some theosophic passages in the Haggadah, he made no distinction between Midrash and Bible, and read Plato and Aristotle in both alike, as we shall see more particularly later.

Maimonides's detailed criticism of Aristotle we shall see later. For the present he agrees that the philosophic conception of separate Intelligences is the same as the Biblical idea of angels with this exception that according to Aristotle these Intelligences and powers are all eternal and proceed from God by natural necessity, whereas the Jewish view is that they are created. God created the separate Intelligences; he likewise created the spheres as rational beings and implanted in them a desire for the Intelligences which accounts for their various motions.

Now Maimonides has prepared the ground and is ready to take up the question of the origin of the world, which was left open above. He enumerates three views concerning this important matter.

1. The Biblical View. God created everything out of nothing. Time itself is a creation, which did not exist when there was no world. For time is a measure of motion, and motion cannot be without a moving thing. Hence no motion and no time without a world.

2. The Platonic View. The world as we see it now is subject to genesis and decay; hence it originated in time. But God did not make it out of nothing. That a composite of matter and form should be made out of nothing or should be reduced to nothing is to the Platonists an impossibility like that of a thing being and not being at the same time, or the diagonal of a square being equal to its side. Therefore to say that God cannot do it argues no defect in him. They believe therefore that there is an eternal matter, the effect of God to be sure, but co-eternal with him, which he uses as the potter does the clay.

3. The Aristotelian View. Time and motion are eternal. The heavens and the spheres are not subject to genesis and decay, hence they were always as they are now. And the processes of change in the lower world existed from eternity as they exist now. Matter is not subject to genesis and decay; it simply takes on forms one after the other, and this has been going on from eternity. It results also from his statements, though he does not say it in so many words, that it is impossible there should be a change in God's will. He is the cause of the universe, which he brought into being by his will, and as his will does not change, the universe has existed this way from eternity.

The arguments of Aristotle and his followers by which they defend their view of the eternity of the world are based partly upon the nature of the world, and partly upon the nature of God. Some of these arguments are as follows:

Motion is not subject to beginning and end. For everything that comes into being after a state of non-existence requires motion to precede it, namely, the actualization from non-being. Hence if motion came into being, there was motion before motion, which is a contradiction. As motion and time go together, time also is eternal.

Again, the prime matter common to the four elements is not subject to genesis and decay. For all genesis is the combination of a pre-existing matter with a new form, namely, the form of the generated thing. If therefore the prime matter itself came into being, there must be a previous matter from which it came, and the thing that resulted must be endowed with form. But this is impossible, since the prime matter has no matter before it and is not endowed with form.

Among the proofs derived from the nature of God are the following:

If God brought forth the world from non-existence, then before he created it he was a creator potentially and then became a creator actually. There is then potentiality in the creator, and there must be a cause which changed him from a potential to an actual creator.

Again, an agent acts at a particular time and not at another because of reasons and circumstances preventing or inducing action. In God there are no accidents or hindrances. Hence he acts always.

Again, how is it possible that God was idle an eternity and only yesterday made the world? For thousands of years and thousands of worlds before this one are after all as yesterday in comparison with God's eternity.

These arguments Maimonides answers first by maintaining that Aristotle himself, as can be inferred from his manner, does not regard his discussions favoring the eternity of the world as scientific demonstrations. Besides, there is a fundamental flaw in Aristotle's entire attitude to the question of the ultimate principles and beginnings of things. All his arguments in favor of eternity of motion and of the world are based upon the erroneous assumption that the world as a whole must have come into being in the same way as its parts appear now after the world is here. According to this supposition it is easy to prove that motion must be eternal, that matter is not subject to genesis, and so on. Our contention is that at the beginning, when God created the world, there were not these laws; that he created matter out of nothing, and then made it the basis of all generation and destruction.

We can also answer the arguments in favor of eternity taken from the nature of God. The first is that God would be passing from potentiality to actuality if he made the world at a particular time and not before, and there would be need of a cause producing this passage. Our answer is that this applies only to material things but not to immaterial, which are always active whether they produce visible results or not. The term action is a homonym (cf. above, p. 240), and the conditions applying to it in the ordinary usage do not hold when we speak of God.

Nor is the second argument conclusive. An agent whose will is determined by a purpose external to himself is subject to influences positive and negative, which now induce, now hinder his activity. A person desires to have a house and does not build it by reason of obstacles of various sorts. When these are removed, he builds the house. In the case of an agent whose will has no object external to itself this does not hold. If he does not act always, it is because it is the nature of will sometimes to will and sometimes not. Hence this does not argue change.[282]

So far our results have been negative. We have not proved that God did create the world in time; we have only taken the edge off the Aristotelian arguments and thereby shown that the doctrine of creation is not impossible. We must now proceed to show that there are positive reasons which make creation a more plausible theory than eternity.

The gist of Maimonides's arguments here is that the difference between eternity and creation resolves itself into a more fundamental difference between an impersonal mechanical law as the explanation of the universe and an intelligent personality acting with will, purpose and design. Aristotle endeavors to explain all motions in the world above the moon as well as below in terms of mechanics. He succeeds pretty well as far as the sublunar world is concerned, and no one who is free from prejudice can fail to see the cogency of his reasoning. If he were just as convincing in his explanation of celestial phenomena on the mechanical principle as he is in his interpretation of sublunar events, eternity of the world would be a necessary consequence. Uniformity and absolute necessity of natural law are more compatible with an eternal world than with a created one. But Aristotle's method breaks down the moment he leaves the sublunar sphere. There are too many phenomena unaccounted for in his system.

Aristotle tries to find a reason why the heavens move from east to west and not in the opposite direction; and his explanation for the difference in speed of the motions of the various spheres is that it is due to their relative proximity to the outer sphere, which is the cause of this motion and which it communicates to all the other spheres under it. But his reasons are inadequate, for some of the swift moving spheres are below the slow moving and some are above. When he says that the reason the sphere of the fixed stars moves so slowly from west to east is because it is so near to the diurnal sphere (the outer sphere), which moves from east to west, his explanation is wonderfully clever.[283] But when he infers from this that the farther a sphere is from the fixed stars the more rapid is its motion from west to east, his conclusion is not true to fact. Or let us consider the existence of the stars in the spheres. The matter of the stars must be different from that of the spheres, for the latter move, whereas the stars are always stationary. Now what has put these two different matters together? Stranger still is the existence and distribution of the fixed stars in the eighth sphere. Some parts are thickly studded with stars, others are very thin. In the planetary spheres what is the reason (since the sphere is simple and uniform throughout) that the star occupies the particular place that it does? This can scarcely be a matter of necessity. It will not do to say that the differences in the motions of the spheres are due to the separate Intelligences for which the respective spheres have a desire. For the Intelligences are not bodies, and hence do not occupy any position relative to the spheres. There must therefore be a being who determines their various motions.

Further, it is argued on the philosophical side that from a simple cause only a simple effect can follow; and that if the cause is composite, as many effects will follow as there are simple elements in the cause. Hence from God directly can come only one simple Intelligence. This first Intelligence produces the second, the second produces the third, and so on (cf. above, p. 178). Now according to this idea, no matter how many Intelligences are produced in this successive manner, the last, even if he be the thousandth, would have to be simple. Where then does composition arise? Even if we grant that the farther the Intelligences are removed from the first cause the more composite they become by reason of the composite nature of their ideas or thoughts, how can we explain the emanation of a sphere from an Intelligence, seeing that the one is body, the other Intellect? Granting again this also on the ground that the Intelligence producing the sphere is composite (since it thinks itself and another), and hence one of its parts produces the next lower Intelligence and the other the sphere, there is still this difficulty that the part of the Intelligence producing the sphere is simple, whereas the sphere has four elements—the matter and the form of the sphere, and the matter and the form of the star fixed in the sphere.

