Ibn Maymun, Musa


Ibn Maymun, Musa
(1138–1204)
   Known to his own people as Rabbi Moshe ben Maymon (i.e. Rambam) and to the Christian Latins as Moses Maimonides, Ibn Maymun is arguably the single most important thinker in the history of Jewish philosophy. Born in Cordoba, he and his family soon fled the rising wave of persecution initiated in Andalusia by the Almohad invasion, living first in the Maghrib (Fez) and ultimately in Egypt (Cairo), where he became a respected physician and ultimately the leader of its Jewish community. It is perhaps no surprise, then, that the Rambam’s philosophical and theological writings were so deeply informed by the Islamic philosophers (particularly Peripatetic thinkers such as al-Farabi, Ibn Bajja, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd), and through them their Greek predecessors, in addition to the traditional Rabbinic-Talmudic sources. Ibn Maymun’s intimate engagement with the Islamic falasifa can be seen particularly in his major philosophical work, the Guide of the Perplexed (Dalalat al-ha’irin), which was written in Arabic. Addressed to a particularly promising student, the stated purpose of this book was to help him (and others like him) reconcile the apparent tensions between Biblical and philosophical claims about God, the universe, and the meaning of religious law. He focuses first on the anthropomorphic language of the Torah, developing an elaborate hermeneutics to justify interpreting such passages figuratively, while showing how these concessions to human understanding (which, if taken literally, would lead to idolatry) effectively point the thoughtful towards a more sophisticated and adequate conception of God’s oneness. Although he follows the philosophers in casting God as the unmoved First Mover and Necessary Existent, he formulates a more allencompassing negative theology, according to which our conception of God is increasingly refined by negating not only deficiencies, but even positive attributes traditionally predicated of the divine. He then weighs in on the old controversy regarding the status of the world, considering the alleged ‘proofs’ for both Mosaic creation ex nihilo and Aristotelian eternity, and concluding that neither is really demonstrable, strictly speaking. Having reined in the overly ambitious nature of the debate, he goes on to defend the createdness of the world, on the modest grounds that it is both more plausible and more compatible with the conception of God disclosed through revealed law. Regarding the question of prophecy, he strikes a balance between popular views (which cast it purely as a function of divine will) and philosophical interpretations (which instead cast it as a function of the particular individual’s nature and his efforts to perfect it). On Ibn Maymun’s view, both conditions are necessary, but neither in and of itself is sufficient. His practical philosophy resourcefully blends Aristotelian virtue ethics (with its doctrine of the mean and its emphasis on the perfection of character) with Biblical law-based command ethics (which make possible the perfection of human nature) and the Platonic ideal of imitating God. The philosophical temperament that emerges from these (and other) discussions in the Guide is to most appearances one of moderate rationalism. Ibn Maymun exhibits a profound respect for Aristotelian philosophy but believes it is essentially harmonizable with the Mosaic tradition, which he sees as reasonable through and through. Yet a number of writers (both medieval and modern) have pointed out that his actual stance may have been more complex than this. For the Guide employs an esoteric strategy of writing that arguably masks, through its unnecessarily awkward organization and puzzling contradictions, considerably more radical, and potentially heretical, opinions (e.g. the eternity of the world, the identification of God with nature, the rejection of bodily resurrection and possibly even monopsychism à la Ibn Rushd). But while Ibn Maymun may very well have occasionally employed the art of dissimulation in his writing, it is far from clear as to whether his true views were that much at odds with the general positions mapped out in the Guide. Whether read as a moderate or extreme Aristotelian rationalist, his influence on the Jewish intellectual tradition is virtually inestimable, due not only to the Guide, but to his seminal Mishneh Torah (which systematized and codified the rabbinic law), as well as numerous other key legal works. He also had some influence on subsequent Islamic philosophers, although considerably more on Christian philosophers (most notably Aquinas, who among other things adopted his nuanced stance regarding the createdness of the world), and modern European philosophers such as Spinoza and Leibniz.
   Further reading: Buijs 1988; Leaman 1990; Frank and Leaman 1997; Maimonides 1963, 1976/84; Sirat 1985

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Gabir ibn Aflah — Abu Muhammad Dschabir ibn Aflah al Ischbili (arabisch ‏أبي محمد جابر بن أفلح الإشبيلي‎, DMG Abū Muḥmmad Ǧābir b. Aflaḥ al Išbīlī, nach anderen Umschriften auch Gabir ben Aflah und Jabir ibn Aflah al Ishbili; * um 1100 in Sevilla; † um 1160),… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Jabir ibn Aflah — Abu Muhammad Dschabir ibn Aflah al Ischbili (arabisch ‏أبي محمد جابر بن أفلح الإشبيلي‎, DMG Abū Muḥmmad Ǧābir b. Aflaḥ al Išbīlī, nach anderen Umschriften auch Gabir ben Aflah und Jabir ibn Aflah al Ishbili; * um 1100 in Sevilla; † um 1160),… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Jabir ibn Aflah al-Ishbili Abu Muhammad — Abu Muhammad Dschabir ibn Aflah al Ischbili (arabisch ‏أبي محمد جابر بن أفلح الإشبيلي‎, DMG Abū Muḥmmad Ǧābir b. Aflaḥ al Išbīlī, nach anderen Umschriften auch Gabir ben Aflah und Jabir ibn Aflah al Ishbili; * um 1100 in Sevilla; † um 1160),… …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Dschabir ibn Aflah — Abu Muhammad Dschabir ibn Aflah al Ischbili (arabisch ‏أبي محمد جابر بن أفلح الإشبيلي‎, DMG Abū Muḥmmad Ǧābir b. Aflaḥ al Išbīlī, nach anderen Umschriften auch Gabir ben Aflah und Jabir ibn Aflah al Ishbili; * um 1100 in Sevilla; † um 1160) …   Deutsch Wikipedia

  • Muhammad ibn Ismâ`îl — [1] ou Muhammad al Maktûm (740 813) est le premier imam caché selon les Ismaéliens, qui forment eux mêmes une branche chiite de l islam. Il est le fils d Ismâ il ben Ja far, héritier désigné de l imam Jafar as Sadiq, qui serait mort selon les… …   Wikipédia en Français

  • `Abd Allah ibn `Umar — Born 614CE Died 74 AH (693) Region Muslim scholar Main interests hadith and Fiqh …   Wikipedia

  • Maimonides — For other uses, see Maimonides (disambiguation). Moses ben Maimon ( Maimonides ) 18 century portrait of Maimonides, from the Thesaurus antiquitatum sacrarum by Blaisio Ugolino Full name Moses ben Maimon ( Maimonides ) Born 1135 …   Wikipedia

  • Idrissides — الأدارسة (Al Adarissah) (ar) ⵉⴷⵔⵢⵙⵉⴻⵏ (Idrisiyen) (ber) 789 – 985 Carte de l Empire Idrisside …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Maimun — (Maimūn, Maymūn) is a Jewish given name, and may refer to: ʾAbū ʿImrān Mūsā bin Maymūn bin ʿUbaidallāh ʾal Qurṭubī ʾal ʾIsrāʾīlī (1135 1204), Spanish rabbi, physician, and philosopher Maimun Najar (15th century), Spanish/Algerian rabbi Nathan… …   Wikipedia

  • ABRAHAM BEN MOSES BEN MAIMON — (1186–1237), theologian, exegete, communal leader, mystical pietist, and physician. Little was known about him prior to the discovery of the cairo genizah , which has preserved many of his writings, in part autographic. Born in Fustat, Egypt, on… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism