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Title: A History of Mediaeval Jewish Philosophy
Author: Husik, Isaac, 1876-1939
Language: English
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*** Start of this LibraryBlog Digital Book "A History of Mediaeval Jewish Philosophy" ***

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                   A HISTORY OF


              ISAAC HUSIK, A.M., PH.D.
                 OF PENNSYLVANIA

                     New York

              _All rights reserved_

                 COPYRIGHT, 1916
  Set up and electrotyped. Published October, 1916.

This book is issued by the Macmillan Company in conjunction with the
Jewish Publication Society of America.

                   AS A TOKEN


No excuse is needed for presenting to the English reader a History of
Mediæval Jewish Philosophy. The English language, poor enough in books
on Jewish history and literature, can boast of scarcely anything at all
in the domain of Jewish Philosophy. The Jewish Encyclopedia has no
article on Jewish Philosophy, and neither has the eleventh edition of
the Encyclopedia Britannica. Hastings' Encyclopedia of Religion and
Ethics will have a brief article on the subject from the conscientious
and able pen of Dr. Henry Malter, but of books there is none. But while
this is due to several causes, chief among them perhaps being that
English speaking people in general and Americans in particular are more
interested in positive facts than in tentative speculations, in concrete
researches than in abstract theorizing--there are ample signs that here
too a change is coming, and in many spheres we are called upon to
examine our foundations with a view to making our superstructure deep
and secure as well as broad and comprehensive. And this is nothing else
than philosophy. Philosophical studies are happily on the increase in
this country and more than one branch of literary endeavor is beginning
to feel its influence. And with the increase of books and researches in
the history of the Jews is coming an awakening to the fact that the
philosophical and rationalistic movement among the Jews in the middle
ages is well worth study, influential as it was in forming Judaism as a
religion and as a theological and ethical system.

But it is not merely the English language that is still wanting in a
general history of Mediæval Jewish Philosophy, the German, French and
Italian languages are no better off in this regard. For while it is true
that outside of the Hebrew and Arabic sources, German books and
monographs are the _sine qua non_ of the student who wishes to
investigate the philosophical movement in mediæval Jewry, and the
present writer owes very much to the researches of such men as Joel,
Guttmann, Kaufmann and others, it nevertheless remains true that there
is as yet no complete history of the subject for the student or the
general reader. The German writers have done thorough and distinguished
work in expounding individual thinkers and problems, they have gathered
a complete and detailed bibliography of Jewish philosophical writings in
print and in manuscript, they have edited and translated and annotated
the most important philosophical texts. France has also had an important
share in these fundamental undertakings, but for some reason neither the
one nor the other has so far undertaken to present to the general
student and non-technical reader the results of their researches.

What was omitted by the German, French and English speaking writers was
accomplished by a scholar who wrote in Hebrew. Dr. S. Bernfeld has
written in Hebrew under the title "Daat Elohim" (The Knowledge of God) a
readable sketch of Jewish Religious philosophy from Biblical times down
to "Ahad Haam." A German scholar (now in America), Dr. David Neumark of
Cincinnati, has undertaken on a very large scale a History of Jewish
Philosophy in the Middle Ages, of which only a beginning has been made
in the two volumes so far issued.

The present writer at the suggestion of the Publication Committee of the
Jewish Publication Society of America has undertaken to write a history
of mediæval Jewish rationalistic philosophy in one volume--a history
that will appeal alike to the scholar and the intelligent non-technical
reader. Treating only of the rationalistic school, I did not include
anything that has to do with mysticism or Kabbala. In my attempt to
please the scholar and the layman, I fear I shall have succeeded in
satisfying neither. The professional student will miss learned notes and
quotations of original passages in the language of their authors. The
general reader will often be wearied by the scholastic tone of the
problems as well as of the manner of the discussion and argument. And
yet I cannot but feel that it will do both classes good--the one to get
less, the other more than he wants. The latter will find oases in the
desert where he can refresh himself and take a rest, and the former will
find in the notes and bibliography references to sources and technical
articles where more can be had after his own heart.

There is not much room for originality in a historical and expository
work of this kind, particularly as I believe in writing history
objectively. I have not attempted to read into the mediæval thinkers
modern ideas that were foreign to them. I endeavored to interpret their
ideas from their own point of view as determined by their history and
environment and the literary sources, religious and philosophical, under
the influence of which they came. I based my book on a study of the
original sources where they were available--and this applies to all the
authors treated with the exception of the two Karaites, Joseph al Basir
and Jeshua ben Judah, where I had to content myself with secondary
sources and a few fragments of the original texts. For the rest I tried
to tell my story as simply as I knew how, and I hope the reader will
accept the book in the spirit in which it is offered--as an objective
and not too critical exposition of Jewish rationalistic thought in the
middle ages.

My task would not be done were I not to express my obligations to the
Publication Committee of the Jewish Publication Society of America to
whose encouragement I owe the impulse but for which the book would not
have been written, and whose material assistance enabled the publishers
to bring out a book typographically so attractive.

                                                        ISAAC HUSIK.

 _July, 1916._



 PREFACE                                                        vii

 INTRODUCTION                                                  xiii


     I. ISAAC ISRAELI                                             1

    II. DAVID BEN MERWAN AL MUKAMMAS                             17

   III. SAADIA BEN JOSEPH AL-FAYYUMI                             23

    IV. JOSEPH AL-BASIR AND JESHUA BEN JUDAH                     48

     V. SOLOMON IBN GABIROL                                      59

    VI. BAHYA IBN PAKUDA                                         80

   VII. PSEUDO-BAHYA                                            106

  VIII. ABRAHAM BAR HIYYA                                       114

    IX. JOSEPH IBN ZADDIK                                       125

     X. JUDAH HALEVI                                            150

    XI. MOSES AND ABRAHAM IBN EZRA                              184

   XII. ABRAHAM IBN DAUD                                        197

  XIII. MOSES MAIMONIDES                                        236

   XIV. HILLEL BEN SAMUEL                                       312

    XV. LEVI BEN GERSON                                         328

   XVI. AARON BEN ELIJAH OF NICOMEDIA                           362

  XVII. HASDAI BEN ABRAHAM CRESCAS                              388

 XVIII. JOSEPH ALBO                                             406

 CONCLUSION                                                     428

 BIBLIOGRAPHY                                                   433

 NOTES                                                          439

 LIST OF BIBLICAL AND RABBINIC PASSAGES                         449

 INDEX                                                          451


The philosophical movement in mediæval Jewry was the result of the
desire and the necessity, felt by the leaders of Jewish thought, of
reconciling two apparently independent sources of truth. In the middle
ages, among Jews as well as among Christians and Mohammedans, the two
sources of knowledge or truth which were clearly present to the minds of
thinking people, each claiming recognition, were religious opinions as
embodied in revealed documents on the one hand, and philosophical and
scientific judgments and arguments, the results of independent rational
reflection, on the other. Revelation and reason, religion and
philosophy, faith and knowledge, authority and independent reflection
are the various expressions for the dualism in mediæval thought, which
the philosophers and theologians of the time endeavored to reduce to a
monism or a unity.

Let us examine more intimately the character and content of the two
elements in the intellectual horizon of mediæval Jewry. On the side of
revelation, religion, authority, we have the Bible, the Mishna, the
Talmud. The Bible was the written law, and represented literally the
word of God as revealed to lawgiver and prophet; the Talmud (including
the Mishna) was the oral law, embodying the unwritten commentary on the
words of the Law, equally authentic with the latter, contemporaneous
with it in revelation, though not committed to writing until many ages
subsequently and until then handed down by word of mouth; hence
depending upon tradition and faith in tradition for its validity and
acceptance. Authority therefore for the Rabbanites was two-fold, the
authority of the direct word of God which was written down as soon as
communicated, and about which there could therefore be no manner of
doubt; and the authority of the indirect word of God as transmitted
orally for many generations before it was written down, requiring belief
in tradition. By the Karaites tradition was rejected, and there remained
only belief in the words of the Bible.

On the side of reason was urged first the claim of the testimony of the
senses, and second the validity of logical inference as determined by
demonstration and syllogistic proof. This does not mean that the Jewish
thinkers of the middle ages developed unaided from without a system of
thought and a _Weltanschauung_, based solely upon their own observation
and ratiocination, and then found that the view of the world thus
acquired stood in opposition to the religion of the Bible and the
Talmud, the two thus requiring adjustment and reconciliation. No! The
so-called demands of the reason were not of their own making, and on the
other hand the relation between philosophy and religion was not
altogether one of opposition. To discuss the latter point first, the
teachings of the Bible and the Talmud were not altogether clear on a
great many questions. Passages could be cited from the religious
documents of Judaism in reference to a given problem both _pro_ and
_con_. Thus in the matter of freedom of the will one could argue on the
one hand that man must be free to determine his conduct since if he were
not there would have been no use in giving him commandments and
prohibitions. And one could quote besides in favor of freedom the direct
statement in Deuteronomy 30, 19, "I call heaven and earth to witness
against you this day, that I have set before thee life and death, the
blessing and the curse: therefore choose life, that thou mayest live,
thou and thy seed." But on the other hand it was just as possible to
find Biblical statements indicating clearly that God preordains how a
person shall behave in a given case. Thus Pharaoh's heart was hardened
that he should not let the children of Israel go out of Egypt, as we
read in Exodus 7, 3: "And I will harden Pharaoh's heart, and multiply my
signs and my wonders in the land of Egypt. But Pharaoh will not hearken
unto you, and I will lay my hand upon Egypt, and bring forth my hosts,
my people, the children of Israel, out of the land of Egypt by great
judgments." Similarly in the case of Sihon king of Heshbon we read in
Deuteronomy 2, 30: "But Sihon king of Heshbon would not let us pass by
him: for the Lord thy God hardened his spirit, and made his heart
obstinate, that he might deliver him into thy hand, as at this day." And
this is true not merely of heathen kings, Ahab king of Israel was
similarly enticed by a divine instigation according to I Kings 22, 20:
"And the Lord said, Who shall entice Ahab, that he may go up and fall at

The fact of the matter is the Bible is not a systematic book, and
principles and problems are not clearly and strictly formulated even in
the domain of ethics which is its strong point. It was not therefore a
question here of opposition between the Bible and philosophy, or
authority and reason. What was required was rather a rational analysis
of the problem on its own merits and then an endeavor to show that the
conflicting passages in the Scriptures are capable of interpretation so
as to harmonize with each other and with the results of rational
speculation. To be sure, it was felt that the doctrine of freedom is
fundamental to the spirit of Judaism, and the philosophic analyses led
to the same result though in differing form, sometimes dangerously
approaching a thorough determinism, as in Hasdai Crescas.[1]

If such doubt was possible in an ethical problem where one would suppose
the Bible would be outspoken, the uncertainty was still greater in
purely metaphysical questions which as such were really foreign to its
purpose as a book of religion and ethics. While it was clear that the
Bible teaches the existence of God as the creator of the universe, and
of man as endowed with a soul, it is manifestly difficult to extract
from it a rigid and detailed theory as to the nature of God, the manner
in which the world was created, the nature of the soul and its relation
to man and to God. As long as the Jews were self-centered and did not
come in close contact with an alien civilization of a philosophic mould,
the need for a carefully thought out and consistent theory on all the
questions suggested was not felt. And thus we have in the Talmudic
literature quite a good deal of speculation concerning God and man. But
it can scarcely lay claim to being rationalistic or philosophic, much
less to being consistent. Nay, we have in the Bible itself at least two
books which attempt an anti-dogmatic treatment of ethical problems. In
Job is raised the question whether a man's fortunes on earth bear any
relation to his conduct moral and spiritual. Ecclesiastes cannot make up
his mind whether life is worth living, and how to make the best of it
once one finds himself alive, whether by seeking wisdom or by pursuing
pleasure. But here too Job is a long poem, and the argument does not
progress very rapidly or very far. Ecclesiastes is rambling rather than
analytic, and on the whole mostly negative. The Talmudists were visibly
puzzled in their attitude to both books, wondered whether Job really
existed or was only a fancy, and seriously thought of excluding
Ecclesiastes from the canon. But these attempts at questioning the
meaning of life had no further results. They did not lead, as in the
case of the Greek Sophists, to a Socrates, a Plato or an Aristotle.
Philo in Alexandria and Maimonides in Fostat were the products not of
the Bible and the Talmud alone, but of a combination of Hebraism and
Hellenism, pure in the case of Philo, mixed with the spirit of Islam in

And this leads us to consider the second point mentioned above, the
nature and content of what was attributed in the middle ages to the
credit of reason. It was in reality once more a set of documents. The
Bible and Talmud were the documents of revelation, Aristotle was the
document of reason. Each was supreme in its sphere, and all efforts must
be bent to make them agree, for as revelation cannot be doubted, so
neither can the assured results of reason. But not all which pretends to
be the conclusion of reason is necessarily so in truth, as on the other
hand the documents of faith are subject to interpretation and may mean
something other than appears on the surface.

That the Bible has an esoteric meaning besides the literal has its
source in the Talmud itself. Reference is found there to a mystic
doctrine of creation known as "Maase Bereshit" and a doctrine of the
divine chariot called "Maase Merkaba."[2] The exact nature of these
teachings is not known since the Talmud itself prohibits the imparting
of this mystic lore to any but the initiated, i. e., to those showing
themselves worthy; and never to more than one or two at a time.[3] But
it is clear from the names of these doctrines that they centered about
the creation story in Genesis and the account of the divine chariot in
Ezekiel, chapters one and ten. Besides the Halaka and Agada are full of
interpretations of Biblical texts which are very far from the literal
and have little to do with the context. Moreover, the beliefs current
among the Jews in Alexandria in the first century B.C. found their way
into mediæval Jewry, that the philosophic literature of the Greeks was
originally borrowed or stolen from the Hebrews, who lost it in times of
storm and stress.[4] This being the case, it was believed that the Bible
itself cannot be without some allusions to philosophic doctrines. That
the Bible does not clearly teach philosophy is due to the fact that it
was intended for the salvation of all men, the simple as well as the
wise, women and children as well as male adults. For these it is
sufficient that they know certain religious truths within their grasp
and conduct themselves according to the laws of goodness and
righteousness. A strictly philosophic book would have been beyond their
ken and they would have been left without a guide in life. But the more
intellectual and the more ambitious are not merely permitted, nay they
are obligated to search the Scriptures for the deeper truths found
therein, truths akin to the philosophic doctrines found in Greek
literature; and the latter will help them in understanding the Bible
aright. It thus became a duty to study philosophy and the sciences
preparatory thereto, logic, mathematics and physics; and thus equipped
to approach the Scriptures and interpret them in a philosophical manner.
The study of mediæval Jewish rationalism has therefore two sides to it,
the analysis of metaphysical, ethical and psychological problems, and
the application of these studies to an interpretation of Scripture.

Now let us take a closer glance at the rationalistic or philosophic
literature to which the Jews in the middle ages fell heirs. In 529 A.D.
the Greek schools of philosophy in Athens were closed by order of
Emperor Justinian. This did not, however, lead to the extinction of
Greek thought as an influence in the world. For though the West was
gradually declining intellectually on account of the fall of Rome and
the barbarian invasions which followed in its train, there were signs of
progress in the East which, feeble at first, was destined in the course
of several centuries to illumine the whole of Europe with its
enlightening rays.

Long before 529, the date of the closing of the Greek schools, Greek
influence was introduced in the East in Asia and Africa.[5] The whole
movement goes back to the days of Alexander the Great and the victories
he gained in the Orient. From that time on Greeks settled in Asia and
Africa and brought along with them Greek manners, the Greek language,
and the Greek arts and sciences. Alexandria, the capital of the
Ptolemies in Egypt after the death of Alexander, and Antioch, the
capital of Syria under the empire of the Seleucidæ, were well-known
centres of Greek learning.

When Syria changed masters in 64 B.C. and became a Roman province, its
form of civilization did not change, and the introduction of
Christianity had the effect of spreading the influence of the Greeks and
their language into Mesopotamia beyond the Euphrates. The Christians in
Syria had to study Greek in order to understand the Scriptures of the
Old and the New Testaments, the decrees and canons of the ecclesiastical
councils, and the writings of the Church Fathers. Besides religion and
the Church, the liberal arts and sciences, for which the Greeks were so
famous, attracted the interests of the Syrian Christians, and schools
were established in the ecclesiastical centres where philosophy,
mathematics and medicine were studied. These branches of knowledge were
represented in Greek literature, and hence the works treating of these
subjects had to be translated into Syriac for the benefit of those who
did not know Greek. Aristotle was the authority in philosophy,
Hippocrates and Galen in medicine.

The oldest of these schools was in Edessa in Mesopotamia, founded in the
year 363 by St. Ephrem of Nisibis. It was closed in 489 and the teachers
migrated to Persia where two other schools became famous, one at Nisibis
and the other at Gandisapora. A third school of philosophy among the
Jacobite or Monophysite Christians was that connected with the convent
of Kinnesrin on the left bank of the Euphrates, which became famous as a
seat of Greek learning in the beginning of the seventh century.

Christianity was succeeded in the Orient by Mohammedanism, and this
change led to even greater cultivation of Greek studies on the part of
the Syrians. The Mohammedan Caliphs employed the Syrians as physicians.
This was especially true of the Abbasid dynasty, who came into power in
750. When they succeeded to the Caliphate they raised Nestorian Syrians
to offices of importance, and the latter under the patronage of their
masters continued their studies of Greek science and philosophy and
translated those writings into Syriac and Arabic. Among the authors
translated were, Hippocrates and Galen in medicine, Euclid, Archimedes
and Ptolemy in mathematics and astronomy, and Aristotle, Theophrastus
and Alexander of Aphrodisias in philosophy. In many cases the Greek
writings were not turned directly into Arabic but as the translators
were Syrians, the versions were made first into Syriac, and then from
the Syriac into Arabic. The Syrian Christians were thus the mediators
between the Greeks and the Arabs. The latter, however, in the course of
time far surpassed their Syrian teachers, developed important schools
of philosophy, became the teachers of the Jews, and with the help of the
latter introduced Greek philosophy as well as their own development
thereof into Christian Europe in the beginning of the thirteenth

We see now that the impulse to philosophizing came from the Greeks,--and
not merely the impulse but the material, the matter as well as the
method and the terminology. In the Aristotelian writings we find
developed an entire system of thought. There is not a branch of
knowledge dealing with fundamental principles which is not there
represented. First of all Aristotle stands alone as the discoverer of
the organon of thought, the tool which we all employ in our reasoning
and reflection; he is the first formulator of the science and art of
logic. He treats besides of the principles of nature and natural
phenomena in the Physics and the treatise on the Heavens. He discusses
the nature of the soul, the senses and the intellect in his
"Psychology." In the "History of Animals" and other minor works we have
a treatment of biology. In the Nikomachean and Eudemian Ethics he
analyzes the meaning of virtue, gives a list and classification of the
virtues and discusses the _summum bonum_ or the aim of human life.
Finally in the Metaphysics we have an analysis of the fundamental
notions of being, of the nature of reality and of God.

The Jews did not get all this in its purity for various reasons. In the
first place it was only gradually that the Jews became acquainted with
the wealth of Aristotelian material. We are sure that Abraham Ibn Daud,
the forerunner of Maimonides, had a thorough familiarity with the ideas
of Aristotle; and those who came after him, for example Maimonides,
Gersonides, Hasdai Crescas, show clearly that they were deep students of
the ideas represented in the writings of the Stagirite. But there is not
the same evidence in the earlier writings of Isaac Israeli, Saadia,
Joseph Ibn Zaddik, Gabirol, Bahya Ibn Pakuda, Judah Halevi. They had
picked up Aristotelian ideas and principles, but they had also absorbed
ideas and concepts from other schools, Greek as well as Arabian, and
unconsciously combined the two.

Another explanation for the rarity of the complete and unadulterated
Aristotle among the Jewish thinkers of the middle ages is that people in
those days were very uncritical in the matter of historical facts and
relations. Historical and literary criticism was altogether unknown, and
a number of works were ascribed to Aristotle which did not belong to
him, and which were foreign in spirit to his mode of thinking. They
emanated from a different school of thought with different
presuppositions. I am referring to the treatise called the "Theology of
Aristotle,"[6] and that known as the "Liber de Causis."[7] Both were
attributed to Aristotle in the middle ages by Jews and Arabs alike, but
it has been shown recently[8] that the former represents extracts from
the works of Plotinus, the head of the Neo-Platonic school of
philosophy, while the latter is derived from a treatise of Proclus, a
Neo-Platonist of later date.

Finally a third reason for the phenomenon in question is that the Jews
were the pupils of the Arabs and followed their lead in adapting Greek
thought to their own intellectual and spiritual needs. It so happens
therefore that even in the case of Abraham Ibn Daud, Maimonides and
Gersonides, who were without doubt well versed in Aristotelian thought
and entertained not merely admiration but reverence for the philosopher
of Stagira, we notice that instead of reading the works of Aristotle
himself, they preferred, or were obliged as the case may be, to go to
the writings of Alfarabi, Avicenna and Averroes for their information on
the views of the philosopher. In the case of Gersonides this is easily
explained. It seems he could read neither Latin nor Arabic[9] and there
was no Hebrew translation of the text of Aristotle. Averroes had taken
in the fourteenth century the place of the Greek philosopher and instead
of reading Aristotle all students read the works of the Commentator, as
Averroes was called. Of course the very absence of a Hebrew translation
of Aristotle's text proves that even among those who read Arabic the
demand for the text of Aristotle was not great, and preference was shown
for the works of the interpreters, compendists and commentators, like
Alfarabi and Avicenna. And this helps us to understand why it is that
Ibn Daud and Maimonides who not only read Arabic but wrote their
philosophical works in Arabic showed the same preference for the
secondhand Aristotle. One reason may have been the lack of historical
and literary criticism spoken of above, and the other the difficulty of
the Arabic translations of Aristotle. Aristotle is hard to translate
into any language by reason of his peculiar technical terminology; and
the difficulty was considerably enhanced by the fact that the Syriac in
many cases stood between the original Greek and the Arabic, and in the
second place by the great dissimilarity between the Semitic language and
its Indo-European original. This may have made the copies of Aristotle's
text rare, and gradually led to their disuse. The great authority which
names like Alfarabi, Avicenna and Averroes acquired still further served
to stamp them as the approved expositors of the Aristotelian doctrine.

Among the Arabs the earliest division based upon a theoretical question
was that of the parties known as the "Kadariya" and the "Jabariya."[10]
The problem which was the cause of the difference was that of free will
and determinism. Orthodox Islam favored the idea that man is completely
dependent upon the divine will, and that not only his destiny but also
his conduct is determined, and his own will does not count. This was the
popular feeling, though as far as the Koran is concerned the question
cannot be decided one way or the other, as it is not consistent in its
stand, and arguments can be drawn in plenty in favor of either opinion.
The idea of determinism, however, seemed repugnant to many minds, who
could not reconcile this with their idea of reward and punishment and
the justice of God. How is it possible that a righteous God would force
a man to act in a certain manner and then punish him for it? Hence the
sect of the "Kadariya," who were in favor of freedom of the will. The
Jabariya were the determinists.

This division goes back to a very early period before the introduction
of the Aristotelian philosophy among the Arabs, and hence owes its
inception not to reason as opposed to religious dogma, but to a pious
endeavor to understand clearly the religious view upon so important a

From the Kadariya, and in opposition to the Aristotelian movement which
had in the meantime gained ground, developed the school of theologians
known as the "Mutakallimun." They were the first among the Arabs who
deliberately laid down the reason as a source of knowledge in addition
to the authority of the Koran and the "Sunna" or tradition. They were
not freethinkers, and their object was not to oppose orthodoxy as such.
On the contrary, their purpose was to purify the faith by freeing it
from such elements as obscured in their minds the purity of the
monotheistic tenet and the justice of God. They started where the
Kadariya left off and went further. As a school of opposition their
efforts were directed to prove the creation of the world, individual
providence, the reality of miracles, as against the "philosophers," _i.
e._, the Aristotelians, who held to the eternity of motion, denied God's
knowledge of particulars, and insisted on the unchanging character of
natural law.

For this purpose they placed at the basis of their speculations not the
Aristotelian concepts of matter and form, the former uncreated and
continuous, but adopted the atomistic theory of Democritus, denied the
necessity of cause and effect and the validity of natural law, and made
God directly responsible for everything that happened every moment in
life. God, they said, creates continually, and he is not hampered by any
such thing as natural law, which is merely our name for that which we
are accustomed to see. Whenever it rains we are accustomed to see the
ground wet, and we conclude that there is a necessary connection of
cause and effect between the rain and the wetness of the ground. Nothing
of the kind, say the Mutakallimun, or the Muʿtazila, the oldest sect of
the school. It rains because God willed that it should rain, and the
ground is wet because God wills it shall be wet. If God willed that the
ground should be dry following a rain, it would be dry; and the one is
no more and no less natural than the other. Miracles cease to be
miracles on this conception of natural processes. Similarly the dogma of
creation is easily vindicated on this theory as against the Aristotelian
doctrine of eternity of the world, which follows from his doctrine of
matter and form, as we shall have occasion to see later.

The Muʿtazila were, however, chiefly known not for their principles of
physics but for their doctrines of the unity of God and his justice. It
was this which gave them their name of the "Men of Unity and Justice,"
_i. e._, the men who vindicate against the unenlightened views of
popular orthodoxy the unity of God and his justice.

The discussion of the unity centered about the proper interpretation of
the anthropomorphic passages in the Koran and the doctrine of the divine
attributes. When the Koran speaks of God's eyes, ears, hands, feet; of
his seeing, hearing, sitting, standing, walking, being angry, smiling,
and so on, must those phrases be understood literally? If so God is
similar to man, corporeal like him, and swayed by passions. This seemed
to the Muʿtazila an unworthy conception of God. To vindicate his
spirituality the anthropomorphic passages in the Koran must be
understood metaphorically.

The other more difficult question was in what sense can attributes be
ascribed to God at all? It is not here a question of anthropomorphism.
If I say that God is omniscient, omnipotent and a living God, I
attribute to God life, power, knowledge. Are these attributes the same
with God's essence or are they different? If different (and they must be
eternal since God was never without them), then we have more than one
eternal being, and God is dependent upon others. If they are not
different from God's essence, then his essence is not a strict unity,
since it is composed of life, power, knowledge; for life is not power,
and power is not knowledge. The only way to defend the unity of God in
its absolute purity is to say that God has no attributes, _i. e._, God
is omniscient but not through knowledge as his attribute; God is
omnipotent but not through power as his attribute, and so on. God is
absolutely one, and there is no distinction between knowledge, power,
and life in him. They are all one, and are his essence.

This seemed in opposition to the words of the Koran, which frequently
speaks of God's knowledge, power, and so on, and was accordingly
condemned as heretical by the orthodox.

In the tenth century a new sect arose named the "Ashariya" after
Al-Ashari, its founder. This was a party of moderation, and tended to
conciliate orthodoxy by not going too far in the direction of
rationalistic thinking. They solved the problem by saying, "God knows
through a knowledge which is not different from his essence."

The other problem to which the Muʿtazila devoted their attention was
that of the justice of God. This was in line with the efforts of the
Kadariya before them. It concerned itself with the doctrine of free
will. They defended man's absolute freedom of action, and insisted on
justice as the only motive of God's dealings with men. God must be just
and cannot act otherwise than in accordance with justice.

In reference to the question of the nature of good and evil, the
orthodox position was that good is that which God commands, evil that
which God forbids. In other words, nothing is in itself good or evil,
the ethical character of an act is purely relative to God's attitude to
it. If God were to command cannibalism, it would be a good act. The
Muʿtazila were opposed to this. They believed in the absolute character
of good and evil. What makes an act good or bad is reason, and it is
because an act is good that God commands it, and not the reverse.

The foregoing account gives us an idea of the nature of the Muʿtazilite
discussions of the two problems of God's unity and God's justice. Their
works were all arranged in the same way. They were divided into two
parts, one dealing with the question of the unity, and the other with
that of justice. The proofs of the unity were preceded by the proofs of
God's existence, and the latter were based upon a demonstration that the
world is not eternal, but bears traces of having come to be in time.
These are the earmarks by which a Muʿtazilite book could be recognized,
and the respect for them on the part of the philosophers, _i. e._, the
Aristotelians, was not great. The latter did not consider them worthy
combatants in a philosophical fight, claiming that they came with
preconceived notions and arranged their conceptions of nature to suit
the religious beliefs which they desired to defend. Maimonides expresses
a similar judgment concerning their worthlessness as philosophical

This school of the Mutakallimun, or of the more important part of it
known as the Muʿtazila, is of great interest for the history of Jewish
rationalism. In the first place their influence on the early Jewish
philosophers was great and unmistakable. It is no discovery of a late
day but is well known to Maimonides who is himself, as has just been
said and as will appear with greater detail later, a strong opponent of
these to him unphilosophical thinkers. In the seventy-first chapter of
his "Guide of the Perplexed," he says, "You will find that in the few
works composed by the Geonim and the Karaites on the unity of God and on
such matter as is connected with this doctrine, they followed the lead
of the Mohammedan Mutakallimun.... It also happened, that at the time
when the Mohammedans adopted this method of the Kalam, there arose among
them a certain sect, called Muʿtazila. In certain things our scholars
followed the theory and the method of these Muʿtazila."

Thanks to the researches of modern Jewish and non-Jewish scholars we
know now that the Rabbanite thinker Saadia and the Karaite writers, like
Joseph Al Basir and Jeshuah ben Judah, are indebted far more to the
Mohammedan Muʿtazilites than would appear from Maimonides's statement
just quoted. The Rabbanites being staunch adherents of the Talmud, to
the influence of which they owed a national and religious
self-consciousness much stronger than that of the Karaites, who rejected
the authority of tradition, did not allow themselves to be carried away
so far by the ideas of the Mohammedan rationalists as to become their
slavish followers. The Karaites are less scrupulous; and as they were
the first among the Jews to imitate the Muʿtazila in the endeavor to
rationalize Jewish doctrine, they adopted their views in all details,
and it is sometimes impossible to tell from the contents of a Karaite
Muʿtazilite work whether it was written by a Jew or a Mohammedan. The
arrangement of the work in the two divisions of "Unity" and "Justice,"
the discussion of substance and accident, of the creation of the world,
of the existence, unity and incorporeality of God, of his attributes, of
his justice, and of human free will, are so similar in the two that it
is external evidence alone to which we owe the knowledge of certain
Karaite works as Jewish. There are no mediæval Jewish works treating of
religious and theological problems in which there is so much aloofness,
such absence of theological prepossession and religious feeling as in
some Karaite writings of Muʿtazilite stamp. Cold and unredeemed logic
gives the tone to the entire composition.

Another reason for the importance of the Muʿtazilite school for the
history of Jewish thought is of recent discovery. Schreiner has
suggested[12] that the origin of the Muʿtazilite movement was due to the
influence of learned Jews with whom the Mohammedans came in contact,
particularly in the city of Basra, an important centre of the school.
The reader will recall that the two main doctrines of the Muʿtazila were
the unity of God and his justice. The latter really signified the
freedom of the will. That these are good Jewish views would of course
prove nothing for the origin of similar opinions among the Mohammedans.
For it is not here a question simply of the dogmatic belief in
Monotheism as opposed to polytheism. Mohammedanism is as a religion
Monotheistic and we know that Mohammed was indebted very much to Jews
and Judaism. We are here concerned with the origin of a rationalistic
movement which endeavors to defend a spiritual conception of God against
a crude anthropomorphism, to vindicate a conception of his absolute
unity against the threatened multiplication of his essence by the
assumption of eternal attributes, and which puts stress upon God's
justice rather than upon his omnipotence so as to save human freedom.
Another doctrine of the Muʿtazila was that the Koran was not eternal as
the orthodox believed, but that it was created. Now we can find
parallels for most of these doctrines. Anthropomorphism was avoided in
the Aramaic translations of the Pentateuch, also in certain changes in
the Hebrew text which are recorded in Rabbinical literature, and known
as "Tikkune Soferim," or corrections of the Scribes.[13] Concern for
maintaining the unity of God in its absolute purity is seen in the care
with which the men of the Agada forbid any prayer which may have a
semblance, however remote, of dualism.[14] The freedom of the will is
clearly stated in the Rabbinic expression, "All is in the hands of God
except the fear of Heaven."[15] And an apparently deterministic passage
in Job 23, 13, "But he is one and who can turn him, and what his soul
desireth, even that he doeth," is explained by Rabbi Akiba in the
following manner, "It is not possible to answer the words of him who
with his word created the world, for he rules all things with truth and
with righteousness."[16] And we find a parallel also for the creation of
the Koran in the Midrashic statement that the Torah is one of the six or
seven things created before the world.[17]

These parallels alone would not be of much weight, but they are
strengthened by other considerations. The Muʿtazilite movement seems to
have developed among the ascetic sects, with the leaders of whom its
founders were in close relation.[18] The ascetic literature bears
unmistakable traces of having been influenced by the Halaka and the
Agada.[19] Moreover, there is a Mohammedan tradition or two to the
effect that the doctrine of the creation of the Koran and also of the
rejection of anthropomorphism goes back to a Jew, Lebid-ibn

More recently still[A] C. H. Becker proved from a study of certain
Patristic writings that the polemical literature of the Christians
played an important rôle in the formation of Mohammedan dogma, and he
shows conclusively that the form in which the problem of freedom was
discussed among the Mohammedans was taken from Christianity. The
question of the creation or eternity of the Koran or word of Allah, is
similarly related to the Christian idea of the eternal Logos, who is on
the one hand the Word and the Wisdom, and is on the other identified
with Jesus Christ. And the same thing holds of the doctrine of
attributes. It played a greater rôle in Christian dogma than it ever did
in Judaism prior to the philosophic era in the middle ages. To be sure,
the Patristic writers were much indebted to Philo, in whose writings the
germ of the mediæval doctrine of attributes is plainly evident. But the
Mohammedan schools did not read Philo. It would seem, therefore, that
Schreiner's view must be considerably modified, if not entirely
rejected, in view of the later evidence adduced by Becker.

[A] Cf. Zeitschrift für Assyriologie, 1912, 175 ff.

The more extreme doctrines, however, of the more orthodox Ashariya, such
as the denial of natural law and the necessity of cause and effect,
likewise the denial of man's ability to determine his actions, none of
the Jews accepted. Here we have again the testimony of Maimonides, who,
however, is not inclined to credit this circumstance to the intelligence
and judgment of his predecessors, but to chance. His words are,
"Although another sect, the Ashariya, with their own peculiar views, was
subsequently established among the Mohammedans, you will not find any of
these views in the writings of our authors; not because these authors
preferred the opinions of the first named sect to those of the latter,
but because they chanced first to become acquainted with the theory of
the Muʿtazila, which they adopted and treated as demonstrated

The influence of the Kalam is present in greater or less degree in the
philosophers up to Abraham Ibn Daud and Maimonides. The latter gave this
system its death blow in his thoroughgoing criticism,[22] and
thenceforth Aristotelianism was in possession of the field until that
too was attacked by Hasdai Crescas.

Another sect of the Mohammedans which had considerable influence on some
of the Jewish philosophical and ethical writers are the ascetics and the
Sufis who are related to them. The latter developed their mode of life
and their doctrines under the influence of the Christian monks, and are
likewise indebted to Indian and Persian ideas.[23] In their mode of
life they belong to the class of ascetics and preach abstinence,
indifference to human praise and blame, love of God and absolute trust
in him even to the extent of refraining from all effort in one's own
behalf, and in extreme cases going so far as to court danger. In
theoretical teaching they adopted the emanatistic doctrine of the
Neo-Platonic School. This has been called dynamic Pantheism. It is
Pantheism because in its last analysis it identifies God with the
universe. At the same time it does not bring God directly in contact
with the world, but only indirectly through the powers or δυνάμεις,
hence _dynamic_ Pantheism. These powers emanate successively from the
highest one, forming a chain of intermediate powers mediating between
God and the world of matter, the links of the chain growing dimmer and
less pure as they are further removed from their origin, while the
latter loses nothing in the process. This latter condition saves the
Neo-Platonic conception from being a pure system of emanation like some
Indian doctrines. In the latter the first cause actually gives away
something of itself and loses thereby from its fulness. The process in
both systems is explained by use of analogies, those of the radiation of
light from a luminous body, and of the overflowing of a fountain being
the most common.

The chief exponent of the ethics of the Sufis in mediæval Jewish
literature is Bahya Ibn Pakuda. In his ethical work "The Duties of the
Hearts," he lays the same stress on intention and inwardness in
religious life and practice as against outward performance with the
limbs on the one hand and dry scholasticism on the other, as do the
Sufis. In matters of detail too he is very much indebted to this Arab
sect from whose writings he quotes abundantly with as well as without
acknowledgment of his sources except in a general way as the wise men.
To be sure, he does not follow them slavishly and rejects the extremes
of asceticism and unworldly cynicism which a great many of the Sufis
preached and practiced. He is also not in sympathy with their mysticism.
He adopts their teachings only where he can support them with analogous
views as expressed in the Rabbinical writings, which indeed played an
important rôle in Mohammedan ascetic literature, being the source of
many of the sayings found in the latter.[24]

The systems of thought which had the greatest influence upon Jewish as
well as Mohammedan theology, were the great systems of Plato
(especially as developed in Neo-Platonism) and Aristotle. These two
philosophies not merely affected the thinking of Jew and Mohammedan but
really transformed it from religious and ethical discussions into
metaphysical systems. In the Bible and similarly in the Koran we have a
purely personal view of God and the world. God is a person, he creates
the world--out of nothing to be sure--but nevertheless he is thought of
doing it in the manner in which a person does such things with a will
and a purpose in time and place. He puts a soul into man and
communicates to him laws and prohibitions. Man must obey these laws
because they are the will of God and are good, and he will be rewarded
and punished according to his attitude in obedience and disobedience.
The character of the entire point of view is personal, human,
teleological, ethical. There is no attempt made at an impersonal and
objective analysis of the common aspects of all existing things, the
elements underlying all nature. Nor is there any conscious effort at a
critical classification of the various kinds of things existing in
nature beyond the ordinary and evident classification found in
Genesis--heaven and earth; in heaven, sun, moon and stars; on earth,
grass, fruit trees, insects, water animals, birds, quadrupeds, man. Then
light and darkness, the seasons of the year, dry land and water.