All these are difficulties arising from the Aristotelian theory of mechanical causation, necessity of natural law and eternity of the world. And they are all removed at a stroke when we substitute intelligent cause working with purpose, will and design. To be sure, by finding difficulties attaching to a theory we do not disprove it, much less do we prove our own. But we should follow the view of Alexander, who says that where a theory is not proved one should adopt the view which has the least number of objections. This, we shall show, is the case in the doctrine of creation. We have already pointed out a number of difficulties attaching to the Aristotelian view, which are solved if we adopt creation. And there are others besides. It is impossible to explain the heavenly motions as a necessary mechanical system. The hypotheses made by Ptolemy to account for the apparent motions conflict with the principles of the Aristotelian Physics. According to these principles there is no motion of translation, i. e., there is no change of place, in the heavenly spheres. Also there are three kinds of motion in the world, toward the centre (water, earth), away from the centre (air, fire) and around the centre (the celestial spheres). Also motion in a circle must be around a fixed centre. All these principles are violated in the theories of the epicycle and eccentric, especially the first. For the epicycle is a sphere which changes place in the circumference of the large sphere.

Finally, an important objection to the doctrine of eternity as taught by Aristotle, involving as it does necessity and absolute changelessness of natural phenomena, is that it subverts the foundations of religion, and does away with miracles and signs. The Platonic view (cf. above, p. 269) is not so bad and does not necessitate the denial of miracles; but there is no need of forcing the Biblical texts to that opinion so long as it has not been proved. As long as we believe in creation all possible questions concerning the reasons for various phenomena such as prophecy, the various laws, the selection of Israel, and so on, can be answered by reference to the will of God, which we do not understand. If, however, the world is a mechanical necessity, all these questions arise and demand an answer.[284]

It will be seen that Maimonides's objections to eternity and mechanical necessity (for these two are necessarily connected in his mind), are twofold, philosophic and religious. The latter objection we may conceive Maimonides to insist upon if he were living to-day. Mechanical necessity as a universal explanation of phenomena would exclude free will and the efficacy of prayer as ordinarily understood, though not necessarily miracles, if we mean by miracle simply an extraordinary phenomenon not explicable by the laws of nature as we know them, and happening only on rare occasions. But in reality this is not what we mean by miracle. A miracle is a discontinuity in the laws of nature brought to pass on a special occasion by a personal being in response to a prayer or in order to realize a given purpose. In this sense miracles are incompatible with the doctrine of necessity, and Maimonides's objections hold to-day, except for those to whom religion is independent of the Bible, tradition or any external authority.

As concerns the scientific objections, the case is different. We may allow Maimonides's negative criticism of the Aristotelian arguments, namely, that they are not convincing. His positive criticism that Aristotle's interpretation of phenomena on the mechanical principle does not explain all the facts is not valid. Aristotle may be wrong in his actual explanations of particular phenomena and yet be correct in his method. Modern science, in fact, has adopted the mechanical method of interpreting phenomena, assuming that this is the only way in which science can exist at all. And if there is any domain in which mechanical causation is still denied, it is not the celestial regions about which Maimonides was so much concerned—the motions of the heavenly bodies have been reduced to uniformity in accordance with natural law quite as definitely as, and in some cases more definitely than, some terrestrial phenomena—but the regions of life, mind and will. In these domains the discussion within the scientific and philosophic folds is still going on. But in inanimate nature modern science has succeeded in justifying its method by the ever increasing number of phenomena that yield to its treatment. Maimonides fought an obsolete philosophy and obsolete scientific principles. It is possible that he might have found much to object to in modern science as well, on the ground that much is yet unexplained. But an objection of this sort is captious, particularly if we consider what Maimonides desires to place in science's stead. Science is doing its best to classify all natural phenomena and to discover the uniformities underlying their behavior. It has succeeded admirably and is continually widening its sphere of activity. It has been able to predict as a result of its method. The principle of uniformity and mechanical necessity is becoming more and more generally verified with every new scientific discovery and invention.

And what does Maimonides offer us in its stead? The principle of intelligent purpose and design. This, he says, is not open to the objections which apply to the Aristotelian principles and methods. It is as if one said the coward is a better man than the brave warrior, because the latter is open to the danger of being captured, wounded or killed, whereas the former is not so liable. The answer obviously would be that the only way the coward escapes the dangers mentioned is by running away, by refusing to fight. Maimonides's substitution is tantamount to a refusal to fight, it is equivalent to flight from the field of battle.

Aristotle tries to explain the variation in speed of the different celestial motions, and succeeds indifferently. Another man coming after Aristotle and following the same method may succeed better. This has actually been the case. Leverrier without ever looking into a telescope discovered Neptune, and told the observers in what part of the heavens they should look for the new planet. Substitute Maimonides's principle, and death to science! Why do the heavenly bodies move as they do? Maimonides replies in effect, because so God's wisdom has determined and his wisdom is transcendent. There is no further impulse to investigation in such an answer. It is the reply of the obscurantist, and it is very surprising that Maimonides the rationalist should so far have forgotten his own ideal of reason and enlightenment. He is here playing into the hands of those very Mutakallimun whom he so severely criticises. They were more consistent. Distrustful of the irreligious consequences of the philosophical theories of Aristotle and his Arabian followers, they deliberately denied causation and natural law, and substituted the will of God as interfering continuously in the phenomena of nature. A red object continues red because and as long as God creates the "accident" red and attaches it to the atoms of which the object is composed. Fire taking hold of wood burns it and reduces it to ashes because God wills at the particular moment that this shall be the result. The next moment God may will otherwise and the fire and the wood will lie down in peace together and no harm done. This makes miracles possible and easy. Maimonides would not think of going so far; he has no names harsh enough to describe this unscientific, unphilosophic, illogical, irrational, purely imaginary procedure. But we find that he is himself guilty of the same lack of scientific insight when he rejects a method because it is not completely successful, and substitutes something else which will always be successful because it will never tell us anything at all and will stifle all investigation. Were Maimonides living in our day, we may suppose he would be more favorably inclined to the mechanical principle as a scientific method.

Having laid the philosophical foundations of religion in proving the existence, unity and incorporeality of God, and purposeful creation in time, Maimonides proceeds to the more properly religious doctrines of Judaism, and begins with the phenomenon of prophecy. Here also he follows Aristotelian ideas as expressed in the writings of the Arabs Alfarabi and Avicenna, and was anticipated among the Jews by Ibn Daud. His distinction here as elsewhere is that he went further than his model in the manner of his elaboration of the doctrine.

He cites three opinions concerning prophecy:

1. The Opinion of the Masses. God chooses any person he desires, be he young or old, wise or ignorant, and inspires him with the prophetic spirit.

2. The Opinion of the Philosophers. Prophecy is a human gift and requires natural aptitude and hard preparation and study. But given these qualifications, and prophecy is sure to come.

3. The Opinion of Judaism. This is very much like that of the philosophers, the only difference being that a man may have all the qualifications and yet be prevented from prophesying if God, by way of punishment, does not desire that he should.

Prophecy is an inspiration from God, which passes through the mediation of the Active Intellect to the rational power first and then to the faculty of the imagination. It is the highest stage a man can attain and is not open to everyone. It requires perfection in theoretical wisdom and in morals, and perfect development of the imaginative power. This latter does its work when the senses are at rest, giving rise to true dreams, and producing also prophetic visions. Dream and prophecy differ in degree, not in kind. What a man thinks hard in his waking state, that the imagination works over in sleep. Now if a person has a perfect brain; develops his mind as far as a man can; is pure morally; is eager to know the mysteries of existence, its causes and the First Cause; is not susceptible to the purely animal desires, or to those of the spirited soul ambitious for dominion and honor—if a man has all these qualifications, he without doubt receives through his imagination from the Active Intellect divine ideas. The difference in the grade of prophets is due to the difference in these three requirements—perfection of the reason, perfection of the imagination and perfection of moral character.

