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Review of book on Maimonides

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Many of you may find this book review of interest. Moses Maimonides was a medieval philosopher, arguably the most important in Judaism. He wrote a difficult work called The Guide for the Perplexed. The reviewer describes what makes this work so difficult:

Maimonides claims he will allow truth to be glimpsed by his readers, only to have that truth concealed once again. He will address metaphysical secrets not “completely known to anyone among us,” but will follow the methods of the rabbinic Sages who conveyed truths through riddles and parables. Maimonides promises he has chosen his words “with great exactness,” and that even statements which appear out of place have been put there intentionally. He warns that he has scattered indications of his teachings about metaphysics throughout the book, and hence that to understand them, the reader will have to find these hints and connect them. He tells his readers to be prepared for contradictions, some of which he has concealed so that the vulgar will not be aware of them. If this is not your idea of a pleasant reading experience, consider the payoff: the virtuous reader who follows Maimonides’ guidance is promised liberation from perplexity, perfection, and tranquility.

Apparently this new book by Josef Stern argues that Maimonides is not trying to transmit a secret message as much as he is trying to get his readers to engage in reflective practices that will change how they live:

The Guide, Stern suggests, aims to assist his philosophical readers in coming to terms with their embodied state; it introduces parables as the medium best suited to embodied philosophical expression and communication; and it introduces an alternative model of perfection to that of disembodied intellectual perfection, a model which Stern suggests is best understood as close kin to the Pyrrhonist path to ataraxia.

Worth a look.

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