In Greek philosophy for the first time we find speculations concerning
the common element or elements out of which the world is made--the
material cause as Aristotle later called it. The Sophists and Socrates
gave the first impulse to a logical analysis of what is involved in
description or definition. The concept as denoting the essence of a
thing is the important contribution Socrates made to knowledge. Plato
objectified the concept, or rather he posited an object as the basis of
the concept, and raised it out of this world of shadows to an
intelligible world of realities on which the world of particulars
depends. But it was Aristotle who made a thoroughgoing analysis of thing
as well as thought, and he was the master of knowledge through the
middle ages alike for Jew, Christian and Mohammedan.

First of all he classified all objects of our experience and found that
they can be grouped in ten classes or categories as he called them.
Think of any thing you please and you will find that it is either an
object in the strict sense, _i. e._, some thing that exists
independently of anything else, and is the recipient of qualities, as
for example a man, a mountain, a chair. Or it is a quantity, like four,
or cubit; or a quality, like good, black, straight; or a relation like
long, double, master, slave; and so on throughout the ten categories.
This classification applies to words and thoughts as well as to things.
As an analysis of the first two it led him to more important
investigations of speech and thinking and arguing, and resulted in his
system of logic, which is the most momentous discovery of a single mind
recorded in history. As applied to things it was followed by a more
fundamental analysis of all real objects in our world into the two
elements of matter and form. He argued as follows: nothing in the
material world is permanent as an individual thing. It changes its state
from moment to moment and finally ceases to be the thing it was. An
acorn passes a number of stages before it is ripe, and when it is placed
in the ground it again changes its form continually and then comes out
as an oak. In artificial products man in a measure imitates nature. He
takes a block of marble and makes a statue out of it. He forms a log
into a bed. So an ignorant man becomes civilized and learned. All these
examples illustrate change. What then is change? Is there any similarity
in all the cases cited? Can we express the process of change in a
formula which will apply to all instances of change? If so, we shall
have gained an insight into a process of nature which is all-embracing
and universal in our experience. Yes, we can, says Aristotle. Change is
a play of two elements in the changing thing. When a thing affected with
one quality changes into a thing with the opposite quality, there must
be the thing itself without either of the opposite qualities, which is
changing. Thus when a white fence becomes black, the fence itself or
that which undergoes the change is something neither white nor black. It
is the uncolored matter which first had the form of white and now lost
that and took on the form of black. This is typical of all change. There
is in all change ultimately an unchanging substratum always the same,
which takes on one quality after another, or as Aristotle would say, one
_form_ after another. This substratum is _matter_, which in its purity
is not affected with any quality or form, of which it is the seat and
residence. The forms on the other hand come and go. Form does not change
any more than matter. The changing thing is the composite of matter and
form, and change means separation of the actual components of which
one, the form, disappears and makes room for its opposite. In a given
case, say, when a statue is made out of a block of marble, the matter is
the marble which lost its original form and assumed the form of a
statue. In this case the marble, if you take away both the previous form
and the present, will still have some form if it is still marble, for
marble must have certain qualities if it is to be marble. In that case
then the matter underlying the change in question is not pure matter, it
is already endowed with some primitive form and is composite. But marble
is ultimately reducible to the four elements, fire, air, water, earth,
which are simpler; and theoretically, though not in practice, we can
think away all form, and we have left only that which takes forms but is
itself not any form. This is matter.

Here the reader will ask, what kind of thing is it that has no form
whatsoever, is it not nothing at all? How can anything exist without
being a particular kind of thing, and the moment it is that it is no
longer pure matter. Aristotle's answer is that it is true that pure
matter is never found as an objective existence. Point to any real
object and it is composed of matter and form. And yet it is not true
that matter is a pure figment of the imagination; it has an existence of
its own, a potential existence. And this leads us to another important
conception in the Aristotelian philosophy.

Potentiality and actuality are correlative terms corresponding to matter
and form. Matter is the potential, form is the actual. Whatever
potentialities an object has it owes to its matter. Its actual essence
is due to its form. A thing free from matter would be all that it is at
once. It would not be liable to change of any kind, whether progress or
retrogression. All the objects of our experience in the sublunar world
are not of this kind. They realize themselves gradually, and are never
at any given moment all that they are capable of becoming. This is due
to their matter. On the other hand, pure matter is _actually_ nothing.
It is just capacity for being anything, and the moment it is anything it
is affected with form.

It is clear from this account that matter and form are the bases of
sublunar life and existence. No change, no motion without matter and
form. For motion is presupposed in all kinds of change. If then all
processes of life and death and change of all kinds presuppose matter
and form, the latter cannot themselves be liable to genesis and decay
and change, for that would mean that matter is composed of matter and
form, which is absurd. We thus see how Aristotle is led to believe in
the eternity of matter and motion, in other words, the eternity of the
world processes as we know them.

Motion is the realization of the potential _qua_ potential. This is an
Aristotelian definition and applies not merely to motion in the strict
sense, _i. e._, movement in place, or motion of translation, but
embraces all kinds of change. Take as an example the warming of the air
in a cold room. The process of heating the room is a kind of motion; the
air passes from a state of being cold to a state of being warm. In its
original state as cold it is potentially warm, _i. e._, it is actually
not warm, but has the capacity of becoming warm. At the end of the
process it is actually warm. Hence the process itself is the
actualization of the potential. That which is potential cannot make
itself actual, for to make itself actual it must be actual, which is
contrary to the hypothesis of its being potential. Potentiality and
actuality are contradictory states and cannot exist side by side in the
same thing at the same time in the same relation. There must therefore
be an external agent, itself actual, to actualize a potential. Thus, in
the above illustration, a cold room cannot make itself warm. There must
be some agency itself actually warm to cause the air in the room to pass
from cold to warm. This is true also of motion in place, that a thing
cannot move itself and must be moved by something else. But that
something else if itself in motion must again be moved by something
else. This process would lead us to infinity. In order that a given
thing shall be in motion, it would be necessary for an infinite number
of things to be in motion. This is impossible, because there cannot be
an infinite number of things all here and now. It is a contradiction in
terms. Hence if anything is to move at all, there must be at the end of
the finite chain a link which while causing the next link to move, is
itself unmoved. Hence the motion existing in the world must be due
ultimately to the existence of an unmoved mover. If this being causes
motion without being itself in motion it does not act upon the bodies it
moves as one body acts upon another, for a body can move another body
only by being itself in motion. The manner in which the unmoved mover
moves the world is rather to be conceived on the analogy of a loved
object moving the loving object without itself being moved. The person
in love strives to approach and unite with the object of his love
without the latter necessarily being moved in turn. This is the way in
which Aristotle conceives of the cause of the world's motion. There is
no room here for the creation of the world. Matter is eternal, motion is
eternal, and there is an eternal mind for the love of which all motions
have been going on, eternally.

The unmoved mover, or God, is thus not body, for no body can move
another body without being itself in motion at the same time. Besides,
all body is finite, _i. e._, it has a finite magnitude. A body of
infinite magnitude is an impossibility, as the very essence of body is
that it must be bounded by surfaces. A finite body cannot have an
infinite power, as Aristotle proves, though we need not at present go
into the details of his proof. But a being which causes eternal motion
in the world must have an infinite power to do this. Hence another proof
that God is not corporeal.

If God is not subject to motion, he is not subject to change of any
kind, for change involves motion. As matter is at the basis of all
change God is without matter, hence he is pure form, _i. e._, pure
actuality without the least potentiality. This means that he is what he
is wholly all the time; he has no capacities of being what he is at any
time not. But if he is not corporeal, the nature of his actuality or
activity must be Thought, pure thinking. And the content of his thought
cannot vary from topic to topic, for this would be change, which is
foreign to him. He must be eternally thinking the same thought; and the
highest thought it must be. But the highest thought is himself; hence
God is pure thought thinking himself, thought thinking thought.

The universe is in the shape of a sphere with the earth stationary in
the centre and the heavens revolving around it exactly as appears to us.
The element earth is the heaviest, hence its place is below or, which is
the same thing, in the centre. This is its natural place; and its
natural motion when away from the centre is in a straight line toward
the centre. Water is the next heaviest element and its natural place is
just above earth; hence the water in the world occupies a position
spherical in shape round about the earth, _i. e._, it forms a hollow
sphere concentric with the earth. Next comes the hollow sphere of air
concentric with the other two. Its natural motion when away from its
place in the direction of the earth is in a straight line toward the
circumference of the world, not however going beyond the sphere of the
lightest element of all, namely, fire. This has its natural place
outside of the other elements, also in the form of a hollow sphere
concentric with the other three. Its natural motion is in a straight
line away from the centre of the world and in the direction of the
circumference. Our earth, water, air and fire are not really the
elements in their purity. Each one has in it also mixtures of the other
three elements, the one which gives it the name predominating.

All minerals, plants and animals are formed from these four elements by
various combinations, all together forming the sublunar world, or the
world of generation and decay. No individual thing in this world is
permanent. All are subject to change and to ultimate destruction, though
the destruction of one thing is the genesis of another. There is no

The causes of the various combinations of the elements and the
generation and destruction of mineral, plant and animal resulting
therefrom, are the motions of the heavenly bodies. These are made of a
purer substance than that of the four elements, the ether. This is
proven by the fact that the heavenly bodies are not subject to change or
destruction. They are all permanent and the only change visible in them
is change of place. But even their motions are different from those of
the four elements. The latter are in a straight line toward the centre
or away from it, whereas the heavenly bodies move in a circle eternally
around the centre. This is another proof that they are not composed of
the same material as sublunar bodies.

The heavens consist of transparent spheres, and the stars as well as the
planets are set in them and remain fixed. The motions of the heavenly
bodies are due to the revolutions of the spheres in which they are set.
These spheres are hollow and concentric. The outermost sphere forming
the outer limit of the universe (the world is finite according to
Aristotle) is studded with the fixed stars and moves from east to west,
making a complete revolution in twenty-four hours. This motion is
transmitted to the other spheres which carry the planets. Since,
however, we notice in the sun, moon and the other planetary bodies
motions in the contrary direction in addition to that from east to west,
there must be other spheres having the motions apparent to us in the
positions of the planets borne by them. Thus a given body like the sun
or moon is set in more than one sphere, each of which has its own proper
motion, and the star's apparent motion is the resultant of the several
motions of its spheres. Without entering into further details concerning
these motions, it will be sufficient for us to know that Aristotle
counted in all fifty-five spheres. First came the sphere of the fixed
stars, then in order the spheres of Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Mercury,
Venus, Sun, Moon.

God himself sets the outer sphere in motion, or rather is the eternal
cause of its motion, as the object of its desire; and in the same way
each of the other motions has also its proper mover, likewise a pure
form or spirit, which moves its sphere in the same incorporeal and
unmoved manner as God.

Thus we have in the supra-lunar world pure forms without matter in God
and the spirits of the spheres, whereas in the sublunar world matter and
form are inseparable. Neither is found separately without the other.

In man's soul, however, or rather in his intellect we find a form which
combines in itself the peculiarities of sublunar as well as celestial
forms. When in contact with the human body it partakes of the nature of
other sublunar forms exhibiting its activity through matter and being
inseparable from it. But it is not destroyed with the death of the body.
It continues as a separate form after death.

The soul, Aristotle defines as the first entelechy of the body. The term
entelechy which sounds outlandish to us may be replaced by the word
realization or actualization and is very close in meaning to the
Aristotelian use of the word form. The soul then, according to
Aristotle, is the realization or actualization or form of the body. The
body takes the place of matter in the human composite. It has the
composition and the structure which give it the capacity for performing
the functions of a human being, as in any other composite, say an axe,
the steel is the matter which has the potentiality or capacity of being
made into a cutting instrument. Its cutting function is the form of the
axe--we might almost say the soul of the axe, if it were not for the
circumstance that it cannot do its own cutting; it must be wielded by
someone else.

So far then the human soul forms an inseparable unit with the body which
it informs. As we do not think of the cutting function of an axe
existing apart from the axe, so neither can we conceive of sensation,
emotion or memory as existing without a body. In so far as the soul is
this it is a material form like the rest, and ceases with the
dissolution of the body. But the soul is more than this. It is also a
thinking faculty. As such it is not in its essence dependent upon the
body or any corporeal organ. It comes from without, having existed
before the body, and it will continue to exist after the body is no
more. That it is different from the sensitive soul is proven by the fact
that the latter is inherent in the physical organ through which it acts,
being the form of the body, as we have seen. And hence when an unusually
violent stimulus, say a very bright light or a very loud sound, impinges
upon the sense organ, the faculty of sight or hearing is injured to such
an extent that it cannot thereafter perceive an ordinary sight or sound.
But in the rational faculty this is not the case. The more intense the
thought occupying the thinking soul, the more capable it becomes of
thinking lesser thoughts. To be sure, the reason seems to weaken in old
age, but this is due to the weakening of the body with which the soul is
connected during life; the soul itself is just as active as ever.

We must, however, distinguish between two aspects of the rational soul,
to one of which alone the above statements apply. Thought differs from
sensation in that the latter perceives the particular form of the
individual thing, whereas the former apprehends the essential nature of
the object, that which constitutes it a member of a certain class. The
sense of sight perceives a given individual man; thought or reason
understands what it is to be a member of the human species. Reason
therefore deals with pure form. In man we observe the reason gradually
developing from a potential to an actual state. The objects of the sense
with the help of the faculties of sensation, memory and imagination act
upon the potential intellect of the child, which without them would
forever remain a mere capacity without ever being realized. This aspect
of the reason then in man, namely, the passive aspect which receives
ideas, grows and dies with the body. But there is another aspect of the
reason, the active reason which has nothing to do with the body, though
it is in some manner resident in it during the life of the latter. This
it is which enables the passive intellect to become realized. For the
external objects as such are insufficient to endow the rational capacity
of the individual with actual ideas, any more than a surface can endow
the sense of sight with the sensation of color when there is no light.
It is the active intellect which develops the human capacity for
thinking and makes it active thought. This alone, the active intellect,
is the immortal part of man.

This very imperfect sketch of Aristotle's mode of approach to the
ever-living problems of God, the universe and man shows us the wide
diversity of his method from that with which the Jews of Biblical and
Rabbinic tradition were identified. Greek philosophy must have seemed a
revelation to them, and we do not wonder that they became such
enthusiastic followers of the Stagirite, feeling as they must have done
that his method as well as his results were calculated to enrich their
intellectual and spiritual life. Hence the current belief of an original
Jewish philosophy borrowed or stolen by the Greeks, and still betraying
its traces in the Bible and Talmud was more than welcome to the
enlightened spirits of the time. And they worked this unhistorical
belief to its breaking point in their Biblical exegesis.

Aristotle, however, was not their only master, though they did not know
it. Plotinus in Aristotelian disguise contributed not a little to their
conception of God and his relation to the universe. The so-called
"Theology of Aristotle"[25] is a Plotinian work, and its Pantheistic
point of view is in reality foreign to Aristotle's dualism. But the
middle ages were not aware of the origin of this treatise, and so they
attributed it to the Stagirite philosopher and proceeded to harmonize it
with the rest of his system as they knew it.

Aristotle's system may be called theistic and dualistic; Plotinus's is
pantheistic and monistic. In Aristotle matter is not created by or
derived from God, who is external to the universe. Plotinus derives
everything from God, who through his powers or activities pervades all.
The different gradations of being are static in Aristotle, dynamic in
Plotinus. Plotinus assumes an absolute cause, which he calls the One and
the Good. This is the highest and is at the top of the scale of
existence. It is superior to Being as well as to Thought, for the latter
imply a duality whereas unity is prior to and above all plurality. Hence
we can know nothing as to the nature of the Highest. We can know only
_that_ He is, not _what_ he is. From this highest Being proceeds by a
physical necessity, as light from a luminous body or water from an
overflowing spring, a second _hypostasis_ or substance, the _nous_ or
Reason. This is a duality, constituting Being and Knowledge. Thus
Thought and Being hold a second place in the universe. In a similar way
from Reason proceeds the third hypostasis or the _World-Soul_. This
stands midway between the intelligible world, of which it is the last,
and the phenomenal world, of which it is the first. The Soul has a dual
aspect, the one spiritual and pertaining to the intelligible world, the
other, called _Nature_, residing in the lower world. This is the
material world of change and decay. Matter is responsible for all change
and evil, and yet matter, too, is a product of the powers above it, and
is ultimately a derivative of the Absolute Cause, though indirectly.
Matter is two-fold, intelligible and sensible. The matter of the lower
world is the non-existent and the cause of evil. Matter in a more
general sense is the indeterminate, the indefinite and the potential.
Matter of this nature is found also in the intelligible world. The
Reason as the second hypostasis, being an activity, passes from
potentiality to actuality, its indeterminateness being made determinate
by the One or the Good. This potentiality and indeterminateness is
matter, but it is not to be confused with the other matter of the
phenomenal world.

Man partakes of the intelligible, as well as of the sensible world. His
body is material, and in so far forth partakes of the evil of matter.
But his soul is derived from the universal soul, and if it conducts
itself properly in this world, whither it came from without, and holds
itself aloof from bodily contamination, it will return to the
intelligible world where is its home.

We see here a number of ideas foreign to Aristotle, which are found
first in Philo the Jew and appear later in mediæval philosophy. Thus God
as a Being absolutely unknowable, of whom negations alone are true just
because he is the acme of perfection and bears no analogy to the
imperfect things of our world; matter in our world as the origin of
evil, and the existence of matter in the intelligible world--all these
ideas will meet us again in Ibn Gabirol, in Ibn Daud, in Maimonides,
some in one, some in the other.

Alike in respect to Aristotle as in reference to Plotinus, the Jewish
philosophers found their models in Islamic writers. The "Theology of
Aristotle" which, as we have seen, is really Plotinian rather than
Aristotelian, was translated into Arabic in the ninth century and
exerted its influence on the _Brethren of Purity_, a Mohammedan secret
order of the tenth century. These men composed an encyclopædia of
fifty-one treatises in which is combined Aristotelian logic and physics
with Neo-Platonic metaphysics and theology. In turn such Jewish writers
as Ibn Gabirol, Bahya, Ibn Zaddik, Judah Halevi, Moses and Abraham Ibn
Ezra, were much indebted to the Brethren of Purity. This represents the
Neo-Platonic influence in Jewish philosophy. The Arab Aristotelians, Al
Kindi, Al Farabi, Avicenna and Averroes, while in the main disciples of
the Stagirite, were none the less unable to steer clear of Neo-Platonic
coloring of their master's doctrine, and they were the teachers of the
Jewish Aristotelians, Abraham Ibn Daud, Moses ben Maimon, Levi ben

One other phase must be mentioned to complete the parallelism of Islamic
and Jewish philosophy, and that is the anti-philosophic attitude adopted
by Judah Halevi and Hasdai Crescas. It was not a dogmatic and unreasoned
opposition based simply upon the un-Jewish source of the doctrines in
question and their incompatibility with Jewish belief and tradition,
such as exhibited itself in the controversies that raged around the
"Guide" of Maimonides. Here we have rather a fighting of the
philosophers with their own weapons. Especially do we find this to be
the case in Crescas who opposes Aristotle on philosophic grounds. In
Judah Halevi similarly, though with less rigor and little technical
discussion, we have nevertheless a man trained in philosophic
literature, who found the philosophic attitude unsympathetic and
unsatisfying because cold and impersonal, failing to do justice to the
warm yearning after God of the religious soul. He could not abide the
philosophic exclusion from their natural theology of all that was racial
and national and historic in religion, which was to him its very heart
and innermost essence.

In this attitude, too, we find an Arab prototype in the person of Al
Gazali, who similarly attacked the philosophers on their own ground and
found his consolation in the asceticism and mysticism of the Sufis.

We have now spoken in a general way of the principal motives of mediæval
Jewish philosophy, of the chief sources, philosophical and dogmatic, and
have classified the Jewish thinkers accordingly as Mutakallimun,
Neo-Platonists and Aristotelians. We also sketched briefly the schools
of philosophy which influenced the Jewish writers and determined their
point of view as Kalamistic, Neo-Platonic or Aristotelian. There still
remains as the concluding part of the introductory chapter, and before
we take up the detailed exposition of the individual philosophers, to
give a brief and compendious characterization of the content of mediæval
Jewish philosophy. We shall start with the theory of knowledge.

We have already referred to the attitude generally adopted by the
mediæval Jewish thinkers on the relation between religion and
philosophy. With the exception of Judah Halevi and Hasdai Crescas the
commonly accepted view was that philosophy and religion were at bottom
identical in content, though their methods were different; philosophy
taught by means of rational demonstration, religion by dogmatic
assertion based upon divine revelation. So far as the actual
philosophical views of an Aristotle were concerned, they might be
erroneous in some of their details, as was indeed the case in respect to
the origin of the world and the question of Providence. But apart from
his errors he was an important guide, and philosophy generally is an
indispensable adjunct to religious belief because it makes the latter
intelligent. It explains the why's and the wherefore's of religious
traditions and dogmas. Into detailed discussions concerning the origin
of our knowledge they did not as a rule go. These strictly scientific
questions did not concern, except in a very general way, the main object
of their philosophizing, which was to gain true knowledge of God and his
attributes and his relation to man. Accordingly we find for the most
part a simple classification of the sources of knowledge or truth as
consisting of the senses and the reason. The latter contains some truths
which may be called innate or immediate, such as require no experience
for their recognition, like the logical laws of thought, and truths
which are the result of inference from a fact of sensation or an
immediate truth of the mind. To these human sources was added tradition
or the testimony of the revealed word of God in the written and oral

When Aristotle began to be studied in his larger treatises and the
details of the psychology and the metaphysics became known especially
through Averroes, we find among the Jews also an interest in the finer
points of the problem of knowledge. The motives of Plato's idealism and
Aristotle's conceptualism (if this inexact description may be allowed
for want of a more precise term) are discussed with fulness and detail
by Levi ben Gerson. He realizes the difficulty involved in the problem.
Knowledge must be of the real and the permanent. But the particular is
not permanent, and the universal, which is permanent, is not real. Hence
either there is no knowledge or there is a reality corresponding to the
universal concept. This latter was the view adopted by Plato. Gersonides
finds the reality in the thoughts of the Active Intellect, agreeing in
this with the views of Philo and Augustine, substituting only the Active
Intellect for their Logos. Maimonides does not discuss the question, but
it is clear from a casual statement that like Aristotle he does not
believe in the independent reality of the universal (Guide III, 18).

In theoretical physics the Arabian Mutakallimun, we have seen (p. xxii),
laid great stress on the theory of atom and accident as opposed to the
concepts of matter and form by which Aristotle was led to believe in the
eternity of the world. Accordingly every Mutakallim laid down his
physical theory and based on it his proof of creation. This method was
followed also by the early Jewish thinkers. The Karaites before
Maimonides adopted the atomic theory without question. And Aaron ben
Elijah, who had Maimonides's "Guide" before him, was nevertheless
sufficiently loyal to his Karaite predecessors to discuss their views
side by side with those of the Aristotelians and to defend them against
the strictures of Maimonides. Saadia, the first Rabbanite philosopher,
discusses no less than thirteen erroneous views concerning the origin
and nature of the world, but he does not lay down any principles of
theoretical physics explicitly. He does not seem to favor the atomic
theory, but he devotes no special treatment to the subject, and in his
arguments for creation as opposed to eternity he makes use of the
Kalamistic concepts of substance and accident and composition and
division. The same is true of Bahya Ibn Pakuda. Joseph Ibn Zaddik is
the first who finds it necessary to give an independent treatment of the
sciences before proceeding to construct his religious philosophy, and in
so doing he expounds the concepts of matter and form, substance and
accident, genesis and destruction, the four elements and their natures
and so on--all these Aristotelian concepts. Ibn Daud follows in the path
of Ibn Zaddik and discusses the relevant concepts of potentiality and
actuality and the nature of motion and infinity, upon which his proof is
based of the existence of God. Maimonides clears the ground first by a
thorough criticism and refutation of the Kalamistic physics, but he does
not think it necessary to expound the Aristotelian views which he
adopts. He refers the reader to the original sources in the Physics and
Metaphysics of Aristotle, and contents himself with giving a list of
principles which he regards as established. Aristotle is now the master
of all those who know. And he reigns supreme for over a century until
the appearance of the "Or Adonai" of Hasdai Crescas, who ventured to
deny some of the propositions upon which Maimonides based his proof of
the existence of God--such, for example, as the impossibility of an
infinite magnitude, the non-existence of an infinite fulness or vacuum
outside of the limits of our world, the finiteness of our world and its
unity, and so on.

These discussions of the fundamental principles of physics were applied
ultimately to prove the existence of God. But there was a difference in
the manner of the application. During the earlier period before the
"Emunah Ramah" of Abraham Ibn Daud was written, the method employed was
that of the Arabian Mutakallimun. That is, the principles of physics
were used to prove the creation of the world in time, and from creation
inference was made to the existence of a Creator, since nothing can
create itself. The creation itself in time as opposed to eternity was
proved from the fact of the composite character of the world.
Composition, it was said, implies the prior existence of the constituent
elements, and the elements cannot be eternal, for an infinite past time
is unthinkable. This method is common to Saadia, Bahya, Joseph Ibn
Zaddik, and others.

With the appearance of Ibn Daud's masterpiece, which exhibits a more
direct familiarity with the fundamental ideas of Aristotle, the method
changed. The existence of God is proved directly from physics without
the mediation of the doctrine of creation. Motion proves a mover, and to
avoid an infinite regress we must posit an unmoved mover, that is, a
first mover who is not himself moved at the same time. An unmoved mover
cannot be corporeal, hence he is the spiritual being whom we call God.
Ibn Daud does not make use of creation to prove the existence of God,
but neither does he posit eternal motion as Aristotle does. And the
result is that he has no valid proof that this unmoved mover is a pure
spirit not in any way related to body. This defect was made good by
Maimonides. Let us frankly adopt tentatively, he says, the Aristotelian
idea of the eternity of the world, _i. e._, the eternity of matter and
motion. We can then prove the existence of an unmoved mover who is pure
spirit, for none but a pure spirit can have an infinite force such as is
manifested in the eternal motion of the world. Creation cannot be
demonstrated with scientific rigor, hence it is not safe to build so
important a structure as the existence of God upon an insecure
foundation. Show that eternity of the world leads to God, and you are
safe no matter what the ultimate truth turns out to be concerning the
origin of the world. For if the world originated in time there is no
doubt that God made it.

Thus Maimonides accepted provisionally the eternity of matter and
motion, but provisionally only. No sooner did he prove his point, than
he takes up the question of the world's origin and argues that while
strict demonstration there is as yet none either for or against
creation, the better reasons are on the side of creation.

Gersonides, on the other hand, was a truer Aristotelian than Maimonides
and he decided in favor of the eternity of matter, though not of this
our world.

The Jewish Mutakallimun, as we have seen, proved the existence of God
from the fact that a created world implies a creator. The next step was
to show that there is only one God, and that this one God is simple and
not composite, and that he is incorporeal. The unity in the sense of
uniqueness was shown by pointing out that dualism or pluralism is
incompatible with omnipotence and perfection--attributes the possession
of which by God was not considered to require proof. Maimonides, indeed,
pointed out, in his opposition to the Mutakallimun, that if there is a
plurality of worlds, a plurality of Gods would not necessarily be in
conflict with the omnipotence and perfection of each God in his own
sphere (Guide I, 75), and he inferred the unity of God from his

The simplicity of God was proved by arguing that if he is composite, his
parts are prior to him, and he is neither the first, nor is he eternal,
and hence not God; and the incorporeality followed from his simplicity,
for all body is composite. Maimonides proved with one stroke God's
existence, unity and incorporeality. For his argument from motion leads
him to conceive of the first mover as a "separate" form or intellect.
This clearly denotes incorporeality, for body is composed of matter and
form. But it also denotes unity, for the immaterial is not subject to
numerical distinction unless the one be the cause and the other the
effect. But in that case the cause alone is God.

Next in importance to the proof of God's existence, unity and
incorporeality, is the doctrine of attributes. We have seen (p. xxiii)
how much emphasis the Arabian Mutakallimun placed upon the problem of
attributes. It was important to Jew, Christian and Mohammedan alike for
a number of reasons. The crude anthropomorphism of many expressions in
the Bible as well as the Koran offended the more sophisticated thinkers
ever since Alexandrian days. Hence it was necessary to deal with this
question, and the unanimous view was that the Biblical expressions in
question are to be understood as figures of speech. The more difficult
problem was how any predicates at all can be applied to God without
endangering his unity. If God is the possessor of many qualities, even
though they be purely spiritual, such as justice, wisdom, power, he is
composite and not simple. The Christian theologians found indeed in this
problem of attributes a philosophical support for the doctrine of the
Trinity. Since God cannot be devoid of power, reason and life, he is
trinitarian, though he is one. The difficulty was of course that the
moment you admit distinctions within the Godhead, there is no reason for
stopping at three. And the Jewish critics were not slow to recognize
this weakness in the system of their opponents. At the same time they
found it necessary to take up a positive attitude toward the question of
attributes so as to harmonize the latter with God's absolute unity. And
the essence of the solution of the problem was to explain away the
attributes. Saadia says that the ascription of life, power and
knowledge to God does not involve plurality in his essence. The
distinction of three attributes is due to our limited mind and
inadequate powers of expression. In reality the essence of which we
predicate these attributes is one and simple. This solution did not seem
thoroughgoing enough to Saadia's successors, and every one of the Jewish
philosophers tried his hand at the problem. All agreed that the
attributes cannot apply to God in the same signification as they have
when we use them in our own experience. The meaning of the term
attribute was investigated and the attributes were divided into classes,
until finally in the system of Maimonides this question too received its
classical solution. God is conceived as absolutely transcendent and
unknowable. No positive predicate can apply to him so as to indicate his
essence. We can say only what he is not, we cannot say what he is. There
is not the faintest resemblance between him and his creatures. And yet
he is the cause of the world and of all its happenings. Positive
attributes signify only that God is the cause of the experiences denoted
by the attributes in question. When we say God is just we mean that he
is not unjust, and that he is the cause of all justice in the world.
Hence Maimonides says there are no essential attributes, meaning
attributes expressive of God's essence, and the only predicates having
application are negative and such as designate effects of God's causal
activity in the world. Gersonides was opposed to Maimonides's radical
agnosticism in respect of the nature of God, and defended a more human
view. If God is pure thought, he is of the nature of our thought, though
of course infinitely greater and perfect, but to deny any relation
whatsoever between God's thought and ours, as Maimonides does, is

From God we pass to man. And the important part of man is his soul. It
is proved that man has a soul, that the soul is not material or
corporeal, that it is a substantial entity and not a mere quality or
accident of the body. Both Plato and Aristotle are laid under
contribution in the various classifications of the soul that are found
in Saadia, in Joseph Ibn Zaddik, in Judah Halevi, in Abraham Ibn Daud,
in Maimonides. The commonest is the three-fold division into vegetative,
animal and rational. We also find the Platonic division into appetitive,
spirited and rational. Further psychological details and descriptions of
the senses, external and internal, the latter embracing the common
sense, memory, imagination and judgment, are ultimately based upon
Aristotle and are found in Judah Halevi, Abraham Ibn Daud and
Maimonides, who derived them from Avicenna and Alfarabi. In the
Neo-Platonic writers, such as Isaac Israeli, Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Joseph
Ibn Zaddik, Moses Ibn Ezra, Pseudo-Bahya, Abraham Bar Hiyya, and so on,
we also find reference to the World Soul and its emanation from
Intelligence. In the conception of the human soul the Jewish
philosophers vary from the Platonic view, related to the Biblical, that
the soul is a distinct entity coming into the body from a spiritual
world, and acting in the body by using the latter as its instrument, to
the Aristotelian view that at least so far as the lower faculties of
sense, memory and imagination are concerned, the soul is the form of the
body, and disappears with the death of the latter. The human unit,
according to this opinion, is body-and-mind, and the human activities
are psycho-physical and not purely psychical as they are according to
Plato. Some writers occupying intermediate positions combine unwittingly
the Platonic and Aristotelian views, or rather they use Aristotelian
expressions and interpret them Platonically (Saadia, Joseph Ibn Zaddik,
Hillel ben Samuel).

As the influence of the Arab Aristotelians, Alfarabi, Avicenna and
especially Averroes, began to make itself felt, the discussions about
the Active Intellect and its relation to the higher Intelligences on the
one hand and to the human intellect on the other found their way also
among the Jews and had their effect on the conception of prophecy.
Aristotle's distinction of an active and a passive intellect in man, and
his ideas about the spheral spirits as pure Intelligences endowing the
heavenly spheres with their motions, were combined by the Arabian
Aristotelians with the Neo-Platonic theory of emanation. The result was
that they adopted as Aristotelian the view that from God emanated in
succession ten Intelligences and their spheres. Thus the first emanation
was the first Intelligence. From this emanated the sphere of the fixed
stars moved by it and the second Intelligence. From this emanated in
turn the sphere of Saturn and the third Intelligence, and so on through
the seven planets to the moon. From the Intelligence of the lunar sphere
emanated the Active Intellect and the sublunar spheres of the four
elements. These Intelligences were identified with the angels of
Scripture. With some modifications this theory was adopted by the
Jewish Aristotelians, Abraham Ibn Daud, Maimonides, Levi ben Gerson.

The Active Intellect was thus placed among the universal Intelligences
whose function it is to control the motions of the sublunar world, and
in particular to develop the human faculty of reason which is in the
infant a mere capacity--a material intellect. Sensation and experience
alone are not sufficient to develop the theoretical reason in man, for
they present concrete, individual material objects, whereas the reason
is concerned with universal truth. The conversion of sense experience
into immaterial concepts is accomplished through the aid of the Active
Intellect. And at the end of the process a new intellect is produced in
man, the Acquired Intellect. This alone is the immortal part of man and
theoretical study creates it. Averroes believed that this Acquired
Intellect exists separately in every individual so long only as the
individual is alive. As soon as the individual man dies, his acquired
intellect loses its individuality (there being no material body to
individuate it) and there is only one acquired intellect for the entire
human species, which in turn is absorbed into the Active Intellect.
There is thus no individual immortality. Maimonides, it would seem,
though he does not discuss the question in his "Guide," shared the same
view. Gersonides devotes an entire book of his "Milhamot Adonai" to this
problem, but he defends individuation of the acquired intellect as such
and thus saves personal immortality.

The practical part of philosophy, ethics, the Mutakallimun among the
Arabians discussed in connection with the justice of God. In opposition
to the Jabariya and the Ashariya who advocated a fatalistic determinism
denying man's ability to determine his own actions, some going so far as
to say that right and wrong, good and evil, are entirely relative to
God's will, the Muʿtazila insisted that man is free, that good and evil
are absolute and that God is just because justice is inherently right,
injustice inherently wrong. Hence reward and punishment would be unjust
if man had not the freedom to will and to act. The Karaites Joseph Al
Basir and Jeshua ben Judah discuss the problem of the nature of good and
evil and vindicate their absolute character. God desires the good
because it is good, and it is not true that a thing is good because God
has commanded it. Freedom of man is a corollary of the goodness of God.
The Rabbanites take it for granted that good is good inherently, and
God desires and commands it because it is identical with his wisdom and
his will. Freedom of man does follow as a corollary from the justice of
God and it is also taught in the Bible and the Talmud. The very fact of
the existence of a divine law and commandments shows that man has
freedom. And those passages in Scripture which seem to suggest that God
sometimes interferes with man's freedom are explained away by
interpretations _ad hoc_. Our own consciousness of power to determine
our acts also is a strong argument in favor of freedom. Nevertheless the
subject is felt to have its difficulties and the arguments against free
will taken from the causal sequences of natural events and the influence
of heredity, environment and motive on the individual will are not
ignored. Judah Halevi as well as Abraham Ibn Daud discuss these
arguments in detail. But freedom comes out triumphant. It is even sought
to reconcile the antinomy of freedom vs. God's foreknowledge. God knows
beforehand from all eternity how a given man will act at a given moment,
but his knowledge is merely a mirror of man's actual decision and not
the determining cause thereof. This is Judah Halevi's view. Abraham Ibn
Daud with better insight realizes that the contingent, which has no
cause, and the free act, which is undetermined, are as such
unpredictable. He therefore sacrifices God's knowledge of the contingent
and the free so as to save man's freedom. It is no defect, he argues,
not to be able to predict what is in the nature of the case
unpredictable. Maimonides cannot admit any ignorance in God, and takes
refuge in the transcendent character of God's knowledge. What is
unpredictable for us is not necessarily so for God. As he is the cause
of everything, he must know everything. Gersonides who, as we have seen,
is unwilling to admit Maimonides's agnosticism and transcendentalism,
solves the problem in the same way as Ibn Daud. God knows events in so
far as they are determined, he does not know them in so far as they are
contingent. There is still another possibility and that is that God
knows in advance every man's acts because no act is absolutely free. And
there is an advocate of this opinion also. Hasdai Crescas frankly adopts
the determinist position on the basis of God's knowledge, which cannot
be denied, as well as of reason and experience, which recognizes the
determining character of temperament and motive. But reward and
punishment are natural and necessary consequences, and are no more
unjust than is the burning of the finger when put into the fire.

In respect to the details of ethical doctrine and the classification of
the virtues, we find at first the Platonic virtues and their relation to
the parts of the soul, in Saadia, Pseudo-Bahya, Joseph Ibn Zaddik and
even Abraham Ibn Daud. In combination with this Platonic basis
expression is given also to the Aristotelian doctrine of the mean.
Maimonides, as in other things, so here also, adopts the Aristotelian
views almost in their entirety, both in the definition of virtue, in the
division of practical and intellectual virtues, and the list of the
virtues and vices in connection with the doctrine of the mean. As is to
be expected, the ultimate sanction of ethics is theistic and Biblical,
and the ceremonial laws also are brought into relation with ethical
motives. In this rationalization of the ceremonial prescriptions of
Scripture Maimonides, as in other things, surpasses all his predecessors
in his boldness, scientific method and completeness. He goes so far as
to suggest that the institution of sacrifice has no inherent value, but
was in the nature of a concession to the crude notions of the people
who, in agreement with their environment, imagined that God's favor is
obtained by the slaughter of animals.