According to the character and development of their reasons and imaginations men may be divided into three classes.

1. Those whose rational faculties are highly developed and receive influences from the Active Intellect, but whose imagination is defective constitutionally, or is not under the influence of the Active Intellect. These are wise men and philosophers.

2. When the imagination also is perfect in constitution and well developed under the influence of the Active Intellect, we have the class of prophets.

3. When the imagination alone is in good condition, but the intellect is defective, we have statesmen, lawgivers, magicians, dreamers of true dreams and occult artists. These men are so confused sometimes by visions and reveries that they think they have the gift of prophecy.

Each of the first two classes may be further divided into two according as the influence from above is just sufficient for the perfection of the individual himself, or is so abundant as to cause the recipient to seek to impart it to others. We have then authors and teachers in the first class, and preaching prophets in the second.

Among the powers we have in varying degrees are those of courage and divination. These are innate and can be perfected if one has them in any degree. By means of the power of divination we sometimes guess what a person said or did under certain conditions, and guess truly. The result really follows from a number of premises, but the mind passes over these so rapidly that it seems the guess was made instantaneously. The prophet must have these two faculties in a high degree. Witness Moses braving the wrath of a great king. Some prophets also have their rational powers more highly developed than those of an ordinary person who perfects his reason by theoretical study. The same inspiration which renders the activity of the imagination so vivid that it seems to it its perceptions are real and due to the external senses—this same inspiration acts also upon the rational power, and makes its ideas as certain as if they were derived by intellectual effort.

The prophetic vision (Heb. Mar'ah) is a state of agitation coming upon the prophet in his waking state, as is clear from the words of Daniel, "And I saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no strength" (Dan. 10, 8). In vision also the senses cease their functions, and the process is the same as in sleep.

Whenever the Bible speaks of prophecy coming to anyone, it is always through an angel and in a dream or vision, whether this is specifically stated or not. The expression, "And God came to ... in a dream of the night," does not denote prophecy at all. It is merely a dream that comes to a person warning him of danger. Laban and Abimelech had such dreams, but no one would credit these heathens with the prophetic power.

Whenever an angel is met in Scripture speaking or communicating with a person, it is always in a dream or vision. Examples are, Abraham and the three men, Jacob wrestling with the angel, Balaam and the ass, Joshua and the angel at Jericho;—all these were in a dream or vision. Sometimes there is no angel at all, but merely a voice that is heard by such as are not deserving of prophecy, for example Hagar, and Manoah and his wife.

The prophets see images in their visions. These images are sometimes interpreted in the vision itself; sometimes the interpretation does not appear until the prophet wakes up. Sometimes the prophet sees a likeness, sometimes he sees God speaking to him, or an angel; or he hears an angel speaking to him, or sees a man speaking to him, or sees nothing at all but only hears a voice.

In this way we distinguish eleven grades of prophecy. The first two are only preparatory, not yet constituting one who has them a prophet.

1. When one is endowed by God with a great desire to save a community or a famous individual, and he undertakes to bring it about, we have the first grade known as the "Spirit of God." This was the position of the Judges. Moses always had this desire from the moment he could be called a man, hence he killed the Egyptian and chided the two quarreling men, and delivered the daughters of Jethro from the shepherds, and so on. The same is true of David. Not everyone, however, who has this desire is a prophet until he succeeds in doing a very great thing.

2. When a person feels something come upon him and begins to speak—words of wisdom and praise or of warning, or relating to social or religious conduct—all this while in a waking state and with full consciousness, we have the second stage called the "Holy Spirit." This is the inspiration which dictated the Psalms, the Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Daniel, Job, Chronicles and the other sacred writings (Hagiographa). Balaam's discourses also belong to this class. David, Solomon and Daniel belong here, and are not in the same class with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nathan, Ahiah, and so on. God spoke to Solomon through Ahiah the Shilonite; at other times he spoke to him in a dream, and when Solomon woke up, he knew it was a dream and not a prophecy. Daniel's visions were also in dreams. This is why his book is classed in the third division of the Biblical writings (Hagiographa), and not in the second (Prophets).

3. This is the first grade of real prophecy, i. e., when a prophet sees a picture in a dream under the proper conditions, and the picture is explained to him in the dream itself. Most of the dreams of Zechariah are of this nature.

4. When he hears speech in a prophetic dream, but does not see the speaker, as happened to Samuel in the beginning of his career.

5. When a man speaks to him in a dream, as we find in some of the prophecies of Ezekiel, "And the man said unto me, son of man...."

6. When an angel speaks to him in a dream. This is the condition of most prophets, as is indicated in the expression, "And an angel of God said to me in a dream."

7. When it seems to him in a prophetic dream as if God is speaking to him; as we find in Isaiah, "I saw the Lord ... and he said, whom shall I send and who will go for us" (Isa. 6, 1, 8).

8. When a vision appears to him and he sees pictures, like Abraham at the covenant of the pieces (Gen. 15).

9. When he hears words in a vision, as in the case of Abraham, "And, behold, the word of the Lord came unto him saying, This man shall not be thine heir" (Gen. 15, 4).

10. When he sees a man speaking to him in a prophetic vision. Examples, Abraham in the plain of Mamre, Joshua in Jericho.

11. When he sees an angel speaking to him in a vision, like Abraham in the sacrifice of Isaac. This is the highest degree of prophecy, excepting Moses. The next higher stage would be that a prophet should see God speaking to him in a vision. But this seems impossible, as it is too much for the imaginative faculty. In fact it is possible that in a vision speech is never heard at all, but only likenesses are seen. In that case the eleven grades are reduced to eight.

All the details of actions and travels that are described in prophetic visions must not be understood as having actually taken place, as for example Hosea's marrying a harlot. They appear only in the prophet's vision or dream. Many expressions in the prophets are hyperbolical or metaphorical, and must not be taken literally.

Moses was the greatest of the prophets. He alone received his communications direct from God. All the others got their divine messages through an angel. Moses performed his miracles before the whole people as no one else did. The standing still of the sun produced by Joshua was not in the presence of all the people. Besides it may be the meaning is that that day seemed to the people the longest of any they experienced in those regions. Moses alone, by reason of his superiority to all other prophets before or after, called the people to the Law. No one before him did this, though there were many prophets before Moses. Abraham taught a few people, and so did others. But no one like Moses said to the people, "The Lord sent me to you that you may do thus and so." After Moses all the prophets urge upon the people obedience to the law of Moses. This shows that the law of Moses will never change. For it is perfect, and any change in any direction would be for the worse.[285]

From the theoretical part of philosophy we pass to the practical. This includes ethics and other topics related thereto, theodicy, providence, free will and its compatibility with God's omniscience. To give his ethical doctrine a scientific character, Maimonides bases it upon a metaphysical and psychological foundation. The doctrine of matter and form gives him a convenient formula underlying his ethical discussion. Sin and vice are due to matter, virtue and goodness to form. For sensuous desires, which are due to matter, are at the basis of vice; whereas intellectual pursuits, which constitute the noblest activity of the soul, the form of the living body, lead to virtue. We may therefore state man's ethical duty in broad philosophical terms as follows: Despise matter, and have to do with it only so far as is absolutely necessary.[286] This is too general to be enlightening, and it is necessary to have recourse to psychology. Ethics has for its subject-matter the improvement and perfection of character. Making use of a medical analogy we may say that as it is the business of the physician to cure the body, so it is the aim of the moral teacher to cure the soul. We may carry this figure further and conclude that as the physician must know the anatomy and physiology of the body before he can undertake to cure it of its ills, so the moralist must know the nature of the soul and its powers or faculties.

In the details of his psychology Maimonides follows Alfarabi instead of Avicenna who was the model of Judah Halevi and Ibn Daud (pp. 175, 211).

