SESSION THREE


MAIMONIDES – GUIDE OF THE PERPLEXED (MOREH NEBUCHIM)


Here are two links to the text of Guide for the Perplexed.  Same translation, but slightly different format.

http://www.sacred-texts.com/jud/gfp/index.htm

http://www.teachittome.com/seforim2/seforim/the_guide_for_the_perplexed.pdf

Here are the excerpts I'm going to focus on.  Warning, some of it is hard slogging, but I will provide some info to help with it.  I believe in getting right to the text and wrestling with it.


Letter of Dedication

Prefatory Remarks


Part I - Chapters 33,34,58,59


Part II - Chapters 2,4,5,15,19,22,24,25


Part III - Chapters 13,16,51,54


The translation is from 1904. The translator has a somewhat lengthy biographical note.

Here is a more modern discussion that places Maimonides in context.

http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/maimonides/


Maimonides was the original “workaholic”. Here is a link that includes a letter in which he describes a typical day.

http://www.jewishhistory.org/maimonides-letter-to-a-friend/


QUESTIONS FOR DISCUSSION BASED ON THE ABOVE CHAPTERS

Prefatory Remarks

What does Maimonides state are the purposes of his book?

Who, in Maimonides’ view, is perplexed, and what is the source of the difficulty as described by Maimonides?

How does Maimonides describe Ma’aseh Bereshith (Account of the Creation) and Ma’aseh Merkavah (Account of the Chariot)?

[Note – Ma’aseh Merkavah refers to the strange and highly imaginative opening of the Book of Ezekiel.]

What is Maimonides view about sharing knowledge? With whom may what knowledge be shared, and under what circumstances?

Is Maimonides right? Are there modern analogues to his views about types of information and types of people able to (worthy to?) receive such knowledge?

According to Maimonides, what was the purpose of presenting the story of Creation in the manner in which it is set forth in the Bible?

Whom does Maimonides take to be the audience for his Guide?

To what purpose does Maimonides employ the parables of the pearl in the room and the golden apples inside the silver vessel?

What contrast does Maimonides make between the story of Jacob’s ladder and the excerpt from Chapter 7 of Proverbs?


Part I

Chapter 33

What points does Maimonides make about the sequence of studies someone should undertake?

How does Maimonides illustrate the point about someone studying ideas for which he has not properly prepared?

What are the strengths and weaknesses of Maimonides’ argument about the sequence of studies in which one should engage?


Chapter 34

Note: “Metaphysics” is in some editions translated as the “Divine Science”. In the context of the Guide, it refers to philosophical speculation about God. In general, it is a way of describing getting “behind” or “beyond” the frame of reference. In Aladdin, when the Genie says to the hero, “and ix-nay on wishing for more wishes”, he is putting the brakes on a possible metaphysical twist on his gifts.

What reasons does Maimonides advance for delaying study of “the Divine Science”? What studies does Maimonides say should come first? Which reasons, if any, do you find persuasive? What might be a modern response to Maimonides’ reasons?

Is Maimonides being an elitist? What dangers of study of the divine science (metaphysics, theology) trouble him?


Chapter 58

[Note: “recondite” means “difficult to understand”. Maimonides is right – the chapter is recondite!]

What does Maimonides mean by “negative” and “positive” attributes? Why does he insist that only negative attributes be used to describe God?