Among the peculiar phenomena of religion, and in particular of Judaism,
the one that occupies a fundamental position is the revelation of God's
will to man and his announcement of the future through prophetic
visions. Dreams and divination had already been investigated by
Aristotle and explained psychologically. The Arabs made use of this
suggestion and endeavored to bring the phenomenon of prophecy under the
same head. The Jewish philosophers, with the exception of Judah Halevi
and Hasdai Crescas, followed suit. The suggestion that prophecy is a
psychological phenomenon related to true dreams is found as early as
Isaac Israeli. Judah Halevi mentions it with protest. Abraham Ibn Daud
adopts it, and Maimonides gives it its final form in Jewish
rationalistic philosophy. Levi ben Gerson discusses the finer details of
the process, origin and nature of prophetic visions. In short the
generally accepted view is that the Active Intellect is the chief agent
in communicating true visions of future events to those worthy of the
gift. And to become worthy a combination of innate and acquired powers
is necessary together with the grace of God. The faculties chiefly
concerned are reason and imagination. Moral excellence is also an
indispensable prerequisite in aiding the development of the theoretical

Proceeding to the more dogmatic elements of Judaism, Maimonides was the
first to reduce the 613 commandments of Rabbinic Judaism to thirteen
articles of faith. Hasdai Crescas criticised Maimonides's principle of
selection as well as the list of dogmas, which he reduced to six. And
Joseph Albo went still further and laid down three fundamental dogmas
from which the rest are derived. They are the existence of God,
revelation of the Torah and future reward and punishment.

The law of Moses is unanimously accepted as divinely revealed. And in
opposition to the claims of Christianity and Mohammedanism an endeavor
is made to prove by reason as well as the explicit statement of
Scripture that a divine law once given is not subject to repeal. The
laws are divided into two classes, _rational_ and _traditional_; the
former comprising those that the reason approves on purely rational and
ethical grounds, while the latter consist of such ceremonial laws as
without specific commandment would not be dictated by man's own reason.
And in many of these commandments no reason is assigned. Nevertheless an
endeavor is made to rationalize these also. Bahya introduced another
distinction, viz., the "duties of the heart," as he calls them, in
contradistinction to the "duties of the limbs." He lays stress on
intention and motive as distinguished from the mere external observance
of a duty or commandment.

Finally, some consideration is given in the works of the majority of the
writers to eschatological matters, such as the destiny of the soul after
death, the nature of future reward and punishment, the resurrection of
the body and the Messianic period, and its relation to the other world.
This brief sketch will suffice as an introduction to the detailed
treatment of the individual philosophers in the following chapters.





We know next to nothing about the condition of the Jews in Mohammedan
Egypt in the ninth and tenth centuries. But the fact that the two first
Jewish writers who busied themselves with philosophical problems came
from Egypt would indicate that the general level of intellectual culture
among the Jews at that time was not so low as the absence of literary
monuments would lead us to believe. Every one knows of Saadia, the first
Hebrew grammarian, the first Hebrew lexicographer, the first Bible
translator and exegete, the first Jewish philosopher of mediæval Jewry.
He was born in Egypt and from there was called to the Gaonate of Sura in
Babylonia. But not so well known is his earlier contemporary, Isaac ben
Solomon Israeli, who also was born in Egypt and from there went later to
Kairuan, where he was court physician to several of the Fatimide Califs.
The dates of his birth and death are not known with certainty, but he is
said to have lived to the age of one hundred years, and to have survived
the third Fatimide Calif Al-Mansur, who died in 953. Accordingly we may
assume the years of his birth and death as 855 and 955 respectively.

His fame rests on his work in theory and practice as a physician; and as
such he is mentioned by the Arab annalists and historians of
medicine.[26] To the Christian scholastics of mediæval Europe he is
known as the Jewish physician and philosopher next in importance to
Maimonides.[27] This is due to the accident of his works having been
translated into Latin by Constantinus Afer,[28] and thus made accessible
to men like Albertus Magnus, Vincent of Beauvais, Thomas Aquinas and
others. For his intrinsic merits as a philosopher, and particularly as a
Jewish philosopher, do not by any means entitle him to be coupled with
Maimonides. The latter, indeed, in a letter which he wrote to Samuel
Ibn Tibbon, the translator of the "Guide of the Perplexed," expresses
himself in terms little flattering concerning Israeli's worth as a
philosopher.[29] He is a mere physician, Maimonides says, and his
treatises on the _Elements_, and on _Definitions_ consist of windy
imaginings and empty talk. We need not be quite as severe in our
judgment, but the fact remains that Israeli is little more than a
compiler and, what is more to the purpose, he takes no attitude in his
philosophical writings to Judaism as a theological doctrine or to the
Bible as its source. The main problem, therefore, of Jewish philosophy
is not touched upon in Israeli's works, and no wonder Maimonides had no
use for them. For the purely scientific questions treated by Israeli
could in Maimonides's day be studied to much better advantage in the
works of the great Arabian Aristotelians, Al Farabi and Avicenna,
compared to whom Israeli was mediocre. We are not to judge him, however,
from Maimonides's point of view. In his own day and generation he was
surpassed by none as a physician; and Saadia alone far outstrips him as
a Jewish writer, and perhaps also David Al Mukammas, of whom we shall
speak later. Whatever may be said of the intrinsic value of the content
of his philosophical work, none can take away from him the merit of
having been the first Jew, so far as we know, to devote himself to
philosophical and scientific discussions, though not with the avowed aim
of serving Judaism. The rest was bound to come later as a result of the
impulse first given by him.

The two works of Israeli which come in consideration for our purpose are
those mentioned by Maimonides in his letter to Samuel Ibn Tibbon spoken
of above, namely, the "Book of the Elements,"[30] and the "Book of
Definitions."[31] Like all scientific and philosophic works by Jews
between the ninth and thirteenth centuries with few exceptions, these
were written in Arabic. Unfortunately, with the exception of a fragment
recently discovered of the "Book of Definitions," the originals are
lost, and we owe our knowledge of their contents to Hebrew and Latin
translations, which are extant and have been published.[32] We see from
these that Israeli was a compiler from various sources, and that he had
a special predilection for Galen and Hippocrates, with whose writings he
shows great familiarity. He makes use besides of Aristotelian notions,
and is influenced by the Neo-Platonic treatise, known as the "Liber de
Causis," and derived from a work of Proclus. It is for this reason
difficult to characterize his standpoint, but we shall not go far wrong
if we call him a Neo-Platonist, for reasons which will appear in the

It would be useless for us here to reproduce the contents of Israeli's
two treatises, which would be more appropriate for a history of mediæval
science. A brief _résumé_ will show the correctness of this view. In his
"Book of the Elements" Israeli is primarily concerned with a definite
physical problem, the definition of an element, and the number and
character of the elements out of which the sublunar world is made. He
begins with an Aristotelian definition of element, analyzes it into its
parts and comes to the conclusion that the elements are the four
well-known ones, fire, air, water, earth. Incidentally he seizes
opportunities now and then, sometimes by force, to discuss points in
logic, physics, physiology and psychology. Thus the composition of the
human body, the various modes in which a thing may come into being, that
the yellow and black galls and the phlegm are resident in the blood, the
purpose of phlebotomy, the substantial character of prime form, that the
soul is not an accident, the two kinds of blood in the body, the various
kinds of "accident," the nature of a "property" and the manner in which
it is caused--all these topics are discussed in the course of proof that
the four elements are fire, air, water, earth, and not seed or the
qualities of heat, cold, dryness and moisture. He then quotes the
definitions of Galen and Hippocrates and insists that though the wording
is different the meaning is the same as that of Aristotle, and hence
they all agree about the identity of the elements. Here again he takes
occasion to combat the atomic theory of the _Muʿtazila_ and Democritus,
and proves that a line is not composed of points. In the last part of
the treatise he refutes contrary opinions concerning the number and
identity of the elements, such as that there is only one element which
is movable or immovable, finite or infinite, namely, the power of God,
or species, or fire, or air, or water, or earth; or that the number is
two, matter and God; or three, matter, form and motion; or six, viz.,
the four which he himself adopts, and composition and separation; or the
number ten, which is the end and completion of number. In the course of
this discussion he takes occasion to define pain and pleasure, the
nature of species, the difference between element and principle. And
thus the book draws to a close. Not very promising material this, it
would seem, for the ideas of which we are in search.

The other book, that dealing with definitions of things, is more
promising. For while there too we do not find any connected account of
God, of the world and of man, Israeli's general attitude can be gathered
from the manner in which he explains some important concepts. The book,
as its title indicates, consists of a series of definitions or
descriptions of certain terms and ideas made use of by philosophers in
their construction of their scheme of the world--such ideas and terms as
Intelligence, science, philosophy, soul, sphere, spirit, nature, and so
on. From these we may glean some information of the school to which
Israeli belongs. And in the "Book of the Elements," too, some of the
episodic discussions are of value for our purpose.

Philosophy, Israeli tells us, is self-knowledge and keeping far from
evil. When a man knows himself truly--his spiritual as well as his
corporeal aspects--he knows everything. For in man are combined the
corporeal and the spiritual. Spiritual is the soul and the reason,
corporeal is the body with its three dimensions. In his qualities and
attributes--"accidents" in the terminology of Israeli--we similarly find
the spiritual as well as the corporeal. Humility, wisdom and other
similar qualities borne by the soul are spiritual; complexion, stature,
and so on are corporeal. Seeing that man thus forms an epitome, as it
were, of the universe (for spiritual and corporeal substance and
accident exhausts the classes of existence in the world), a knowledge of
self means a knowledge of everything, and a man who knows all this is
worthy of being called a philosopher.

But philosophy is more than knowledge; it involves also action. The
formula which reveals the nature and aim of philosophy is to become like
unto God as far as is possible for man. This means to imitate the
activities of God in knowing the realities of things and doing what the
truth requires. To know the realities of things one must study science
so as to know the various causes and purposes existing in the world. The
most important of these is the purpose of the union in man of body and
soul. This is in order that man may know reality and truth, and
distinguish between good and evil, so as to do what is true and just and
upright, to sanctify and praise the Creator and to keep from impure
deeds of the animal nature. A man who does this will receive reward
from the Creator, which consists in cleaving to the upper soul, in
receiving light from the light of knowledge, and the beauty of splendor
and wisdom. When a man reaches this degree, he becomes spiritual by
cleaving to the created light which comes directly from God, and
praising the Creator. This is his paradise and his reward and
perfection. Hence Plato said that philosophy is the strengthening and
the help of death. He meant by this that philosophy helps to deaden all
animal desires and pleasures. For by being thus delivered from them, a
man will reach excellence and the higher splendor, and will enter the
house of truth. But if he indulges his animal pleasures and desires and
they become strengthened, he will become subject to agencies which will
lead him astray from the duties he owes to God, from fear of him and
from prayer at the prescribed time.

We look in vain in Israeli's two treatises for a discussion of the
existence and nature of God. Concerning creation he tells us that when
God wanted to show his wisdom and bring everything from potentiality to
actuality, he created the world out of nothing, not after a model (this
in opposition to Plato and Philo), nor for the purpose of deriving any
benefit from it or to obviate harm, but solely on account of his

But how did the creation proceed? A fragment from the treatise of
Israeli entitled "The Book of Spirit and Soul"[33] will give us in
summary fashion an idea of the manner in which Israeli conceived of the
order and connection of things in the world.

In the name of the ancients he gives the following account. God created
a splendor. This having come to a standstill and real permanence, a
spark of light proceeded from it, from which arose the power of the
rational soul. This is less bright than the splendor of the Intelligence
and is affected with shadow and darkness by reason of its greater
distance from its origin, and the intervening Intelligence. The rational
soul again becoming permanent and fixed, there issued from it likewise a
spark, giving rise to the animal soul. This latter is endowed with a
cogitative and imaginative faculty, but is not permanent in its
existence, because of the two intervening natures between it and the
pure light of God. From the animal soul there likewise issued a
splendor, which produced the vegetative soul. This soul, being so far
removed from the original light, and separated from it by the
Intelligence and the other two souls, has its splendor dimmed and made
coarse, and is endowed only with the motions of growth and nourishment,
but is not capable of change of place. From the vegetative soul proceeds
again a splendor, from which is made the sphere (the heaven). This
becomes thickened and materialized so that it is accessible to the
sight. Motion being the nature of the sphere, one part of it pushes the
other, and from this motion results fire. From fire proceeds air; from
air, water; from water, earth. And from these elements arise minerals,
plants and animals.

Here we recognize the Neo-Platonic scheme of emanation as we saw it in
Plotinus, a gradual and successive emanation of the lower from the
higher in the manner of a ray of light radiating from a luminous body,
the successive radiations diminishing in brightness and spirituality
until when we reach the Sphere the process of obscuration has gone so
far as to make the product material and visible to the physical sense.
The Intelligence and the three Souls proceeding from it in order are
clearly not individual but cosmic, just as in Plotinus. The relation
between these cosmic hypostases, to use a Neo-Platonic term, and the
rational and psychic faculties in man Israeli nowhere explains, but we
must no doubt conceive of the latter as somehow contained in the former
and temporarily individualized, returning again to their source after
the dissolution of the body.

Let us follow Israeli further in his account of the nature of these
substances. The Intelligence is that which proceeds immediately from the
divine light without any immediate agency. It represents the permanent
ideas and principles--species in Israeli's terminology--which are not
subject to change or dissolution. The Intelligence contains them all in
herself eternally and immediately, and requires no searching or
reflection to reach them. When the Intelligence wishes to know anything
she returns into herself and finds it there without requiring thought or
reflection. We can illustrate this, he continues, in the case of a
skilful artisan who, when he wishes to make anything, retires into
himself and finds it there. There is a difference, however, in the two
cases, because Intelligence always knows its ideas without thought or
reflection, for it exists always and its ideas are not subject to change
or addition or diminution; whereas in the smith a difficulty may arise,
and then his soul is divided and he requires searching and thinking and
discrimination before he can realize what he desires.

What has been said so far applies very well to the cosmic Intelligence,
the νοῦς of the Neo-Platonists. It represents thought as embracing the
highest and most fundamental principles of existence, upon which all
mediate and discursive and inferential thinking depends. Its content
corresponds to the Ideas of Plato. But the further account of the
Intelligence must at least in a part of it refer to the individual human
faculty of that name, though Israeli gives us no indication where the
one stops and where the other begins.

He appeals to the authority of Aristotle for his division of
Intelligence into three kinds. First, the Intelligence which is always
actual. This is what has just been described. Second, the Intelligence
which is in the soul potentially before it becomes actual, like the
knowledge of the child which is at first potential, and when the child
grows up and learns and acquires knowledge, becomes actual. Third, that
which is described as the second Intelligence. It represents that state
of the soul in which it receives things from the senses. The senses
impress the forms of objects upon the imagination (φαντασία) which is in
the front part of the head. The imagination, or phantasy, takes them to
the rational soul. When the latter knows them, she becomes identical
with them spiritually and not corporeally.

We have seen above the Aristotelian distinction between the active
intellect and the passive. The account just given is evidently based
upon it, though it modifies Aristotle's analysis, or rather it enlarges
upon it. The first and second divisions in Israeli's account correspond
to Aristotle's active and passive intellects respectively. The third
class in Israeli represents the process of realization of the potential
or passive intellect through the sense stimuli on the one hand and the
influence of the active intellect on the other. Aristotle seems to have
left this intermediate state between the potential and the eternally
actual unnamed. We shall see, however, in our further study of this very
difficult and complicated subject how the classification of the various
intellects becomes more and more involved from Aristotle through
Alexander and Themistius down to Averroes and Levi ben Gerson. It is
sufficient for us to see here how Israeli combines Aristotelian
psychology, as later Aristotelian logic and physics, with Neo-Platonic
metaphysics and the theistic doctrine of creation. But more of this

From the Intelligence, as we have seen, proceeds the rational soul. In
his discussion of the general nature of the three-fold soul (rational,
animal and vegetative) Israeli makes the unhistoric but thoroughly
mediæval attempt to reconcile Aristotle's definition of the soul, which
we discussed above (p. xxxv), with that of Plato. The two conceptions
are in reality diametrically opposed. Plato's is an anthropological
dualism, Aristotle's, a monism. For Plato the soul is in its origin not
of this world and not in essential unity with the body, which it
controls as a sailor his boat. Aristotle conceives of the relation
between soul and body as one of form and matter; and there is no union
more perfect than that of these two constituent elements of all natural
substances. Decomposition is impossible. A given form may disappear, but
another form immediately takes its place. The combination of matter and
form is the essential condition of sublunar existence, hence there can
be no question of the soul entering or leaving the body, or of its
activity apart from the body.

But Israeli does not seem to have grasped Aristotle's meaning, and
ascribes to him the notion that the soul is a separate substance
perfecting the natural body, which has life potentially, meaning by this
that bodies have life potentially before the soul apprehends them; and
when the soul does apprehend them, it makes them perfect and living
actually. To be sure, he adds in the immediate sequel that he does not
mean temporal before and after, for things are always just as they were
created; and that his mode of expression is due to the impossibility of
conveying spiritual ideas in corporeal terms in any other way. This
merely signifies that the human body and its soul come into being
simultaneously. But he still regards them as distinct substances forming
only a passing combination. And with this pretended Aristotelian notion
he seeks to harmonize that of Plato, which he understands to mean not
that the soul enters the body, being clothed with it as with a garment,
and then leaves it, but that the soul apprehends bodies by clothing them
with its light and splendor, and thus makes them living and moving, as
the sun clothes the world with its light and illuminates it so that
sight can perceive it. The difference is that the light of the sun is
corporeal, and sight perceives it in the air by which it is borne;
whereas the light of the soul is spiritual, and intelligence alone can
perceive it, not the physical sense.

Among the conceptual terms in the Aristotelian logic few play a more
important part than those of substance and accident. Substance is that
which does not reside in anything else but is its own subject. It is an
independent existence and is the subject of accidents. The latter have
no existence independent of the substance in which they inhere. Thus of
the ten categories, in which Aristotle embraces all existing things, the
first includes all substances, as for example, man, city, stone. The
other nine come under the genus accident. Quantity, quality, relation,
time, place, position, possession, action, passion--all these represent
attributes which must have a substantial being to reside in. There is no
length or breadth, or color, or before or after, or here or there, and
so on except in a real object or thing. This then is the meaning of
accident as a logical or ontological term, and in this signification it
has nothing to do with the idea of chance. Clearly substance represents
the higher category, and accident is inferior, because dependent and
variable. Thus it becomes important to know in reference to any object
of investigation what is its status in this respect, whether it is
substance or accident.

The nature of the soul has been a puzzle to thinkers and philosophers
from time immemorial. Some thought it was a material substance, some
regarded it as spiritual. It was identified with the essence of number
by the Pythagoreans. And there have not been wanting those who, arguing
from its dependence upon body, said it was an accident and not a
substance. Strange to say the Mutakallimun, defenders of religion and
faith, held to this very opinion. But it is really no stranger than the
maintenance of the soul's materiality equally defended by other
religionists, like Tertullian for example, and the opposition to
Maimonides's spiritualism on the part of Abraham ben David of
Posquières. The Mutakallimun were led to their idea by the atomic
theory, which they found it politic to adopt as more amenable to
theological treatment than Aristotle's Matter and Form. It followed then
according to some of them that the fundamental unit was the material
atom which is without quality, and any power or activity in any atom or
group of atoms is a direct creation of God, which must be re-created
every moment in order to exist. This is the nature of accident, and it
makes more manifest the ever present activity of God in the world. Thus
the "substantial" or "accidental" character of the soul is one that is
touched on by most Jewish writers on the subject. And Israeli also
refers to the matter incidentally in the "Book of the Elements."[34]
Like the other Jewish philosophers he defends its substantiality.

The fact of its separability from the body, he says, is no proof of its
being an accident. For it is not the separability of an accident from
its substance that makes it an accident, but its destruction, when
separated. Thus when a white substance turns green, the white color is
not merely separated from its substance but ceases to exist. The soul is
not destroyed when it leaves the body.

Another argument to prove the soul a substance is this. If the soul were
an accident it should be possible for it to pass from the animal body to
something else, as blackness is found in the Ethiopian's skin, in ebony
wood and in pitch. But the soul exists only in living beings.

We find, besides, that the activity of the soul extends far beyond the
body, and acts upon distant things without being destroyed. Hence it
follows that the soul itself, the agent of the activity, keeps on
existing without the body, and is a substance.

Having made clear the conception of soul generally and its relation to
the body, he next proceeds to treat of the three kinds of soul. The
highest of these is the rational soul, which is in the horizon of the
Intelligence and arises from its shadow. It is in virtue of this soul
that man is a rational being, discriminating, receptive of wisdom,
distinguishing between good and evil, between things desirable and
undesirable, approaching the meritorious and departing from wrong. For
this he receives reward and punishment, because he knows what he is
doing and that retribution follows upon his conduct.

Next to the rational soul is the animal soul, which arises from the
shadow of the former. Being far removed from the light of Intelligence,
the animal soul is dark and obscure. She has no knowledge or
discrimination, but only a dim notion of truth, and judges by appearance
only and not according to reality. Of its properties are sense
perception, motion and change in place. For this reason the animals are
fierce and violent, endeavoring to rule, but without clear knowledge and
discrimination, like the lion who wants to rule over the other beasts,
without having a clear consciousness of what he is doing. A proof that
the animals have only dim notions of things is that a thirsty ass coming
to the river will fly from his own shadow in the water, though he needs
the latter for preserving his life, whereas he will not hesitate to
approach a lion, who will devour him. Therefore the animals receive no
reward or punishment (this in opposition to the Mutakallimun) because
they do not know what to do so as to be rewarded, or what to avoid, in
order not to be punished.

The vegetative soul proceeds from the shadow of the animal soul. She is
still further removed from the light of Intelligence, and still more
weighed down with shadow. She has no sense perception or motion. She is
next to earth and is characterized by the powers of reproduction,
growth, nutrition, and the production of buds and flowers, odors and

Next to the soul comes the Sphere (the heaven), which arises in the
horizon and shadow of the vegetative soul. The Sphere is superior to
corporeal substances, being itself not body, but the matter of body.
Unlike the material elements, which suffer change and diminution through
the things which arise out of them as well as through the return of the
bodies of plants and animals back to them as their elements, the
spiritual substances (and also the sphere) do not suffer any increase or
diminution through the production of things out of them. For plants and
animals are produced from the elements through a celestial power which
God placed in nature effecting generation and decay in order that this
world of genesis and dissolution should exist. But the splendor of the
higher substances, viz., the three souls, suffers no change on account
of the things coming from them because that which is produced by them
issues from the _shadow_ of their splendor and not from the essence of
the splendor itself. And it is clear that the splendor of a thing in its
essence is brighter than the splendor of its shadow, viz., that which
comes from it. Hence the splendor of the vegetative soul is undoubtedly
brighter than that of the sphere, which comes from its shadow. The
latter becomes rigid and assumes a covering, thickness and corporeality
so that it can be perceived by sight. But no other of the senses can
perceive it because, although corporeal, it is near to the higher
substances in form and nobility, and is moved by a perfect and complete
motion, motion in a circle, which is more perfect than other motions and
not subject to influence and change. Hence there is no increase or
diminution in it, no beginning or end, and this on account of the
simplicity, spirituality and permanence of that which moves it. The
Intelligence pours of her splendor upon it, and of the light of her
knowledge, and the sphere becomes intelligent and rational, and knows,
without investigation or reflection, the lordship of its Creator, and
that he should be praised and glorified without intermission. For this
reason the Creator assigned to the Sphere a high degree from which it
cannot be removed, and gave it charge of the production of time and the
four seasons of the year, and the month and the day and the hour, and
made it ruler of the production of perishable things in this world of
generation and dissolution, so that the upper souls may find bodies to
apprehend, to clothe with their light, and to make visible in them their
activities according to the determination of God.

The Sphere by its motion produces the four elements, fire, air, water,
earth; and the combinations of these in various proportions give rise to
the minerals, plants and animals of this world, the highest of whom is

That the elements are those mentioned above and nothing else is proved
by the definition of element and its distinction from "principle." A
principle is something which, while being the cause of change, and even
possibly at the basis of change, is not itself subject to change. Thus
God is undoubtedly the cause of everything that happens in the world. He
may therefore be called a principle of the world, but he does not enter
with his essence the changing things. Hence it is absurd to speak of God
as an element of the sublunar world. Matter, i. e., primary formless
matter, does enter all changing things and is at the basis of all
change; but it does not itself change. Hence matter also is a principle
but not an element. An element is something which is itself a composite
of matter and form, and changes its form to become something else in
which, however, it is contained potentially, not actually. The product
ultimately goes back to the element or elements from which it was made.
When we follow this resolution of a given composite into its elements
back as far as we can until we reach a first which is no longer
produced out of anything in the same way as things were produced from
it, we have the element. Such is the nature of fire, air, water, earth.
All things are made from them in the manner above indicated. But there
is nothing prior to them which changes its form to become fire,
continues to reside potentially in fire and returns to its original
state by the resolution of fire. The same applies to the other three.

The matter is now clear. The elements stand at the head of physical
change and take part in it. Prior to the elements are indeed matter and
form, but as logical principles, not as physical and independent
entities. Hence it would seem, according to Israeli, that matter and
form are side-tracked in the gradual evolution of the lower from the
higher. For the elements, he tells us, come from the motion of the
Sphere, the Sphere from the shadow of the Soul, the Soul from the shadow
of the Intelligence, the Intelligence is created by God. To be sure he
tells us that the Sphere is not body, but the matter of body. Yet the
Sphere cannot take the place of prime matter surely, for it is
undoubtedly endowed with form, nay is rational and intelligent, as we
have seen.

When Israeli says that prior to the four elements there is nothing but
the Omnipotence of God, he means that the sublunar process of change and
becoming stops with the elements as its upper limit. What is above the
elements belongs to the intelligible world; and the manner of their
production one from the other is a spiritual one, emanation. The Sphere
stands on the border line between the corporeal and the intelligible,
itself a product of emanation, though producing the elements by its
motion--a process apparently neither like emanation nor like sublunar
becoming and change.

Creation in Israeli seems to be the same as emanation, for on the one
hand he tells us that souls are created, that nothing precedes the four
elements except the Omnipotence of God, and on the other that the
elements come from the motion of the Sphere, and the souls issue from
the shadow of the Intelligence. For matter and form there seems to be no
room at all except as logical principles. This is evidently due to the
fact that Israeli is unwittingly combining Aristotelian physics with
Neo-Platonic emanationism. For Aristotle matter and form stand at the
head of sublunar change and are ultimate. There is no derivation of
matter or form from anything. The celestial world has a matter of its
own, and is not the cause of the being of this one except as influencing
its changes. God is the mover of the Spheres, but not their Creator,
hence he stands outside of the world. This is Theism. In Israeli there
is a continuity of God, the intelligible world and the corporeal, all
being ultimately the same thing, though the processes in the two worlds
are different. And yet he obviates Pantheism by declaring that God is a
principle not an element.

We said before that Israeli takes no avowed attitude to Jewish dogma or
the Bible. He never quotes any Jewish works, and there is nothing in his
writings to indicate that he is a Jew and is making an effort to
harmonize Judaism with philosophy and science. In words he refers to
creation _ex nihilo_, which is not necessarily Jewish, it might be just
as well Mohammedan or Christian. But in reality, as we have seen, his
ideas of the cosmic process are far enough removed from the orthodox
doctrine of creation as it appears in Bible and Talmud.

Incidentally we learn also something of Israeli's ideas of God's
relation to mankind, of his commandments, and of prophecy. God created
the world, he tells us, because of his goodness. He wanted to benefit
his creatures. This could not be without their knowing the will of God
and performing it. The will of God could not be revealed directly to
everybody because the divine wisdom can speak only to those in whom the
rational soul is mistress and is enlightened by the Intelligence. But
people are not all of this kind; for some have the animal soul
predominating in them, being on that account ignorant, confused,
forward, bold, murderous, vengeful, unchaste like animals; others are
mastered by the vegetative soul, i. e., the appetitive, and are thus
stupid and dull, and given over to their appetites like plants. In
others again their souls are variously combined, giving to their life
and conduct a composite character. On this account it was necessary for
God to select a person in whom the rational soul is separated, and
illumined by the Intelligence--a man who is spiritual in his nature and
eager to imitate the angels as far as it is possible for a man to do
this. This man he made a messenger to mankind. He gave him his book
which contains two kinds of teaching. One kind is spiritual in its
nature, and needs no further commentary or interpretation. This is
meant for the intellectual and discriminating. The other kind is
corporeal, and requires spiritual interpretation. This is intended for
the various grades of those who cannot understand directly the spiritual
meaning, but who can grasp the corporeal teaching, by which they are
gradually trained and prepared for the reception of higher truths. These
people therefore need instructors and guides because a book alone is not
sufficient for the purposes of those who cannot understand.

Dreams and prophecy are closely related, hence an explanation of the
former will also throw light on the latter. A dream is caused by the
influence of the Intelligence on the soul in sleep. The Intelligence
receives its knowledge directly from God, and serves as a mediator
between him and the soul, like a prophet who mediates between God and
his creatures. In communicating to the soul the spiritual forms which it
received from God, the Intelligence translates them into forms
intermediate between corporeality and spirituality in order that they
may be quickly impressed upon the common sense, which is the first to
receive them. The common sense stands midway between the corporeal sense
of sight and the imagination, which is in the anterior chamber of the
brain, and is known as phantasy (Aristotelian φαντασία).

That the forms thus impressed on the common sense in sleep are
intermediate between corporeal and spiritual is proved by the fact that
they are different from the corporeal forms of things seen in the waking
state. The latter are obscure and covered up, whereas those seen in
sleep are finer, more spiritual and brighter. Proof of this is that a
person sees himself in sleep endowed with wings and flying between
heaven and earth. He sees the heavens opening and someone speaking to
him out of the heaven, and so on. There would be no sense in all this if
these phenomena had no spiritual meaning, for they are contrary to
nature. But we know that they have real significance if interpreted by a
really thoughtful person. The prophets also in wishing to separate
themselves from mankind and impress the latter with their qualities,
showed them spiritual forms of similar kind, which were preternatural.
Hence all who believe in prophecy admit that dreams are a part of

Now these intermediate forms which are impressed upon the common sense
in sleep are turned over by it to the phantasy and by the latter to the
memory. When the person awakes, he recovers the forms from the memory
just as they were deposited there by the phantasy. He then consults his
thinking power; and if this is spiritual and pure, the Intelligence
endows him with its light and splendor and reveals to him the spiritual
forms signified by the visions seen in sleep. He is then able to
interpret the dream correctly. But if his powers of thought are not so
good and are obscured by coverings, he cannot properly remove the husk
from the kernel in the forms seen in sleep, is not able to penetrate to
the true spirituality beneath, and his interpretation is erroneous.

This explanation does not really explain, but it is noteworthy as the
first Jewish attempt to reduce prophecy to a psychological phenomenon,
which was carried further by subsequent writers until it received its
definitive form for the middle ages in Maimonides and Levi ben Gerson.

To sum up, Israeli is an eclectic. There is no system of Jewish
philosophy to be found in his writings. He had no such ambitions. He
combines Aristotelian logic, physics and psychology with Neo-Platonic
metaphysics, and puts on the surface a veneer of theistic creationism.
His merit is chiefly that of a pioneer in directing the attention of
Jews to the science and philosophy of the Greeks, albeit in Arab dress.
There is no trace yet of the Kalam in his writings except in his
allusions to the atomic theory and the denial of reward and punishment
of animals.



Nothing was known of Al Mukammas until recently when fragments of his
philosophical work were found in Judah ben Barzilai's commentary on the
Sefer Yezirah.[35] The latter tells us that David Al Mukammas is said to
have associated with Saadia, who learned a good deal from him, but the
matter is not certain. If this account be true we have a second Jewish
philosopher who preceded Saadia. His chief work is known by the title of
"Twenty Chapters," fifteen of which were discovered in the original
Arabic in 1898 by Abraham Harkavy of St. Petersburg.[36] Unfortunately
they have not yet been published, and hence our account will have to be
incomplete, based as it is on the Hebrew fragments in the Yezirah
commentary above mentioned.

These fragments are sufficient to show us that unlike Israeli, who shows
little knowledge of the Muʿtazilite discussions, Al Mukammas is a real
Muʿtazilite and moves in the path laid out by these Mohammedan
rationalists. Whether this difference is due to their places of
residence (Israeli having lived in Egypt and Kairuan, while Al Mukammas
was in Babylon), or to their personal predilections for Neo-Platonism
and the Kalam respectively, is not certain. Saadia knows the Kalam; but
though coming originally from Egypt, he spent his most fruitful years in
Babylonia, in the city of Sura, where he was gaon. The centres of
Arabian rationalism were, as we know, the cities of Bagdad and Basra,
nearer to Babylon and Mesopotamia than to Egypt or Kairuan.

The first quotation in Judah ben Barzilai has reference to science and
philosophy, their definition and classification. Science is the
knowledge of the reality of existing things. It is divided into two
parts, theoretical and practical. Theoretical science aims at knowledge
for its own sake; practical seeks an end beyond knowledge, viz., the
production of something. We call it then art. Thus geometry is a science
in so far as one desires to know the nature and relations to each other
of solid, surface, line, point, square, triangle, circle. But if his
purpose is to know how to build a square or circular house, or to
construct a mill, or dig a well, or measure land, he becomes an artisan.
Theoretical science is three-fold. First and foremost stands theology,
which investigates the unity of God and his laws and commandments. This
is the highest and most important of all the sciences. Next comes logic
and ethics, which help men in forming opinions and guide them in the
path of understanding. The last is physics, the knowledge of created

In the ninth and tenth chapters of his book Al Mukammas discusses the
divine attributes. This was a very important problem in the Muʿtazilite
schools, as we saw in the Introduction, and was treated in Muʿtazilite
works in the first division, which went by the title of "Bab al Tauhid,"
the chapter on the unity.

God is one--so Al Mukammas sums up the results of his previous
discussions--not in the sense in which a genus is said to be one, nor in
that in which a species is one, nor as the number one is one, nor as an
individual creature is one, but as a simple unity in which there is no
distinction or composition. He is one and there is no second like him.
He is first without beginning, and last without end. He is the cause and
ground of everything caused and effected.

The question of God's essence is difficult. Some say it is not permitted
to ask what God is. For to answer the question what a thing is is to
limit it, and the limited is the created. Others again say that it is
permitted to make this inquiry, because we can use in our answer the
expressions to which God himself testifies in his revealed book. And
this would not be limiting or defining his glory because his being is
different from any other, and there is nothing that bears any
resemblance to him. Accordingly we should answer the question what God
is, by saying, he is the first and the last, and the visible and the
hidden, without beginning or end. He is living, but not through life
acquired from without. His life is not sustained and prolonged by food.
He is wise, but not through acquired wisdom. He hears without ears, sees
without eyes, is understanding in all his works, and a true judge in all
his judgments. Such would be our answer in accordance with God's own
testimony of himself.

We must on no account suppose that the expressions living, wise,
seeing, hearing, and so on, when applied to God mean the same thing as
when we ascribe them to ourselves. When we say God is living we do not
mean that there was a time when he was not living, or that there will be
a time when he will not be living. This is true of us but not of God.
His life has no beginning or end. The same thing applies to his wisdom.
It is not acquired like ours, it has no beginning or end, and is not
subject to error, forgetfulness, addition or diminution. It is not
strange that his attributes should be so unlike ours, for it is fitting
that the Creator should be different from the thing created, and the
Maker from the thing made.

We must, however, analyze the matter of divine attributes more closely.
When we say God is living, we may mean he is living with life as his
attribute, i. e., that there is an attribute life which makes him
living, or we may deny that there is any such attribute in him as life,
but that he is living through himself and not through life as an
attribute. To make this subtle distinction clear we will investigate
further what is involved in the first statement that God is living with
life. It may mean that there was a time when God was not living and then
he acquired life and became living. This is clearly a wrong and unworthy
conception. We must therefore adopt the other alternative, that the life
which makes him living is eternal like him, and hence he was always
living from eternity and will continue to be living to eternity. But the
matter is not yet settled. The question still remains, Is this life
through which he lives identical with his being, or is it distinct from
his being, or is it a part of it? If we say it is distinct from his
being, we are guilty of introducing other eternal beings beside God,
which destroys his unity. The Christians are guilty of this very thing
when they say that God's eternal life is the Holy Ghost, and his eternal
Wisdom is the Son. If we say that his life is a part of his being, we do
injury to the other aspect of his unity, namely, his simplicity. For to
have parts in one's being implies composition. We are forced therefore
to conclude that God's life is identical with his being. But this is
really tantamount to saying that there is no attribute life which makes
him living, or that he is living not through life. The difference is
only in expression.

We may make this conception clearer by illustrations from other spheres,
inadequate though they be. The soul is the cause of life to the body,
i. e., the body lives through the soul, and when the latter leaves it,
the body loses its life and dies. But the soul itself does not live
through anything else, say through another soul. For if this were the
case this other soul would need again another soul to make it live and
this again another, and so on _ad infinitum_, which is absurd. The soul
lives through itself. The same thing applies to angels. They live
through their own being; and that is why souls and angels are called in
the Sacred Scriptures spirits. A spirit is something that is fine and
light and incomposite. Hence their life cannot be due to anything
distinct from their being, for this would make them composite.