The soul consists of five parts or faculties: the nutritive, the sensitive, the imaginative, the appetitive and the rational. The further description of the nutritive soul pertains to medicine and does not concern us here. The sensitive soul contains the well known five senses. The imaginative faculty is the power which retains the forms of sensible objects when they are no longer present to the external senses. It also has the function of original combination of sense elements into composite objects having no real existence in the outside world. This makes the imagination an unreliable guide in matters intellectual.

The appetitive faculty is the power of the soul by which a person desires a thing or rejects it. Acts resulting from it are the pursuit of an object and its avoidance; also the feelings of anger, favor, fear, courage, cruelty, pity, love, hate, and so on. The organs of these powers, feelings and activities are the members of the body, like the hand, which takes hold of an object; the foot, which goes toward a thing or away from it; the eye, which looks; the heart, which takes courage or is stricken with fear; and so with the rest.

The rational faculty is the power of the soul by which a person reflects, acquires knowledge, discriminates between a praiseworthy act and a blameworthy. The functions of the rational soul are practical and theoretical. The practical activity of the reason has to do with the arts directly, as in learning carpentry, agriculture, medicine, seamanship; or it is concerned with reflecting upon the methods and principles of a given art. The theoretical reason has for its subject-matter the permanent and unchangeable, what is known as science in the true sense of the term.[287]

Now as far as the commandments, mandatory and prohibitive, of the Bible are concerned, the only parts of the soul which are involved are the sensitive and the appetitive. For these are the only powers subject to control. The nutritive and the imaginative powers function in sleep as well in waking, hence a person cannot be held responsible for their activities, which are involuntary. There is some doubt about the rational faculty, but it seems that here too a person is responsible for the opinions he holds, though no practical acts are involved.

Virtues are divided into ethical and intellectual (dianoetic); and so are the contrary vices. The intellectual virtues are the excellencies of the reason. Such are science, which consists in the knowledge of proximate and remote causes of things; pure reason, having to do with such innate principles as the axioms; the acquired reason, which we cannot discuss here; clearness of perception and quick insight. The intellectual vices are the opposites or the contraries of these.

The ethical virtues are resident in the appetitive faculty. The sensitive soul is auxiliary to the appetitive. The number of these virtues is large. Examples are; temperance, generosity, justice, modesty, humility, contentment, courage, and so on. The vices of this class are the above qualities carried to excess, or not practiced to the required extent. The faculties of nutrition and imagination have neither virtues nor vices. We say a person's digestion is good or it is poor; his imagination is correct or it is defective, but we do not attach the idea of virtue or vice to these conditions.

Virtue is a permanent and enduring quality of the soul occupying an intermediate position between the two opposite extremes each of which is a vice, sinning by exceeding the proper measure of the golden mean or by falling short of it. A good act is that form of conduct which follows from a virtuous disposition as just defined. A bad act is the result of a tendency of the soul to either of the two extremes, of excess or defect. Thus temperance or moderation is a virtue. It is the mean between over-indulgence in the direction of excess, and insensibility or indifference in the direction of defect. The last two are vices. Similarly generosity is a mean between niggardliness and extravagance; courage is a mean between foolhardiness and cowardice; dignity is a mean between haughtiness and loutishness; humility is a mean between arrogance and self-abasement; contentment is a mean between avarice and slothful indifference; kindness is a mean between baseness and excessive self-denial; gentleness is a mean between irascibility and insensibility to insult; modesty is a mean between impudence and shamefacedness. People are often mistaken and regard one of the extremes as a virtue. Thus the reckless and the foolhardy is often praised as the brave; the man of no backbone is called gentle; the indolent is mistaken for the contented; the insensible for the temperate, the extravagant for the generous. This is an error. The mean alone is worthy of commendation.

The ethical virtues and vices are acquired as a result of repeated practice during a long time of the corresponding acts until they become a confirmed habit and a second nature. A person is not born virtuous or vicious. What he will turn out to be depends upon the way he is trained from childhood. If his training has been wrong and he has acquired a vicious disposition in a particular tendency, he may be cured. And here we may borrow a leaf from the book of medicine. As in bodily disease the physician's endeavor is to restore the disturbed equilibrium in the mixture of the humors by increasing the element that is deficient, so in diseases of the soul, if a person has a decided tendency to one of the vicious extremes, he must as a curative measure, for a certain length of time, be directed to practice the opposite extreme until he has been cured. Then he may go back to the virtuous mean. Thus if a person has the vice of niggardliness, the practice of liberality is not sufficient to cure him. As a heroic measure he must practice extravagance until the former tendency has left him. Then he may return to the liberal mean. The same thing applies to the other virtues, except that it is necessary to use proper judgment in the amount of practice of a vicious extreme necessary to bring about a satisfactory result. Too great deviation and too long continued from the mean would in some cases be dangerous, as likely to develop the opposite vice. Thus it is comparatively safe to indulge in extravagance as a cure for niggardliness; the reverse process must be used with caution. Care should likewise be taken in trying to wean a person away from a habit of insensibility to pleasure by means of a rgime of indulgence. If it is not discontinued in time, he may become a pleasure seeker, which is even worse than total indifference.

It is in this way that we must explain the conduct of certain pious men and saints who were not content with following the middle way, and inclined to one extreme, the extreme of asceticism and self-abasement. They did this as a measure of cure, or because of the wickedness of their generation, whose example they feared would contaminate them by its contagion. Hence they lived a retired and solitary life, the life of a recluse. It was not meant as the normal mode of conduct, which would be as unwholesome to the soul as an invalid's drugs would be dangerous if taken regularly by a person of sound health.

The will of God is that we should follow the middle way and eat and drink and enjoy ourselves in moderation. To be sure, we must be always on our guard against slipping into the forbidden extreme, but it is not necessary for this purpose to inflict additional burdens upon ourselves or to practice mortification of the flesh and abstention from food and drink beyond what is prescribed in the Law. For many of the regulations in the Pentateuch have been laid down for this very purpose. The dietary laws, the laws of forbidden marriages, the laws of tithes, the laws prescribing that the corner of the field, the dropped and forgotten ears and the gleanings of the vintage should be left to the poor, the laws of the sabbatical year, the Jubilee, and the regulations governing charity—all these are intended to guard us against avarice and selfishness. Other laws and precepts are for the purpose of moderating our tendency to anger and rage, and so with all the other virtues and vices. Hence it is folly and overscrupulousness to add restrictions of one's own accord except in critical instances, as indicated above.

The purpose of all human life and activity is to know God as far as it is possible for man. Hence all his activities should be directed to that one end. His eating and drinking and sleeping and waking and motion and rest and pleasure should have for their object the maintenance of good health and cheerful spirits, not as an end in themselves, but as a means to intellectual peace and freedom from worry and care in order that he may have leisure and ability to study and reflect upon the highest truths of God. Good music, beautiful scenery, works of art, splendid architecture and fine clothing should not be pursued for their own sake, but only so far as they may be necessary to relieve the tedium and monotony of toil and labor, or as a curative measure to dispel gloom and low spirits or a tendency to melancholy. The same thing applies to the arts and sciences. Medicine is of assistance in maintaining bodily health and curing it of its ills. The logical, mathematical and physical sciences are either directly helpful to speculative theology, and their value is evident; or they serve to train the mind in deduction and analysis, and are thus indirectly of benefit for the knowledge of God.[288]

The ethical qualities similarly conduce to intellectual perfection, and the difference between one prophet and another is in large measure dependent upon relative ethical superiority. Thus when the Rabbis say that Moses saw God through a luminous mirror, and the other prophets through a non-luminous, the meaning is that Moses had intellectual and moral perfection, so far as a human being is capable of having them, and the only partition separating him from a complete vision of God was his humanity. The other prophets had other defects besides, constituting so many additional partitions obscuring the divine view.[289]

