Maimonides/RAMBAM (1135-1204) . These are my notes on the Guide assignment in Hyman and Walsh (eds.) Philosophy in the Middle Ages, 2d edition (Indianapolis: Hackett: 1983), pp. 369-421, placed here for my students and other colleagues.

Comments, additions, and corrections are welcome. Please send them to

Michael Kagan
Le Moyne College Department of Philosophy
Syracuse, NY 13214

The Title Dalaalat al-Ha` iriin

Note Bene: DALAALA IS TO GUIDE (Hans Wehr, pp. 289) show demonstrate point out, etc. Discuss title and the perplexity. The problem of idolatry. Discuss Maimonides' audience. The problem they have due to their twofold dedication to religion and science.

Reading assignments from Hyman and Walsh unless otherwise indicated

Maimonides: Book I: chapters 53, 58, 59, 60, pp. 379-390;
Book II: Chapter 25, pp. 399-400., Book III, pp. 414-419.

Book I: chapters 53, 58, 59, 60, 379-390; language of Torah; attributes of action and negative attributes.

Book II: Chapter 25--concerning Scripture and the eternity of the world, pp. 399-400.

On prophecy: Chapters 32, 36, 37, 38, 39; pp. 401-410.

Book III, pp. 414-419 Rambam on the law.

Book I

Chapter 51

P. 374 Define "tautology".

Kinds of attributes: "Essential" explains term vs. "accidental" regarding "a notion superraded to a thing". Accidents not predicated of G, due to G's unity. Rambam discusses those who claim that the attributes are neither essential nor external to G's essence, which he takes to be nonsense (pp. 374-75 passing). Those who believe G to have attributes misunderstand Scripture.

Chapter 52 Can't predicate quality, quantity, place, affections (e.g., passions), habitus. Nor Relation to time and place (time being a accident attached to motion). "Relation is always found between two things falling under the same--necessarily proximate--species, where there is no relation between the two things if they merely fall under the same genus. . . . . one does say that this red is more intense than this green . . . though both fall under the same genus . . . color." pp. 377-78. Further even if two things fall under the same supreme genus, e.g., quality, they can't be related, e.g., the "relation" between "knowledge " and "sweetness".

Attributes of action, on the other hand, as when we say Ralph knit this sweater, can be attribute to G, since they are remote from the essence of the predicated "actor".

Chapter 53

"The Torah speaketh in the language of the sons of man." P. 379. Explain.

A variety of actions does not necessitate a concomitant variety of essence. E.g., fire does a variety of things due to its essential feature of heat.


Discuss this in the central importance of unity within as well as unity without--note how this is distinctive with respect to religions which do divide the Godhead in a sort of divine metapsychology.

Chapter 58--Via Negativa

Note Bene: that God has no affirmative attributes (p. 382 center). Do focused reading on paragraph which spans 382-383.

Chapter 59--via negativa continued

Note that here Maimonides claims that one's knowledge of God increases with one's awareness of what God is not. Note quote from Ps. 65:2--"silence is praise to Thee".  (Note that Maimonides is reading the Hebrew "daled mem yud hay" there as "silence." ) [According to Yosef Kafah (translator, editor,  and commentator) in his  1977  Rabenu Mosheh ben Maimon:  Moreh ha-nevukhim,   tirgem le-`Ivrit be-'ur ve-hakhin `al pi kitve-yad u-defusim  (Jerusalem:  Mosad Harav Kook) p.  96, note 35,   we should look here to the Jerusalem Talmud, 89].  (Thanks to Michal Walicki for pointing out an error in the psalm citation here.) Discuss Midrash at foot of page 385 to end of that paragraph on p. 386. Discuss remarks in last paragraph, p. 387. Rambam believes that to misunderstand God is to commit idolatry. Discuss, and discuss paragraph beginning in middle of p. 389.

Book II

Book II: Chapter 25--concerning Scripture and the eternity of the world, pp. 399-400. On prophecy: Chapters 32, 36, 37, 38, 39; pp. 401-410. Discuss page 407, ft., the obligation to teach; p. 412 in terms of Aristotelian ethics.

Chapter 25

Note Bene: Maimonides' understanding of Scripture with respect to demonstration. The centrality of creation for miracles.

Chapter 32 Prophecy

1 (the common) opinion is that prophecy purely God's will. The second philosophical opinion that a matter of human qualification. The third like 2 but human qualification necessary and not sufficient.

Chapter 36, 37--prophecy as divine overflow conditioned by the recipient. Note Maimonides' remarks about dreams on p. 404. Note connection to Algazali.

Chapter 38, prophecy as combination of faculties of divination and courage.

Chapter 39, the prophecy of Moses special in that the law to which Moses attained is perfect and rational, and has the purpose of perfecting people.

Book III

Book III, Chapter 26 Maimonides on the purpose of the divine law. Huqqim--apparently arbitrary, yet there is reason, but in terms of generalities at times and not particulars. Chapter 27--the law aims at the welfare of the soul and that of the body. Knowledge requires health and a decent society.

Chapter 28. To love the Lord is to apprehend being as it is and through the consideration of G's wisdom as it is manifest in it.

Commandments to communicate correct belief as in beliefs regarding G, or belief to eliminate wrongdoing, or belief that leads to the acquisition of a noble quality. The function of commands is to inculcate correct beliefs for their own sake, for the sake of society, and for the sake of improving human character. Page 419.

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