This statement, however, that souls and angels are living through their
own being must not be understood as meaning that they have no creator
who gave them being and life. The meaning merely is that the being which
God gave them is different from the being he gave to bodies. Bodies need
a soul to become living, the soul is itself living. So in material
things, also, the sun shines with its own light and not with light
acquired. The odor of myrrh is fragrant through itself, not through
anything else. The eye sees with its own power, whereas man sees with
the eye. The tongue does not speak with another tongue, man speaks with
a tongue, and so on. So we say of God, though in a manner a
thousand-fold more sublime, that he is living, but not with a life which
is distinct from his being; and so of the other attributes, hearing,
seeing, and so on, that we find in the Scriptural praises of him.

It is necessary to add that as on the one hand we have seen that God's
attributes are identical with his being, so it follows on the other that
the various attributes, such as wise, seeing, hearing, knowing, and so
on, are not different from each other in meaning, though distinct in
expression. Otherwise it would make God composite. The reason we employ
a number of distinct expressions is in order to remove from God the
several opposites of the terms used. Thus when we say God is living we
mean to indicate that he is not dead. The attribute wise excludes folly
and ignorance; hearing and seeing remove deafness and blindness. The
philosopher Aristotle says that it is truer and more appropriate to
apply negative attributes to God than positive. Others have said that we
must not speak of the Creator in positive terms for there is danger of
endowing him with form and resemblance to other things. Speaking of him
negatively we imply the positive without risking offence.

In the sequel Al Mukammas refutes the views of the dualists, of the
Christians and those who maintain that God has form. We cannot afford to
linger over these arguments, interesting though they be, and must hurry
on to say a word about the sixteenth chapter, which deals with reward
and punishment. This no doubt forms part of the second Muʿtazilite
division, namely, the "Bab al ʿAdl," or section concerning God's

He defines reward as the soul's tranquillity and infinite joy in the
world to come in compensation for the sojourn in this world which she
endured and the self-control she practiced in abstaining from the
pleasures of the world. Punishment, on the other hand, is the soul's
disquietude and sorrow to the end of days as retribution for indulging
in the world's evil pleasures. Both are imposed by God with justice and
fairness. It is fitting that the promises of reward and threats of
punishment consequent upon obedience and disobedience should be
specified in connection with the commandments and prohibitions in the
Scriptures, because this is the only way to train the soul to practice
self-control. A child who does not fear his teacher's punishment, or has
no confidence in his good will will not be amenable to instruction. The
same is true of the majority of those who serve kings. It is fear alone
which induces them to obey the will of their masters. So God in
commanding us to do what is worthy and prohibiting what is unworthy saw
fit in his wisdom to specify the accompanying rewards and punishments
that he who observes may find pleasure and joy in his obedience, and the
unobservant may be affected with sorrow and fear.

As the world to come has no end, so it is proper that the reward of the
righteous as well as the punishment of the wicked should be without end.
Arguments have been advanced to show that unlike reward which is
properly infinite as is becoming to God's goodness, punishment should
have a limit, for God is merciful. On the other hand, it is claimed on
the basis of the finiteness of human action that both reward and
punishment should be finite. But in reality it can be shown in many ways
that reward and punishment should be infinite. Without naming all the
arguments--as many as ten have been advanced--in favor of this view, we
may urge some of the more important.

It was God's own goodness that prompted him to benefit mankind by giving
them laws for their guidance, and not any prior merits on their part
which gave them a claim on God's protection. God himself is not in any
way benefited by man's obedience or injured by his disobedience. Man
knows that it is for his own good that he is thus admonished; and if he
were asked what reward he would like to have for his good deeds he would
select no less than infinite happiness. Justice demands that punishment
be commensurate with reward. The greater the reward and the punishment
the more effective are the laws likely to be. Besides in violating God's
law a person virtually denies the eternity of him who gave it, and is
guilty of contempt; for he hides himself from men, fearing their
displeasure, whereas the omnipresence of God has no deterring effect
upon him. For such offence infinite punishment is the only fit

The question whether the soul alone is rewarded or the body alone or
both has been answered variously. In favor of the soul alone as the
subject of reward and punishment it has been urged that reward raises
man to the grade of angels, who are pure spirits. How then can the body
take part? And punishment must be of the same nature as reward. On the
other hand, it is claimed that the Bible says nothing of man being
raised to the status of angels, and we know in this world of physical
reward and punishment only. The Garden of Eden of which the Bible speaks
is not peopled with angels, and that is where the righteous go after

The true solution is that as man is composed of body and soul, and both
share in his conduct, reward and punishment must attach to both. As we
do not understand the nature of spiritual retribution so the composite
is equally inconceivable to us. But everyone who believes in the
resurrection of the dead has no difficulty in holding that the body has
a share in future reward and punishment.



Saadia was the first important Jewish philosopher. Philo of Alexandria
does not come within our purview as he was not mediæval. Besides his
work is not systematic, being in the nature of a commentary on Holy
Writ. Though Philo was a good and loyal Jew, he stood, so to speak,
apart from the real centre of Jewish intellectual and spiritual
development. He was on the one hand too closely dependent on Greek
thought and on the other had only a limited knowledge of Jewish thought
and tradition. The Bible he knew only in the Greek translation, not in
the original Hebrew; and of the Halaka, which was still in the making in
Palestine, he knew still less.

It was different with Saadia. In the tenth century the Mishna and the
Talmud had been long completed and formed theoretically as well as
practically the content of the Jew's life and thought. Sura in
Babylonia, where Saadia was the head of the academy, was the chief
centre of Jewish learning, and Saadia was the heir in the main line of
Jewish development as it passed through the hands of lawgiver and
prophet, scribe and Pharisee, Tanna and Amora, Saburai and Gaon. As the
head of the Sura academy he was the intellectual representative of the
Jewry and Judaism of his day. His time was a period of agitation and
strife, not only in Judaism but also in Islam, in whose lands the Jews
lived and to whose temporal rulers they owed allegiance in the East as
well as in Spain.

In Islam we saw in the introduction how the various schools of the
Kadariya, the Muʿtazila and the Ashariya arose in obedience to the
demand of clarifying the chief problems of faith, science and life. In
Judaism there was in addition to this more general demand the more local
and internal conflict of Karaite and Rabbanite which centred about the
problem of tradition. Saadia found himself in the midst of all this and
proved equal to the occasion.

We are not here concerned with the vicissitudes of Saadia's personal
life or of his literary career as opponent of the Karaite sect. Nor can
we afford more than merely to state that Jewish science in the larger
sense begins with Saadia. Hebrew grammar and lexicography did not exist
before him. The Bible had been translated into several languages before
Saadia's day, but he was the first to translate it into Arabic, and the
first to write a commentary on it. But the greatest work of Saadia, that
which did the most important service to the theory of Judaism, and by
which he will be best remembered, is his endeavor to work out a system
of doctrine which should be in harmony with the traditions of Judaism on
the one hand and with the most authoritative scientific and philosophic
opinion of the time on the other. Israeli, we have seen, was interested
in science before Saadia. As a physician he was probably more at home in
purely physical discussions than Saadia. But there is no evidence that
he had the larger interest of the Gaon of Sura, namely, to construct a
system of Judaism upon the basis of scientific doctrine. Possibly the
example of Islam was lacking in Israeli's environment, as he does not
seem to be acquainted with the theories and discussions of the
Mutakallimun, and draws his information from Aristotelian and
Neo-Platonic sources. Saadia was in the very midst of Arab speculation
as is evident from the composition of his _chef d'œuvre_, "Emunot
ve-Deot," Beliefs and Opinions.[37]

The work is arranged on the Muʿtazilite model. The two main divisions in
works of this character are _Unity_ and _Justice_. The first begins with
some preliminary considerations on the nature and sources of knowledge.
It proceeds then to prove the existence of God by showing that the world
cannot have existed from eternity and must have been created in time.
Creation implies a creator. This is followed by arguments showing that
God is one and incorporeal. The rest is devoted to a discussion of the
divine attributes with the purpose of showing that God's unity and
simplicity are not affected by them. The section on unity closes with a
refutation of opposing views, such as those of the dualists or
Trinitarians or infidels. The section on Justice centres about the
doctrine of free will. Hence psychology and ethics are treated in this
part of the work. To this may be added problems of a more dogmatic
nature, eschatological and otherwise. We shall see in the sequel that
Saadia's masterpiece is modeled on the same plan.

But not merely the plan and arrangement of his work give evidence of the
influence upon Saadia of Islamic schools, many of his arguments, those
for example on the existence of God and the creation of the world, are
taken directly from them. Maimonides, who was a strong opponent of the
Mutakallimun, gives an outline of their fundamental principles and their
arguments for the existence, unity and incorporeality of God.[38] Some
of these are identical with those of Saadia. Saadia, however, is not
interested in pure metaphysics as such. His purpose is decidedly
apologetic in the defence of Judaism and Jewish dogma. Hence we look in
vain in his book for definite views on the constitution of existing
substances, on the nature of motion, on the meaning of cause, and so on.
We get a glimpse of his attitude to some of these questions in an
incidental way.

The Mutakallimun were opposed to the Aristotelian theory of matter and
form, and substituted for it the atomic theory. God created atoms
without magnitude or quality, and he likewise created qualities to
inhere in groups of atoms. These qualities they called accidents, and
one of their important discussions was whether an accident can last more
than a moment of time. The opinions were various and the accidents were
classified according to their powers of duration. That is, there were
some accidents which once created continued to exist of their own accord
some length of time, and there were others which had to be re-created
anew every moment in order to continue to exist. Saadia does not speak
of matter and form as constituting the essence of existing things; he
does speak of substance and accident,[39] which might lead us to believe
that he held to the atomic theory, since he speaks of the accidents as
coming and going one after the other, which suggests the constant
creation spoken of by the Mutakallimun. On the other hand, when he
answers an objection against motion, which is as old as Zeno, namely,
how can we traverse an infinitely divisible distance, since it is
necessary to pass an infinite number of parts, he tells us that it is
not necessary to have recourse to the atomic theory or other theories
adopted by some Muʿtazilites to meet this objection. We may believe in
the continuity and infinite divisibility of matter, but as long as this
divisibility is only potentially infinite, actually always finite, our
ability to traverse the space offers no difficulty.[40] Finally, in
refuting the second theory of creation, which combines Platonism with
atomism, he argues against an atomic theory primarily because of its
implications of eternity of the atoms, but partly also on other grounds,
which would also affect the Kalamistic conceptions of the atoms.[41]
These points are not treated by Saadia expressly but are only mentioned
incidentally in the elucidation of other problems dealing with the
creation of the world and the existence of God.

Like Israeli Saadia shows considerable familiarity with Aristotelian
notions as found in the Logic, the Physics and the Psychology. It is
doubtful, however, whether he really knew Aristotle's more important
treatises at first hand and in detail. The "Categories," a small
treatise forming the first book of Aristotle's logic, he no doubt knew,
but the other Aristotelian concepts he probably derived from secondary
sources. For while he passes in review all the ten categories showing
that none of them is applicable to God,[42] we scarcely find any mention
of such important and fundamental Aristotelian conceptions as matter and
form, potentiality and actuality, the four causes, formal, material,
efficient and final--concepts which as soon as Aristotle began to be
studied by Al Farabi and Avicenna became familiar to all who wrote
anything at all bearing on philosophy, theology, or Biblical exegesis.
Nay, the very concepts which he does employ seem to indicate in the way
he uses them that he was not familiar with the context in which they are
found in the Aristotelian treatises, or with the relation they bear to
other views of Aristotle. Thus no one who knew Aristotle at first hand
could make the mistake of regarding his definition of the soul as making
the latter an accident.[43] When Saadia speaks of six kinds of motion
[44] instead of _three_, he shows clearly that his knowledge of the
Aristotelian theory of motion was limited to the little of it that is
contained in the "Categories."

We are thus justified in saying, that Saadia's sources are Jewish
literature and tradition, the works of the Mutakallimun, particularly
the Muʿtazilites, and Aristotle, whose book on the "Categories" he knew
at first hand.

Saadia tells us he was induced to write his book because he found that
the beliefs and opinions of men were in an unsatisfactory state. While
there are some persons who are fortunate enough to possess the truth and
to know that they have it and rejoice thereat, this is not true of all.
For there are others who when they have the truth know it not, and hence
let it slip; others are still less fortunate and adopt false and
erroneous opinions, which they regard as true; while still others
vacillate continually, going from one opinion and belief to another.
This gave him pain and he thought it his duty to make use of his limited
knowledge to help them. A conscientious study of his book will tend to
remove doubt and will substitute belief through knowledge for belief
through tradition. Another result of such study, not less important,
will be improvement of character and disposition, which will affect for
the better a man's life in every respect, in relation to God as well as
to his fellowmen.[45]

One may ask why it is that one encounters so many doubts and
difficulties before arriving at true knowledge. The answer is, a human
being is a creature, i. e., a being dependent upon another for its
existence, and it is in the nature of a creature as such that it must
labor for the truth with the sweat of its brow. For whatever a man does
or has to do with is subject to time; each work must be accomplished
gradually, step by step, part by part, in successive portions of time.
And as the task before him is at the beginning complex, he has to
analyze and simplify it. This takes time; while certainty and knowledge
cannot come until the task is accomplished. Before that point is reached
he is naturally in doubt.[46]

The sources of truth are three. First is that to which the senses
testify. If our normal sense perceives under normal conditions which are
free from illusion, we are certain of that perception.

The judgment is another source of truth. There are certain truths of
which we are certain. This applies especially to such judgments of
value, as that truth is good and falsehood is bad. In addition to these
two sources of immediate knowledge, there is a third source based upon
these two. This is logical inference. We are led to believe what we have
not directly perceived or a matter concerning which we have no immediate
knowledge of the second kind, because we infer it from something else
which we have perceived or of which we have immediate certainty. Thus we
believe man has a soul though we have never seen it because we infer its
presence from its activity, which we do see.

These three sources are universal. They are not peculiar to a given race
or religious denomination, though there are some persons who deny the
validity of some or all of them. We Jews believe in them and in still
another source of truth, namely, authentic tradition.[47]

Some think that a Jew is forbidden to speculate or philosophize about
the truths of religion. This is not so. Genuine and sincere reflection
and speculation is not prohibited. What is forbidden is to leave the
sacred writings aside and rely on any opinions that occur to one
concerning the beginnings of time and space. For one may find the truth
or one may miss it. In any case until a person finds it, he is without a
religious guide; and if he does find what seems to him the truth and
bases his belief and conduct upon it, he is never sure that he may not
later be assailed by doubts, which will lead him to drop his adopted
belief. But if we hold fast to the commandments of the Bible, our own
ratiocination on the truths of religion will be of great benefit to

Our investigation of the facts of our religion will give us a reasoned
and scientific knowledge of those things which the Prophets taught us
dogmatically, and will enable us to answer the arguments and criticisms
of our opponents directed against our faith. Hence it is not merely our
privilege but our duty to confirm the truths of religion by reason.[49]

Here a question presents itself. If the reason can discover by itself
the truths communicated to us by divine revelation, why was it necessary
to have recourse to the latter? Why was it not left to the reason alone
to guide us in our belief and in our conduct? The answer is, as was
suggested before, that human reason proceeds gradually and does not
reach its aim until the end of the process. In the meantime one is left
without a guide. Besides not everybody's reason is adequate to discover
truth. Some are altogether incapable of this difficult task, and many
more are exposed to harassing doubts and perplexities which hinder their
progress. Hence the necessity of revelation, because in the witness of
the senses all are equally at home, men and women, young and old.[50]

The most important fact of religion is the existence of God. We know it
from the Bible, and we must now prove it by reason. The proof is
necessarily indirect because no one of us has seen God, nor have we an
immediate certainty of his existence. We must prove it then by the
method of inference. We must start with something we do know with
certainty and proceed from it through as many steps of logical inference
as may be necessary until we reach the object of our search.[51]

The world and the things in it are directly accessible to our senses and
our judgment. How long has the world been in existence and how did it
come to be? The answers to these questions also we do not know through
our senses, and we must prove them by a chain of reasoning. There are
several possibilities. The world just as it is may have existed from
eternity. If so nobody made it; it just existed, and we have no proof of
God. The world in its present form might have proceeded from a primitive
matter. This hypothesis only removes the problem further back. For,
leaving aside the question how did this prime matter develop into the
complex world of our experience, we direct our attention to the prime
matter itself, and ask, Has it existed from eternity or did it come to
be? If it existed from eternity, then nobody made it, and we have no
proof of a God, for by God we mean an intelligent being acting with
purpose and design, and the cause of the existence of everything in
creation. The third alternative is that whether the world was developed
out of a primitive matter or not, it at any rate, or the primitive
matter, as the case may be, was made in time, that is, it was created
out of nothing. If so there must have been someone who created it, as
nothing can create itself. Here we have proof of the existence of God.
It follows therefore that we must first show that the world is not
eternal, that it came to be in time, and this is what Saadia does.

Here are some of his proofs. The world is finite in magnitude. For the
world consists of the earth, which is in the centre, and the heavens
surrounding it on all sides. This shows that the earth is finite, for an
infinite body cannot be surrounded. But the heavens are finite too, for
they make a complete revolution in twenty-four hours. If they were
infinite it would take an infinite time to complete a revolution. A
finite body cannot have an infinite power. This Saadia regards as
self-evident, though Aristotle, from whom this statement is derived,
gives the proof. Hence the force or power within the world which keeps
it going is finite and must one day be exhausted. But this shows also
that it could not have gone on from eternity. Hence the world came to be
in time.[52]

Another proof is based on the composite character of all things in
heaven and earth. Minerals, plants and animals are made up of parts and
elements. The heavens consist of spheres, one within the other. The
spheres are studded with stars. But composition implies a time when the
composition took place. In other words, the parts must have been there
first and somebody put them together. Hence the world as we see it now
is not eternal.[53]

A special form of composition, which is universal, is that of substance
and accident. Plants and animals are born (or sprout), grow and decay.
These manifestations are the accidents of the plant or animal's
substance. The heavenly bodies have various motions, lights and colors
as their accidents. But these accidents are not eternal, since they come
and go. Hence the substances bearing the accidents, without which they
cannot exist, are also temporal like them. Hence our world is not

Finally, past time itself cannot be eternal. For this would mean that an
infinite time has actually elapsed down to our day. But this is a
contradiction in terms. What is already accomplished cannot be infinite.
Infinity is possible only as a potentiality, for example, we may speak
of a given length as infinitely divisible. This merely means that one
may mentally continue dividing it forever, but we can never say that one
has actually made an infinite number of divisions. Therefore not merely
the world, but even time must have begun to be.[55]

It will be seen that the first three arguments prove only that the world
in the form which it has now is not eternal. The possibility is not yet
excluded of an eternal matter out of which the world proceeded or was
made. The fourth argument proves a great deal. It shows that nothing
which is subject to time can be eternal, hence not even prime matter.
God can be eternal because he is not subject to time. Time, as we shall
see later, cannot exist without motion and moving things, hence before
the world there was no time, and the fourth argument does not apply to
premundane existence.

To complete the first three arguments Saadia therefore proceeds to show
that the world, which we now know came to be in time, must have been
made by someone (since nothing can make itself), and that too out of
nothing, and not out of a pre-existing eternal matter.

If an eternal matter existed before the world, the explanation of the
origin of the world is open to two possibilities. One is that there is
nothing outside of this matter and the world which came from it. This is
absurd, for it would mean that an unintelligent dead thing is the cause
of intelligence and life in the universe. We must therefore have
recourse to the other alternative that someone, an intelligent being,
made the world out of the primitive, eternal matter. This is also
impossible. For if the matter is eternal like the maker of the world, it
is independent of him, and would not be obedient to his will to adapt
itself to his purpose. He could therefore not make the world out of it.

The only alternative left now is that the author of the universe is an
intelligent being, and that nothing outside of him is eternal. He alone
is responsible for the existence of the world, which was at one time
nothing. Whether he first created a matter and then from it the
universe, or whether he made the world outright, is of secondary

There is still a possibility that instead of making the world out of
nothing, God made it out of himself, _i. e._, that it emanated from him
as light from the sun. This, as we know, is the opinion of the
Neo-Platonists; and Israeli comes very close to it as we saw before (p.
6). Saadia is strongly opposed to any such doctrine.

It is unlikely, he says, that an eternal substance having neither form,
condition, measure, place or time, should change into a body or bodies
having those accidents; or that a wise being, not subject to change or
influence, or comprehensibility should choose to make himself into a
body subject to all of these. What could have induced a just being who
does no wrong to decree that some of his parts should be subject to such
evils as matter and material beings are afflicted with? It is
conceivable only in one of two ways. Either they deserved it for having
done wrong, or they did not deserve it, and it was an act of violence
that was committed against them. Both suppositions are absurd. The fact
of the matter is that the authors of this opinion to avoid the theory of
creation _ex nihilo_ went from the frying pan into the fire. To be sure,
creation out of nothing is difficult to conceive, but this is the reason
why we ascribe this power to God alone. To demand that we show how this
can be done is to demand that we ourselves become creators.[57]

The question what existed in place of the earth before it was created
evinces ignorance of the idea of place. By place is meant simply the
contact of two bodies in which the one is the place of the other. When
there is no earth and no bodies there is no such thing as place.

The same thing applies to time. Time means the persistence of existing
things in heaven and earth under changing conditions. Where there is no
world, there is no time. This answers the objection raised by some,
namely, how is it possible that before all these bodies were made time
existed void of objects? Or the other difficulty which is closely
related, viz., Why did not God create the world before he did? The
answer to both is, there was no before and there was no time, when the
world was not.

The following question is a legitimate one, Why did God create all
things? And our answer is, there was no cause which made him create
them, and yet they were not made in vain. God wished to exhibit his
wisdom; and his goodness prompted him to benefit his creatures by
enabling them to worship him.[58]

We have now proved the existence of God as the cause of the existence of
all things. We must now try to arrive at some notion of what God is as
far as this is in our power. God cannot be corporeal or body, for in our
proof of his existence we began with the world which is body and arrived
at the notion of God as the cause of all corporeal existence. If God
himself is corporeal our search is not at an end, for we should still
want to know the cause of him. Being the cause of all body, he is not
body and hence is for our knowledge ultimate, we cannot go beyond him.
But if God is not corporeal, he is not subject to motion or rest or
anger or favor, for to deny the corporeality of God and still look for
these accidents in him is to change the expression and retain the idea.
Bodily accidents involve body.[59]

The incorporeality of God proves also his unity. For what is not body
cannot have the corporeal attributes of quantity or number, hence God
cannot be more than one.[60] And there are many powerful arguments
besides against a dualistic theory.

A unitary effect cannot be the result of two independent causes. For if
one is responsible for the whole, there is nothing left for the other,
and the assumption of his existence is gratuitous. If the effect
consists of two parts of which each does one, we have really two
effects. But the universe is one and its parts cannot be separated.[61]
Again, if one of them wishes to create a thing and cannot without the
help of the other, neither is all-powerful, which is inconsistent with
the character of deity. If he can compel the other to help him, they are
both under necessity. And if they are free and independent, then if one
should desire to keep a body alive and the other to kill it, the body
would have to be at the same time alive and dead, which is absurd.
Again, if each one can conceal aught from the other, neither is
all-knowing. If they cannot, they are not all-powerful.[62]

Having proved God's existence, unity and incorporeality, he proceeds to
discuss his most essential attributes, which are, Life, Omnipotence, and
Omniscience. These easily follow from what was said before. We cannot
conceive a creator _ex nihilo_ unless he is all-powerful; power implies
life; and the thing made cannot be perfect unless its maker knows what
it is going to be before he makes it.

These three concepts our reason discovers with one act of its thinking
effort, for they are all involved in the concept, Maker. There is no
gradual inference from one to the other. The reason we are forced to use
three expressions is because of the limitations of language. Hence it
must not be thought that they involve plurality in God. They are simply
the implications of the one expression, Maker, and as that does not
suggest plurality in God's essence, but signifies only that there is a
thing made by the maker, so the three derivative terms, Living,
Omnipotent, Omniscient, imply no more.

The Christians erred in this matter in making God a trinity. They say
one cannot create unless he is living and wise, hence they regard his
life and his wisdom as two other things outside of his essence. But this
is a mistake. For in saying there are several attributes in him distinct
one from the other, they say in effect that he is corporeal--an error
which we have already refuted. Besides they do not understand what
constitutes proof: In man we say that his life and his knowledge are not
his essence because we see that he sometimes has them and sometimes not.
In God this is not the case. Again, why only three? They say essence,
life, wisdom; why do they not add power, or hearing and seeing? If they
think that power is implied in life, and hearing and seeing in wisdom,
so is life implied in wisdom.

They quote Scripture in their support, for example, the verse in II
Samuel (23, 2), "The _Spirit_ of the Lord spoke through me, and his
_Word_ was upon my tongue." "Word" denotes, they say, his attribute of
wisdom, and "Spirit" his life, as distinct persons. But they are
mistaken. The expressions in question denote the words which God puts
into the mouth of his prophets. There are other similar instances which
they cite, and in their ignorance of Hebrew take metaphorical
expressions literally. If they are consistent, they should add many more
persons in the Godhead, in accordance with the many phrases of the Bible
concerning the hand of God, the eye of God, the glory of God, the anger
of God, the mercy of God, and so on.[63]

The above discussion, as also that of Al-Mukammas (p. 19), shows clearly
the origin of the doctrine of attributes as well as its motive. Both
Al-Mukammas and Saadia and the later Jewish philosophers owed their
interest in this problem primarily to the Mohammedan schools in which we
know it played an important rôle (see Introduction, pp. xxiii, xxvi).
But there is no doubt that the problem originated in the Christian
schools in the Orient, who made use of it to rationalize the dogma of
the Trinity.

There is extant a confession of faith attributed to Jacob Baradæus
(sixth century), the founder of the Syrian Church of the Monophysites or
Jacobites, in which the phrase occurs that the Father is the Intellect,
the Son is the Word and the Holy Ghost is Life. In the works of Elias of
Nisibis of the Nestorian Church, who lived shortly after Saadia
(975-1049), we also find a passage in which the three expressions
essence, life and wisdom are applied to the three persons of the
Trinity. The passage is worth quoting. It reads as follows: "As the
essence of God cannot receive accidents, his life and his wisdom cannot
be accidents. But whatever is not accident is either substance or
person. Hence as the essence of the Creator and his life and his wisdom
are not three substances or three accidents, it is proved that they are
three persons."[64]

Monotheism was a fundamental dogma of the Mohammedan faith. Hence it was
necessary for their rationalizing theologians to meet the Trinitarians
with their own weapons and show that the multiplicity of the divine
attributes which they could not deny, since the Koran was authority for
it, does in no way affect God's unity. The problem was quite as
important for Judaism as it was for Islam, and for the same reason.
Hence Saadia's insistence that inadequacy of language is alone
responsible for our expressing God's essential attributes in the three
words, Living, Omnipotent, Omniscient; that in reality they are no more
than interpretations of the expression Maker.

We have now shown that God is one in the two important senses of the
word. He is one in the sense that there is no second God beside him; and
he is one in his own essence, _i. e._, he is simple and not composed of
parts. His Life and his Power and his Wisdom are not distinct one from
the other and from his essence. They are all one. We have also proved
God's incorporeality. Nevertheless Saadia is not satisfied until he has
shown in detail that God cannot be compared to man in any sense, and
that the anthropomorphic expressions in the Bible must not be taken
literally. In reference to Biblical interpretation Saadia makes the
general remark that whenever a verse of Scripture apparently contradicts
the truths of reason, there is no doubt that it is figurative, and a
person who successfully interprets it so as to reconcile it with the
data of sense or reason will be rewarded for it. For not the Bible alone
is the source of Judaism, Reason is another source preceding the Bible,
and Tradition is a third source coming after the Bible.[65]

In order to show that God is not to be compared to any other thing in
creation Saadia finds it convenient to use Aristotle's classification of
all existing things under the ten categories.[66] Everything that exists
is either a substance, or it is an accident, _i. e._, an attribute or
quality of a substance. Substance is therefore the first and most
important of the categories and is exemplified by such terms as man,
horse, city. Everything that is not substance is accident, but there are
nine classes of accident, and with substance they make up the ten
categories. The order of the categories as Aristotle gives them in his
treatise of the same name is, substance, quantity, quality, relation,
place, time, position, possession, action, passion. If these categories
include all existing things and we can prove that God is not any of
them, our object is accomplished. The one general argument is one with
which we are already familiar. It is that God is the cause of all
substance and accident, hence he is himself neither the one nor the
other. Scripture supports our view, as in Deuteronomy 4, 15: "Take ye
therefore good heed of yourselves; for ye saw no manner of form on the
day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the midst of the fire:
lest ye corrupt yourselves, and make you a graven image in the form of
any figure, the likeness of male or female, the likeness of any beast
that is on the earth, the likeness of any winged fowl that flieth in the
heaven; the likeness of anything that creepeth on the ground, the
likeness of any fish that is in the water under the earth: and lest thou
lift up thine eyes unto heaven, and when thou seest the sun and the moon
and the stars, even all the host of heaven, thou be drawn away," etc.
And tradition is equally emphatic in this regard. Our sages, who were
the disciples of the prophets, render the anthropomorphic passages in
the Bible so as to avoid an objectionable understanding. This is
particularly true of the Aramaic translation of the Targum.

Such terms as head, eye, ear, mouth, lip, face, hand, heart, bowels,
foot, which are used in relation to God in the Bible, are figurative.
For it is the custom of language to apply such terms metaphorically to
certain ideas like elevation, providence, acceptance, declaration,
command, favor, anger, power, wisdom, mercy, dominion. Language would be
a very inadequate instrument if it confined itself to the literal
meaning of the words it uses; and in the case of God we should be
limited to the statement that he is.

What was said of the nouns above mentioned applies also to other parts
of speech, such as verbs attributing human activity to God. Such phrases
as "incline thine ear," "open thine eyes," "he saw," "he heard," "he
spoke" are figurative. So the expression, "the Lord smelled," which
sounds especially objectionable, denotes acceptance.

The theophanies in the Bible, where God is represented under a certain
form, as in Ezekiel, Isaiah and Kings, do not argue against our view,
for there are meant specially created forms for the benefit and honor of
the prophet. This is what is meant by the "Glory of the Lord," and
"Shekinah." Sometimes it is simply a created light without an individual
form. When Moses asked to see God, he meant the created light. God
cannot be seen with the eye nor can he be grasped in thought or
imagination. Hence Moses could not have meant to see God, but the
created light. His face was covered so that he should not be dazzled by
the exceeding splendor of the beginning of the light, which is too much
for a mortal to endure; but later when the brightest part passed by,
the covering was taken off and Moses saw the last part of the light.
This is the meaning of the expression in Exodus 33, 23, "And I will take
away mine hand, and thou shalt see my back: but my face shall not be

Having treated of God as the creator of the world and having learned
something about his attributes, we must now proceed to the study of man,
or which is the same thing, to an investigation of God's relations to
the rational part of his creation in the sublunar world. That man is
endowed with a soul cannot be doubted, for the activities of man's soul
are directly visible. The problem which is difficult is concerning the
nature of the soul.[67] Here opinions differ, and some regard the soul
as an accident of the body, some think it is a corporeal substance like
air or fire, while others believe there is more than one soul in man. It
will be our task to vindicate our own view against these erroneous
ideas. The soul is too important in its functions to be an accident. It
is neither air nor fire because it has not the properties of these
bodies. And if the soul consisted of two or more distinct parts, the
perceptions of sense would not reach the reason, and there would be no
co-operation between these two powers. The true view is therefore that
the soul of man is a substance created by God at the time when the human
body is completed. The soul has no eternal existence before the body as
Plato thought, for nothing is eternal outside of God, as we saw before.
Nor does it enter the soul from the outside, but is created with and in
the body. Its substance is as pure as that of the celestial spheres,
receiving its light like them, but is much finer than the substance of
the spheres, for the latter are not rational, whereas the soul is. The
soul is not dependent for its knowledge upon the body, which without the
latter has neither life nor knowledge, but it uses the body as an
instrument for its functions. When connected with the body the soul has
three faculties, reason, spirit and desire. But we must not think with
Plato that these powers form so many divisions or parts of the soul,
residing in different parts of the body. All the three faculties belong
to the one soul whose seat is in the heart; for from the heart issue the
arteries, which give the body sense and motion.

The soul was put in the body because from its nature it cannot act by
itself; it must have the body as its instrument in order thereby to
attain to perfect happiness, for the soul's functions either purify or
defile it. When the soul leaves the body she can no longer repent; all
this must be done while she is in the body. Being placed in the body is
therefore a good for the soul. If she were left alone, there would be no
use in her existence or in that of the body, and hence the entire
creation would be in vain, which was made for the sake of man. To ask
why was not the soul made so as to be independent of the body is foolish
and tantamount to saying why was not the soul made something else than
soul. The soul is not in any way harmed by being with the body, for the
injury of sin is due to her own free will and not to the body. Moreover,
the body is not unclean, nor are the fluids of the body unclean while in
the body; some of them are declared in the Bible to cause uncleanness
when they leave the body, but this is one of those ordinances which, as
we shall see later, are not demanded by the reason for their own sake,
but are specially commanded for a different purpose. As for the
sufferings which the soul undergoes by reason of her connection with the
body, some are due to her own negligence, such as cold, heat, and so on,
others are inflicted by God for the soul's own good so that she may be
later rewarded.

We see here, and we shall learn more definitely later, that Saadia is
opposed to the view of the ascetics--a view Neo-Platonic in its
origin--that matter and body as such are evil, and that the constant
effort of man must be to free the soul from the taint of the body in
which it is imprisoned, and by which it is dragged down from its
pristine nobility and purity. Saadia's opposition to the belief in the
pre-existence of the soul at once does away with the Neo-Platonic view
that the soul was placed in the body as a punishment for wrongdoing. The
soul was created at the same time with the body, and the two form a
natural unit. Hence complete life involves both body and soul.

We have seen that God's creation of the world is due to his goodness.
His first act of kindness was that he gave being to the things of the
world. He showed himself especially beneficent to man in enabling him to
attain perfect happiness by means of the commandments and prohibitions
which were imposed upon him. The reward consequent upon obedience was
the real purpose of the commandments.[68]

The laws which God gave us through the prophets consist of two groups.
The first embraces such acts as our reason recognizes to be right or
wrong, good or bad, through a feeling of approval or disapproval which
God planted in our minds. Thus reason demands that a benefactor should
receive in return for his goodness either a kind reward if he needs it,
or thanks if he needs no reward. As this is a general demand of the
reason, God could not have neglected it in his own case, and hence the
commandments that we should serve him, that we should not offend or
revile him and the other laws bearing on the same subject.

It is likewise a demand of the reason that one should prevent the
creatures from sinning against one another in any way. Murder is
prohibited because it would lead to the destruction of the race and the
consequent frustration of God's purpose in creating the world.
Promiscuous association of the sexes is prohibited in order that man may
be different from the lower animals, and shall know his father and other
relatives that he may show them honor and kindness. Universal stealing
would lead to indolence, and in the end would destroy itself when there
is nothing more to steal. In a similar way we can explain all laws
relating to social dealings among mankind.

The second group of laws has reference to acts which are inherently
neither right nor wrong, but are made so by the act of God's commandment
or prohibition. This class may be called _Traditional_ in contrast to
the first, which we shall name _Rational_.

The traditional laws are imposed upon us primarily so that we may be
rewarded for obeying them. At the same time we shall find on careful
examination of these laws that they also have a rational signification,
and are not purely arbitrary. Thus the purpose of sanctifying certain
days of the year, like Sabbaths and holy days, is that by resting from
labor we may devote ourselves to prayer, to the acquisition of wisdom,
and to converse with our fellows in the interest of religion. Laws of
ceremonial purity have for their purpose to teach man humility, and to
make prayer and the visitation of holy places more precious in his eyes
after having been debarred from his privileges during the period of his

It is clear that we should not know how to perform the traditional
commandments without divine revelation since our own reason would not
have suggested them. But even in the case of the rational laws the
general principles alone are known to us from our own reason but not the
details. We know in general that theft, unchastity, and so on, are
wrong, but the details of these matters would lead to disagreement among
mankind, and hence it was necessary that the rational laws also be
directly communicated to us by divine messengers.

The divine messengers are the prophets.[69] They knew that their
revelations came from God through a sign which appeared at the beginning
of the communication and lasted to the end. The sign was a pillar of
cloud or of fire, or an extraordinary bright light, as we learn in the
case of Moses.

The genuineness of a prophet's message is tested first of all by the
nature of the content, and then by his ability to perform miracles. The
Israelites would not have believed Moses, notwithstanding his miracles,
if he had commanded them to commit murder or adultery. It is because his
teaching was found acceptable to the reason that the miracles
accompanying it were regarded as a confirmation of Moses's divine

The Jewish Law[70] contains three elements, all of which are necessary
for effective teaching. First, the commandments and prohibitions, or the
laws proper; second, the reward and punishment consequent upon obedience
and disobedience; and third, examples of historical characters in which
the laws and their consequences are illustrated.

But the written law would not accomplish its purpose without belief in
tradition. This is fundamental, for without it no individual or society
can exist. No one can live by what he perceives with his own senses
alone. He must depend upon the information he receives from others. And
while this information is liable to error either by reason of the
informant being mistaken or his possible purpose to deceive, these two
possibilities are eliminated in case the tradition is vouched for not by
an individual, but by a whole nation, as in the case of the Jewish

As Saadia's emphasis on tradition, apart from its intrinsic importance
for Judaism, has its additional motive in refuting Karaism, so the
following discussion against the possibility of the Law being abrogated
is directed no doubt against the claims of the two sister religions,
Christianity and Mohammedanism.[71]

Abrogation of the law, Saadia says, is impossible. For in the first
place tradition has unanimously held to this view, and in the second
place the Law itself assures us of its permanent validity, "Moses
commanded us a law, an inheritance for the assembly of Jacob" (Deut. 33,
4). The law constitutes the national existence of our people; hence as
we are assured by the Prophets that the Jewish nation is eternal, the
Law must be likewise. We must not even accept the evidence of miracles
in favor of a new law abrogating the old. For as we saw before, it was
not primarily Moses's miracles that served to authenticate his teaching,
but the character of the teaching itself. Now that the law of Moses
stood the test of internal acceptability and external confirmation by
the performance of miracles, its declaration of permanent validity
cannot be upset by any new evidence even if it be miraculous.