Some foolish astrologers are of the opinion that a man's character is determined in advance by the position of the stars at the time of his birth. This is a grave error, as can be shown from reason as well as tradition. The Bible as well as the Greek philosophers are agreed that a man's acts are under his own control, and that he himself and no one else is responsible for his virtues as well as his vices. It is true that a person's temperament, which is constitutional and over which he has no control, plays an important rle in his conduct. There is no denying that men are born with certain tendencies. Some are born phlegmatic, some are passionate and hot-blooded. One man has a tendency to fearlessness and bravery, another is timid and backward. But while it is true that it is more difficult for the hot-blooded to develop the virtue of temperance and moderation than it is for the phlegmatic, that it is easier for the warm-tempered to learn courage than it is for the cold-tempered—these are not impossible. Virtue, we have seen before, is not a natural state, but an acquired possession due to long continued discipline and practice. One man may require longer and more assiduous practice than another to acquire a certain virtue, but no matter what his inherited temperament, he can acquire it if he undertakes to do so, or if properly trained. If man's character and conduct were determined, all the commandments and prohibitions in the Bible would be in vain, for without freedom command has no effect. Similarly there would be no use in a person's endeavoring to learn any trade or profession; for if it is determined beforehand that a given individual shall be a physician or a carpenter, he is bound to be one whether he studies or not. This would make all reward and punishment wrong and unjust whether administered by man or by God. For the person so rewarded or punished could not help doing what he did, and is therefore not responsible. All our plans and preparations would on this supposition be useless and without meaning, such as building houses, acquiring food, avoiding danger, and so on. All this is absurd and opposed to reason as well as to sense. It undermines the foundation of religion and imputes wrong to God. The Bible says distinctly, "See, I have set before thee this day life and the good, death and the evil ... therefore choose thou life...." (Deut. 30, 15, 19.)

There are some passages in the Bible which apparently lend color to the idea that a person's acts are determined from on high. Such are the expressions used in relation to Pharaoh's conduct toward the Israelites in refusing to let them go out of Egypt. We are told there that God hardened the heart of Pharaoh that he should not let the Israelites go. And he did this in order to punish the Egyptians. The criticism here is twofold. First, these expressions indicate that a person is not always free; and second, it seems scarcely just to force a man to act in a certain way and then to punish him for it.

The explanation Maimonides gives to this passage is as follows: He admits that in Pharaoh's case there was a restriction of Pharaoh's freedom. But this was a penal measure and exceptional. Normally a man is free, but he may forfeit this freedom if he abuses it. So Pharaoh's primary offence was not that he would not let the children of Israel go out of Egypt. His sin consisted in his tyrannical treatment of Israel in the past, which he did of his own accord and as a result of free choice. His loss of freedom in complying with Moses's request to let the Israelites go was already in the nature of a punishment, and its object was to let all the world know that a person may forfeit his freedom of action as a punishment for abusing his human privilege. To be sure God does not always punish sin so severely, but it is not for us to search his motives and ask why he punishes one man in one way and another in another. We must leave this to his wisdom.

Another argument against free will is that it is incompatible with the knowledge of God. If God is omniscient and knows the future as well as the past and the present, he knows how a given person will act at a given moment. But since God's knowledge is certain and not liable to error, the person in question cannot help acting as God long foreknew he would act, and hence his act is not the result of his free will. Maimonides's answer to this objection is virtually an admission of ignorance. He takes refuge in the transcendence of God's knowledge, upon which he dwelt so insistently in the earlier part of his work (p. 260 ff.). God is not qualified by attributes as we his creatures are. As he does not live by means of life, so he does not know by means of knowledge. He knows through his own essence. He and his existence and his knowledge are identical. Hence as we cannot know his essence, we cannot have any conception of his knowledge. It is mistaken therefore to argue that because we cannot know a future event unless it is already determined in the present, God cannot do so. His knowledge is of a different kind from ours, and he can do what we cannot. [290]

The next problem Maimonides takes up is the doctrine of evil. The presence of evil in the world, physical as well as moral, was a stumbling block to all religious thinkers in the middle ages. The difficulty seems to find its origin in Neo-Platonism, or, farther back still, in Philo of Alexandria, who identified God with the Good. If he is the Good, evil cannot come from him. How then account for the evil in the world? The answer that was given was extremely unsatisfactory. It was founded on a metaphysical distinction which is as old as Plato, namely, of matter as the non-existent. Matter was considered a principle without any definite nature or actual being, and this was made the basis of all imperfection, death, sin. Evil partakes of the non-existence of matter, it is nothing positive, but only a negation or privation of good as darkness is the absence of light; hence it needs no creator, it has no efficient cause, but only a deficient cause. In this way physical evil was accounted for. Moral evil as the result of man's inhumanity to man could easily be explained by laying it to the charge of man's free will or even to the free will of the fallen angels as Origen conceives it. This removes from God all responsibility for evil. We shall find that Maimonides has nothing essentially new to contribute to the solution of the problem.

Strictly speaking, he says, only a positive thing can be made, negation or privation cannot. We may speak loosely of the negative being produced when one removes the positive. So if a man puts out a light, we say he made darkness, though darkness is a negation.

Evil is nothing but the negation of the positive, which is good. All positive things are good. Hence God cannot be said to produce evil. The positive thing which he produces is good; the evil is due to defect in the thing. Matter also is good so far as it is positive, i. e., so far as it causes continued existence of one thing after another. The evil in matter is due to its negative or privative aspect as the formless, which makes it the cause of defect and evil. All evil that men do to each other is also due to negation, namely, absence of wisdom and knowledge.

Many people think there is more evil in the world than good. Their mistake is due to the fact that they make the experience of the individual man the arbiter in this question, thinking that the universe was made for his sake. They forget that man is only a small fraction of the world, which is made by the will of God. Even so man should be grateful for the great amount of good he receives from God, for many of the evils of man are self-inflicted. In fact the evils befalling man come under three categories.

1. The evil that is incident to man's nature as subject to genesis and decay, i. e., as composed of matter. Hence arise the various accidents to which man is liable on account of bad air and other natural causes. These are inevitable, and inseparable from matter, and from the generation of individuals in a species. To demand that a person of flesh and blood shall not be subject to impressions is a contradiction in terms. And with all this the evils of this class are comparatively few.

2. They are the evils inflicted by one man upon the other. These are more frequent than the preceding. Their causes are various. And yet these too are not very frequent.

3. These are the most common. They are the evils man brings upon himself by self-indulgence and the formation of bad habits. He injures the body by excess, and he injures the mind through the body by perverting and weakening it, and by enslaving it to luxuries to which there is no end. If a person is satisfied with that which is necessary, he will easily have what he needs; for the necessaries are not hard to get. God's justice is evident in affording the necessaries to all his creatures and in making all the individuals of the same species similar in power and ability.[291]

The next problem Maimonides discusses is really theoretical and should have its place in the discussion of the divine attributes, for it deals with the character of God's knowledge. The reason for taking it up here is because, according to Maimonides, it was an ethical question that was the motive for the formulation of the view of the opponents. Accordingly the problem is semi-ethical, semi-metaphysical, and is closely related to the question of Providence.

Observing that the good are often wretched and the bad prosperous, the philosophers came to the conclusion that God does not know individual things. For if he knows and does not order them as is proper, this must be due either to inability or to jealousy, both of which are impossible in God. Having come to this conclusion in the way indicated, they then bolstered it up with arguments to justify it positively. Such are that the individual is known through sense and God has no sensation; that the number of individual things is infinite, and the infinite cannot be comprehended, hence cannot be known; that knowledge of the particular is subject to change as the object changes, whereas God's knowledge is unchangeable. Against us Jews they argue that to suppose God knows things before they are connects knowledge with the non-existent; and besides there would be two kinds of knowledge in God, one knowledge of potential things, and another of actual things. So they came to the conclusion that God knows only species but not individuals. Others say that God knows nothing except his own essence, else there would be multiplicity in his nature. As the entire difficulty, according to Maimonides, arose from the supposed impropriety in the government of individual destinies, he first discusses the question of Providence and comes back later to the problem of God's knowledge.[292]

He enumerates five opinions concerning Providence.

