1 Porphyry, Vita Plotini, chapter 14.
2 See the references to Aristotle (Nicomachean Ethics 3.10) at Guide 2.36:371 (Pines);
3 I have further discussed historiographical issues in "The Historiography of Jewish
Philosophy" (forthcoming a).
4 My gloss on Maimonides' Aristotelianism parallels that of McInerny's on Aquinas. He writes,
".. .we find many references to Aristotle in Thomas, we find the invocation of doctrines, the quoting of phrases. Confronted with these, we should not consult Aristotle for guidance on what Thomas is saying. Far better to see what Thomas means, how he is using the doctrines or language of Aristotle for his own purposes. It is almost as if Aristotle were a language Thomas used to make independent points of his own" (McInerny 1998, xxxi; my emphases).
5 Owen 1966, 125-50. Owen's article is directed against Jaeger's major work (Jaeger 1948), in which the latter presents his version of Aristotle's philosophical development.
6 ".whatever else he may be": Maimonides is lots of things (a philosopher, a Jew, a legal scholar), but my claim is that as a philosopher his starting point is invariably Aristotle (in some form or other); contra Ivry (1991), I don't believe that there is an esoteric Neoplatonic base to Maimonides' philosophical speculations. Once again, this is not to suggest that Maimonides adopts Aristotelian positions on the eternity of the world, the summum bonum, etc. Rather, my view is that Maimonides is best understood philosophically as engaged in critical dialogue with Aristotle, almost invariably disagreeing with him, but (importantly) indebted to him for his mode of discourse, argument forms, and philosophical vocabulary. In this latter sense, and in this sense only, is Maimonides to be characterized as an Aristotelian.
7 See notes 4 and 6 supra.
8 Guide 3.54 fin; see my "The End of the Guide: Maimonides on the Best Life for Man" (1985).
9 Hilkhot De'ot, chapters 1-2; see my "Humility as a Virtue: A Maimonidean Critique of
Aristotle's Ethics" (1989) and "Anger as a Vice: A Maimonidean Critique of Aristotle's Ethics" (1990).
10 Shemonah Peraqim, chapter 2; Guide 1.1-2; 3.54 (in effect, the entire Guide, Maimonides' philosophical magnum opus, is framed by the Aristotelian distinction between the intellectual and the moral virtues—his discussions of prophecy, providence, politics, law, and the goal of human life are all motivated and shaped by this Aristotelian distinction.)
11 Shemonah Peraqim, chapter 1; see further my "The Development of Maimonides' Moral Psychology" (forthcoming b).
12 See the third part of this chapter.
13 See further my "Moses Maimonides" (1999).
14 See notes 4 and 6 supra.
15 Averroes, Fasl al-Maqal, init.; see also my "The Duty to Philosophize: Socrates and Maimonides" (1993).
16 A splendid Neoplatonic (Plotinian) passage is Guide 3.51:623 (Pines), where Maimonides describes the prophet thus: "And there may be a human individual who, through his apprehension of the true realities and his joy in what he has apprehended, achieves a state in which he talks with people and is occupied with his bodily necessities while his intellect is wholly turned toward Him, may He be exalted, so that in his heart he is always in His presence, may He be exalted, while outwardly he is with people." With this 'somnambulistic' state, compare Porphyry's Vita Plotini, chapter 8: "Even if he [Plotinus] was talking to someone, engaged in continuous conversation, he kept to his train of thought.
He could take his necessary part in the conversation to the full, and at the same time keep his mind fixed without a break on what he was considering."
17 On behalf of Maimonides, we might even agree with McInerny (1998), who says of Aquinas: "There is an old maxim, passed on by Pico della Mirandola: Sine Thoma, Aristoteles mutus esset: without Thomas, Aristotle would be silent. The phrase is a signal tribute to the [Thomistic] commentaries [on Aristotle]. But the reverse of the claim is also true, and true throughout Thomas's career: Sine Aristotele, Thomas non esset." (p. xxxiv) It is indeed hard to imagine Maimonides without Aristotle. This is precisely why Maimonides may be characterized as an Aristotelian.
18 See Annas 1988/89, 7-22.
19 We don't have to speculate too much, for Aristotle links the 'true' self with the theoretical and immaterial part of the psyche and the summum bonum with contemplative activity (NE 1177b26-78a8). And he is clear that the activity of contemplation is the most self-sufficient (autarkestatos) of activities (1177a27ff.), rendering the practitioner (relatively) independent from others and, in general, from the realm of contingency and luck.
I have addressed this issue at some length in "The Development of Maimonides' Moral Psychology" (forthcoming b).
Annas, J. 1988/89. "Aristotle on Virtue and Happiness." The UniversityofDayton Review 19, No. 3, pp. 7-22. (Reprinted in N.Sherman (ed.). Aristotle's Ethics: Critical Essays. Lanham MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 1999, pp. 35-55).
Cooper, J. 1975. Reason and Human Good in Aristotle. Cambridge MA: Harvard University Press.
Frank, D.H. 1985. "The End of the Guide: Maimonides on the Best Life for Man." Judaism 34, pp. 485-95.
--. 1989. "Humility as a Virtue: A Maimonidean Critique of Aristotle's Ethics." In E.Ormsby
(ed.), Maimonides and His Time. Washington DC: Catholic University of America Press, pp. 89-99.
--. 1990. "Anger as a Vice: A Maimonidean Critique of Aristotle's Ethics." History of
Philosophy Quarterly 7, pp. 269-81.
--. 1993. "The Duty to Philosophize: Socrates and Maimonides." Judaism 42, pp. 289-97.
--. 1999. "Moses Maimonides." In R.Popkin (ed.), The Columbia History of Western
Philosophy. New York: Columbia University Press, pp. 188-96.
. forthcoming a. "The Historiography of Jewish Philosophy." In L.E.Goodman (ed.), Appropriating and Re-Appropriating the Past: History and Historiography in Islamic and Judaic Traditions.
. forthcoming b. "The Development of Maimonides' Moral Psychology." American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: special Maimonides issue (ed. D.H.Frank).
Graham, D. 1988. Aristotle's Two Systems. Oxford: Oxford University Press.
Guttmann, J. 1973. Philosophies of Judaism. New York: Schocken Books.
Ivry, A. 1991. "Neoplatonic Currents in Maimonides' Thought." In J.Kraemer (ed.), Perspectives on Maimonides: Philosophical and Historical Studies. Oxford: The Littman Library, pp. 11540.
Jacobs, J. 1997. "Plasticity and Perfection: Maimonides and Aristotle on Character." Religious Studies 33, pp. 443-54.
Jaeger, W. 1948. Aristotle: Fundamentals of the History of His Development. 2nd ed. Oxford:
Oxford University Press. McInerny, R. (ed. and tr.). 1998. Thomas Aquinas: Selected Writings. Harmonds-worth: Penguin Books.
Owen, G.E.L. 1953. "The Place of the Timaeus in Plato's Dialogues." Classical QuarterlyNS 3, pp. 79-95.
--. 1966. "The Platonism of Aristotle." Proceedings of the British Academy 51, pp. 125-50.
Vlastos, G. 1954. "The Third Man Argument in Plato's Parmenides." Philosophical Review 63, pp. 319-49.
Was this article helpful?