Man[72] alone of all created things was given commandments and
prohibitions, because he is superior to all other creatures by reason of
the rational faculty which he possesses, and the world was created for
him. Man's body is small, but his mind is great and comprehensive. His
life is short, but it was given him to assist him to the eternal life
after death. The diseases and other dangers to which he is subject are
intended to keep him humble and God-fearing. The appetites and passions
have their uses in the maintenance of the individual and the race.

If it is true that God gave man commandments and that he rewards and
punishes him according to his conduct, it follows that unless we
attribute injustice to God he must have given man the power to do and to
refrain in the matters which form the subject of the commandments. This
is actually the case and can be proven in many ways. Everyone is
conscious of freedom in his actions, and is not aware of any force
preventing him in his voluntary acts. The Bible testifies to this when
it says (Deut. 30, 19), "I have set before you life and death ...
therefore choose thou life," or (Malachi 1, 9), "From your hand has this
thing come." Tradition is equally explicit in the statement of the
Rabbis (Berakot 33b), "Everything is in the hands of God except the fear
of God." To be sure God is omniscient and knows how a given individual
will act in a given case, but this does not take away from the freedom
of the individual to determine his own conduct. For God's knowledge is
not the _cause_ of a man's act, or in general of a thing's being. If
that were so, all things would be eternal since God knows all things
from eternity. God simply knows that man will choose of his own free
will to do certain things. Man as a matter of fact never acts contrary
to God's knowledge, but this is not because God's knowledge determines
his act, but only because God knows the final outcome of a man's free

Since it is now clear from every point of view that God does not
interfere with a man's freedom of action, any passages in the Bible
which seem to indicate the contrary are not properly understood, and
must needs be interpreted in accordance with the evidence we have
adduced from various sources including the Bible itself. Thus when God
says (Exod. 7, 3) "I will harden the heart of Pharaoh," it does not
mean, as many think, that God forced Pharaoh to refuse to let Israel go.
The meaning rather is that he gave Pharaoh strength to withstand the
plagues without succumbing to them, as many of the Egyptians did. The
same method should be followed with all the other expressions in the
Bible which appear to teach determinism.

A man's conduct has an influence upon the soul, making it pure or impure
as the case may be.[73] Though man cannot see this effect, since the
soul is an intellectual substance, God knows it. He also keeps a record
of our deeds, and deals out reward and punishment in the world to come.
This time will not come until he has created the number of souls which
his wisdom dictates. At the same time there are also rewards and
punishments in this world as an earnest of what is to come in the

A man is called righteous or wicked according as his good or bad deeds
predominate. And the recompense in the next world is given for this
predominating element in his character. A righteous man is punished for
his few bad deeds in this world, and rewarded for his many good deeds in
the world to come. Similarly the wicked man is paid for his good deeds
in this world, while the punishment for his wickedness is reserved. This
answers the old problem of the prosperity of the wicked and the misery
of the righteous in this world.

There are also sufferings of the righteous which are not in the nature
of punishment for past conduct, but in view of the future so as to
increase their reward in the world to come for the trials they endured
without murmuring. The sufferings of little children come under this

On the other hand, a sinner is sometimes well treated and his life
prolonged for one of the following reasons: To give him time to repent,
as in the case of Manasseh; that he may beget a righteous son, like
Ahaz, the father of Hezekiah; to use him as God's tool to punish others
more wicked than he--witness the rôle of Assyria as Isaiah describes it
in chapter ten of his prophecies; for the sake of the righteous who is
closely related to him, as Lot was saved for the sake of Abraham; or in
order to make the punishment more severe later, as in the case of

That there is another world after this one in which man is rewarded and
punished can be proved from reason, from Scripture and from
tradition.[74] It is not likely from what we know of God's wisdom and
goodness that the measure of happiness intended for the soul is what it
gets in this world. For every good here is mixed with evil, the latter
even predominating. No one is really content and at peace in this world
even if he has reached the top of the ladder of prosperity and honor.
There must be a reason for this, which is that the soul has an
intuitional longing for the other world which is destined for it. There
are many things from which the soul is bidden to abstain, such as theft,
adultery, and so on, which it desires, and abstention from which causes
it pain. Surely there must be reward awaiting the soul for this
suffering. Often the soul suffers hatred, persecution and even death for
pursuing justice as she is bidden to do. Surely she will be rewarded.
Even when a person is punished with death for a crime committed in this
world, the same death is inflicted for one crime as for ten crimes.
Hence there must be another world where all inequalities are adjusted.

It is also evident that the men of the Bible believed in a hereafter.
Else why should Isaac have consented to be sacrificed, or why should God
have expected it? The same applies to Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah,
who preferred to be thrown into the fiery furnace rather than fall down
in worship before the golden image of Nebuchadnezzar; and to Daniel who
was thrown into the den of lions for disobeying the order of the king
and praying to God. They would not have done this if they did not
believe in another world, where they would be rewarded for their
sufferings in this one.

Tradition and the Rabbinical literature are filled with reference to a
future world. We need mention only one or two. In the Ethics of the
Fathers (ch. 4) we read that this world is like the vestibule to the
other world. Another statement in the Talmudic treatise Berakot (p. 17a)
reads that "in the world to come there is no eating and drinking, nor
giving in marriage, nor buying and selling, but the righteous sit with
their crowns on their heads and enjoy the splendor of the Shekinah."

With regard to the condition of the soul after death and the nature of
reward and punishment in the next world, there is a variety of opinions.
Those who hold that the soul is corporeal or that it is an accident of
the body believe it is destroyed with the death of the body. We have
already refuted their opinion. Others, like the Platonists, the Dualists
and the Pantheists, who believe in the pre-existence of the soul either
as a separate entity or as a part of God, hold that after the death of
the body the soul returns to its original condition. Our belief as
stated above (p. 37) is opposed to this. But there are some calling
themselves Jews who believe in metempsychosis, that the soul migrates
from one person to another and even from man to beast, and that in this
way it is punished for its sins and purged. They see a confirmation of
their view in the fact that some persons exhibit qualities which are
characteristic of lower animals. But this is absurd. The soul and the
body form a natural unit, the one being adapted to the other. A human
body cannot unite with the soul of an animal, nor an animal body with a
human soul. They try to account by their theory for the suffering of
little children, who could not have sinned in their own person. But we
have already explained that the suffering of children is not in the
nature of punishment, but with a view to subsequent reward, and they
must admit that the first placing of the soul in the body and giving it
commandments is not in the nature of compensation for any past merit,
but with a view to later reward. Why not then explain the suffering of
children in the same way?[75]

As the body and the soul form a natural unit during life and a man's
conduct is the combined effort of the two constituent parts of his
being, it stands to reason that future reward and punishment should be
imposed upon body and soul in combination. Hence the doctrine of the
resurrection of the body, which is alluded to in the Bible and made
into a religious dogma by the Rabbis, has support also in the
reason.[76] Many objections have been advanced against it, but they can
be easily answered. The strongest objection might seem to be that which
attempts to show that resurrection is a logical contradiction. The
argument is that the elements making up a given body during life find
their way after the death of the person into the body of another, to
which they are assimilated and of which they form a part. Hence it is
impossible to resurrect two bodies out of the material common to both.
But this argument is untrue to fact. Every human body has its own
matter, which never enters into the composition of any other body. When
the person dies and the body decomposes, each element returns to its
place in nature, where it is kept until the resurrection.

But there is another event which will happen to Israel before the time
of the resurrection. In accordance with the promises of the Prophets we
believe that Israel will be delivered from exile by the Messiah.[77]
Reason also supports this belief, for God is righteous, and since he has
placed us in exile partly as a punishment for wrongdoing, partly for the
purpose of trying us, there must be a limit to both.

Messiah the son of David will come, will deliver Jerusalem from the
enemy and settle there with his people. When all the believing
Israelites have been gathered from all the nations to the land of
Palestine, then will come the resurrection. The Temple will be rebuilt,
the light of the Shekinah will rest upon it, and the spirit of prophecy
will be vouchsafed to all Israel, young and old, master and servant.
This blessed period will last until the end of time, _i. e._, until this
world will give place to the next, which is the place of reward and

We describe the future habitation and status of the soul as Garden of
Eden (Paradise) and Gehenna.[78] The former expression is intended to
suggest happiness, there being nothing pleasanter in the world than a
garden. The term Gehenna is associated in the Bible with Tofteh, which
was a place of impurity not far from the Temple. In reality, however,
God will create a substance which will combine light and heat in such a
way that the righteous will enjoy the light only, while the wicked will
be tortured by the heat. All this Saadia infers from Biblical passages.

There will be no eating and drinking in the next world, and hence no
need of a heaven and an earth like ours, but there will be place and
time, since creatures cannot do without it. There will be no succession
of day and night, for these are of use only for our present life and
occupations, but will be unnecessary there. There will, however, be a
special period for worship.

Reward and punishment in the next world will both be eternal. It stands
to reason that God should _promise_ eternal reward and punishment so as
to inspire mankind with the highest possible degree of hope and fear,
that they may have no excuse for not heeding the commandments so
forcibly impressed upon them. Having made the promise, his justice
prompts him to fulfil it, and those who suffer have themselves to blame.

We have now completed in outline Saadia's system of Judaism. There are
many details which we necessarily had to leave out, especially in the
more dogmatic part of his work, that dealing with specific Jewish
doctrines, which he constructs on the basis of Rabbinical literature and
Biblical allusions interpreted so as to harmonize with the statements of
the Rabbis. Many questions specifically theological and eschatological
assumed importance in his mind by reason of his surroundings. I mean the
Mohammedan schools and sects, and the Karaite discussions which were
closely modelled after them. The most important part of his system
philosophically is that which deals with creation and the attributes of
God. His discussions of the soul and of free will are less thorough, and
the details of his doctrines of resurrection, future reward and
punishment, the redemption of Israel and the Messiah are almost purely
dogmatic. For a scientific ethic there is no room at all in the body of
his work. A man's conduct is prescribed for him in the divine
commandments, though in a general way the reason sees the right and the
wrong of the so-called rational group of laws. Still as an after thought
Saadia added a chapter to the "Emunot ve-Deot" in which he attempts to
give a psychological basis for human conduct. Noting the various
tendencies of individuals and sects in his environment to extremes in
human behavior, some to asceticism, some to self-indulgence, be it the
lust of love or of power, he lays emphasis on the inadequacy of any one
pursuit for the demands of man's complex nature, and recommends a
harmonious blending of all things for which men strive.[79]

God alone, he says, is a real unity, everything else is by the very
reason of its being a creature essentially not one and simple, but
composite and complex. So man has a love and desire for many things, and
also aversion for many things. And as in other objects in nature it
takes a combination of several elements to constitute a given thing, so
in man it is by a proper systematization of his likes and dislikes that
he can reach perfection of character and morals. It cannot be that God
intended man to pursue one object all his life to the exclusion of all
others, for in that case he would have implanted only one desire in man
instead of many. You cannot build a house of stones alone neither can
you develop a perfect character by one pursuit and one interest.

Pursuit of one thing is likely to result in harm, for example,
over-indulgence in eating brings on disease. Wisdom is therefore needed
in regulating one's conduct. The principle here is control of one's
likes and dislikes. Of the three faculties of the soul, reason, spirit
and desire, reason must be the master of the other two. If any matter
occurs to a person's imagination, he must try it with his reason to see
whether it is likely to benefit or injure him, and pursue or avoid it
accordingly. If, on the other hand, he allows the lower parts of his
soul to rule his reason, he is not a moral man.

The reader will recognize Plato in the last statement. The division of
the soul into the three faculties of reason, spirit and desire is
Platonic, as we have already seen, and the attempt to base an ethic on
the proper relation between the powers of the soul also goes back to
Plato. But Saadia tries to show that the Bible too favors this

When Ecclesiastes tells us (1, 14), "I have seen all the works that are
done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and a striving after
wind," he does not mean that there is nothing worth striving after, for
he would then be condemning the objects of God's creation. His meaning
is that it is vain to pursue any one thing to the exclusion of every
other. He then proceeds to name three prominent objects of pursuit,
wisdom, pleasure and worldly gain--all is vain when taken by itself. A
proper combination of all is to be recommended as is delicately hinted
in the same book (2, 3), "I searched in mine heart how to cheer my flesh
with wine, mine heart yet guiding me with wisdom, and how to lay hold on



I. _Joseph Al-Basir (11th century)_[80]

Joseph ben Abraham, euphemistically surnamed on account of his
blindness, al-Basir (the seer), was a Karaite and lived in Babylonia or
Persia in the beginning of the eleventh century. His philosophical work
is closely modelled on the writings of the Arabian Mutakallimun, the
Muʿtazilites. Unlike Saadia, who tacitly accepts some of their methods
and views, al-Basir is an avowed follower of the Kalam and treats only
of those questions which are common to Jew and Mohammedan, avoiding, for
example, so important an issue as whether it is possible that the law of
God may be abrogated--a question which meant so much to Saadia. The
division of his investigation into the two parts, Unity and Justice, is
a serious matter with him; and he finds it necessary to tell us in
several instances why he chose to treat a given topic under the one or
the other heading. In spirit and temperament he is a thoroughgoing
rationalist. Brief and succinct to the point of obscurity, he betrays
neither partiality nor emotion, but fearlessly pushes the argument to
its last conclusion and reduces it to its lowest terms.

Saadia (above p. 28) puts revelation as a fourth source of truth
parallel to sense, judgment and logical inference. To be sure he, in one
instance (p. 35), speaks of the reason as preceding the Bible even as
tradition follows it, but this is only a passing observation, and is
properly corrected by the view expressed elsewhere (p. 28) that while a
Jew is not forbidden to speculate, he must not set the Bible aside and
adopt opinions as they occur to him. Al-Basir does not leave the matter
in this unsettled condition. He definitely gives priority--logical
priority, to reason. Knowledge, he says, must precede revelation. The
prophet as the messenger of God cannot be believed on his word, for the
opponent may have the same claim. Not only must the prophet
authenticate his mission by the performance of a miracle which cannot be
explained by natural means, but we must know besides that he who sent
him has our good at heart and would not deceive us. A knowledge of the
existence, power and wisdom of the creator must therefore precede our
belief in the prophet's mission. To take these truths from the words of
the prophet and then give him credence because God sent him would be
reasoning in a circle. The minimum of knowledge therefore which is
indispensable before we can make any appeal to the words of the prophet
is rational proof of the existence, power and wisdom of God. Having this
minimum the person who is not practiced in speculative investigation may
rely for the rest of the creed, for example, the unity of God and his
other attributes, upon the words of the Bible. For if we know
independently that God is Omnipotent and Omniscient, and the prophet can
substantiate his claim to be a divine messenger by the performance of
genuine miracles, his reliability is established and we are safe in
accepting all that he has to say without proof; but the fundamental
thing to do is to establish the prophet's reliability, and for this an
independent source of evidence is necessary. This is the reason.

Our problem therefore is to prove the power and wisdom of God, which
will imply his existence. We cannot do this directly, for we cannot see
God. Hence the only method is to prove the existence of a powerful and
wise creator through his creation. We must prove his power in doing
things which we cannot do, such as the ability to create our bodies. But
for this it is necessary to show that our bodies--and the same will
apply to the other bodies of the world, and hence to the world as a
whole--were created, _i. e._, that there was a time when they were not.
This leads us to an analysis of the constituents of body. All bodies
consist of atoms and their "accidents," or conditions and qualities. The
primary accidents, which are presupposed by all the rest, are the
following four, combination, separation, motion and rest. Without these
no body can exist, for body is the result of a combination and
separation of atoms at rest or in motion. But combination and separation
are the acts of a combiner and separater, as we can infer from the
analogy of our own acts. Our acts have ourselves as their creators,
hence the acts visible in the combinations and separations of atoms to
form bodies must also have their creator.

The attributes of the creator we infer from the nature of his work. So
we call God "Powerful," meaning that he had the power to create the
world. As creation denotes power, so the success and harmony of the
product argues wisdom; and this power and wisdom thus established are
not disproved by an occasional production or event which is not perfect,
a monstrosity for example, or disease and suffering. We say in reference
to these that God must have a deeper object in view, to inspire mankind
with the fear of God, and in order to increase their reward in the next

The attribute of Life follows from the other two, for life denotes the
possession or capacity of power and knowledge.

Thus al-Basir has the same three essential attributes as Saadia. His
proof of the existence of God is also identical with one of the proofs
of Saadia. But he shows himself a more loyal follower of the Kalam by
frankly adopting the atomic theory, whereas Saadia opposes it (p. 25).

Other predicates of God are perception, will, unity, incorporeality and

Perception is one of the most important expressions of life, but it must
not be confused with knowledge or wisdom. The latter embraces the
non-existent as well as the existent, the former the existent only. It
is in virtue of the former attribute that we speak of God as "hearing"
and "seeing."

"Willing" is another attribute of God, and those are wrong who identify
God's will with his knowledge, and define God's willing to mean that his
works take place in accordance with his knowledge. God's will must be a
special attribute since we see in creation traces of free will. To be
the will of God it must not reside in anything different from God, and
yet it cannot inhere in God as the subject, for only body is capable of
being the subject of accidents. The only solution, therefore, is that
God exercises his voluntary activity through a will which he creates, a
will not residing in any subject.

This discussion of the nature of God's will seems a case of hair
splitting with a vengeance, and al-Basir is not the author of it. As in
his other doctrines so in this also he is a faithful follower of the
Muʿtazila, and we shall see more of this method in his discussion of the
unity of God despite the plurality of his attributes.

But we shall first take up the attributes of incorporeality and
eternity, which can be dismissed in a few words.

God is eternal because the only other alternative is that he is created.
But if so there is a creator, and if the latter is again created, he
must likewise have a creator, and so we are led to infinity, which
cannot be, the infinite regress being in all cases an impossibility
according to an axiom of the Kalam. We must, therefore, have an eternal
creator somewhere, and he is God.

From God's eternity follows his incorporeality, for we have shown before
that all body is created, since it presupposes combination and
separation, and the latter a combiner and separater.

When we speak of the unity of God we mean first that there is no second
God, and then that his own essence has no composition or plurality in
it. Two Gods is an absurdity, for the one might desire what the other
does not, and he whose will predominates is the real God. It is no
objection to say that in their wisdom they would never disagree, because
the _possibility_ is there, and this makes the above argument valid.
Again, if there were two Gods they would have to be completely alike in
their essential attributes, and as space cannot hold them apart, since
they are not bodies, what is there to constitute them two?

The other problem, of God's simplicity, is more difficult. Does not the
multiplicity of attributes make God's essence multiple and composite?
The form which this question took was this. Shall we say that God is
omnipotent through Power, omniscient through Knowledge, and so on? If
so, this Power, Knowledge, etc., are created or eternal. If the Power,
say, is created, then God must have had power in order to create it,
hence was powerful not through Power. If the Power is eternal, we have
more than one God, and "Power" as an eternal would also be Wise and
Living, etc.; Wisdom would also be powerful, living, etc., and so on
with the other attributes, a doctrine closely bordering on Christianity
and reminding one of Augustine. The principle of monotheism could not
allow such a conception as this. If Power is neither created nor
eternal, it follows that God is omnipotent not through Power as an
external cause or a distinct entity, but through his own essence. The
attributes Power, Wisdom, Life, are not anything distinguishable from
each other and from God's essence. They are modes or conditions of
God's essence, and are known along with it.

The same considerations which prompted us to conceive God as one and
simple, make impossible the belief in the eternity of God's word. This
was a point much discussed in the Mohammedan schools, and was evidently
directed against Christianity, where the Word or Logos was identified
with the second person in the Trinity. Eternity, Al-Basir says, is
incompatible with the idea and purpose of speech. God speaks with a word
which he creates. This adds no new predicate to God, but is implied in
his Power. The attribute omnipotent implies that when he wills he can
make himself understood by us as we do through speech.

We notice that Al-Basir is more elaborate in his discussion of the
attributes than Saadia, and like Al-Mukammas he makes use of the formulæ
of the Kalam, "omnipotent not with Power, omniscient not with Wisdom."
Saadia does not follow the Kalam so closely, but is just as emphatic in
his endeavor to show that the three essential attributes are only
verbally three; conceptually and really they are one.

The doctrine of the attributes brings to a close the section on unity,
and the second division of the investigation is entitled Justice and
Fairness. The main problems here are the nature of good and evil and the
relation of God to them, the question of free will and other subordinate
topics, theological and eschatological.

With regard to the first question two extreme positions are possible,
which were actually held by Mohammedan schools of Al-Basir's day. One is
that nothing is good or bad in itself, our reason not recognizing it as
such; that the divine command or prohibition makes the thing good or
bad. Hence, the representatives of this opinion say, God, who stands
above his commands and prohibitions, is not bound by them. Good and bad
hold for the subject, not for the author. The acts of God do not come
within the classification, and hence it is possible that God may do what
we regard as injustice. Some, in their endeavor to be consistent and to
carry the argument to its last conclusion, did not even shrink from the
_reductio ad absurdum_ that it is possible God may lie; for, said they,
if I promise a boy sweetmeats and fail to keep my promise, it is no
worse than if I beat him.

For this school there is no problem of evil, because ethical
distinctions do not apply to God's doings. Whatever God does is good.
The other school came under the influence of Greek thought and
identified the idea of God with the idea of the Good. They maintained
that from the nature of God's essence it was not only his duty to do the
good, but that it was impossible for him to do anything else. Doing good
is a necessity of his nature, and our good and evil are also his good
and evil. Ethical values are absolute and not relative.

Neither of these radical views can be maintained. The first is refuted
by its own consequences which only very few of its advocates were bold
enough to adopt. The possibility of God telling a falsehood, which is
implied in the purely human validity of good and evil, is subversive of
all religion. God would then cease to be trustworthy, and there would be
no reason for giving him obedience. Besides, if revelation alone
determines right and wrong, it would follow that if God chose to reverse
his orders, our moral judgments would be turned the other way around,
good would be evil, and evil good. Finally, if good and bad are
determined by the will of God only, those who do not believe in
revelation would be without an idea of right and wrong, but this is
manifestly not true.

But the other opinion, that God is compelled by the necessity of his
nature to do the good, is also erroneous. In the first place it detracts
from God's omnipotence to say he cannot do wrong. Besides, if he is
compelled by an inner necessity to do the good, he must always have done
this, and the world would have existed from eternity. It is just as
wrong to say that it is the duty of God to do what is good and useful
for man. For this is due to a confusion of the good or generous with the
obligatory. Any deed to which no blame attaches may be called good. If
no praise attaches to it either, it is indifferent. If it is deserving
of praise and its omission does not call forth blame, it is a generous
act. A duty is an act the omission of which deserves blame.

Now the truth in the question under discussion is midway between the two
extremes. God is able to do good as well as evil, and is under no
necessity. The notions of right and wrong are absolute and not merely
relative. God never does wrong because evil has no attractive power _per
se_. Wrong is committed always as a means to an end, namely, to gain an
advantage or avoid an injury. God is not dependent upon anything; he
needs no advantages and fears no injuries. Hence there is nothing to
prompt him to do wrong. The good on the other hand attracts us by its
inherent goodness, not for an ulterior end. If the good were done only
for the sake of deriving some benefit external to the good itself, God,
who is self-sufficient, would not do anything either good or evil. God
does the good always and not the bad, because in his wisdom he sees the
difference between them. It was a deed of generosity in God to have
created the world and given life to his creatures, but it was not a

This conception of the nature of good and evil leaves on our hands the
problem of evil. Why does a good God permit disease and suffering to
exist in the world? In particular, how explain the suffering and death
of innocent children and harmless animals?

The answer of Al-Basir is that infliction of pain may under certain
circumstances be a good instead of an evil. In human relations a person
is permitted to inflict pain on another in self-defence, or to prevent
the pain from becoming worse, as, for example, when a finger is
amputated to save the hand. The infliction of pain is not only
permitted, it becomes a duty in case of retribution, as in a court of
justice; and finally it is permitted to inflict temporary pain if it
will result in a greater advantage in the future. The last two cases
apply also to God's treatment of his creatures. Disease and suffering
are either punishment for offences committed, or are imposed with a view
to later reward. In the case of children the last explanation alone is
applicable. They will be rewarded in the next world. At the same time
the parents are admonished to repentance and good conduct.

The most difficult question of the section on justice is that of free
will and foreknowledge. Is man master of his actions? If so, how can we
reconcile this with God's omniscience, who knows beforehand how the
person will act at a given moment? Is man free to decide at the last
moment in a manner contrary to God's knowledge? If so, we defend freedom
at the expense of God's omniscience. If man is bound to act as God
foreknew he would act, divine knowledge is saved, man's freedom lost.
Al-Basir has no doubt man is free. Our own consciousness testifies to
this. When we cut off our finger bitten by a snake, we know that we
ourselves did it for a purpose, and distinguish it from a case of our
finger being cut off by order of an official, before whom we have been
accused or maligned. One and the same act can have only one author and
not two, and we know that we are the authors of our acts. There is a
much closer connection between an agent and his act than between a
knower and his knowledge, which may be the common property of many, and
no one doubts that a man's knowledge is his own.

The dilemma above mentioned with its two horns, of which one denies
God's knowledge, the other man's freedom, is puzzling enough, to be
sure. But we are not bound to answer it since it is purely hypothetical.
We do not know of a real instance in which a man's decision tended to be
contrary to God's foreknowledge of its outcome. Just as we should refuse
to answer the question whether an actual case of injustice on the part
of God would prove his ignorance or dependence, because we know through
irrefutable proofs that God is wise and without need; so here we say man
has freedom though God knows he will act thus and so, and refuse to say
whether in case the unbeliever turned believer it would prove God's
ignorance or change in his knowledge.

God's creation was a pure act of grace. But once having done this and
communicated to us a knowledge of himself and his will, it is now his
duty to guide us in the right path, by sending us his prophets. The
commandments and prohibitions must never be contrary to the knowledge of
reason. We must see in the commandments means of guidance, in the
prohibitions a protection against destructive influences. If they had
not this rational basis, we do not see why God should have imposed them
upon us.

Having given us reason to know his being, and having announced his truth
through the prophets, it is his duty to reward those who knew him and
were obedient, eternally in the next world, and to punish eternally the
unbeliever. If one has merits and sins, they are balanced against each
other. If the sinner repents of his evil deeds, it is the duty of God to
accept his repentance and remit his punishment.

2. _Jeshua ben Judah_[81]

Jeshua ben Judah or, as he is known by his Arabic name, Abu al-Faraj
Furkan ibn Asad, was likewise a Karaite, a pupil of Joseph Al-Basir,
and flourished in Palestine in the second half of the eleventh century.
His point of view is essentially the same as that of his teacher,
Al-Basir. He is also a follower of the Muʿtazilite Kalam and as strong a
rationalist as his master. He agrees with Al-Basir that we cannot get
certain knowledge of the creation of the world and the existence of God
from the Bible. This information must come originally from rational
speculation. It should then be applied to the miracles of the prophets
so as to prove the authenticity of their mission and the truth of their

He adopts the atomic theory, though he is opposed to the view that atoms
are created ever anew by God from moment to moment, and that there is no
natural and necessary sequence or continuity in the phenomena of the
world or qualities of bodies, all being due to habit, and custom induced
in us by God's uninterrupted creations. As in his philosophical
discussions he is a follower of the Kalam, so in his legalistic works he
is indebted to the Mohammedan schools of religious law.

Like Al-Basir, Jeshua ben Judah regards as the corner stone of his
religious philosophy the proof that the world was created, _i. e._, that
it is not eternal. His arguments are in essence the same, though
differently formulated. In their simplest form they are somewhat as
follows. The world and its bodies consist of atoms and their accidents.
Taking a given atom for the sake of argument we know that it is
immaterial to it, so far as its own essence is concerned, whether it
occupy one place or another. As a fact, however, it does occupy a
definite place at a given moment. This must be due to a cause. And as
the atom in question in the course of time changes its place, this shows
that the cause which kept it in the former place has disappeared and
given way to a new cause, and so on. In other words, the successive
causes which determine the positions and motions of the atoms are not
permanent, hence not eternal but created. The necessary inference is
that the atoms or the bodies, which cannot exist without these created
causes (else they could not occupy one place rather than another), must
also be created.

Another form of the argument for creation is this. The eternal has no
cause. It exists by virtue of its own essence, and is not dependent on
anything else. If now the atoms were eternal, they would have to persist
in the same condition all the time; for any change would imply a cause
upon which the atom is dependent, and this is fatal to its eternity. But
the atoms do constantly change their condition and place. Hence they are

If the things of the world are created, someone must have created them.
This is clear. But there may be room for the supposition that this
creative agency is a "_cause_," _i. e._, an impersonal entity, which by
necessity produces other things from itself. Hence we must hasten to say
that this conception of the Creator is impossible because incompatible
with our results so far. A necessarily producing cause cannot be without
creating, hence an eternal cause implies an eternal effect--which
contradicts our idea of a created world proved above. We say, therefore,
that the Creator is not a "cause" but an "agent," _i. e._, one acting
with will and choice.

God is incorporeal because body consists of atoms, and atoms, we have
shown, are created. Besides, if he were corporeal, he could not create
bodies any more than we can. He would furthermore be limited to a
definite place, and the same arguments cited above to prove that atoms
are dependent on a cause would apply to him. Finally we as corporeal
beings cannot exert an influence on objects except by coming in contact
with them. God causes the seed to grow without being in contact with it.
Hence he is not body, and the scriptural passages apparently teaching
the contrary must be explained otherwise.

Jeshua ben Judah likewise agrees with Al-Basir in regarding the nature
of good and evil as absolute, not relative. Like his master he opposes
those who make God's command and prohibition the sole creators of good
and evil respectively, as on the other hand he refuses to agree with the
view that God is bound by necessity to do the good. Our reason
distinguishes between good and evil as our senses between white and

Among other arguments in favor of the absolute character of right and
wrong, which we have already found in Al-Basir, appears the following.
If good and evil mean simply that which God commands and prohibits
respectively, and the distinction holds only for us but not for God, it
follows that God may do what we think is evil. If this be so, we have no
ground for believing in the good faith of the prophet--God might have
sent him to deceive us--and the alleged basis of right and wrong is

We conclude therefore that good and evil are absolute and are binding
upon God as well. God can do evil as well as good, but being omnipotent
he can accomplish his purpose just as easily by doing good as by doing
evil, and hence surely prefers to do good. Besides, all evil doing is
the result of some need, but God has no needs, being self-sufficient,
hence he does not do evil.

It follows from the above that God had a purpose in creating the world.
For an act without a purpose is vain and hence bad. This purpose cannot
have been egoistic, since God is without need, being above pleasure and
pain. The purpose must therefore have been the well-being of his



With Gabirol the scene of Jewish intellectual activity changes from the
east to the west. Prior to the middle of the tenth century the centre of
Jewish learning was in Babylonia. The succession of Geonim in the
Talmudical schools of Sura and Pumbadita, and particularly the great
fame of Saadia, made all the other Jewish communities of the world look
to Babylonia as the spiritual centre. They considered it a privilege to
contribute to the support of the great eastern academies and appealed to
their spiritual heads in cases of doubt in religious matters. Some of
this glory was reflected also upon the neighboring countries under
Mohammedan domination, Palestine, Egypt, and Kairuan or northern Africa
to the west of Egypt. Thus all the men, Rabbanites as well as Karaites,
whom we treated so far lived and flourished in the east in one of the
four countries mentioned. Christian Europe was intellectually on a low
level, and as far as scientific studies were concerned, the Jews under
Christian rule were no better than their temporal rulers.

But a new era dawned for Jewish literature with the accession to power
of the Umayyad caliph Abd al Rahman III, as head of Mohammedan Spain or
Andalusia. He was a liberal man and a patron of learning. Hasdai ibn
Shaprut, a cultured and high-minded Jew, was his trusted adviser, and
like his royal patron he protected and encouraged Jewish learning,
Talmudical as well as scientific. When Moses ben Enoch, a learned
emissary from the Babylonian Academy, was ransomed by the Jewish
community of Cordova and made the head of a Talmudical school in that
city, the beginning of the end of Babylonian Jewish supremacy was at
hand. Moses ben Enoch the Talmudist, Menahem ben Saruk, the grammarian
and lexicographer, and Dunash ben Labrat, the poet--all three under the
distinguished patronage of Hasdai ibn Shaprut--inaugurated the long line
of Spanish Jewish worthies, which continued almost five centuries,
constituting the golden era of Jewish literature and making of Spain
the intellectual centre of all Jewry.

Solomon ibn Gabirol was not merely the first Jewish philosopher in
Spain, he was the first Spanish philosopher, that is, he was the first
philosophical writer in Andalusia. Ibn Badja, the first Mohammedan
philosopher in Spain, was born at least a half century after Gabirol.
The birth of Gabirol is generally placed in 1021 and his death in 1058,
though some have put it as late as 1070.

The fate of Gabirol in the history of Jewish literature was a peculiar
one. Highly celebrated as a synagogal poet in the Sephardic as well as
Ashkenazic community, his fame as a great philosopher was early
overshadowed by his successors, and his chief work, the "Fountain of
Life," was in the course of time quite forgotten. The Arabic original
was lost and there was no Hebrew translation. The Tibbonides, Judah,
Samuel and Moses, who translated everything worth while in Jewish
philology, science and philosophy from Arabic into Hebrew, either did
not know of Gabirol's masterpiece or did not think it important enough
to translate. To judge from the extant fragments of the correspondence
between Samuel ibn Tibbon and Maimonides, it would seem that both were
true; that is that Samuel ibn Tibbon had no access to Gabirol's "Fons
Vitæ," and that if he had had such access, Maimonides would have
dissuaded him from translating it. Maimonides actually tells his
translator[82] that the only books worth studying are those of Aristotle
and his true commentators, Alexander of Aphrodisias, Themistius,
Averroes. Alfarabi and Avicenna are also important, but other writings,
such as those of Empedocles, Pythagoras, Hermes, Porphyry, represent a
pre-Aristotelian philosophy which is obsolete, and are a waste of time.
The books of Isaac Israeli on the "Elements" and on "Definitions," are
no better, seeing that Israeli was only a physician and no philosopher.
He is not familiar with the "Microcosmus" of Joseph ibn Zaddik, but
infers from a knowledge of the man that his work is based upon the
writings of the "Brothers of Purity"; and hence, we may add, not
strictly Aristotelian, and not particularly important. Not a word is
here said about Gabirol, apparently because Samuel ibn Tibbon had not
inquired about him. But from Maimonides's judgment concerning the works
of "Empedocles," we may legitimately infer that he would have been no
more favorable to Gabirol; for, as we shall see, Gabirol's system is
also based upon a point of view similar to that of the so-called
"Empedocles." What the Tibbonides left undone was, however, partially
accomplished about a half century later by the commentator and critic
Shem Tob Falaquera (1225-1290). Apparently in agreement with Abraham ibn
Daud that Gabirol's profuseness in his philosophic masterpiece made it
possible to reduce it to a tenth part of its size, Falaquera did not
find it necessary to translate the whole of the "Mekor Hayim" into
Hebrew, giving us instead a translation of selected parts, which in his
estimation contained the gist of Gabirol's teaching. The absence of a
complete Hebrew translation of Gabirol's philosophical work meant of
course that no one who did not know Arabic could have access to
Gabirol's "Mekor Hayim," and this practically excluded the majority of
learned Jews after the first half of the thirteenth century. But the
selections of Falaquera did not seem to find many readers either, as may
be inferred from the fact that so far only one single manuscript of this
translation is known.

_En revanche_, as the French would say, the Christian Scholastics of the
thirteenth century made Gabirol their own and studied him diligently.
His fundamental thesis of a universal matter underlying all existence
outside of God was made a bone of contention between the two dominant
schools; the Dominicans, led by Thomas Aquinas, opposing this
un-Aristotelian principle, the Franciscans with Duns Scotus at their
head, adopting it as their own. "Ego autem redeo ad sententiam
Avicembronis," is a formula in Duns Scotus's discussion of the principle
of matter.[83]

The translation of Gabirol's philosophy into an accessible language,
which was not considered desirable by Jews, was actually accomplished by
Christians. About a century before Falaquera a complete translation into
Latin was made in Toledo of Gabirol's "Fountain of Life," under the
title "Fons Vitæ." This translation was made at the instance of Raymond,
Archbishop of Toledo in the middle of the twelfth century, by Dominicus
Gundissalinus, archdeacon of Segovia, with the assistance of a converted
Jewish physician, Ibn Daud (Avendehut, Avendeath), whose name after
conversion became Johannes Hispanus or Hispalensis. Unlike the Hebrew
epitome of Falaquera this translation was not neglected, as is clear
from the rôle Gabirol's philosophy plays in the disputations of the
schools, and from the fact that there are still extant four manuscripts
of the complete translation, one of an epitome thereof, and there is
evidence that a fifth manuscript existed in 1375 in the Papal
library.[84] As Ibn Sina was corrupted by the Latin writers into
Avicenna, and Ibn Roshd into Averroes, so Ibn Gabirol became in turn,
Avencebrol, Avicembron, Avicebron; and the Scholastics who fought about
his philosophy had no idea he was a Jew and celebrated as a writer of
religious hymns used in the synagogue. He was regarded now as a
Mohammedan, now as a Christian.

This peculiar circumstance will help us to get an inkling of the reason
for the neglect of Gabirol's philosophy in the Jewish community. It is
clear that a work which, like the "Fons Vitæ," made it possible for its
author to be regarded as a Mohammedan or even a Christian, cannot have
had the Jewish imprint very deeply stamped upon its face. Nay more,
while the knowledge of its having been translated from the Arabic may
have been sufficient in itself to stamp the author as a Mohammedan,
there must have been additional indications for his Scholastic admirers
to make them regard him as a Christian. An examination of the work lends
some semblance of truth to these considerations.