1. The Opinion of Epicurus. There is no Providence at all; everything is the result of accident and concurrence of atoms. Aristotle has refuted this idea.

2. The Opinion of Aristotle. Some things are subject to Providence, others are governed by accident. God provides for the celestial spheres, hence they are permanent individually; but, as Alexander says in his name, Providence ceases with the sphere of the moon. Aristotle's doctrine concerning Providence is related to his belief in the eternity of the world. Providence corresponds to the nature of the object in question. As the individual spheres are permanent, it shows that there is special Providence which preserves the spheres individually. As, again, there proceed from them other beings which are not permanent individually but only as species, namely, the species of our world, it is clear that with reference to the sublunar world there is so much Providential influence as to bring about the permanence of the species, but not of the individual. To be sure, the individuals too are not completely neglected. There are various powers given to them in accordance with the quality of their matters; which powers determine the length of their duration, their motion, perception, purposive existence. But the other incidents and motions in individual human as well as animal life are pure accident. When a storm scatters the leaves of trees, casts down some trunks and drowns a ship with its passengers, the incident is as accidental with the men drowned as with the scattered leaves. That which follows invariable laws Aristotle regards as Providential, what happens rarely and without rule is accidental.

3. The View of the Ashariya. This is the very opposite of the preceding opinion. The Ashariya deny all accident. Everything is done by the will of God, whether it be the fall of a leaf or the death of a man. Everything is determined, and a person cannot of himself do or forbear. It follows from this view that the category of the possible is ruled out. Everything is either necessary or impossible. It follows also that all laws are useless, for man is helpless, and reward and punishment are determined solely by the will of God, to whom the concepts of right and wrong do not apply.

4. The Opinion of the Mu'tazila. They vindicate man's power to do and forbear, thus justifying the commands and prohibitions, and the rewards and punishments of the laws. God does not do wrong. They also believe that God knows of the fall of a leaf, and provides for all things. This opinion, too, is open to criticism. If a person is born with a defect, they say this is due to God's wisdom, and it is better for the man to be thus. If a pious man is put to death, it is to increase his reward in the next world. They extend this to lower animals also, and say that the mouse killed by the cat will be rewarded in the next world.

The last three opinions all have their motives. Aristotle followed the data of nature. The Ashariya refused to impute ignorance to God. The Mu'tazila object to imputing to him wrong, or to denying reason, which holds that to cause a person pain for no offence is wrong. Their opinion leads to a contradiction, for they say God knows everything and at the same time man is free.

5. The Opinion of our Law. A fundamental principle of the law of Moses is that man has absolute freedom in his conduct, and so has an irrational animal. No one of our religion disputes this. Another fundamental principle is that God does no wrong, and hence all reward and punishment is justly given. There is only one exception mentioned by the Rabbis, what they call "suffering for love," i. e., misfortunes which are not in the nature of punishment for sins committed, but in order to increase reward. There is no support, however, for this view in the Bible. All this applies only to man. Nothing is said in the Bible or in the Talmud of reward and punishment of animals. It was adopted by some of the later Geonim from the Mu'tazila.

After citing these five opinions on the nature of Providence, Maimonides formulates his own to the following effect:

My own belief in the matter, not as a result of demonstration, but based upon what seems to me to be the meaning of Scripture is that in the sublunar world man alone enjoys individual Providence. All other individual things besides are ruled by chance, as Aristotle says. Divine Providence corresponds to divine influence or emanation. The more one has of divine influence, the more one has of Providence. Thus in plants and animals divine Providence extends only to the species. When the Rabbis tell us that cruelty to animals is forbidden in the Torah, the meaning is that we must not be cruel to animals for our own good, in order not to develop habits of cruelty. To ask why God does not provide for the lower animals in the same way as he does for man, is the same as to ask why he did not endow the animals with reason. The answer would be, so he willed, so his wisdom decreed. My opinion is not that God is ignorant of anything or is incapable of doing certain things, but that Providence is closely related to reason. One has as much of Providence as he has of the influence of the divine reason. It follows from this that Providence is not the same for all individuals of the human species, but varies with the person's character and achievements. The prophets enjoy a special Providence; the pious and wise men come next; whereas a person who is ignorant and disobedient is neglected and treated like a lower animal, being left to the government of chance.[293]

Having disposed of the question of Providence, we may now resume the discussion undertaken above (p. 289) of the nature of God's knowledge. The idea that God does not know the particular things in our world below is an old one and is referred to in the Bible often. Thus, to quote one instance from the Psalms, the idea is clearly enunciated in the following passage, "And they say [sc. the wicked], How doth God know? And is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the wicked; and, being alway at ease, they increase in riches. Surely in vain have I cleansed my heart, and washed my hands in innocency...." (73, 11-13). The origin of this notion is in human experience, which sees the adversity of the good and the prosperity of the wicked, though many of the troubles are of a man's own doing, who is a free agent. But this view is wrong. For ignorance of any kind is a defect, and God is perfect. David pointed out this when he said, "He that planted the ear shall he not hear? He that formed the eye shall he not see?" (94, 9). This means that unless God knows what the senses are, he could not have made the sense organs to perceive.

We must now answer the other metaphysical arguments against God's knowledge of particulars. It is agreed that no new knowledge can come to God which he did not have before, nor can he have many knowledges. We say therefore (we who are believers in the Torah) that with one knowledge God knows many things, and his knowledge does not change as the objects change. We say also that he knows all things before they come into being, and knows them always; hence his knowledge never changes as the objects appear and disappear. It follows from this that his knowledge relates to the non-existent and embraces the infinite. We believe this and say that only the absolutely non-existent cannot be known; but the non-existent whose existence is in God's knowledge and which he can bring into reality can be known. As to comprehending the infinite, we say with some thinkers that knowledge relates primarily to the species and extends indirectly to the individuals included in the species. And the species are finite. The philosophers, however, decide that there cannot be knowledge of the non-existent, and the infinite cannot be comprehended. God, therefore, as he cannot have new and changing knowledge knows only the permanent things, the species, and not the changing and temporary individuals. Others go still further and maintain that God cannot even know the permanent things, because knowledge of many things involves many knowledges, hence multiplicity in God's essence. They insist therefore that God knows only himself. My view is, says Maimonides, that the error of all these people is that they assume there is a relation of resemblance between our knowledge and God's knowledge. And it is surprising that the philosophers should be guilty of such an error, the very men who proved that God's knowledge is identical with his essence, and that our reason cannot know God's essence.

The difference between our knowledge and God's knowledge is that we get our knowledge from the data of experience, upon which it depends. Each new datum adds to our knowledge, which cannot run ahead of that which produces it. It is different in the case of God. He is the cause of the data of experience. The latter follow his knowledge, and not vice versa. Hence by knowing himself he knows everything else before it comes into being. We cannot conceive of his knowledge, for to do this would be to have it ourselves.[294]

The last topic Maimonides considers in his philosophical work is the reason and purpose of the commandments of the Bible, particularly the ceremonial precepts which apparently have no rational meaning. In fact there are those who maintain that it is vain to search for reasons of the laws where none are given in the Bible itself; that the sole reason in those cases is the will of God. These people labor under the absurd impression that to discover a rational purpose in the ceremonial laws would diminish their value and reduce them to human institutions. Their divine character and origin is attested in the minds of these people by their irrationality, by the fact that they have no human meaning. This is clearly absurd, says Maimonides the rationalist. It is tantamount to saying that man is superior to God; and that whereas a man will command only that which is of benefit, God gives orders which have no earthly use. The truth is quite the reverse, and all the laws are for our benefit.[295]

Accordingly Maimonides undertakes to account for all the laws of the Bible. The Law, he says, has two purposes, the improvement of the body and the improvement of the soul or the mind. The improvement of the soul is brought about by study and reflection, and the result of this is theoretical knowledge. But in order to be able to realize this perfectly a necessary prerequisite is the improvement of the body. This is inferior in value to perfection of the soul, but comes naturally and chronologically first as a means to an end. For bodily perfection one must have health and strength as far as one's constitution permits, and for this purpose a person must have his needs at all times. Social life is necessary for the supply of the individuals' needs, and to make social life possible there must be rules of right and wrong to be observed.[296]

Applying what has just been said to the Law, we may divide its contents broadly into four classes, (1) Precepts inculcating true beliefs and ideas, such as the existence of God, his unity, knowledge, power, will, eternity. (2) Legal and moral precepts, such as the inculcation of justice and a benevolent disposition for the good of society. (3) The narratives and genealogies of the Law. (4) The ceremonial prescriptions.

