Moses Maimonides

Moses Maimonides

Born: 1135. Died: 1204.

Ideas

- The study of philosophy and traditional Jewish law can be brought into harmony.

- The existence of God is subject to rational demonstration.

- Unity, incorporeality, and priority are qualities of God.

- Prophecy is a degree of mental and moral perfection to which all may aspire.

- The entire Torah is a divine revelation.

- The highest faculty of the soul is the intellect, and its highest function is to discern the true and the false.

- Kindness, righteousness, and judgment should motivate the moral life.

- The purpose of life is to convert the potentiality of perfection into the actuality of it.

Biography

Moses Maimonides, also known as Moses ben Maimon, was one of the foremost intellectuals of medieval Judaism.

He spent his entire life among the Muslims, practicing his faith in private while earning the respect and admiration of the sultans as a legal scholar, a philosopher, and a physician.

The scion of a family of wealthy merchants, Maimonides originally hoped to be able to dedicate himself to rabbinical studies, but after the death of his brother in a shipwreck that ruined the family business, he was compelled to study the healing arts. His fame as a physician soon became widespread, and he had no difficulty supporting his family.

He moved to Egypt and became the court doctor to Sultan Saladin (1137/8-1193), the famous Islamic military leader. He also became the acknowledged head of the Jewish community in Fostat, near Cairo. In his spare time he wrote many volumes on Jewish legal tradition and philosophy.

He is best known for his lexicographic works in logic and his piece on the relationship of reason to religion, A Guide to the Perplexed. Like his Islamic counterpart, Averroes, Maimonides considered philosophy and religion to be mutually supportive. He also thought more attention should be paid to making Judaism consistent with rational thought. He died in Egypt on December 13, 1204.

Major Works of Moses Maimonides

- Commentary on the Aphorisms of Hippocrates
- Commentary on the Mishneh, 1158-1168
- Guide of the Perplexed, 1185-1190
- Medical Aphorisms of Moses
- Mishneh Torah (Code of Maimonides) (Volumes 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13 and 14), 1178
- Treatise on Asthma
- Treatise on Cohabitation
- Treatise on Hemorrhoids
- Treatise on Poisons and Their Antidotes

Quotes from Moses Maimonides

- "The highest aim of man: the knowledge of God." (from "The Guide for the Perplexed", 1190)

- "Imitate the ways of God." (from "The Guide for the Perplexed", 1190)

- "It is of great advantage that man should know his station, and not erroneously imagine that the whole Universe exists only for him." (from "The Guide for the Perplexed", 1190)

- "It should not be believed.that all beings exist for the sake of man. On the contrary, all the other beings too have been intended for their own sakes and not for the sake of something else." (from "The Guide for the Perplexed", 1190)

- "Man's love of God is identical with his knowledge of Him." (from "The Guide for the Perplexed", 1190)

- "The more necessary a thing is for living beings, the more easily it is found and the cheaper it is; the less necessary it is, the rarer and dearer it is." (from "The Guide for the Perplexed", 1190)

- "The well-being of the soul can only be obtained after that of the body has been secured." (from "The Guide for the Perplexed", 1190)

- "When a biblical verse is contradicted by proof, we do not accept the Bible." (from "Reponsa")

- "Most illnesses which befall men arise either from bad food, or from immoderate indulgence in food, even of the wholesome kind." (from "The Wisdom of Israel" by Lewis Browne)

- "There are eight degrees in almsgiving. ... Supreme above all is to give assistance to a fellow man who has fallen on evil times by presenting him with a gift or loan, or entering into a partnership with him, or procuring him work, thereby helping him to become self-supporting. Next best is giving alms in such a way that the giver and recipient are unknown to each other. This is, indeed, the performance of a commandment from disinterested motives." (from "The Wisdom of Israel" by Lewis Browne)

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