Gabirol nowhere betrays his Jewishness in the "Fons Vitæ." He never
quotes a Biblical verse or a Talmudic dictum. He does not make any overt
attempt to reconcile his philosophical views with religious faith. The
treatise is purely speculative as if religious dogma nowhere existed to
block one's way or direct one's search. Abraham Ibn Daud, the author of
the philosophical treatise "Emunah Ramah" (The Exalted Faith), and the
predecessor of Maimonides, criticises Gabirol very severely, and that
not merely because he disagrees with him in the conception of matter and
finds Gabirol's reasoning devoid of cogency and logical force--many bad
arguments, he says, seem in the mind of Gabirol to be equivalent to one
good one--but principally because Gabirol failed to take a Jewish
attitude in his philosophizing, and actually, as Ibn Daud tells us,
maintains views dangerous to Judaism (below, p. 198).

This will easily account for the fact that Gabirol, celebrated as he was
as a poet, was lost sight of generally as a philosopher. The matter is
made clearer still if we add that his style in the "Mekor Hayim" is
against him. It is devoid of all merit whether of literary beauty or of
logical conciseness and brevity. It is diffuse to a degree and
frequently very wearisome and tedious. One has to wade through pages
upon pages of bare syllogisms, one more flimsy than another.

Finally, the point of view of Gabirol was that of a philosophy that was
rapidly becoming obsolete, and Maimonides, the ground having been made
ready by Ibn Daud, gave this philosophy its death-blow by substituting
for it the philosophy of Aristotle.

We now understand why it is that, with few exceptions here and there,
Gabirol's philosophical work was in the course of time forgotten among
the Jews, though his name Avicebron as well as some of his chief
doctrines were well known to the Scholastic writers. To be sure, even
students of Scholastic literature had no direct access to Gabirol's
treatise as it was never printed and no one knew whether there were
still any manuscripts of it extant or not. The only sources of
information concerning Avicebron's philosophy were Aquinas's
refutations, and Duns Scotus's defence, and other second-hand references
in the writings of the Scholastics. Who Avicebron was no one knew. It
was not until 1819 that Amable Jourdain,[85] in tracing the history of
the Latin translations of Aristotle, came to the conclusion that more
must be known about the philosophy of Avicebron's "Fons Vitæ" if we
intended to understand the Scholastics. In 1845 Solomon Munk discovered
in the national library at Paris the epitome of Falaquera mentioned
above, and comparing it with the views of Avicebron as found in the
discussions of the Scholastics, made the important discovery that the
mysterious Avicebron was neither a Mohammedan nor a Christian but a Jew,
and none other than the famous poet Solomon ibn Gabirol. Then began a
search for copies of a Latin translation, which was rewarded amply. Both
Munk and Seyerlen discovered manuscript copies of the "Fons Vitæ," and
now both the Hebrew epitome of Falaquera and the Latin translation of
Gundissalinus are accessible in print.[86] So much for the interesting
history of Gabirol. Now a word as to his views.

Shem Tob ibn Falaquera, in the brief introduction which he appends to
his epitome of the "Mekor Hayim" says, "It seems to me that Solomon ibn
Gabirol follows in his book the views of the ancient philosophers as we
find them in a book composed by Empedocles concerning the 'Five
Substances.'[87] This book is based upon the principle that all
spiritual substances have a spiritual matter; that the form comes from
above and the matter receives it from below, _i. e._, that the matter is
a substratum and bears the form upon it." He then adds that Aristotle
attributes a similar view to his predecessors, but that this view is
inconsistent with Aristotle's own thinking. For in his opinion what is
material is composite and possessed of potentiality. Hence only those
things have matter which are subject to generation and decay, and in
general change from one state to another.

Without going into detail as to the nature of this work of Empedocles
named by Falaquera as the source of Gabirol's views--expositions of
these so-called Empedoclean views and fragments from Empedocles's book
have been found in Arabian and Hebrew writers[88]--it is sufficient for
us to know that it has nothing to do with the real Empedocles, the
ancient Greek philosopher; that it was another of the many spurious
writings which circulated in the middle ages under famous names of
antiquity; and that like the "Theology of Aristotle," and the "Liber de
Causis," mentioned in the Introduction (p. xx), it was Neo-Platonic in

Thus Gabirol was a Neo-Platonist. This does not mean that he did not
adopt many important Aristotelian conceptions. Neo-Platonism itself
could not have arisen without Aristotle. The ideas of matter and form,
and potentiality and actuality, and the categories, and so on, had
become the fixed elements of philosophical thinking, and no new system
could do without them. In this sense Plotinus himself, the founder of
Neo-Platonism, is an Aristotelian. When we speak of Gabirol as a
Neo-Platonist, we mean that the essence of his system is Neo-Platonic.
He is not a dualist, but a monist. God and matter are not opposed as two
ultimate principles, as they are in Aristotle. Matter in Gabirol is
ultimately identified with God. In this he goes even beyond Plotinus.
For whereas in Plotinus matter occupies the lowest scale in the
gradation of being as it flows from the One or the Good (_cf._
Introduction, p. xxxviii), and becomes equivalent to the non-existent,
and is the cause of evil, in Gabirol matter is the underlying substance
for all being from the highest to the lowest, with the one exception of
the Creator himself.[89] It emanates from the essence of the Creator,
forming the basis of all subsequent emanations.[90] Hence the spiritual
substances of the celestial world, or, to use a more technical and more
precise term--since spirit is not located in heaven or anywhere
spatially--the intelligible world, have matter underlying their
form.[91] In fact, matter itself is intelligible or spiritual, not
corporeal.[92] Corporeality and materiality are two different things.
There are various gradations of matter, to be sure; for the prime matter
as it emerges from the essence of the Creator pervades all existence
from highest to lowest, and the further it extends from its origin the
less spiritual and the more corporeal it becomes until in the sublunar
world we have in the matters of its particular objects, corporeal
matter, _i. e._, matter affected with quantity and magnitude and figure
and color.[93] Like Plotinus, Gabirol conceives of the universe as a
process of a gradually descending series of existences or worlds, as the
Kabbalistic writers term them; these cosmic existences radiating or
flowing out of the superabundant light and goodness of the Creator. The
two extremes of this graded universe are God at the one end, and the
corporeal world at the other. Intermediate between these are the
spiritual substances, Intelligence, Soul and Nature.[94] Man as a
microcosm, a universe in little, partakes of both the corporeal and
intermediate worlds, and hence may serve as a model of the constitution
of the macrocosm, or great universe. His body is typical of the
corporeal world, which consists of the lowest matter, viz., that which
has no other form except that of corporeality, or extension, and the
forms of figure, color, and so on, borne on top of the extension.[95]

Body as such is at rest and is not capable of action. To act it needs an
agent. Hence it needs an agency to compose its parts and hold them
together. We call this agency Nature. Man's body also grows, is
nourished and propagates its kind as do plants. This likewise must have
its non-corporeal cause. This we call vegetative soul. Man has also
sense perception and local motion like the animals. The principle or
substance causing this is the animal soul. Man also thinks and reasons
and reflects. This is brought about by the rational soul. Finally, man
has a still higher function than discursive thought. The latter has to
search and to pass from premise to conclusion, whereas the apprehension
of the intelligence takes place "without seeking, without effort, and
without any other cause except its own essence, because it is full of
perfection." In other words, it is immediate intellectual intuition of
which Gabirol speaks here. The Intelligence is capable of this because
it has in itself, constituting its essence, all the forms of existence,
and knowledge means possession of the forms of the things known.

As man is typical of the universe, it follows that there are cosmic
existences corresponding to the principles or powers just enumerated in
man, and the relation of the latter to the former is that of the
particular to the general. Hence there is a cosmic Intelligence, a
cosmic soul embracing the rational, the animal and the vegetative parts,
and a cosmic nature. Of these the more perfect is the cause of the less
perfect; hence the order in which we named them represents the order of
causation or of emanation from the prime source.

The lowest of these emanations is the matter which sustains extension or
magnitude, and with it the process ceases. This matter is no longer the
source of an additional form of existence. The various qualities and
attributes which inhere in this corporeal matter are caused by the
spiritual substances above. For like the prototype of all generosity and
goodness the First Essence or God, every one of the spiritual substances
proceeding from him has the same tendency of imparting its form or forms
to the substance next below it. But the forms thus bestowed are no
longer the same as they are in the essence of the bestowing substance,
as it depends upon the recipient what sort of form it will receive. An
inferior receiving substance will receive a superior form in an inferior
way. That is, the form which in the substance above the one in question
is contained in a spiritual and unitary manner, will be transformed in
the substance below it into something less spiritual, less unified, and
more nearly corporeal, _i. e._, visible and tangible. Hence the visible
and tangible, and in general the sensible qualities of particular things
in the sublunar world, are in reality descended from a line of spiritual
ancestors in the forms of the simple substances, Intelligence, Soul and
Nature. But it is their distance from the prime source, which increases
with every transmission of influence, together with the cruder nature of
the receiving substance, that makes the resulting forms corporeal and
sensible. The matter may be made clear if we use the analogy of light,
which is invisible as long as it is in air because it penetrates it,
but becomes visible when it comes in contact with a gross body which it
cannot penetrate. It then remains on the surface condensed, and becomes
visible to the senses.

We thus see that the higher substance acts upon the lower and contains
all that is found in the latter, though in a more perfect and simple
manner. The lower substances flow from the higher and yet the latter are
not diminished in their essence and power.[96]

That ordinary material objects are composed of matter and form is
admitted and we need not now prove it, as we have already discussed the
subject in the Introduction, where we gave an outline of the
Aristotelian philosophy. The principle peculiar to Gabirol is that not
merely the material objects of the sublunar world, but that the
intelligible or spiritual substances also are composed of matter and
form.[97] Whenever two things have something in common and something in
which they differ, that which they have in common is the matter, that in
which they differ is the form. Two things absolutely simple must be
prime to each other, _i. e._, they must have nothing in common, for if
they have anything in common they have everything in common, and they
are no longer two things but one. Hence a spiritual substance must be
composite, for it must have something by which it differs from a
corporeal substance, and something, viz., substantiality, which it has
in common with it. In the same way the intelligible substances,
Intelligence and Soul, have their substantiality in common, and they
differ in form. Hence they are composed of matter and form, and the
matter must be the same in all the intelligible substances; for their
differences are due to their forms, hence if their matters also
differed, they would have to differ in form, but matter as such has no
form. Hence matter in itself is everywhere the same.

As the Intelligence is the highest existence next to God, and is
composed of matter and form, these are respectively the universal matter
and universal form, embracing all subsequent matters and forms.[98]
Hence the Intelligence in knowing itself knows everything, as everything
is contained in it. And as it is prior to everything and the cause of
everything it has an immediate knowledge of all things without effort or

But what is the origin of universal matter and universal form which, in
constituting Intelligence, are the fundamental principles of all
existence?[99] The answer is they come from the First Essence, God.
Unity comes before duality or plurality, and there is no true unity
except in God. Whatever issues from him is _ipso facto_, as a product
which is not God, affected with duality. Matter and Form is this
duality. Their union is necessary and real, and it is only in thought
that we can keep them apart. In reality they form a unit, their union
varying in perfection according as they are nearer or further away from
their origin. Hence the union is closest in Intelligence, the first
divine emanation, and least close in corporeal objects of the sublunar
world, where plurality is the order of the day.

This process by which universal matter and form issue from God may be
called creation.[100] But we must conceive of it on the analogy of water
flowing from a fountain in continued and uninterrupted succession. The
only difference is that the emanation from God takes place without
motion and without time.

The union of universal form and universal matter must be thought of as a
stamping of the form upon the matter. Matter has in itself no actual or
definable existence. It serves merely as a _tabula rasa_, as a potential
background, as an empty receptacle, as a reflecting mirror for form to
be written, filled out, impressed or reflected therein or upon. Hence we
may view God as the spectator, universal matter as the mirror, and
universal form as the reflection of the spectator in the glass. God
himself does not enter the glass, only his reflection is outlined
therein. And as matter and form are really the whole world, it would
follow that the universe is a reflection of God, though God remains in
himself and does not enter the world with his essence.

We may also picture to ourselves this impression of form upon matter on
the analogy of speech. The speaker's words impress ideas upon the soul
of the listener. So God speaks and his Word or Will impresses form upon
matter. The world is created by the Word or the Will[101] of God.

In all these similes matter appears as something external to God, upon
which he impresses form. But this is not strictly true, since matter has
no real existence without form, and has never so existed. The existence
of matter and form is simultaneous, and both come from God, matter from
his essence, form from his attribute, or his Wisdom, or his Word, or his
Will. And yet in God, who is a perfect unity, essence and attribute are
one. It is the Will of God, not God himself, that must be regarded as
the spectator, whose outline is reflected in the mirror of matter in the
above simile. It is the Will of God that writes form upon the chart of
matter, and thereby produces a world. It is in virtue of the Will that
God is said to be in everything.

But what is this will of God as distinguished from God himself, since in
God there can be no duality of any kind? Gabirol's answer is not clear
or satisfactory. The will, he says, is identical with God if we consider
it apart from its activity; considered as active it is different from
the divine essence. Exactly to describe it is impossible, but the
following is an approximation. It is a divine power producing matter and
form, binding them together, pervading them throughout their extent
above and below, as the soul pervades the body, and moving and ordering

God himself, or the First Essence, can be known only through the Will as
pervading everything, _i. e._, through his effects in the world. And in
this way too only his existence can be known but not his essence as he
is in himself, because God is above everything and infinite. The soul
may know Intelligence because though the latter is above the soul there
is some similarity between them. But the First Essence has no similarity
to Intelligence, therefore no intelligence can know it.

There is a kind of mystic knowledge by which man may come in touch with
the spiritual substances and rise even to universal matter, which is
above Intelligence. "If you wish to form a picture of these substances,"
the master says to the disciple in the "Fons Vitæ," "you must raise your
intellect to the last intelligible, you must purify it from all sordid
sensibility, free it from the captivity of nature and approach with the
force of your intelligence to the last limit of intelligible substance
that it is possible for you to comprehend, until you are entirely
divorced from sensible substance and lose all knowledge thereof. Then
you will embrace, so to speak, the whole corporeal world in your being,
and will place it in one corner of your soul. When you have done this
you will understand the insignificance of the sensible in comparison
with the greatness of the intelligible. Then the spiritual substances
will be before your eyes, comprehending you and superior to you, and you
will see your own being as though you were those substances. Sometimes
it will seem to you that you are a part of them by reason of your
connection with corporeal substance; and sometimes you will think you
are all of them, and that there is no difference between you and them,
on account of the union of your being with their being, and the
attachment of your form to their forms." The pupil assures the teacher
that he has followed this advice and seen the whole corporeal world
floating in the spiritual substances as a small boat in the sea, or a
bird in the air. "When you have raised yourself to the first universal
matter," replies the teacher, "and illumined its shadow, you will see
there the wonder of wonders. Pursue this therefore diligently and with
love, because this is the purpose of the existence of the human soul,
and in this is great delight and extreme happiness."[102]

But Gabirol does not promise a knowledge of the Most High even through
this royal road of ecstasy, unless we suppose that in the promise of
seeing in universal matter the wonder of all wonders there may be a
covert allusion to a glimpse of the deepest secret of all, the essence
of God.

All knowledge is according to Gabirol embraced in the following three
topics, (1) Matter and Form, (2) the Active Word or Will, (3) the First
Essence or God. By far the larger part of the "Fons Vitæ" is devoted to
the first subject. Only brief hints are given of the second and third,
and Gabirol refers us to a special work of his on the Will, which he
says he wrote. There is no trace of any such treatise. At any rate it is
clear from the little that is contained on the Divine Will in the "Fons
Vitæ" that the Will forms an important element in Gabirol's philosophy.
This is the more remarkable because it is not an essential element in
Neo-Platonism, upon which Gabirol's system is based. Nay, the doctrine
of a divine will scarcely has any place in the form of emanation taught
by Plotinus. The cosmic process is conceived there as necessary and
impersonal. And but for the introduction of the Will in the "Fons Vitæ"
we should be forced to understand Gabirol in the same way. The
difficulty in Neo-Platonism is that God is at the same time transcendent
and, through his powers or emanations, immanent in the world. God is
above all being and at the same time is the cause of and pervades all
existence. Gabirol must have felt not merely this purely philosophical
difficulty, but as a Jew, Pantheism as well as impersonalism must have
been objectionable to him. Hence he mitigates both by introducing the
divine will as mediating between God and the world. This brings God in
closer and more personal touch with his creation. The cosmic process is
not a necessary and impersonal flow or radiation but a voluntary
activity having a purpose. The solution is unsatisfactory, as all such
solutions are bound to be, because it introduces as many difficulties as
it solves. The nature of this divine Will is ambiguous. If it is God's
will, and God is the One in whom there can be no distinctions, we have
only a new word, and nothing is solved. If on human analogy we are
inclined to take the will seriously, we are endangering God's unity.
This dilemma Gabirol does not succeed in removing. His system still has
a strong flavor of Pantheism, and moreover his identification of the
Will of God with the Wisdom and the Word of God, and his hypostatization
of the latter as in a sense a being distinct from God, reminds us
strongly of Philo's Logos, which became the Logos of Christianity, the
second person in the Trinity. This is the reason why William of
Auvergne, bishop of Paris in the thirteenth century, regarded Avicebron
as a Christian. And these same reasons were no doubt adequate to
estrange Jewish readers, as Abraham ibn Daud expressly tells us about
himself, though his terms are general (see above, p. 62).

Gabirol is also the author of an ethical work which he composed in 1045.
Though of little importance philosophically, or perhaps because of this,
the "Tikkun Middot ha-Nefesh" (Improvement of the Qualities of the Soul)
fared much better than its more important companion, the "Mekor Hayim."
Not only did it have the privilege of a Hebrew translation at the hands
of the father of translators, Judah ibn Tibbon, but the original Arabic
itself is still extant and was recently published with an English
translation by Stephen S. Wise (1901).[103] The Hebrew translation also
had the good fortune of being reprinted several times. This is due to
the fact that the "Tikkun Middot ha-Nefesh" is a popular work, dealing
with morals, and does not go into metaphysical questions. It is full of
Biblical citations, which stamps it as Jewish; and there are also in it
quotations from Arabic writers serving to illustrate the argument and
lending variety and interest to the style.

The larger question of the aim of human life is touched on in the "Fons
Vitæ." We are told there that the ultimate aim of man's existence is
that the soul should unite with the upper world to which it
belongs.[104] The particular human soul is according to Gabirol a part,
though not in a physical sense, of the cosmic soul, which is one of the
universal spiritual substances (see above, p. 66). Hence its own real
existence is spiritual and eternal, and independent of the body. Its
entrance into the body obscures its spiritual vision, though it does not
lose all touch with the higher world from which it came. The senses and
the data of sense perception are not an end in themselves; they are only
a means for the soul through them to recall the higher knowledge which
was its own in its spiritual existence, and thereby win its return to
the intelligible world. Man's duty therefore in this world is to strive
to attain this higher life for his soul. This is brought about by means
of _knowledge_ and _practice_. This knowledge has to do with knowing all
things as they really are, and particularly the intelligible substances
and the Prime Essence. Practice signifies to keep away as far as
possible from things of sense, which are foreign to the soul and might
injure it. What more particularly the things are which are beneficial to
the soul, and what are injurious, we learn from Gabirol's ethical
treatise. Man's soul has a higher and a lower nature. The higher power
is the reason or rational soul, the lower is the animal or vegetative
soul; and man's business is to see that the reason rules over the lower

Gabirol does not give us any test by which we can tell whether a given
act or feeling belongs to the lower or higher nature except to say that
the appetites are diseases of the body which must be cured; that they do
not belong to the rational soul, and to satisfy them is not the
attainment of a good. Gabirol's method of treating virtue and vice, or
rather the virtues and the vices, is to relate them to the five senses
and the four humors in man, which in turn correspond to the four
elements, fire, air, water, earth, and the four primitive qualities,
hot, cold, moist, dry. This division of the elements, the humors, the
qualities and the senses was a commonplace of the physiological and
medical science of the time. We have met it in Isaac Israeli (see above,
p. 3), and it goes back to Aristotle and Galen and Hippocrates. The
originality, though a queer one to be sure, of Gabirol is to bring the
ethical qualities of man into relation with all these. The
approximations are forced in every instance and often ludicrous. Instead
of attempting to give a psychological analysis of the qualities in
question, he lays stress on their physical basis in one of the five
senses, as we shall see presently.

The great world, we are told, was created out of the four elements, and
similarly man, the microcosm, also consists of four natures
corresponding to the elements. Thus the four humors, upon the harmonious
combination of which the health of man's body depends, viz., blood,
phlegm, black gall, and red gall, correspond respectively to air, water,
earth, fire. Man is endowed besides with five senses. If he is wise he
will use his senses properly and in the right measure, like a skilful
physician who calculates carefully what proportion of each drug should
be prescribed.

The sense of sight is the noblest of the senses, and is related to the
body as the sun to the world. The philosophers have a wonderful saying
concerning the eye that there are spiritual tints in the soul which are
visible in the movements of the eyelids--pride and haughtiness, humility
and meekness. Accordingly the ethical qualities due to the sense of
sight are pride, meekness, modesty and impudence, besides the
subordinate qualities derived from these.

Pride is common in a person of a warm disposition in whom the red gall
predominates. Many wise men exhibit this quality out of place, fools
adopt it until they are mastered by it, and it is prevalent in youth. It
may be useful when it keeps a man away from vice and unworthy things,
inspiring him to rise to nobility of character and the service of God.
But generally it is useless and leads to many evils, especially if it
causes one to be self-opinionated, refusing to seek the advice of
anyone. When a man sees this quality gaining mastery over him, he should
consider the origin and end of existing things. When he sees that all
things are destined to pass away, and himself likewise, his pride will
change to humility.

Meekness is closer to virtue than the quality mentioned before, because
he who possesses it withholds his desire from seeking gratification. It
is a quality manifested by the prophets and leads to honor. "The fruits
of lowliness," a philosopher has said, "are love and tranquillity."
Contentment is of a kind with meekness. The greatest riches are
contentment and patience. He who esteems his rank but lightly enhances
man's estimation of his dignity. A wise man has said, "Be humble without
cringing, and manly without being arrogant. Arrogance is a wilderness
and haughtiness a taking refuge therein, and altogether a going astray."

Modesty is connected with humility but is superior to it, for it is a
sister of reason, and reason, as everybody knows, is the most important
quality, which separates man from beast and brings him near to the
angels. You never see a modest person without sense, or a person of good
sense who is not modest. A man must be modest not only before others but
also to himself. Modesty and faithfulness, it is said, are closely
related, and the one cannot be had truly without the other.

The impudent man is disliked by God and by man, even if he be wise and
learned. If one has this quality it is the duty of his friend and
associate to break him of it by reproving him. It is of value only when
used in defence of the Torah and in behalf of God and the truth.

Space will not permit us to treat in detail of the other senses and the
virtues and vices depending upon them, but we shall indicate briefly
Gabirol's method of relating the ethical qualities to the physical

Thus the sense of hearing, which is next in importance to sight has as
its qualities hate, love, mercy and cruelty. It takes some fine insight,
he says, to see the connection of these qualities with the sense of
hearing, but the intelligent and discerning reader will find this hint
sufficient. I hope he will not blame me, Gabirol continues, if I do not
bring together all the reasons and the scriptural passages to prove
this, for human flesh is weak, especially in my case on account of my
vexatious experiences and disappointments. We find in the Bible love
associated with hearing: "_Hear_, O Israel ... and thou shalt _love_ the
Lord thy God" (Deut. 6, 4). Hate follows hearing in the phrase: "When
Esau heard the words of his father ... and Esau hated Jacob" (Gen. 27,
34-41). Mercy is related to hearing in Exod. (22, 26), "And I will hear
for I am merciful." Finally cruelty is to refuse to listen, as we find
in the case of Pharaoh (Ex. 9, 12), "And the Lord hardened the heart of
Pharaoh, and he hearkened not unto them."

In a similar manner Gabirol proves that the sense of smell has four
qualities, anger, favor, envy, wide-awakeness; the sense of taste, the
four qualities, joy, sorrow, regret, calmness; while liberality,
niggardliness, courage and cowardice are related to the sense of touch.

The relation of the ethical qualities to the senses, humors, elements
and primitive physical qualities is exhibited in the following table, as
it appears in the Arabic text of the "Aslah al-Ahlak," the original
title of Gabirol's ethical work.


Among Gabirol's religious poems there is one which interests us
particularly because it bears traces of the philosophy of the "Fons
Vitæ." It is the most important of his hymns and is found in the
prayer-book of the Sephardic ritual for the Day of Atonement. "The Royal
Crown," as the poem is entitled, is an appeal to God for mercy and
forgiveness, and is based upon the contrast between the greatness of God
and the insignificance of man. The first part is therefore devoted to a
poetical description of God's attributes and the wonders of the cosmic
system, as conceived in the astronomical science of the day. A few
quotations will give us an idea of the style and character of the hymn
and its relation to the "Fons Vitæ."

"Thine are the mysteries, which neither fancy nor imagination can
comprehend; and the life, over which dissolution hath no power. Thine is
the _Throne_ exalted above all height; and the habitation concealed in
the eminence of its recess. Thine is the existence, from the shadow of
whose light sprung every existing thing; of which we said, under its
protecting shadow shall we live....

"Thou art One, the first of every number, and the foundation of all
structure. Thou art One, and in the mystery of the Unity all the wise in
heart are astonished; for they cannot define it. Thou art One, and thy
Unity can neither be lessened nor augmented; for nothing is there
wanting or superfluous. Thou art One, but not such a one as is estimated
or numbered; for neither plurality, nor change, form, nor physical
attribute, nor name expressive of thy quality, can reach thee...."

In the same way he treats God's other attributes, existent, living,
great, mighty. Then he continues:

"Thou art light, and the eyes of every pure soul shall see thee; for the
clouds of iniquity alone hide thee from her sight.... Thou art most
high, and the eye of the intellect desireth and longeth for thee; but it
can only see a part, it cannot see the whole of thy greatness....

"Thou art God, who by thy Divinity supportest all things formed; and
upholdest all creatures by thy Unity. Thou art God, and there is no
distinction between thy godhead, unity, eternity or existence; for all
is one mystery; and although each of these attributes is variously
named, yet the whole point to one end.

"Thou art wise, and wisdom, which is the _fountain of life_, floweth
from thee; and compared with thy wisdom, the knowledge of all mankind is
folly. Thou art wise; and didst exist prior to all the most ancient
things; and wisdom was reared by thee. Thou art wise; and hast not
learned aught from another, nor acquired thy wisdom from anyone else.
Thou art wise; and from thy wisdom thou didst cause to emanate a ready
_will_, an agent and artist as it were, to draw existence out of
non-existence, as light proceeds from the eye. Thou drawest from the
source of light without a vessel, and producest everything without a

Then follows a description of the constitution of the sublunar world,
the terrestrial sphere consisting of part earth, part water, and being
surrounded by the successive spheres of air and fire. Then follow in
order the spheres of the Moon, Mercury, Venus, Sun, Mars, Jupiter,
Saturn, the spheres of the fixed stars, and the outermost sphere
embracing all and giving to the entire heaven the diurnal motion from
east to west. He then continues:

"Who can understand thy tremendous mysteries, when thou didst exalt
above the ninth orb, the sphere of the _Intelligence_; that is the inner
temple; for the tenth shall be holy to the Lord. This is the sphere
which is exalted above all the highest, and which no imagination can
reach; and there is the hiding-place, wherein is the canopy for thy

"O Lord! who can come near thy understanding, when thou didst place on
high above the sphere of the Intelligence the _Throne of thy glory_,
where is the glorious dwelling of the hiding-place; there also is the
mystery and the _foundation_ (matter); so far the intellect may reach
and no further; for above this art thou greatly exalted upon thy mighty
throne, where no man may come up to thee....

"Who can comprehend thy power, when thou didst create from the splendor
of thy glory a pure lustre? From the rock of rocks was it hewn, and dug
from the hollow of the cave. Thou also didst bestow on it the spirit of
wisdom, and didst call it soul. Thou didst form it hewn from the flames
of intellectual fire, so that its spirit burneth as fire within it. Thou
didst send it forth to the body to serve and guard it; it is as fire in
the midst of it, and yet doth not consume it; for _from the fire of the
soul the body was created_, and called into existence from nothing,
because the Lord descended thereto in fire."

Here we see the Intelligence spoken of as standing above the heavenly
spheres. This clearly represents the cosmic Intelligence as a creation
of God, "which is exalted above all the highest," hence the first
product of God's light. And yet the _Throne of Glory_ is said to be
placed even above the sphere of the Intelligence. He speaks of it as the
mystery and the foundation (Yesod), beyond which the intellect cannot
reach. This is apparently a contradiction, but becomes clear when we
learn what is meant by the Throne of Glory, and by "foundation." In the
"Fons Vitæ" Gabirol tells us that matter receives form from the First
Essence through the medium of the Will, which latter therefore, as it
bestows form upon matter, sits in it and rests upon it. And hence, he
says, matter is as it were the stool (cathedra) of the One. The word
"yesod" (foundation) which Gabirol applies in the "Keter Malkut" (Royal
Crown) to the Throne of Glory is the same that Falaquera uses for matter
throughout in his epitome of the "Mekor Hayim." Hence it is clear that
the Throne of Glory which is above the Intelligence is nothing else than
Gabirol's matter. And we know from the "Fons Vitæ" that matter is really
prior to Intelligence as it exists in the knowledge of God, but that in
reality it never was, as a creation, without form; and that with form it
constitutes the Intelligence. Finally there is also a reference in the
poem to the will as emanating from God's wisdom, and like an "agent and
artist drawing existence out of non-existence as light proceeds from the
eye." The process of creation is thus compared with the radiation of
light in the sentence just quoted, and likewise in the following: "Thou
drawest from the source of light without a vessel, and producest
everything without a tool."

We do not know whether Gabirol wrote any commentaries on the Bible--none
are extant, nor are there any references to such works--but from his
exegetical attempts in his ethical work discussed above (p. 71 ff.) and
from citations by Abraham ibn Ezra of Gabirol's explanations of certain
passages in Scripture, we gather that like Philo of Alexandria before
him and Maimonides and a host of philosophical commentators after him,
he used the allegorical method to reconcile his philosophical views with
the Bible, and read the former into the latter.[105]

Thus we are told that Eden represents the presence of God, the garden
planted in Eden stands for the angelic beings or, according to another
interpretation, for the world of sense. By the river which flows out of
Eden is meant prime matter which issues from the essence of God
according to the "Fons Vitæ." The four divisions of the river are the
four elements; Adam is the rational soul, Eve, as the Hebrew name
indicates, the animal soul, and the serpent is the vegetative or
appetitive soul. The serpent entices Adam to eat of the forbidden tree.
This means that when the lower soul succeeds in controlling the reason,
the result is evil and sin, and man is driven out of the Garden, _i. e._,
is excluded from his angelic purity and becomes a corporeal being.

It is clear from all this that Gabirol's omission of all reference to
Jewish dogma in the "Fons Vitæ" was purely methodological. Philosophy,
and religion or theology should be kept apart in a purely philosophical
work. Apologetics or harmonization has its rights, but it is a different
department of study, and should be treated by itself, or in connection
with exegesis of the Bible.

While it is true that Gabirol's influence on subsequent Jewish
philosophy is slight--at most we find it in Moses and Abraham ibn Ezra,
Abraham ibn Daud and Joseph ibn Zaddik--traces of his ideas are met with
in the mysticism of the Kabbala. Gabirol's "Fons Vitæ" is a peculiar
combination of logical formalism with mystic obscurity, or profundity,
according to one's point of view. The latter did not appeal to pure
rationalists like Ibn Daud or Maimonides, and the former seemed
unconvincing, as it was employed in a lost cause. For Neo-Platonism was
giving way to Aristotelianism, which was adopted by Maimonides and made
the authoritative and standard philosophy. It was different with the
Kabbala. Those who were responsible for its spread in the thirteenth
century must have been attracted by the seemingly esoteric character of
a philosophy which sees the invisible in the visible, the spiritual in
the corporeal, and the reflection of the unknowable God in everything.
There are certain details also which are common to both, such as the
analogies of irradiation of light or flowing of water used to represent
the process of creation, the position of the Will, the existence of
matter in spiritual beings, and so on, though some of these ideas are
common to all Neo-Platonic systems, and the Kabbala may have had access
to the same sources as Gabirol.



All that is known of the life of Bahya ben Joseph ibn Pakuda is that he
lived in Spain and had the office of "Dayyan," or judge of the Jewish
community. Not even the exact time in which he lived is yet determined,
though the most reliable recent investigations make it probable that he
lived after Gabirol and was indebted to the latter for some of his views
in philosophy as well as in Ethics.[106] So far as traditional data are
concerned we have equally reliable, or rather equally unreliable
statements for regarding Bahya as an older contemporary of Gabirol
(eleventh century), or of Abraham ibn Ezra (1088-1167). Neither of these
two data being vouched for by any but their respective authors, who
lived a long time after Bahya, we are left to such indirect evidence as
may be gathered from the content of Bahya's ethical work, the "Duties of
the Hearts." And here the recent investigations of Yahuda, the latest
authority on this subject and the editor of the Arabic text of Bahya's
masterpiece (1912), force upon us the conclusion that Bahya wrote after
Gabirol. Yahuda has shown that many passages in the "Duties of the
Hearts" are practically identical in content and expression with similar
ideas found in a work of the Arab philosopher Gazali (1059-1111). This
leaves very little doubt that Bahya borrowed from Gazali and hence could
not have written before the twelfth century.

To be sure, there are arguments on the other side, which would give
chronological priority to Bahya over Gabirol,[107] but without going
into the details of this minute and difficult discussion, it may be said
generally that many of the similarities in thought and expression
between the two ethical works of Gabirol and Bahya rather point in favor
of the view here adopted, namely, that Bahya borrowed from Gabirol,
while the rest prove nothing for either side. In so far as a reader of
the "Duties of the Hearts" recognizes here and there an idea met with in
Gabirol's "Fons Vitæ," there can scarcely be any doubt that the latter
is the more original of the two. Gabirol did not borrow his philosophy
or any part thereof from Bahya. Despite its Neo-Platonic character the
"Fons Vitæ" of Gabirol is the most independent and original of Jewish
mediæval productions. The "Duties of the Hearts" owes what originality
it has to its ethics, which is the chief aim of the work, and not at all
to the introductory philosophical chapter. As we shall see later, the
entire chapter on the existence and unity of God, which introduces the
ethical teachings of Bahya, moves in the familiar lines of Saadia, Al
Mukammas, Joseph al Basir and the other Jewish Mutakallimun. There is
besides a touch of Neo-Platonism in Bahya, which may be due to Gabirol
as well as to Arabic sources. That Bahya did not borrow more from the
"Fons Vitæ" than he did is due no doubt to the difference in temperament
between the two men. Bahya is not a mystic. Filled as he is with the
spirit of piety and warmth of heart--an attitude reflected in his style,
which helped to make his work the most popular moral-religious book in
Jewish literature--there is no trace of pantheism or metaphysical
mysticism in his nature. His ideas are sane and rational, and their
expression clear and transparent. Gabirol's high flights in the "Fons
Vitæ" have little in common with Bahya's modest and brief outline of the
familiar doctrines of the existence, unity and attributes of God, for
which he claims no originality, and which serve merely as the background
for his contribution to religious ethics. That Bahya should have taken a
few leading notions from the "Fons Vitæ," such as did not antagonize his
temperament and mode of thinking, is quite possible, and we shall best
explain such resemblances in this manner.

As Abraham ibn Ezra in 1156 makes mention of Bahya and his views,[108]
we are safe in concluding that the "Duties of the Hearts" was written
between 1100 and 1156.

As the title of the work indicates, Bahya saw the great significance of
a distinction made by Mohammedan theologians and familiar in their
ascetic literature, between outward ceremonial or observance, known as
"visible wisdom" and "duties of the limbs," and inward intention,
attitude and feeling, called "hidden wisdom" and "duties of the
hearts."[109] The prophet Isaiah complains that the people are diligent
in bringing sacrifices, celebrating the festivals and offering prayer
while their hands are full of blood. He informs them that such conduct
is an abomination to the Lord, and admonishes them to wash themselves,
to make themselves clean, to put away the evil of their deeds from
before God's eyes; to cease to do evil; to learn to do well, to seek for
justice, to relieve the oppressed, to do justice to the fatherless, to
plead for the widow (Isa. 1, 11-17). This is a distinction between
duties to God and duties to one's fellow man, between religious ceremony
and ethical practice. Saadia makes a further distinction--also found in
Arabic theology before him--between those commandments and prohibitions
in the Bible which the reason itself approves as right or condemns as
wrong--the rational commandments--and those which to the reason seem
indifferent, and which revelation alone characterizes as obligatory,
permitted or forbidden--the so-called "traditional commandments."

Bahya's division is identical with neither the one nor the other.
Ethical practice may be purely external and a matter of the limbs, quite
as much as sacrifice and ceremonial ritual. On the other hand, one may
feel profoundly moved with the spirit of true piety, love of God and
loyalty to his commandments in the performance of a so-called
"traditional commandment," like the fastening of a "mezuzah" to the
door-post. Bahya finds room for Saadia's classification but it is with
him of subordinate importance, and is applicable only to the "duties of
the limbs." Among these alone are there some which the reason unaided by
revelation would not have prescribed. The "duties of the heart" are all
rational. Like all precepts they are both positive and negative.
Examples of positive duties of the heart are, belief in a creator who
made the world out of nothing; belief in his unity and incomparability;
the duty to serve him with all our heart, to trust in him, to submit to
him, to fear him, to feel that he is watching our open and secret
actions, to long for his favor and direct our actions for his name's
sake; to love those who love him so as to be near unto him, and to hate
those who hate him. Negative precepts of this class are the opposites of
those mentioned, and others besides, such as that we should not covet,
or bear a grudge, or think of forbidden things, or desire them or
consent to do them. The common characteristic of all duties of the heart
is that they are not visible to others. God alone can judge whether a
person's feeling and motives are pure or the reverse.