Of these the purpose of the first two divisions is perfectly clear and admitted by all. True beliefs and ideas regarding God and his government of the world are directly conducive to the highest end of man, knowledge and perfection of the soul. Honorable and virtuous conduct is a preliminary requisite to intellectual perfection. The genealogies and narratives of the Bible are also not without a purpose. They are intended to inculcate a theoretical doctrine or a moral, and to emphasize the one or the other, which cannot be done so well by a bare statement or commandment. Thus, to take a few examples, the creation of the world is impressed upon the reader beyond the possibility of a doubt by a circumstantial narrative of the various steps in the process, the gradual peopling of the earth by the multiplication of the human race descended from the first pair, and so on. The story of the flood and of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah has for its purpose to emphasize the truth that God is a just judge, who rewards the pious and punishes the wicked. The genealogy of the kings of Edom in Genesis (36, 31) is intended as a warning to Israel in the appointment of kings. These kings of the Edomites were all of them foreigners not of Edom, and it is probable that the history of their tyrannical rule and oppression of their Edomite subjects was well known to the people in Moses's time. Hence the point of the enumeration of the list of kings and their origin is to serve as a deterring example to the Israelites never to appoint as king of Israel a man who came from another nation, in accordance with the precept in Deuteronomy (17,15), "Thou mayest not put a foreigner over thee, which is not thy brother."[297]

There remains the division of the ceremonial laws, which are the subject of dispute. The purpose in these precepts is not evident, and opinions are divided as to whether they have any purpose. I will endeavor to show, says Maimonides, that these also have one or more of the following objects: to teach true beliefs and opinions, to remove injustice and to inculcate good qualities.

Abraham grew up among the Sabeans, who were star worshippers and believers in the eternity of the world. The object of the law is to keep men away from the erroneous views of the Sabeans, which were prevalent in those days. The Sabeans believed that the worship of the stars helps in the cultivation of the ground to make it fruitful. For this reason they think highly of the husbandmen and laborers on the land. They also respect cattle and prohibit slaughtering them because they are of benefit in the cultivation of the land. In the interest of agriculture they instituted the worship of the stars, which they believed would cause the rain to fall and the earth to yield its fertility. On this account we find the reverse of this in the Bible, telling us that worship of the stars will result in lack of rain and infertility.

In the life of nature we see how one thing serves another, and certain objects are not brought about except through certain others, and development is gradual. So, for example, a young infant cannot be fed on meat and solid food, and nature provides milk in the mother's breast. Similarly in governing the people of Israel, who were living in a certain environment, God could not at once tear them away from the habits of thought to which they were accustomed, but he led them gradually. Hence as they were accustomed to sacrificing to the stars, God ordered them to sacrifice to him, the object being to wean them away from the idols in the easiest way possible. This is why the prophets do not lay stress on the sacrifices. To be sure, it was not impossible for God to form their minds so that they would not require this form of training, and would see at once that God does not need sacrifices, but this would have been a miracle. And while God does perform miracles sometimes for certain purposes, he does not change the nature of man; not because he cannot, but because he desires man to be free and responsible. Otherwise there would be no sense in laws and prophets.

Among the purposes of the law are abstention from self-indulgence in the physical appetites, like eating and drinking and sensuous pleasure, because these things prevent the ultimate perfection of man, and are likewise injurious to civil and social life, multiplying as they do sorrow and trouble and strife and jealousy and hate and warfare.

Another purpose is to inculcate gentleness and politeness and docility. Another is purity and holiness. External cleanliness is also recommended, but not as a substitute for internal. The important thing is internal purity, external takes a secondary place.

Maimonides ends the discussion of the Pentateuchal laws by dividing them into fourteen classes (following in this the divisions in his great legal code, the "Yad Ha-Hazakah") and explaining the purposes of each class. It will be useful briefly to reproduce the division here.

1. Those laws that concern fundamental ideas of religion and theology, including the duty of learning and teaching, and the institutions of repentance and fasting. The purpose here is clear. Intellectual perfection is the greatest good of man, and this cannot be attained without learning and teaching; and without wisdom there is neither good practice nor true opinion. Similarly honoring the wise, swearing by God's name, and not to swear falsely—all these lead to a firm belief in God's greatness. Repentance is useful to guard against despair and continuance in evil doing on the part of the sinner.

2. The precepts and prohibitions relating to idolatry. Here are included also the prohibition to mix divers kinds of seeds in planting, the prohibition against eating the fruit of a tree during the first three years of its growth, and against wearing a garment made of a mixture of wool and flax. The prohibition of idolatry is evident in its purpose, which is to teach true ideas about God. The other matters above mentioned are connected with idolatry. Magic is a species of idolatry because it is based on a belief in the direct influence of the stars. All practices done to produce a certain effect, which are not justified by a reason or at least are not verified by experience, are forbidden as being superstitious and a species of magic. Cutting the beard and the earlocks is forbidden on a similar ground because it was a custom of the idolatrous priests. The same thing applies to mixing of cotton and flax, to men wearing women's garments and vice versa, though here there is the additional reason, to prevent, namely, laxness in sexual morality.

3. The precepts relating to ethical and moral conduct. Here the purpose is clear, namely, to improve social life.

4. The rules relating to charity, loans, gifts, and so on. The purpose is to teach kindness to the poor, and the benefit is mutual, for the rich man to-day may be poor to-morrow.

5. Laws relating to injury and damages. The purpose is to remove wrong and injustice.

6. Laws relating to theft, robbery, false witnesses. The purpose is to prevent injury by punishing the offender.

7. The regulation of business intercourse, like loan, hire, deposits, buying and selling, inheritance, and so on. The purpose here is social justice to make life in society possible.

8. Laws relating to special periods, such as the Sabbath and the festivals. The purpose is stated in each case in the Law itself, and it is either to inculcate a true idea like the creation in the case of the Sabbath, or to enable mankind to rest from their labors, or for both combined.

9. The other practical observances like prayer, the reading of "Shema," and so on. These are all modes of serving God, which lead to true opinions concerning him, and to fear and love.

10. The regulations bearing upon the temple and its service. The purpose of these was explained above in connection with the institution of sacrifice, namely that it was a concession to the primitive ideas and customs of the people of those times for the purpose of gradually weaning them away from idolatry.

11. Laws relating to sacrifices. The purpose was stated above and under 10.

12. Laws of cleanness and uncleanness. The purpose is to guard against too great familiarity with the Temple in order to maintain respect for it. Hence the regulations prescribing the times when one may, and the occasions when one may not, approach or enter the Temple.

13. The dietary laws. Unwholesome food is forbidden, also unclean animals. The purpose in some cases is to guard against excess and self-indulgence. Some regulations like the laws of slaughter and others are humanitarian in their nature.

