10202 Law and Philosophy: Maimonides 1

Credits: 6 intermediate credits in Jewish Thought

Prerequisites: none

Recommended: Midrash and Aggadah, and Greek Philosophy: Thales to Aristotle, and either The World of the Sages or Introduction to Oral Law

Author: Isadore Twersky

Maimonides has had a lasting influence on Judaism, due to the scope of his work, its innovation, and bold originality. The course acquaints students with the uniqueness of Maimonides’ works and their influence throughout the ages, in both the fields of Halakhah and philosophy, fields which achieve integration into a unified system in his thought.

Topics: Introduction to the life and works of Maimonides; Commentary on the Mishnah and the Book of Divine Commandments – characteristics of the commentary, literary background of the Book of Divine Commandments; Principles of faith; Mishneh Torah (Code of Maimonides) – motives, purpose and principal characteristics; Purpose of the Commandments (Ta’amei Hamitzvot) – the basic problem and Maimonides’ position as reflected in the Mishneh Torah and the Guide of the Perplexed (Moreh Nevokhim); Guide of the Perplexed – the place of philosophy within Judaism, character and purpose of the Guide; The messianic idea – Aggadah and its interpretation in Maimonides’ work; The Messianic Age – character, purpose and place in history, principle of resurrection; Ethics – the issue of the moral imperative – autonomy and heteronomy, the rule of the “golden mean” in moral action, the sage and the pious man as different models of moral character, ethics in the Eight Chapters and in relation to the Book of Knowledge (Hilchot Deot), Maimonides’ attitude towards abstinence and celibacy; The relationship between moral and intellectual perfection.

1This course is also offered in Russian (42146). Its description is available on the Russian-language website of the Open University (https://www-r.openu.ac.il/).

There is some overlap in the content of this and other courses. For details, see Overlapping Courses.