That these duties are incumbent upon us is clear from every point of
view. Like Saadia Bahya finds the sources of knowledge, particularly of
the knowledge of God's law and religion, in sense, reason, written law
and tradition. Leaving out the senses which are not competent in this
particular case, the obligatory character of the duties of the heart is
vouched for by the other three, reason, law, tradition.

From reason we know that man is composed of soul and body, and that both
are due to God's goodness. One is visible, the other is not. Hence we
are obliged to worship God in a two-fold manner; with visible worship
and invisible. Visible worship represents the duties of the limbs, such
as prayer, fasting, charity, and so on, which are carried out by the
visible organs. The hidden worship includes the duties of the heart, for
example, to think of God's unity, to believe in him and his Law, to
accept his worship, etc., all of which are accomplished by the thought
of the mind, without the assistance of the visible limbs.

Besides, the duties of the limbs, the obligation of which no one doubts,
are incomplete without the will of the heart to do them. Hence it
follows that there is a duty upon our souls to worship God to the extent
of our powers.

The Bible is just as emphatic in teaching these duties as the reason.
The love of God and the fear of God are constantly inculcated; and in
the sphere of negative precepts we have such prohibitions as, "Thou
shalt not covet" (Exod. 20, 17); "Thou shalt not take vengeance, nor
bear any grudge" (Lev. 19, 18); "Thou shalt not hate thy brother in thy
heart" (ib. 17); "You shalt not go astray after your own heart" (Num.
15, 39); "Thou shalt not harden thy heart nor shut thy hand from thy
needy brother" (Deut. 15, 7), and many others.

Rabbinical literature is just as full of such precepts as the Bible, and
is if possible even more emphatic in their inculcation. Witness such
sayings as the following: "Heaven regards the intention" (Sanh. 106b):
"The heart and the eye are two procurers of sin" (Jer. Berak. 1), and
many others, particularly in the treatise Abot.

The great importance of these duties is also made manifest by the fact
that the punishment in the Bible for unintentional misdeeds is more
lenient than for intentional, proving that for punishment the mind must
share with the body in the performance of the deed. The same is true of
reward, that none is received for performing a good deed if it is not
done "in the name of heaven."

They are even more important than the duties of the limbs, for unlike
the latter the obligation of the duties of the heart is always in force,
and is independent of periods or circumstances. Their number, too, is
infinite, and not limited, as are the duties of the limbs, to six
hundred and thirteen.

And yet, Bahya complains, despite the great importance of these duties,
very few are the men who observed them even in the generations preceding
ours, not to speak of our own days when even the external ceremonies are
neglected, much more so the class of precepts under discussion. The
majority of students of the Torah are actuated by desire for fame and
honor, and devote their time to the intricacies of legalistic discussion
in Rabbinic literature, and matters unessential, which are of no account
in the improvement of the soul; but they neglect such important subjects
of study as the unity of God, which we ought to understand and
distinguish from other unities, and not merely receive parrot fashion
from tradition. We are expressly commanded (Deut. 4, 39), "Know
therefore this day, and reflect in thy heart, that the Eternal is the
God in the heavens above, and upon the earth beneath: there is none
else." Only he is exempt from studying these matters whose powers are
not adequate to grasp them, such as women, children and simpletons.

Moreover Bahya is the first, he tells us, among the post-Talmudical
writers, to treat systematically and _ex professo_ this branch of our
religious duties. When I looked, he says, into the works composed by the
early writers after the Talmud on the commandments, I found that their
writings can be classified under three heads. First, exposition of the
Torah and the Prophets, like the grammatical and lexicographical
treatises of Ibn Janah, or the exegetical works of Saadia. Second, brief
compilations of precepts, like the works of Hefez ben Yazliah and the
responsa of some geonim. Third, works of a philosophico-apologetic
character, like those of Saadia, Al Mukammas and others, whose purpose
it was to present in an acceptable manner the doctrines of the Torah, to
prove them by logical demonstration, and to refute the criticisms and
erroneous views of unbelievers. But I have not seen any book dealing
with the "hidden wisdom."[110]

Here we see clearly the purpose of Bahya. It is not the rationalization
of Jewish dogma that he is interested in, nor the reconciliation of
religion and philosophy. It is the purification of religion itself from
within which he seeks to accomplish. Sincerity and consistency in our
words and our thoughts, so far as the service of God is concerned, is
the fundamental requirement and essential value of the duties of the
heart. To be sure this cannot be attained without intelligence. The
knowledge of God and of his unity is a prerequisite for a proper
understanding and an adequate appreciation of our religious duties.
Philosophy therefore becomes a necessity in the interest of a purer and
truer religion, without reference to the dangers threatening it from

Having found, he continues in the introduction to the "Duties of the
Hearts," that all the three sources, reason, Bible and tradition,
command this branch of our religious duties, I tried to think about them
and to learn them, being led from one topic to another until the subject
became so large that I feared I could not contain it all in my memory. I
then determined to write the subject down systematically in a book for
my own benefit as well as for the benefit of others. But I hesitated
about writing it on account of my limitations, the difficulty of the
subject and my limited knowledge of Arabic, the language in which I
intended writing it because the majority of our people are best familiar
with it. But I thought better of it and realized that it was my duty to
do what I could even if it was not perfect; that I must not yield to the
argument springing from a love of ease and disinclination to effort; for
if everyone were to abstain from doing a small good because he cannot do
as much as he would like, nothing would ever be done at all.

Having decided to compose the work, he continues, I divided the subject
into ten fundamental principles, and devoted a section of the book to
each principle. I endeavored to write in a plain and easy style,
omitting difficult expressions, technical terms and demonstrations in
the manner of the dialecticians. I had to make an exception in the first
section dealing with the existence and unity of God, where the sublet of
the subject required the employment of logical and mathematical proofs.
For the rest I made use of comparisons or similes, adduced support from
the Bible and tradition, and also quoted the sages of other

We have already seen in the introduction that Bahya was indebted for his
ideas to the ascetic and Sufic literature of the Arabs, and Yahuda, who
is the authority in this matter of Bahya's sources, has shown recently
that among the quotations of the wise men of other nations in Bahya's
work are such as are attributed by the Arabs to Jesus and the gospels,
to Mohammed and his companions, to the early caliphs, in particular the
caliph Ali, to Mohammedan ascetics and Sufis.[112]

In selecting the ten general and inclusive principles, Bahya lays down
as the first and most fundamental the doctrine of the deity, or as it is
called in the works of the Kalam, the Unity. As God is a true unity,
being neither substance nor accident, and our thought cannot grasp
anything except substance or accident, it follows that we cannot know
God as he is in himself, and that we can get a conception of him and of
his existence from his creatures only. The second section is therefore
devoted to an examination of creation. Then follow in order sections
treating of the service of God, trust in God, action for the sake of God
alone, submission to God, repentance, self-examination, separation from
the pleasures of the world, love of God.

In his discussion of the unity of God, Bahya follows the same method as
Saadia, and the Kalam generally, _i. e._, he first proves that the world
must have been created; hence there must be a creator, and this is
followed by a demonstration of God's unity. The particular arguments,
too, are for the most part the same, as we shall see, though differently
expressed and in a different order. The important addition in Bahya is
his distinction between God's unity and other unities, which is not
found so strictly formulated in any of his predecessors, and goes back
to Pseudo-Pythagorean sources in Arabian literature of Neo-Platonic

In order to prove that there is a creator who created the world out of
nothing we assume three principles. First, nothing can make itself.
Second, principles are finite in number, hence there must be a first
before which there is no other. Third, every composite is "new," _i. e._,
came to be in time, and did not exist from eternity.

Making use of these principles, which will be proved later, we proceed
as follows: The world is composite in all its parts. Sky, earth, stars
and man form a sort of house which the latter manages. Plants and
animals are composed of the four elements, fire, air, water, earth. The
elements again are composed of matter and form, or substance and
accident. Their matter is the primitive "hyle," and their form is the
primitive form, which is the root of all forms, essential as well as
accidental. It is clear therefore that the world is composite, and
hence, according to the third principle, had its origin in time. As,
according to the first principle, a thing cannot make itself, it must
have been made by some one. But as, in accordance with the second
principle, the number of causes cannot be infinite, we must finally
reach a first cause of the world before which there is no other, and
this first made the world out of nothing.

Before criticising this proof, from which Bahya infers more than is
legitimate, we must prove the three original assumptions.

The proof of the first principle that a thing cannot make itself is
identical in Bahya with the second of the three demonstrations employed
by Saadia for the same purpose. It is that the thing must either have
made itself before it existed or after it existed. But both are
impossible. Before it existed it was not there to make itself; after it
existed there was no longer anything to make. Hence the first
proposition is proved that a thing cannot make itself.

The proof of the second proposition that the number of causes cannot be
infinite is also based upon the same principle as the fourth proof in
Saadia for the creation of the world. The principle is this. Whatever
has no limit in the direction of the past, _i. e._, had no beginning,
but is eternal a _parte ante_, cannot have any stopping point anywhere
else. In other words, we as the spectators could not point to any
definite spot or link in this eternally infinite chain, because the
chain must have traversed infinite time to reach us, but the infinite
can never be traversed. Since, however, as a matter of fact we can and
do direct our attention to parts of the changing world, this shows that
the world must have had a beginning.

A second proof of the same principle is not found in Saadia. It is as
follows: If we imagine an actual infinite and take away a part, the
remainder is less than before. Now if this remainder is still infinite,
we have one infinite larger than another, which is impossible. If we say
the remainder is finite, then by adding to it the finite part which was
taken away, the result must be finite; but this is contrary to
hypothesis, for we assumed it infinite at the start. Hence it follows
that the infinite cannot have a part. But we can separate in thought out
of all the generations of men from the beginning those that lived
between the time of Noah and that of Moses. This will be a finite number
and a part of all the men in the world. Hence, as the infinite can have
no part, this shows that the whole number of men is finite, and hence
that the world had a beginning.

This proof is not in Saadia, but we learn from Maimonides ("Guide of the
Perplexed," I, ch. 75) that it was one of the proofs used by the
Mutakallimun to prove the absurdity of the belief in the eternity of the

The third principle is that the composite is "new." This is proved
simply by pointing out that the elements forming the composite are prior
to it by nature, and hence the latter cannot be eternal, for nothing is
prior to the eternal. This principle also is found in Saadia as the
second of the four proofs in favor of creation.[113]

We have now justified our assumptions and hence have proved--what?
Clearly we have only proved that this _composite_ world cannot have
existed _as such_ from eternity; but that it must have been composed of
its elements at some point in time past, and that hence there must be a
cause or agency which did the composing. But there is nothing in the
principles or in the demonstration based upon them which gives us a
right to go back of the composite world and say of the elements, the
simple elements at the basis of all composition, viz., matter and form,
that they too must have come to be in time, and hence were created out
of nothing. It is only the composite that argues an act of composition
and elements preceding in time and by nature the object composed of
them. The simple needs not to be made, hence the question of its having
made itself does not arise. It was not made at all, we may say, it just
existed from eternity.

The only way to solve this difficulty from Bahya's premises is by saying
that if we suppose matter (or matter and form as separate entities) to
have existed from eternity, we are liable to the difficulty involved in
the idea of anything having traversed infinite time and reached us;
though it is doubtful whether unformed matter would lend itself to the
experiment of abstracting a part as in generations of men.

Be this as it may, it is interesting to know that Saadia having arrived
as far as Bahya in his argument was not yet satisfied that he proved
creation _ex nihilo_, and added special arguments for this purpose.

Before proceeding to prove the unity of God, Bahya takes occasion to
dismiss briefly a notion which scarcely deserves consideration in his
eyes. That the world could have come by accident, he says, is too absurd
to speak of, in view of the evidence of harmony and plan and wisdom
which we see in nature. As well imagine ink spilled by accident forming
itself into a written book.[114] Saadia also discusses this view as the
ninth of the twelve theories of creation treated by him, and refutes it
more elaborately than Bahya, whose one argument is the last of Saadia's

In the treatment of creation Saadia is decidedly richer and more
comprehensive in discussion, review and argumentation. This was to be
expected since such problems are the prime purpose of the "Emunot
ve-Deot," whereas they are only preparatory, though none the less
fundamental, in the "Hobot ha-Lebabot," and Bahya must have felt that
the subject had been adequately treated by his distinguished
predecessor. It is the more surprising therefore to find that in the
treatment of the unity of God Bahya is more elaborate, and offers a
greater variety of arguments for unity as such. Moreover, as has already
been said before, he takes greater care than anyone before him to guard
against the identification of God's unity with any of the unities,
theoretical or actual, in our experience. There is no doubt that this
emphasis is due to Neo-Platonic influence, some of which may have come
to Bahya from Gabirol, the rest probably from their common sources.

We see, Bahya begins his discussion of the unity of God, that the causes
are fewer than their effects, the causes of the causes still fewer, and
so on, until when we reach the top there is only one. Thus, the number
of individuals is infinite, the number of species is finite; the number
of genera is less than the number of species, until we get to the
highest genera, which according to Aristotle are ten (the ten
categories). Again, the causes of the individuals under the categories
are five, motion and the four elements. The causes of the elements are
two, matter and form. The cause of these must therefore be one, the will
of God. (The will of God as immediately preceding universal matter and
form sounds like a reminiscence of the "Fons Vitæ".)

God's unity is moreover seen in the unity of plan and wisdom that is
evident in the world. Everything is related to, connected with and
dependent upon everything else, showing that there is a unitary
principle at the basis.

If anyone maintains that there is more than one God, the burden of proof
lies upon him. Our observation of the world has shown us that there is a
God who made it; hence one, since we cannot conceive of less than one;
but why more than one, unless there are special reasons to prove it?

Euclid defines unity as that in virtue of which we call a thing one.
This means to signify that unity precedes the unitary thing by nature,
just as heat precedes the hot object. Plurality is the sum of ones,
hence plurality cannot be prior to unity, from which it proceeds. Hence
whatever plurality we find in our minds we know that unity precedes it;
and even if it occurs to anyone that there is more than one creator,
unity must after all precede them all. Hence God is one.

This argument is strictly Neo-Platonic and is based upon the idealism of
Plato, the notion that whatever reality or attributes particular things
in our world of sense possess they owe to the real and eternal types of
these realities and attributes in a higher and intelligible (using the
term in contradistinction to sensible) world in which they participate.
In so far as this conception is applied to the essences of things, it
leads to the hypostatization of the class concepts or universals. Not
the particular individual whom we perceive is the real man, but the
typical man, the ideal man as the mind conceives him. He is not a
concept but a real existent in the intelligible world. If we apply it
also to qualities of things, we hypostatize the abstract quality. Heat
becomes really distinct from the hot object, existence from the existent
thing, goodness from the good person, unity from the one object. And a
thing is existent and one and good, because it participates in
Existence, Unity and Goodness. These are real entities, intelligible
and not sensible, and they give to our world what reality it possesses.

Plotinus improved upon Plato, and instead of leaving these Ideas as
distinct and ultimate entities, he adopted the suggestion of Philo and
gathered up all these intelligible existences in the lap of the
universal Reason, as his ideas or thoughts. This universal Reason is in
Philo the _Logos_, whose mode of existence is still ambiguous, and is
rather to be understood as the divine mind. In Plotinus it is the first
stage in the unfoldment of the Godhead, and is a distinct _hypostasis_,
though not a person. In Christianity it is the second person in the
Trinity, incarnated in Jesus. In Israeli, Gabirol and the other Jewish
Neo-Platonists, it occupies the same place as the _Nous_ in Plotinus. In
Bahya, whose taint of Neo-Platonism is not even skin deep, there is no
universal Reason spoken of. But we do not really know what his ideas may
have been on the subject, as he does not develop them in this direction.

To return to Bahya's arguments in favor of the unity of God, we proceed
to show that dualism would lead to absurd conclusions. Thus if there is
more than one creator, they are either of the same substance or they are
not. If they are, then the common substance is the real creator, and we
have unity once more. If their substances are different, they are
distinct, hence limited, finite, composite, and hence not eternal, which
is absurd.

Besides, plurality is an attribute of substance, and belongs to the
category of quantity. But the creator is neither substance nor accident
(attribute), hence plurality cannot pertain to him. But if he cannot be
described as multiple, he must be one.

If the creator is more than one, it follows that either each one of them
could create the world alone, or he could not except with the help of
the other. If we adopt the first alternative, there is no need of more
than one creator. If we adopt the second, it follows that the creator is
limited in his power, hence, as above, composite, and not eternal, which
is impossible. Besides, if there were more than one creator, it is
possible that a dispute might arise between them in reference to the
creation. But all this time no such thing has happened, nature being
always the same. Hence God is one. Aristotle also agrees with us, for he
applies in this connection the Homeric expression, "It is not good to
have many rulers, let the ruler be one" (Iliad, II, 204; Arist.,
Metaphysics, XII, ch. 10, p. 1076a 4).[115]

So far as Bahya proves the unity of God he does not go beyond Saadia,
some of whose arguments are reproduced by him, and one or two of a
Neo-Platonic character added besides. But there is a decided advance in
the analysis which follows, in which Bahya shows that there are various
kinds of unity in our experience, and that the unity of God is unique.

We apply the term one to a class, a genus, a species, or an individual.
In all of these the multiplicity of parts is visible. The genus animal
contains many animals; the species man embraces a great many individual
men; and the individual man consists of many parts and organs and
faculties. Things of this sort are one in a sense and many in a sense.

We also apply the term one to an object in which the multiplicity of
parts is not as readily visible as in the previous case. Take for
example a body of water which is homogeneous throughout and one part is
like another. This too is in reality composed of parts, matter and form,
substance and accident. It is in virtue of this composition that it is
subject to genesis and decay, composition and division, union and
separation, motion and change. But all this implies plurality. Hence in
both the above cases the unity is not essential but accidental. It is
because of a certain appearance or similarity that we call a thing or a
class one, which is in reality many.

Another application of the term one is when we designate by it the basis
of number, the numerical one. This is a true one, essential as
distinguished from the accidental referred to above. But it is mental
and not actual. It is a symbol of a beginning which has no other before

Finally there is the real and actual one. This is something that does
not change or multiply; that cannot be described by any material
attribute, that is not subject to generation and decay; that does not
move and is not similar to anything. It is one in all respects and the
cause of multiplicity. It has no beginning or end, for that which has is
subject to change, and change is opposed to unity, the thing being
different before and after the change. For the same reason the real one
does not resemble anything, for resemblance is an accident in the
resembling thing, and to be possessed of accidents is to be multiple.
Hence the true one resembles nothing. Its oneness is no accident in it,
for it is a purely negative term in this application. It means not

We have now shown that there is a creator who is one, and on the other
hand we have analyzed the various meanings of the term one, the last of
which is the most real and the purest. It remains now to show that this
pure one is identical with the one creator. This can be proved in the
following way. The world being everywhere composite contains the one as
well as the many--unity of composition, plurality of the parts composed.
As unity is prior by nature to plurality, and causes do not run on to
infinity (see above, p. 87), the causes of the world's unity and
multiplicity cannot be again unity and multiplicity of the same kind
forever. Hence as multiplicity cannot be the first, it must be
unity--the absolute and true unity before which there is no other, and
in which there is no manner of multiplicity. But God is the one cause of
the universe, as we have shown, hence God and this true unity are the

We can show this also in another way. Whatever is an accidental
attribute in one thing is an essential element in some other thing. Thus
heat is an accidental attribute in hot water. For water may lose its
heat and remain water as before. It is different with fire. Fire cannot
lose its heat without ceasing to be fire. Hence heat in fire is an
essential element; and it is from fire that hot water and all other hot
things receive their heat. The same thing applies to the attribute of
unity. It is accidental in all creatures. They are called one because
they combine a number of elements in one group or concept. But they are
really multiple since they are liable to change and division and motion,
and so on. Hence there must be something in which unity is essential,
and which is the cause of whatsoever unity all other things possess. But
God is the cause of the universe, hence he is this true and absolute
unity, and all change and accident and multiplicity are foreign to

This unity of God is not in any way derogated from by the ascription to
him of attributes. For the latter are of two kinds, "essential" and
"active." We call the first essential because they are permanent
attributes of God, which he had before creation and will continue to
have when the world has ceased to be. These attributes are three in
number, Existing, One, Eternal. We have already proved every one of

Now these attributes do not imply change in the essence of God. They are
to be understood in the sense of denying their opposites, _i. e._, that
he is not multiple, non-existent or newly come into being. They also
imply each other as can easily be shown, _i. e._, every one of the three
implies the other two. We must understand therefore that they are really
_one_ in idea, and if we could find one term to express the thought
fully, we should not use three. But the three do not imply multiplicity
in God.

The "active" are those attributes which are ascribed to God by reason of
his actions or effects on us. We are permitted to apply them to him
because of the necessity which compels us to get to know of his
existence so that we may worship him. The Biblical writers use them very
frequently. We may divide these into two kinds: First, those which
ascribe to God a corporeal form, such as (Gen. 1, 27), "And God created
man in his image," and others of the same character. Second, those
attributes which refer to corporeal movements and actions. These have
been so interpreted by our ancient sages as to remove the corporeality
from God by substituting the "Glory of God" for God as the subject of
the movement or act in question. Thus, (Gen. 28, 13) "And behold the
Lord stood above it," is rendered by the Aramaic translator, "and behold
the _glory of God was present_ above it." Saadia deals with this matter
at length in his "Emunot ve-Deot," in his commentary on Genesis, and on
the book "Yezirah." So there is no need of going into detail here. We
are all agreed that necessity compels us to speak of God in corporeal
terms so that all may be made to know of God's existence. This they
could not do if the prophets had spoken in metaphysical terms, for not
everyone can follow such profound matters. But having come to the
knowledge of God in this simpler though imperfect way, we can then
advance to a more perfect knowledge of him. The intelligent and
philosophical reader will lose nothing by the anthropomorphic form of
the Bible, for he can remove the husk and penetrate to the kernel. But
the simple reader would miss a very great deal indeed if the Bible were
written in the language of philosophy, as he would not understand it and
would remain without a knowledge of God.

Despite its predominant anthropomorphism, however, the Bible does give
us hints of God's spirituality so that the thoughtful reader may also
have food for _his_ thought. For example, such expressions as (Deut. 4,
15), "Take ye therefore good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner
of form on the day that the Lord spake unto you in Horeb out of the
midst of the fire," and many others are meant to spur on the
discriminating reader to further thought. The same applies to all those
passages in which the word "name" is inserted before the word God as the
object of praise to indicate that we do not know God in his essence. An
example of this is, "And they shall bless the name of thy glory" (Neh.
9, 5). For the same reason the name of God is joined in the Bible to
heaven, earth, the Patriarchs, in such phrases as the God of the
heavens, the God of Abraham, and so on, to show that we do not know
God's essence but only his revelation in nature and in history. This is
the reason why after saying to Moses, "I am sent me unto you" (Ex. 3,
14), he adds (ib. 15), tell them, "the God of your fathers, the God of
Abraham, the God of Isaac and the God of Jacob sent me unto you." The
meaning is, if they cannot understand God with their reason, let them
know me from history and tradition.[118]

In Bahya's treatment of the divine attributes we already have in brief
the main elements which Maimonides almost a century later made classic,
namely, the distinction between essential and active attributes, and the
idea that the former are to be understood as denying their opposites,
_i. e._, as being in their nature not positive but negative. The outcome
therefore is that only two kinds of attributes are applicable to God,
negative and those which are transferred or projected from the effects
of God's activity as they are visible in nature. Saadia had already made
the distinction between essential and active attributes, but it was
quite incidental with him, and not laid down at the basis of his
discussion, but casually referred to in a different connection. Al
Mukammas speaks of negative attributes as being more applicable to God
than positive, as Philo had already said long before. But the
combination of these two, negative and active, as the only kinds of
divine attributes is not found in Jewish literature before Bahya.

It is worth noting also that Bahya does not lay down the three
attributes, Power, Wisdom and Life as fundamental or essential in the
manner of the Christians, the Arab Mutakallimun, and the Jewish Saadia.
Bahya, as we have seen, regards as God's essential attributes,
existence, unity, eternity. Herein, too, he seems to anticipate
Maimonides who insists against the believers in essential attributes
that the attributes, living, omnipotent, omniscient, having a will, are
no more essential than any other, but like the rest of the qualities
ascribed to God have reference to his activity in nature.[119]

We have now gone through Bahya's philosophical chapter giving us the
metaphysical basis of his ethico-religious views. That his purpose is
practical and not theoretical is clear from his definition of what he
calls the "acknowledgment of the unity of God with full heart," not to
speak of the title of the book itself, the meaning of which we explained
at the beginning of this section, and the nine chapters in Bahya's work
following upon the first, which constitute its real essence and purpose.
To acknowledge the unity of God with full heart means, he tells us, that
one must first know how to prove the existence and unity of God, to
distinguish God's unity from every other, and then to make his heart and
his tongue unite in this conception.[120] It is not a matter of the
intellect merely, but of the heart as affecting one's practical conduct.
The adequacy of the conception is destroyed not merely by thinking of
God as multiple, or by worshiping images, sun, moon and stars; it is
made null and void likewise by hypocrisy and pretence, as when one
affects piety before others to gain their favor or acquire a reputation.
The same disastrous result is brought about by indulging the low
physical appetites. Here the worship of the appetites is brought into
competition and rivalry with devotion to the one God.[121]

Our object being to trace the philosophical conceptions in mediæval
Jewish literature, we cannot linger long in the study of the rest of
Bahya's masterpiece, which is homiletical and practical rather than
theoretic, and must content ourselves with a very brief résumé of its
principal contents.

In studying the nature and attributes of God we reached the conclusion
that while a knowledge of him is absolutely necessary for a proper mode
of life, we cannot form an idea of him as he is in himself, and are left
to such evidence as we can gather from the world of which he is the
author. It becomes our duty, therefore, to study nature, as a whole and
in its parts, conscientiously and minutely, in order to realize clearly
the goodness and wisdom of God as exhibited therein. For various reasons
we are apt to neglect this study and miss the insight and benefits
arising therefrom. Chief among these hindering circumstances are our
excessive occupations with the pleasures of this world, and the
accidents and misfortunes to which mortal is heir, which blind him to
his real good, and prevent him from seeing the blessing in disguise
lurking in these very misfortunes.

But it is clear that man has a duty to study the divine goodness and
wisdom as exhibited in nature, else of what use is his faculty of reason
and intelligence, which raises him above the beast. If he neglects it,
he places himself below the latter, which realizes all the functions of
which it is capable. Bible and Talmud are equally emphatic in urging us
to study the wonders of nature.

The variety of natural phenomena and the laws they exhibit give evidence
of the personality of God and the existence of his will. A being without
will, acting by necessity of nature, acts with unswerving uniformity.

Heaven and earth, plant and animal, all creatures great and small, bear
witness, in their structure and relations, in their functions and mutual
service and helpfulness, to the wisdom and goodness of God. Above all is
this visible in man, the highest of earthly beings, the microcosm, the
rational creature, the discoverer and inventor of arts and sciences. In
the laws and statutes which were given to him for the service of God,
and in the customs of other nations which take the place of our divine
law, we see God's kindness to man in securing his comfort in this world
and reward in the next.

Pride is the great enemy of man, because it prevents him from
appreciating what he owes to God's goodness. Pride makes him feel that
he deserves more than he gets, and blinds him to the truth.[122]

We all recognize the duty of gratitude to a fellow man who has done us a
favor, although all such cases of benefit and service between man and
man, not excepting even the kindness of a father to his child, will be
found on examination to be of a selfish nature. The benefit to self may
not in all cases be conscious, but it is always there. It is a father's
nature to love his child as part of himself. Moreover, these human
favors are not constant, and the person benefited stands comparatively
on the same level of existence and worth as his benefactor. How much
greater then is the duty incumbent upon us to appreciate God's favors
which are not selfish, which are constant, and which are bestowed by the
greatest of all beings upon the smallest of all in respect of physical

The only way in which man can repay God for his kindness, and show an
appreciation thereof is by submitting to him and doing those things
which will bring him nearer to God. In order to realize this it is
necessary to abandon the bad qualities, which are in principle two, love
of pleasure and love of power. The means enabling one to obtain this
freedom are to abstain from too much eating, drinking, idling, and so
on, for the first, and from too much gossip, social intercourse, and
love of glory for the second. It may be difficult to do this, but one
must make up one's mind to it, like the invalid who is ready to lose a
limb in order to save his life.

The problem of free will is perplexing indeed and interferes with the
proper attitude toward God and his worship. The best way out of the
difficulty is to act as if we were free, and on the other hand to have
confidence in God as the author of everything.

We have seen that the reason bids us recognize our duty to God in return
for his goodness to us. At the same time we are not left to the
suggestions and promptings of the reason alone. We have a positive law
prescribing our conduct and the manner and measure of expressing our
gratitude to God. This is made necessary by the constitution of man's
nature. He is a composite of body and spirit. The former is at home in
this lower world and is endowed with powers and qualities which tend to
strengthen it at the expense of the spirit, a stranger in this world.
Hence the necessity of a positive law to cure the spirit from the ills
of the body by forbidding certain kinds of food, clothing, sexual
indulgence, and so on, which strengthen the appetites, and commanding
such actions as prayer, fasting, charity, benevolence, which have the
opposite tendency of strengthening the reason.

The positive law is necessary and useful besides because it prescribes
the middle way, discouraging equally the extremes of asceticism and of
self-indulgence. It regulates and defines conduct, and makes it uniform
for old and young, intelligent and unintelligent. It institutes new
occasions of worship and thanksgiving as history reveals new
benefactions of God to his people in various generations. The law also
contains matters which the reason alone would not dictate, and of which
it does not understand the meaning. Such are the "traditional
commandments." The reason why the law prescribes also some of the
principles of the "rational commandments" is because at that time the
people were so sunk in their animal desires that their minds were
weakened, and there was need of putting both classes of commandments on
the same level of positive prescription. But now the intelligent person
observes them in accordance with their distinct origin, whereas the
masses simply follow the law in both.

The admonition of the positive law serves as an introduction to the
suggestions of our own reason and prepares the way for the latter. The
first is absolutely necessary for the young, the women and those of weak
intellectual power. To worship God not merely because the law prescribes
it, but because reason itself demands it denotes a spiritual advance,
and puts one in the grade of prophets and pious men chosen of God. In
this world their reward is the joy they feel in the sweetness of divine
service; in the next world they attain to the spiritual light which we
cannot declare or imagine.[123]

One of the duties of the heart is to trust in God. Apart from the Bible
which commands us to have trust in God, we can come to the same
conclusion as a result of our own reflection. For in God alone are
combined all the conditions necessary to confidence. He has the power to
protect and help us, and the knowledge of our needs. He is kind and
generous and has a love for us and an interest in our welfare, as we
have shown in a previous discussion. Trust in God is of advantage
religiously in giving a person peace of mind, independence and freedom
to devote himself to the service of God without being worried by the
cares of the world. He is like the alchemist who changes lead into
silver, and silver into gold. If he has money he can make good use of it
in fulfilling his duties to God and man. If he has not, he is grateful
for the freedom from care which this gives him. He is secure against
material worries. He does not have to go to distant lands to look for
support, or to engage in hard and fatiguing labor, or to exploit other
people. He chooses the work that is in consonance with his mode of
life, and gives him leisure and strength to do his duty to God and man.

The suffering of the good and the prosperity of the bad, which
apparently contradicts our conclusion, is a problem as old as the world,
and is discussed in the Bible. There is no one explanation to cover all
cases, hence no solution is given in the Bible. But several reasons may
be brought forward for this anomaly. The righteous man may suffer by way
of punishment for a sin he has committed. He may suffer in this world in
order that he may be rewarded in the next. His suffering may be an
example of patience and goodness to other people; especially in a bad
generation, to show off their wickedness by contrast with his goodness.
Or finally the good man may be punished for not rebuking his generation
of evil doers. In a similar way we may explain the prosperity of the

Trust in God does not signify that one should neglect one's work, be
careless of one's life, health and well-being, or abandon one's effort
to provide for one's family and dependents. No, one must do all these
things conscientiously, at the same time feeling that if not for the
help of God all effort would be in vain. In the matter of doing one's
duty and observing the commandments, whether of the limbs or the heart,
trust in God can apply only to the last step in the process, namely, the
realization in practice. He must trust that God will put out of the way
all obstacles and hindrances which may prevent him from carrying out his
resolutions. The choice and consent must come from a man's own will,
which is free. The most he may do is to trust that God may remove

While it is true that good deeds are rewarded in this world as well as
in the next, a man must not trust in his deeds, but in God. It may seem
strange that there is no reference in the Bible to reward in the
hereafter. The reasons may be the following. Not knowing what the state
of the soul is without the body, we could not understand the nature of
future reward, and the statement of it in the Bible would not have been
a sufficient inducement for the people of that time to follow the
commandments. Or it is possible that the people knew by tradition of
reward after death, hence it was not necessary to specify it.

As knowledge of nature and of God leads to trust in him, so ignorance
leads away from it. It is as with a child, who develops in his manner of
trusting in things; beginning with his mother's breast and rising
gradually as he grows older and knows more, until he embraces other
persons and attains to trust in God.[124]

We said before (p. 83) that the duties of the limbs are imperfect unless
accompanied by the intention of the heart. A man's motive must be
sincere. It must not be his aim to gain the favor of his fellowmen or to
acquire honor and fame. The observance of the prescribed laws must be
motived by the sole regard for God and his service. This we call the
"unity of conduct." The meaning is that a man's act and intention must
coincide in aiming at the fulfilment of God's will. In order to realize
this properly one must have an adequate and sincere conception of God's
unity as shown above; he must have an appreciation of God's goodness as
exhibited in nature; he must submit to God's service; he must have trust
in God alone as the sole author of good and evil; and correspondingly he
must abstain from flattering mankind, and must be indifferent to their
praise and blame; he must fear God, and have respect and awe for him.
When he is in the act of fulfilling his spiritual obligations, he must
not be preoccupied with the affairs of this world; and finally he must
always consult his reason, and make it control his desires and

Humility and lowliness is an important element conducive to "unity of
conduct." By this is not meant that general helplessness in the face of
conditions, dangers and injuries because of ignorance of the methods of
averting them. This is not humility but weakness. Nor do we mean that
timidity and loss of countenance which one suffers before a superior in
physical power or wealth. The true humility with which we are here
concerned is that which one feels constantly before God, though it shows
itself also in such a person's conduct in the presence of others, in
soft speech, low voice, and modest behavior generally, in prosperity as
well as adversity. The truly humble man practices patience and
forgiveness; he does good to mankind and judges them favorably; he is
contented with little in respect to food and drink and the needs of the
body generally; he endures misfortune with resignation; is not spoiled
by praise, nor irritated by blame, but realizes how far he is from
perfection in the one case, and appreciates the truth of the criticism
in the other. He is not spoiled by prosperity and success, and always
holds himself under strict account. God knows it, even if his fellowmen
do not.

Humility, as we have described it, is not, however, incompatible with a
certain kind of pride; not that form of it which boasts of physical
excellence, nor that arrogance which leads a man to look down upon
others and belittle their achievements. These forms of pride are bad and
diametrically opposed to true humility. Legitimate mental pride is that
which leads a person blessed with intellectual gifts to feel grateful to
God for his favor, and to strive to improve his talents and share their
benefits with others.[126]

Humility is a necessary forerunner of repentance and we must treat of
this duty of the heart next. It is clear from reason as well as from the
Law that man does not do all that is incumbent upon him in the service
of God. For man is composed of opposite principles warring with each
other, and is subject to change on account of the change of his mental
qualities. For this reason he needs a law and traditional custom to keep
him from going astray. The Bible also tells us that "the imagination of
the heart of man is evil from his youth" (Gen. 8, 21). Therefore God was
gracious and gave man the ability and opportunity to correct his
mistakes. This is repentance.

True repentance means return to God's service after having succeeded in
making the reason the master of the desires. The elements in repentance
are, (1) regret; (2) discontinuance of the wrong act; (3) confession and
request for pardon; (4) promise not to repeat the offence.

In respect to gravity of offence, sins may be divided into three
classes: (1) Violation of a positive commandment in the Bible which is
not punished by "cutting off from the community." For example, dwelling
in booths, wearing fringes, and shaking the palm branch. (2) Violation
of a negative commandment not so punished. (3) Violation of a negative
commandment the penalty for which is death at the hands of the court,
and being "cut off" by divine agency; for example, profanation of the
divine name or false oath. In cases of the first class a penitent is as
good as one who never sinned. In the second class he is even superior,
because the latter has not the same prophylactic against pride. In the
third class the penitent is inferior to the one who never sinned.

Another classification of offences is in two divisions according to the
subject against whom the offence is committed. This may be a human
being, and the crime is social; or it may be God, and we have sin in the
proper sense of the term. Penitence is sufficient for forgiveness in the
latter class, but not in the former. When one robs another or insults
him, he must make restoration or secure the pardon of the offended party
before his repentance can be accepted. And if the person cannot be
found, or if he died, or is alive but refuses to forgive his offender,
or if the sinner lost the money which he took, or if he does not know
whom he robbed, or how much, it may be impossible for him to atone for
the evil he has done. Still if he is really sincere in his repentance,
God will help him to make reparation to the person wronged.[127]

Self-examination is conducive to repentance. By this term is meant
taking stock of one's spiritual condition so as to know the merits one
has as well the duties one owes. In order to do this conscientiously a
man must reflect on the unity of God, on his wisdom and goodness, on the
obedience which all nature pays to the laws imposed upon it, disregard
of which would result in the annihilation of all things, including
himself. A man should review his past conduct, and provide for his
future life, as one provides for a long journey, bearing in mind that
life is short, and that he is a stranger in this world with no one to
help him except the goodness and grace of his maker. He should cultivate
the habit of being alone and not seek the society of idlers, for that
leads to gossip and slander, to sin and wrong, to vanity and neglect of
God. This does not apply to the company of the pious and the learned,
which should be sought. He should be honest and helpful to his friends,
and he will get along well in this world. All the evils and complaints
of life are due to the fact that people are not considerate of one
another, and everyone grabs for himself all that he can, more than he
needs. One should examine anew the ideas one has from childhood to be
sure that he understands them in the light of his riper intellect. He
should also study again the books of the Bible and the prayers which he
learned as a child, for he would see them now in a different light. He
must try to make his soul control his body, strengthening it with
intellectual and spiritual food for the world to come. These efforts and
reflections and many others of a similar kind tend to perfect the soul
and prepare it to attain to the highest degree of purity, where the evil
desire can have no power over her.[128]

In self-examination temperance or abstemiousness plays an important
rôle. Let us examine this concept more closely. By abstemiousness in the
special sense in which we use it here we do not mean that general
temperance or moderation which we practice to keep our body in good
order, or such as physicians prescribe for the healthy and the sick,
bidding them abstain from certain articles of food, drink, and so on. We
mean rather a more stringent abstemiousness, which may be called
separation from the world, or asceticism. We may define this to mean
abstention from all corporeal satisfactions except such as are
indispensable for the maintenance of life.