14. Forbidden marriages, and circumcision. The purpose is to guard against excess in sexual indulgence, and against making it an end in itself.[298]

To sum up, there are four kinds of human accomplishments or excellencies, (1) Acquisition of wealth, (2) Physical perfection, strength, beauty, etc., (3) Moral perfection, (4) Intellectual and spiritual perfection. The last is the most important. The first is purely external; the second is common to the lower animals; the third is for the sake of one's fellowmen, in the interest of society, and would not exist for a solitary person. The last alone concerns the individual himself. Jeremiah expresses this truth in his statement, "Thus saith the Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth, and knoweth me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving kindness, judgment and righteousness in the earth" (Jer. 9, 22). "Wise man" in the above quotation means the man of good morals. The important thing, Jeremiah says, is to know God through his actions and to imitate him.[299]

Maimonides's ethics as well as his interpretation of the Pentateuchal laws is intellectualistic, as the foregoing account shows. And it is natural that it should be. The prevailing trend of thought in the middle ages, alike among the Arabs, Jews and Christians, was of this character. Aristotle was the master of science, and to him intellectual contemplation is the highest good of man. The distinction of man is his rational faculty, hence the excellence and perfection of this faculty is the proper function of man and the realization of his being. This alone leads to that "eudaimonia" or happiness for which man strives. To be sure complete happiness is impossible without the complete development of all one's powers, but this is because the reason in man is not isolated from the rest of his individual and social life; and perfection of mind requires as its auxiliaries and preparation complete living in freedom and comfort. But the aim is after all the life of the intellect, and the "dianoetic" virtues are superior to the practical. Theoretic contemplation stands far higher than practical activity. Add to this that Aristotle's God is pure thought thinking eternally itself, the universal mover, himself eternally unmoved, and attracting the celestial spheres as the object of love attracts the lover, without itself necessarily being affected, and the intellectualism of Aristotle stands out clearly.

Maimonides is an Aristotelian, and he endeavors to harmonize the intellectualism and theorism of the Stagirite with the diametrically opposed ethics and religion of the Hebrew Bible. And he is apparently unaware of the yawning gulf extending between them. The ethics of the Bible is nothing if not practical. No stress is laid upon knowledge and theoretical speculation as such. The wisdom and the wise man of the book of Proverbs no more mean the theoretical philosopher than the fool and the scorner in the same book denote the one ignorant in theoretical speculation. "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord." This is the keynote of the book of Proverbs, and its precepts and exhortations are practical and nothing else. That the Pentateuchal law is solely concerned with practical conduct, religious, ceremonial and moral, needs not saying. It is so absolutely clear and evident that one wonders how so clear-sighted a thinker like Maimonides could have been misled by the authority of Aristotle and the intellectual atmosphere of the day to imagine otherwise. The very passage from Jeremiah which he quotes as summing up his idea of the summum bonum, speaks against him, and he only succeeds in manipulating it in his favor by misinterpreting the word "wise." Whatever the wise man may denote in the book of Proverbs, here in Jeremiah he is clearly contrasted with the person who in imitation of God practices kindness, judgment and righteousness. The word does not denote the theoretical philosopher, to be sure, but it approximates it more closely than the expression describing the ideal man of Jeremiah's commendation.

It is in line with Maimonides's general rationalistic and intellectualistic point of view when he undertakes to find a reason for every commandment, where no reason is given in the Law. He shows himself in this an opponent of all mysticism, sentimentality and arbitrariness. Reason is paramount. The intellect determines the will, and not even God's will may be arbitrary. His will is identical with his reason, hence there is a reason in everything that he wills. We may not in every case succeed in finding the reason where he himself did not choose to tell us, but a reason there always is, and the endeavor on our part to discover it should be commended rather than condemned.

The details of his motivation of the ceremonial laws are very interesting, and in many cases they anticipated, though in a cruder form, the more scientific theories of modern critics. Take his interpretation of the institution of sacrifices. Take away the personal manner of expression, which might seem to imply that God spoke to Moses in some such fashion as this: You and I know that sacrifices have no inherent meaning or value. They rather smack of superstition and idolatry. But what can we do? We cannot, i. e., we must not, change the nature of these people. We must train them gradually to see the truth for themselves. They are now on the level of their environment, and believe in the efficacy of killing sheep and oxen to the stars and the gods. We will use a true pedagogical method if we humor them in this their crudity for the purpose of transferring their allegiance from the false gods to the one true God. Let us then institute a system of sacrifices with all the details and minutiae of the sacrificial systems of the heathens and star worshippers. We shall impose this system upon our people for the time being, and in the end as they grow wiser they will outgrow it—take away this mode of expression in Maimonides's interpretation, which is not essential, and the essence may be rendered in more modern terms thus. Man's religion is subject to change and development and progress like all his other institutions. The forms they successively take in the course of their development are determined by the state of general intelligence and positive knowledge that the given race or nation possesses. The same thing holds of religious development. The institution of sacrifices is prevalent in all religious communities at a certain stage in their career. It starts with human sacrifice, which is later discarded and replaced by sacrifices of animals. And this is again in the course of time discontinued, leaving its traces only in the prayer book, which in Judaism has officially taken the place of the Temple service.

While the merit of Maimonides in foreshadowing this modern understanding of ancient religion cannot be overestimated, it is clear that in some of his other interpretations of Jewish ceremonial, he is wide of the mark. His rationalism could not take the place of a knowledge of history. His motivation of the dietary laws on the score of hygiene or of moderation and self-restraint is probably not true. Nor is the prohibition against mixing divers seeds, or wearing garments of wool and flax mixed, or shaving the corner of the beard, and so on, due to the fact that these were the customs of the idolaters and their priests. If Maimonides was bold enough to pull the sacrificial system down from its glorious pedestal in Jewish tradition and admit that being inherently nothing but a superstition, it was nevertheless instituted with such great pomp and ceremony, with a priestly family, a levitical tribe and a host of prescriptions and regulations, merely as a concession to the habits and prejudices of the people, why could he not apply the same method of explanation to the few prohibitions mentioned above? Why not say the ancient Hebrews were forbidden to mix divers seeds because they had been from time immemorial taught to believe that there was something sinful in joining together what God has kept asunder; and in order not to shock their sensibilities too rudely the new religion let them have these harmless notions in order by means of these to inculcate real truths?

Before concluding our sketch of Maimonides we must say a word about his Bible exegesis. Though the tendency to read philosophy into the Bible is as old as Philo, from whom it was borrowed by Clement of Alexandria and Origen and by them handed down to the other Patristic writers, and though in the Jewish middle ages too, from Saadia down, the verses of the Bible were employed to confirm views adopted from other considerations; though finally Abraham Ibn Daud in the matter of exegesis, too, anticipated Maimonides in finding the Aristotelian metaphysic in the sacred scriptures, still Maimonides as in everything else pertaining to Jewish belief and practice, so in the interpretation of the Bible also obtained the position of a leader, of the founder of a school and the most brilliant and most authoritative exponent thereof, putting in the shade everyone who preceded him and every endeavor in the same direction to which Maimonides himself owed his inspiration. Maimonides's treatment of the Bible texts and their application to his philosophical disquisitions is so much more comprehensive and masterly than anything in the same line done before him, that it made everything else superfluous and set the pace for manifold imitation by the successors of Maimonides, small and great. Reading the Bible through Aristotelian spectacles became the fashion of the day after Maimonides. Joseph Ibn Aknin, Samuel Ibn Tibbon, Jacob Anatoli, Joseph Ibn Caspi, Levi Ben Gerson and a host of others tried their hand at Biblical exegesis, and the Maimonidean stamp is upon their work.

We have already spoken of Maimonides's general attitude toward the anthropomorphisms in the Bible and the manner in which he accounts for the style and mode of expression of the Biblical writers. He wrote no special exegetical work, he composed no commentaries on the Bible. But his "Guide of the Perplexed" is full of quotations from the Biblical books, and certain sections in it are devoted to a systematic interpretation of those Biblical chapters and books which lend themselves most easily and, as Maimonides thought, imperatively to metaphysical interpretation. It is impossible here to enter into details, but it is proper briefly to point out his general method of treating the Biblical passages in question, and to state what these passages are.

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