160 - The Great Eagle: Maimonides

The great Jewish thinker and legal scholar Maimonides, and the philosophical ideas in his Mishneh Torah and Guide for the Perplexed.

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Further Reading: 

• D. Davies, Method and Metaphysics in Maimonides’ Guide for the Perplexed (New York: 2011).

• J. Kraemer, Perspectives on Maimonides (Oxford: 1991).

• S. Pines (trans.), Guide of the Perplexed (Chicago: 1963).

• T. Rudavsky, Maimonides (Oxford: 2010).

• K. Seeskin (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to Maimonides (Cambridge: 2005).

• I. Twersky (ed.), A Maimonides Reader (New York: 1972).

Stanford Encyclopedia: Maimonides

Stanford Encyclopedia: Influence of Islamic Thought on Maimonides

A useful page with links to texts and other resources on Maimonides

Declan Foley's picture


I knew Joyce mentioned Maimonides in Ulysses for a good reason; today I discovered it.

Growing up in 1950/60s Ireland the RC church deceived us and the clerics of the day by keeping all of this important educational knowledge hidden.

As I have said many times: "When the Irish exchanged the Druids for the Catholic Church, they merely exchanged one set of magicians for another"

Thank you for these enlightening broadcasts

Padmadipa's picture

Wonderful! Once again thank

Wonderful! Once again thank you so much Peter for a brilliant episode. My knowledge of this period in philosophy was hazy to say the least, and like many self-taught I initially went for the middle: I started with Descartes, Spinoza and Leibnitz and then had to try to work backwards in an attempt to trace the influences on them. But by building up from the start in your methodical way you have quite literally filled in the gaps for me (exactly as the subtitle of the podcast would suggest)! Last year I bought a copy of the Guide for the Perplexed from the synagogue in Venice (while I was on my honeymoon!), and this episode has given me the confidence to now tackle it. I would love to hear your thoughts of Maimonides influence on Spinoza: but I guess we will have to wait until you get to that great man - say, approx. seven and a half years time?


Peter Adamson's picture


Great, I'm glad the podcast is serving its purpose for you! I suspect Spinoza is more like 3 years away (1/2 year still for Islamic world, 1 year or so for Latin medieval, 1 year or so for Byzantium and Renaissance together... maybe). I know that Spinoza was well aware of Maimonides but don't know much more about it than that, yet; maybe other listeners will have some input on this question though?

Brian Anthony's picture

Positive Attributes

Great episode, Peter. Evidently Sheikh Sadooq held a similar position on the divine attributes to that you relate from Maimonedes, namely that the positive attributes are to be understood merely as negating their opposites. He mentions this in Al-^Itiqadat.

Does this idea have a longer pedigree that Maimonedes derives it from, or do you think he independently reasoned to that position?

Happily enjoying the many positive attributes of your podcasts without any negation whatsoever :)

Peter Adamson's picture


Thanks, that's an interesting question. In a way we have almost an embarassment of riches in terms of potential sources since both Neoplatonism and kalam (especially Mu'tazilite authors) have this tendency to read attributes negatively. It's worth remembering that Saadia Gaon was influenced by Mu'tazilism and he would certainly be a possible source for Maimonides. I think therefore that Maimonides is not pioneering in his handling of the issue in broad terms, but his discussion of its is arguably unprecedented in its clarity and subtlety, for instance with his discussion of the ship example.