Not everyone is required to practice this special form of temperance,
nor is it desirable that he should, for it would lead to extinction of
the human race. At the same time it is proper that there shall be a few
select individuals, ascetic in their habits of life, and completely
separated from the world, to serve as an example for the generality of
mankind, in order that temperance of the more general kind shall be the
habit of the many.

The object of God in creating man was to try the soul in order to purify
it and make it like the angels. It is tried by being put in an earthy
body, which grows and becomes larger by means of food. Hence God put
into the soul the desire for food, and the desire for sexual union to
perpetuate the species; and he made the reward for the satisfaction of
these desires the pleasure which they give. He also appointed the "evil
inclination" to incite to all these bodily pleasures. Now if this "evil
inclination" gets the upper hand of the reason, the result is excess and
ruin. Hence the need of general abstemiousness. And the ascetic class
serve the purpose of reinforcing general temperance by their example.

But in the asceticism of the few there is also a limit beyond which one
should not go. Here too the middle way is the best. Those extremists who
leave the world entirely and live the life of a recluse in the desert,
subsisting on grass and herbs, are farthest from the middle way, and the
Bible does not approve of their mode of life, as we read in Isaiah (45,
18) "The God that formed the earth and made it; he that hath
established it,--not in vain did he create it, he formed it to be
inhabited." Those are much better who without leaving for the desert
pass solitary lives in their homes, not associating with other people,
and abstaining from superfluities of all kinds. But the best of all are
those who adopt the mildest form of asceticism, who separate from the
world inwardly while taking part in it outwardly, and assisting in the
ordinary occupations of mankind. These are commended in the Bible.
Witness the prayer of Jacob (Gen. 28, 20), the fasting of Moses forty
days and forty nights on the mount, the fasting of Elijah, the laws of
the Nazirite, Jonadab ben Rechab, Elisha, prescriptions of fasting on
various occasions, and so on.[129]

The highest stage a man can reach spiritually is the love of God, and
all that preceded has this as its aim. True love of God is that felt
toward him for his own sake because of his greatness and exaltation, and
not for any ulterior purpose.

The soul is a simple spiritual substance which inclines to that which is
like it, and departs from what is material and corporeal. But when God
put the soul into the body, he implanted in it the desire to maintain
it, and it was thus affected by the feelings and desires which concern
the health and growth of the body, thus becoming estranged from the

In order that the soul shall attain to the true love of God, the reason
must get the upper hand of the desires, all the topics treated in the
preceding sections must be taken to heart and sincerely and
conscientiously acted upon. Then the eyes of the soul will be opened,
and it will be filled with the fear and the love of God.[130]



It had been known for a number of years that there was a manuscript
treatise in Arabic on the soul, which was attributed on the title page
to Bahya. In 1896 Isaac Broydé published a Hebrew translation of this
work under the title "Torot ha-Nefesh," ("Reflections on the
Soul").[131] The original Arabic was edited by Goldziher in 1907.[132]
The Arabic title is "Maʿani al-Nafs," and should be translated "Concepts
of the soul," or "Attributes of the soul."

There seems little doubt now that despite the ascription on the title
page of the manuscript, the treatise is not a work of Bahya. It is very
unlikely that anything written by so distinguished an author as Bahya,
whose "Duties of the Hearts" was the most popular book in the middle
ages, should have been so thoroughly forgotten as to have left no trace
in Jewish literature. Bahya as well as the anonymous author refer, in
the introductions to their respective works, to their sources or to
their own previous writings. But there is no reference either in the
"Duties of the Hearts" to the "Attributes of the Soul," or in the latter
to the former. A still stronger argument against Bahya as the author of
our treatise is that derived from the content of the work, which moves
in a different circle of ideas from the "Duties of the Hearts." Our
anonymous author is an outspoken Neo-Platonist. He believes in the
doctrine of emanation, and arranges the created universe, spiritual and
material, in a descending series of such emanations, ten in number. The
Mutakallimun he opposes as being followers of the "Naturalists," who
disagree with the philosophers as well as the Bible. Bahya, on the other
hand, is a strict follower of the Kalam in his chapter on the "Unity,"
as we have seen (p. 86), and the Neo-Platonic influence is very slight.
There is no trace of a graded series of emanations in the "Duties of the

The sources of the "Attributes of the Soul" are no doubt the various
Neo-Platonic writings current among the Arabs in the tenth and eleventh
centuries, of which we spoke in the Introduction (p. xx) and in the
chapter on Gabirol (p. 63 f.). Gabirol himself can scarcely have had
much influence on our author, as the distinctive doctrine of the "Fons
Vitæ" is absent in our treatise. The reader will remember that matter
and form, according to Gabirol, are at the basis not merely of the
corporeal world, but that they constitute the essence of the spiritual
world as well, the very first emanation, the Universal Intelligence,
being composed of universal matter and universal form. As we shall see
this is not the view of the "Attributes of the Soul." Matter here
occupies the position which it has in Plotinus and in the encyclopædia
of the Brethren of Purity. It is the fourth in order of emanations, and
the composition of matter and form begins with the celestial sphere,
which is the fifth in order. Everything that precedes matter is
absolutely simple. At the same time it seems clear that he was familiar
with Gabirol's doctrine of the will. For in at least two passages in the
"Attributes of the Soul" (chs. 11 and 13)[134] we have the series,
vegetative soul, spheral impression, [psychic power--omitted in ch. 13],
universal soul, intellect, will.

The "Categories" of Aristotle is also clearly evident in the "Attributes
of the Soul." It is the ultimate source of the definition of accident as
that which resides in substance without being a part of it, but yet in
such a way that without substance it cannot exist.[135] The number of
the species of motion as six[136] points in the same direction. This,
however, does not prove that the author read the "Categories." He might
have derived these notions, as well as the list of the ten categories,
from the writings of the Brethren of Purity. The same thing applies to
the statement that a spiritual substance is distinguished from a
corporeal in its capacity of receiving its qualities or accidents
without limits.[137] This probably goes back to the De Anima of
Aristotle where a similar contrast between the senses and the reason is
used as an argument for the "separate" character of the latter. The
doctrine of the mean in conduct[138] comes from the ethics of Aristotle.
The doctrine of the four virtues and the manner of their derivation is
Platonic,[139] and so is the doctrine of reminiscence, viz., that the
soul recalls the knowledge it had in its previous life.[140]

Ibn Sina is one of the latest authors mentioned in our work; hence it
could not have been written much before 1037, the date of Ibn Sina's
death. The _terminus ad quem_ cannot be determined.

As the title indicates, the anonymous treatise is concerned primarily
with the nature of the soul. Whatever other topics are found therein are
introduced for the bearing they have on the central problem. A study of
the soul means psychology as well as ethics, for a complete
determination of the nature of the soul necessarily must throw light not
only upon the origin and activity of the soul, but also upon its purpose
and destiny.

The first error, we are told, that we must remove concerning the soul,
is the doctrine of the "naturalists," with whom the Muʿtazilites among
the Arabs and the Karaites among the Jews are in agreement, that the
soul is not an independent and self-subsistent entity, but only an
"accident" of the body. Their view is that as the soul is a corporeal
quality it is dependent for its existence upon the body and disappears
with the latter. Those of the Muʿtazilites who believe in "Mahad"
(return of the soul to its origin), hold that at the time of the
resurrection God will bring the parts of the body together with its
accident, the soul, and will reward and punish them. But the
resurrection is a distinct problem, and has nothing to do with the
nature of the soul and its qualities.

The true opinion, which is that of the Bible and the true philosophers,
is that the soul is a spiritual substance independent of the body; that
it existed before the body and will continue to exist after the
dissolution of the latter. The existence of a spiritual substance is
proved from the presence of such qualities as knowledge and ignorance.
These are opposed to each other, and cannot be the qualities of body as
such, for body cannot contain two opposite forms at the same time.
Moreover, the substance, whatever it be, which bears the attributes of
knowledge and ignorance, can receive them without limit. The more
knowledge a person has, the more capable he is of acquiring more. No
corporeal substance behaves in this way. There is always a limit to a
body's power of receiving a given accident. We legitimately conclude,
therefore, that the substance which bears the attributes of knowledge
and ignorance is not corporeal but spiritual.[141]

To understand the position of the soul and its relation to the body, we
must have an idea of the structure and origin of the universe. The
entire world, upper as well as lower, is divided into two parts, simple
and composite. The simple essences, which are pure and bright, are
nearer to their Creator than the less simple substances which come
after. There are ten such creations with varying simplicity, following
each other in order according to the arrangement dictated by God's
wisdom. As numbers are simple up to ten, and then they begin to be
compound, so in the universe the ten simple substances are followed by

The first of these simple creations, which is nearest to God, is called
in Hebrew "Shekinah." The Torah and the Prophets call it "Name" (Exod.
23, 21), also "Kabod," Glory (Is. 59, 19). God gave his name to the
nearest and first of his creations, which is the first light, and
interpreter and servant nearest to him. Solomon calls it "Wisdom" (Prov.
8, 22); the Greeks, Active Intellect. The second creation is called by
the Prophets, "the Glory of the God of Israel" (Ezek. 8, 9); by the
Greeks, Universal Soul, for it moves the spheres through a natural power
as the individual soul moves the body. The soul partakes of the
Intelligence or Intellect on the side which is near to it; it partakes
of Nature on the side adjoining the latter. Nature is the third
creation. It also is an angel, being the first of the powers of the
universal soul, and constituting the life of this world and its motion.

These three are simple essences in the highest sense of the word. They
are obedient to their Creator, and transmit in order his emanation and
the will, and the laws of his wisdom to all the worlds. The fourth
creation is an essence which has no activity or life or motion
originally, but only a power of receiving whatever is formed and created
out of it. This is the _Matter_ of the world. From it come the bodies
which possess accidents. In being formed some of its non-existence is
diminished, and its matter moves. It is called "hyle," and is the same
as the darkness of the first chapter in Genesis. For it is a mistake to
suppose that by darkness in the second verse of the first chapter is
meant the absence of the light of the sun. This is accidental darkness,
whereas in the creation story the word darkness signifies something
elemental at the basis of corporeal things. This is what is known as
matter, which on account of its darkness, _i. e._, its imperfection and
motionlessness, is the cause of all the blemishes and evils in the
world. In receiving forms, however, it acquires motion; its darkness is
somewhat diminished, and it appears to the eye through the forms which
it receives.

The fifth creation is the celestial Sphere, where for the first time we
have motion in its revolutions. Here too we have the first composition
of matter and form; and the beginning of time as the measure of the
Sphere's motion; and place. The sixth creation is represented by the
bodies of the _stars_, which are moved by the spheres in which they are
set. They are bright and luminous because they are near the first simple
bodies, which were produced before time and place. The last four of the
ten creations are the four elements, fire, air, water, earth. The
element earth is the end of "creation." What follows thereafter is
"formation" and "composition." By creation is meant that which results
through the will of God from his emanation alone, and not out of
anything, or in time or place. It applies in the strictest sense to the
first three only. The fifth, namely the Sphere, already comes from
matter and form, and is in time and place. The fourth, too, enters into
the fifth and all subsequent creations and formations. Still, the term
creation is applicable to the first ten, though in varying degrees,
until when we reach the element earth, creation proper is at an end.
This is why in the first verse in Genesis, which speaks of heaven and
earth, the term used is "bara" (created), and not any of the other
terms, such as "yazar," "ʿasah," "kanah," "paʿal," and so on, which
denote formation.

From earth and the other elements were formed all kinds of minerals,
like rocks, mountains, stones, and so on. Then plants and animals, and
finally man.

Man who was formed last bears traces of all that preceded him. He is
formed of the four elements, of the motions of the spheres, of the
mixtures of the stars and their rays, of Nature, of the Universal Soul,
the mother of all, of the Intellect, the father of all, and finally of
the will of God. But the order in man is reversed. The first two
creations, Intellect and Soul, appear in man last.

The soul of man, embracing reason and intellect, is thus seen to be a
divine emanation, being related to the universal soul and Intellect. On
its way from God to man it passes through all spheres, and every one
leaves an impression upon her, and covers her with a wrapper, so to
speak. The brightness of the star determines the ornament or "wrapper"
which the soul gets from it. This is known to the Creator, who
determines the measure of influence and the accidents attaching to the
soul until she reaches the body destined for her by his will. The longer
the stay in a given sphere the stronger the influence of the sphere in
question; and hence the various temperaments we observe in persons,
which determine their character and conduct. For at bottom the soul is
the same in essence and unchangeable in all men, because she is an
emanation from the Unchangeable. All individual differences are due to
the spheral impressions. These impressions, however, do not take away
from the soul its freedom of will.[142]

In the rest of his psychology and ethics the anonymous author follows
Platonic theories, modified now and then in the manner of Aristotle.
Thus we are told that the soul consists of three powers, or three souls,
the vegetative, the animal and the rational. We learn of the existence
of the vegetative soul from the nourishment, growth and reproduction
evidenced by the individual. The animal soul shows its presence in the
motions of the body. The existence of the rational soul we have already
shown from the attributes of knowledge and ignorance.

The vegetative soul comes from certain spheral influences, themselves
due to the universal soul, and ultimately to the will of God. It is the
first of the three to make its appearance in the body. It is already
found in the embryo, to which it gives the power of motion in its own
place like the motion of a plant or tree. Its seat is in the liver,
where the growth of the embryo begins. Its function ceases about the
twentieth year, when the growth of the body reaches its limit.

The animal soul springs from the heart. Its functioning appears after
birth when the child begins to crawl, and continues until the person
loses the power of locomotion in old age. The rational soul resides in
the middle of the brain. She knows all things before joining the body,
but her knowledge is obscured on account of the material coverings which
she receives on her way down from her divine source.[143]

The virtue of the vegetative soul is temperance; of the animal soul,
courage; of the rational soul, wisdom. When these are harmoniously
combined in the individual, and the two lower souls are controlled by
the higher, there results the fourth virtue, which is justice, and which
gives its possessor the privilege of being a teacher and a leader of his
people. In Moses all these qualities were exemplified, and Isaiah (11,
1-4) in describing the qualities of the Messianic King also enumerates
these four cardinal virtues. "The spirit of wisdom and understanding"
represents wisdom, "the spirit of counsel and strength" stands for
courage; "the spirit of knowledge and fear of the Lord" denotes
temperance; and justice is represented in the phrase, "and he will judge
the poor with righteousness."[144]

Virtue is a mean between the two extremes of excess and defect, each of
which is a vice. Thus an excess of wisdom becomes shrewdness and cunning
and deceit; while a defect means ignorance. The true wisdom consists in
the middle way between the two extremes. Similarly courage is a mean
between foolhardiness and rashness on the side of excess, and cowardice
on the side of defect. Temperance is a mean between excessive indulgence
of the appetites on one side and utter insensibility on the other. The
mean of justice is the result of the harmonious combination of the means
of the last three. If the rational soul has wisdom and the two other
souls are obedient to it through modesty and courage, their substance
changes into the substance of the rational soul, _i. e._, their bad
qualities are transformed into the four virtues just mentioned. Then the
two lower souls unite with the rational soul and enjoy eternal happiness
with it. On the other hand, if the rational soul follows the senses, its
wisdom changes into their folly, its virtues into their vices, and it
perishes with them.[145]

The immortality of the soul is proved as follows. Things composed of
elements return back to their elements, hence the soul also returns to
its own origin. The soul is independent of the body, for its qualities,
thought and knowledge, are not bodily qualities, hence they become
clearer and more certain after the soul is separated from the body than
before, when the body obscured its vision like a curtain. The fact that
a person's mind is affected when his body is ill does not show that the
soul is dependent in its nature upon the body; but that acting as it
does in the body by means of corporeal organs, it cannot perform its
functions properly when these organs are injured.

Since death is a decree of God, it is clear that he has a purpose in
changing the relations of body and soul. But if the soul comes to an
end, this change would be a vain piece of work of which he cannot be
guilty. Hence it follows that the destruction of the body is in order
that we may exist in another similar form, similar to the angels.[146]

The purpose of the soul's coming into this world is in order that she
may purify the two lower souls; also that she may know the value of her
own world in comparison with this one, and in grieving for having left
it may observe God's commandments, and thus achieve her return to her
own world.

In the matter of returning to their own world after separation from the
body, souls are graded according to the measure of their knowledge and
the value of their conduct. These two conditions, ethical and spiritual
or intellectual, are requisite of fulfilment before the soul can regain
its original home. The soul on leaving this world is like a clean, white
garment soaked in water. If the water is clean, it is easy to dry the
garment, and it becomes even cleaner than it was before. But if the
water is dirty, no amount of drying will make the garment clean.

Those souls which instead of elevating the two lower souls, vegetative
and animal, were misled by them, will perish with the latter. Between
the two extremes of perfection and wickedness there are intermediate
stages, and the souls are treated accordingly. Those of the proud will
rise in the air and flying hither and thither will not find a resting
place. Those which have knowledge, but no good deeds, will rise to the
sphere of the ether, but will be prevented from rising higher by the
weight of their evil deeds, and the pure angels will rain down upon them
arrows of fire, thus causing them to return below in shame and disgrace.
The souls of the dishonest will be driven from place to place without
finding any rest. Other bad souls will be punished in various ways.
Those souls which have good deeds but no knowledge will be placed in the
terrestrial paradise until their souls recall the knowledge they had in
their original state, and they will then return to the Garden of Eden
among the angels.[147]



Abraham bar Hiyya, the Prince, as he is called, lived in Spain in the
first half of the twelfth century. He also seems to have stayed some
time in southern France, though we do not know when or how long. His
greatest merit lies not in his philosophical achievement which, if we
may judge from the only work of a philosophical character that has come
down to us, is not very great. He is best known as a writer on
mathematics, astronomy and the calendar; though there, too, his most
important service lay not so much in the original ideas he propounded,
as in the fact that he was among the first, if not the first, to
introduce the scientific thought current in the Orient and in Moorish
Spain into Christian Europe, and especially among the Jews of France and
Germany, who devoted all their energies to the Rabbinical literature,
and to whom the Arabic works of their Spanish brethren were a sealed

So we find Abraham bar Hiyya, or Abraham Savasorda (a corruption of the
Arabic title Sahib al-Shorta), associated with Plato of Tivoli in the
translation into Latin of Arabic scientific works. And he himself wrote
a number of books on mathematics and astronomy in Hebrew at the request
of his friends in France who could not read Arabic. Abraham bar Hiyya is
the first of the writers we have treated so far who composed a
scientific work in the Hebrew language. All the others, with the
exception of Abraham ibn Ezra, wrote in Arabic, as they continued to do
until and including Maimonides.

The only one of his extant works which is philosophical in content is
the small treatise "Hegyon ha-Nefesh," Meditation of the Soul.[148] It
is a popular work, written with a practical purpose, ethical and
homiletic in tone and style. The idea of repentance plays an important
rôle in the book, and what theoretical philosophy finds place therein is
introduced merely as a background and basis for the ethical and
religious considerations which follow. It may be called a miniature
"Duties of the Hearts." As in all homiletical compositions in Jewish
literature, exegesis of Biblical passages takes up a good deal of the
discussions, and for the history of the philosophic movement in mediæval
Judaism the methods of reading metaphysical and ethical ideas into the
Bible are quite as important as these ideas themselves.

The general philosophical standpoint of Abraham bar Hiyya may be
characterized as an uncertain Neo-Platonism, or a combination of
fundamental Aristotelian ideas with a Neo-Platonic coloring. Thus matter
and form are the fundamental principles of the world. They existed
potentially apart in the wisdom of God before they were combined and
thus realized in actuality.[149] Time being a measure of motion, came
into being together with the motion which followed upon this
combination. Hence neither the world nor time is eternal. This is
Platonic, not Aristotelian, who believes in the eternity of motion as
well as of time. Abraham bar Hiyya also speaks of the purest form as
light and as looking at and illuminating the form inferior to it and
thus giving rise to the heavens, minerals and plants.[150] This is all
Neo-Platonic. And yet the most distinctive doctrine of Plotinus and the
later Neo-Platonists among the Arabs, the series of emanating
hypostases, Intellect, Universal Soul, Nature, Matter, and so on, is
wanting in the "Hegyon ha-Nefesh."[151] Form is the highest thing he
knows outside of God; and the purest form, which is too exalted to
combine with matter, embraces angels, seraphim, souls, and all forms
related to the upper world.[152] With the exception of the names angel,
seraphim, souls, this is good Aristotelian doctrine, who also believes
in the movers of the spheres and the active intellect in man as being
pure forms.

To proceed now to give a brief account of Abraham bar Hiyya's teaching,
he thinks it is the duty of rational man to know how it is that man who
is so insignificant was given control of the other animals, and endowed
with the power of wisdom and knowledge. In order to gain this knowledge
we must investigate the origins and principles of existing things, so
that we may arrive at an understanding of things as they are. This the
wise men of other nations have realized, though they were not privileged
to receive a divine Torah, and have busied themselves with philosophical
investigations. Our Bible recommends to us the same method in the words
of Deuteronomy (4, 39), "Know therefore this day, and reflect in thy
heart, that the Lord is God in the heavens above, and upon the earth
beneath: there is none else." This means that if you understand
thoroughly the order of things in heaven above and the earth beneath,
you will at once see that God made it in his wisdom, and that he is the
only one and there is no one beside him. The book of Job teaches the
same thing, when it says (19, 26) "And from my flesh I shall behold
God." This signifies that from the structure of the body and the form of
its members we can understand the wisdom of the Creator. We need not
hesitate therefore to study the works of the ancients and the wise men
of other nations in order to learn from them the nature of existence. We
have the permission and recommendation of Scripture.[153]

Starting from a consideration of man we see that he is the last of
created things because we find in him additional composition over and
above that found in other creatures. Man is a "_rational animal_."
"Animal" means a body that grows and moves and at last is dissolved.
"Rational" refers to the power of knowledge, of inferring one thing from
another, and discriminating between good and evil. In this man differs
from other animals. Descending in the scale of existence we find that
the plant also grows and dies like the animal, but it does not move.
Stones, metals and other inanimate bodies on the earth, change their
forms and shapes, but unlike plants they have no power of growing or
increasing. They are the simplest of the things on the earth. They
differ from the heavenly bodies in that the latter never change their
forms. Proceeding further in our analysis, we find that body, the
simplest thing so far, means length, breadth and depth attached to
something capable of being measured. This definition shows that body is
also composed of two elements, which are theoretically distinct until
God's will joins them together. These are "hyle" (matter)--what has no
likeness or form, but has the capacity of receiving form--and form,
which is defined as that which has power to clothe the hyle with any
form. Matter alone is too weak to sustain itself, unless form comes to
its aid. Form, on the other hand, is not perceptible to sense unless it
clothes matter, which bears it. One needs the other. Matter cannot
_exist_ without form; form cannot _be seen_ without matter. Form is
superior to matter, because it needs the latter only to be seen but can
exist by itself though not seen; whereas matter cannot _exist_ without
form. These two, matter and form, were hidden in God, where they existed
potentially until the time came to produce them and realize them _in

Matter is further divided into two kinds. There is pure matter, which
enters into the composition of the heavens, and impure matter, forming
the substance of terrestrial bodies. Similarly form may be divided at
first into two kinds; closed and sealed form, too pure and holy to be
combined with matter; and open and penetrable form, which is fit to
unite with matter. The pure, self-subsistent form gazes at and
illuminates the penetrable form, and helps it to clothe matter with all
the forms of which the latter is capable.

Now when God determined to realize matter and form _in actu_, he caused
the pure form to be clothed with its splendor, which no hyle can touch.
This gave rise to angels, seraphim, souls, and all other forms of the
upper world. Not all men can see these forms or conceive them in the
mind, because they do not unite with anything which the eye can
perceive, and the majority of people cannot understand what they cannot
perceive with their corporeal senses. Only those who are given to
profound scientific investigations can understand the essence of these

The light of this pure form then emanated upon the second form, and by
the word of God the latter united with the pure matter firmly and
permanently, so that there is never a change as long as they are united.
This union gave rise to the bodies of the heavens (spheres and fixed
stars) which never change their forms. Then the form united with the
impure matter, and this gave rise to all the bodies in the sublunar
world, which change their forms. These are the four elements, and the
products of their composition, including plants.[154]

So far we have bodies which do not change their places. Then a light
emanated from the self-subsisting form by the order of God, the splendor
of which spread upon the heaven, moving from point to point, and caused
the material form (_i. e._, the inferior, so-called penetrable form) to
change its place. This produced the stars which change their position
but not their forms (planets). From this light extending over the heaven
emanated another splendor which reached the body with changing form,
giving rise to the three species of living beings, aquatic, aerial and
terrestial animals, corresponding to the three elements, water, air,
earth; as there is no animal life in fire.

We have so far therefore three kinds of forms. (1) The pure
self-subsistent form which never combines with matter. This embraces all
the forms of the spiritual world. (2) Form which unites with body firmly
and inseparably. These are the forms of the heavens and the stars. (3)
Form which unites with body temporarily. Such are the forms of the
bodies on the earth. The forms of the second and third classes cannot
exist without bodies. The form of class number one cannot exist with
body. To make the scheme complete, there ought to be a fourth kind of
form which can exist with as well as without body. In other words, a
form which unites with body for a time and then returns to its original
state and continues to exist without body. Reason demands that the
classification should be complete, hence there must be such a form, and
the only one worthy of this condition is the soul of man. We thus have a
proof of the immortality of the soul.[155]

These are the ideas of the ancient sages, and we shall find that they
are drawn from the Torah. Thus matter and form are indicated in the
second verse of Genesis, "And the earth was _without form_ (Heb. Tohu)
and _void_ (Heb. Bohu)." "Tohu" is matter; "Bohu" (בו הוא = בהו)
signifies that through which matter gains existence, hence form.
"Water" (Heb. Mayim) is also a general word for any of the various
forms, whereas "light" (Heb. Or) stands for the pure subsistent form. By
"firmament" (Heb. Rakiaʿ) is meant the second kind of form which unites
with the pure matter in a permanent and unchangeable manner. "Let there
be a _firmanent_ in the midst of the _waters_" (Gen. 1, 6) indicates
that the "firmament" is embraced by the bright light of the first day,
that is the universal form, from which all the other forms come. "And
let it divide between _water_ and _water_" (_ib._) signifies that the
"firmament" stands between the self-subsistent form and the third kind
of form above mentioned, namely, that which unites with body and gives
rise to substances changing their forms, like minerals and plants. The
"luminaries" (Heb. Meorot) correspond to the second light mentioned
above. We shall find also that the order of creation as given in Genesis
coincides with the account given above in the name of the ancient

It would seem as if the self-subsisting form and the two lights
emanating from it are meant to represent the Intellect, Soul and Nature
of the Neo-Platonic trinity respectively, and that Abraham bar Hiyya
purposely changed the names and partly their functions in order to make
the philosophical account agree with the story of creation in Genesis.

With regard to the intellectual and ethical condition of the soul and
its destiny, the speculative thinkers of other nations, arguing from
reason alone and having no divine revelation to guide or confirm their
speculations, are agreed that the only way in which the soul, which
belongs to a higher world, can be freed from this world of body and
change is through _intellectual excellence_ and _right conduct_.
Accordingly they classify souls into four kinds. The soul, they say, may
have health, sickness, life, death. Health signifies _wisdom_ or
_knowledge_; sickness denotes _ignorance_. Life means the _fear of God_
and _right conduct_; death is _neglect of God_ and _evil practice_.
Every person combines in himself one of the two intellectual qualities
with one of the two ethical qualities. Thus we have four classes of
persons. A man may be wise and pious, wise and wicked, ignorant and
pious, ignorant and wicked. And his destiny after death is determined by
the class to which he belongs. Thus when a man who is wise and pious
departs this world, his soul by reason of its wisdom separates from the
body and exists in its own form as before. Owing to its piety it will
rise to the upper world until it reaches the pure, eternal form, with
which it will unite for ever. If the man is wise and wicked, the wisdom
of the soul will enable it to exist without body; but on account of its
wickedness and indulgence in the desires of this world, it cannot become
completely free from the creatures of this world, and the best it can do
is to rise above the sublunar world of change to the world of the
planets where the forms do not change, and move about beneath the light
of the sun, the heat of which will seem to it like a fire burning it
continually, and preventing it from rising to the upper light.

If the man is ignorant and pious, his soul will be saved from body in
order that it may exist by itself, but his ignorance will prevent his
soul from leaving the atmosphere of the lower world. Hence the soul will
have to be united with body a second, and a third time, if necessary,
until it finally acquires knowledge and wisdom, which will enable it to
rise above the lower world, its degree and station depending upon the
measure of intellect and virtue it possesses at the time of the last
separation from the body. The soul of the man who is both ignorant and
wicked cannot be saved from the body entirely, and dies like a beast.

These are the views of speculative thinkers which we may adopt, but they
cannot tell us what is the content of the terms _wisdom_ and _right
conduct_. Not having been privileged to receive the sacred Law, which is
the source of all wisdom and the origin of rectitude, they cannot tell
us in concrete fashion just what a man must know and what he must do in
order to raise his soul to the highest degree possible for it to attain.
And if they were to tell us what they understand by wisdom and right
conduct, we should not listen to them. Our authority is the Bible, and
we must test the views of the philosophers by the teaching of the Bible.

If we do this we find authority in Scripture also for belief in the
immortality of the soul. Thus if we study carefully the expressions used
of the various creations in the first chapter of Genesis, we notice that
in some cases the divine command is expressed by the phrase, "Let there
be...," followed by the name of the thing to be created; and the
execution of the command is expressed by the words, "And there was...,"
the name of the created object being repeated; or the phrase may be
simply, "And it was so," without naming the object. In other cases the
expression "Let there be" is not used, nor the corresponding "And there

This variation in expression is not accidental. It is deliberate and
must be understood. Upon a careful examination we cannot fail to see
that where the expression "Let there be" is used, the object so created
exists in this world permanently and without change. Thus, "Let there be
light" (Gen. i, 3). If in addition we have the corresponding expression,
"And there was," in connection with the same object and followed by its
name, it means that the object will continue its everlasting existence
in the next world also. Hence, "And there was light" (_ib._). In the
creation of the firmament and the luminaries we have the expression,
"Let there be"; the corresponding expression at the end is in each case
not, "And there was...," but, "And it was so." This signifies that in
this world, as long as it lasts, the firmament and luminaries are
permanent and without change; but they will have no continuance in the
next world. In the creation of the sublunar world we do not find the
phrase, "Let there be," at all, but such expressions as, "Let the waters
be gathered together" (_ib._ 9), "Let the earth produce grass" (_ib._
11), and so on. This means that these things change their forms and have
no permanent existence in this world. The phrase, "And it was so,"
recording the realization of the divine command, signifies that they do
not exist at all in the next world.

The case is different in man. We do not find the expression, "Let there
be," in the command introducing his formation; hence he has no
permanence in this world. But we do find the expression, "And the man
became (lit. _was_) a living soul" (_ib._ 2, 7), which means that he
will have permanent existence in the next world. The article before the
word man in the verse just quoted indicates that not every man lives
forever in the next world, but only the good. What manner of man he must
be in order to have this privilege, _i. e._, of what nation he must be a
member, we shall see later. This phase of the question the speculative
thinkers cannot understand, hence they did not investigate it. Reason
alone cannot decide this question; it needs the guidance of the Torah,
which is divine.

Consulting the Torah on this problem, we notice that man is
distinguished above other animals in the manner of his creation in three
respects. (1) All other living beings were created by means of something
else. The water or the earth was ordered to produce them. Man alone was
made directly by God. (2) There are three expressions used for the
creation of living things, "create" (Heb. bara), "form" (Heb. yazar),
and "make" (Heb. ʿasah). The water animals have only the first (_ib._ 1,
21), as being the lowest in the scale of animal life. Land animals have
the second and the third, "formed" and "made" (_ib._ 1, 25; 2, 19). Man,
who is superior to all the others, has all the three expressions (_ib._
26, 27; 2, 7). (3) Man was given dominion over the other animals (_ib._
1, 28).

As man is distinguished above the other animals, so is one nation
distinguished above other men. In Isaiah (43, 7) we read: "Every one
that is called by my name, and whom I have _created_ for my glory; I
have _formed_ him; yea, I have _made_ him." The three terms, created,
formed, made, signify that the reference is to man; and we learn from
this verse that those men were created for his glory who are called by
his name. But if we inquire in the Bible we find that the nation called
by God's name is Israel, as we read (_ib._ 1), "Thus said the Lord that
created thee, O Israel, Fear not; for I have redeemed thee, I have
called thee by thy name; thou art mine," and in many other passages
besides. The reason for this is their belief in the unity of God and
their reception of the Law. At the same time others who are not
Israelites are not excluded from reaching the same degree through

There is no system of ethics in Abraham bar Hiyya, and we shall in the
sequel select some of his remarks bearing on ethics and pick out the
ethical kernel from its homiletical and exegetical husk.

Man alone, he tells us, of all animal creation receives reward and
punishment. The other animals have neither merit nor guilt. To be sure,
their fortune in life depends upon the manner in which they respond to
their environment, but this is not in the way of reward and punishment,
but a natural consequence of their natural constitution. With man it is
different, and this is because of the responsible position man occupies,
having been given the privilege and the ability to control all animal

The psychological basis of virtue in Abraham bar Hiyya is Platonic in
origin, as it is in Pseudo-Bahya, though we do not find the four
cardinal virtues and the derivation of justice from a harmonious
combination of the other three as in the Republic of Plato, to which
Pseudo-Bahya is ultimately indebted.

Man has three powers, we are told, which some call three souls. One is
the power by which he grows and multiplies like the plants of the field.
The second is that by which he moves from place to place. These two
powers he has in common with the animal. The third is that by which he
distinguishes between good and evil, between truth and falsehood,
between a thing and its opposite, and by which he acquires wisdom and
knowledge. This is the soul which distinguishes him from the other
animals. If this soul prevails over the lower two powers, the man is
called meritorious and perfect. If on the other hand the latter prevail
over the soul, the man is accounted like a beast, and is called wicked
and an evil doer. God gives merit to the animal soul for the sake of
the rational soul if the former is obedient to the latter; and on the
other hand imputes guilt to the rational soul and punishes her for the
guilt of the animal soul because she did not succeed in overcoming the

The question of the relative superiority of the naturally good who feels
no temptation to do wrong, and the temperamental person who has to
sustain a constant struggle with his passions and desires in order to
overcome them is decided by Abraham bar Hiyya in favor of the former on
the ground that the latter is never free from evil thought, whereas the
former is. And he quotes the Rabbis of the Talmud, according to whom the
reward in the future world is not the same for the two types of men. He
who must overcome temptation before he can subject his lower nature to
his reason is rewarded in the next world in a manner bearing resemblance
to the goods and pleasures of this world, and described as precious
stones and tables of gold laden with good things to eat. On the other
hand, the reward of the naturally perfect who is free from temptation is
purely spiritual, and bears no earthly traces. These men are represented
as "sitting under the Throne of Glory with their crowns on their heads
and delighting in the splendor of the Shekinah."[160]

His theodicy offers nothing remarkable. He cites and opposes a solution
frequently given in the middle ages of the problem of evil. This is
based on the assumption that God cannot be the cause of evil. How then
explain the presence of evil in the world? There is no analysis or
classification or definition of what is meant by evil. Apparently it is
physical evil which Abraham bar Hiyya has in mind. Why do some people
suffer who do not seem to deserve it? is the aspect of the problem which
interests him. One solution that is offered, he tells us, is that evil
is not anything positive or substantial. It is something negative,
absence of the good, as blindness is absence of vision; deafness,
absence of hearing; nakedness, absence of clothing. Hence it has no
cause. God produces the positive forms which are good, and determines
them to stay a definite length of time. When this time comes to an end,
the forms disappear and their negatives take their place automatically
without the necessity of any cause.

Abraham bar Hiyya is opposed to this solution of the problem, though he
gives us no philosophic reason for it. His arguments are Biblical. God
is the cause of evil as well as good, and this is the meaning of the
word "judgment" (Heb. Mishpat) that occurs so often in the Bible in
connection with God's attributes. The same idea is expressed in Jeremiah
(9, 23) "I am the Lord which exercise loving kindness, judgment and
righteousness in the earth." Loving kindness refers to the creation of
the world, which was an act of pure grace on the part of God. It was not
a necessity. His purpose was purely to do kindness to his creatures and
to show them his wisdom and power. Righteousness refers to the kindness
of God, his charity so to speak, which every one needs when he dies and
wishes to be admitted to the next world. For the majority of men have
more guilt than merit. Judgment denotes the good and evil distributed in
the world according to the law of justice. Thus he rewards the righteous
in the next world, and makes them suffer sometimes in this world in
order to try them and to double their ultimate reward. He punishes the
wicked in this world for their evil deeds, and sometimes he gives them
wealth and prosperity that they may have no claim or defence in the next
world. Thus evil in this world is not always the result of misconduct
which it punishes; it may be inflicted as a trial, as in the case of
Job. Abraham bar Hiyya's solution is therefore that there is no reason
why God should not be the author of physical evil, since everything is
done in accordance with the law of justice.[161]



Little is known of the life of Joseph ben Jacob ibn Zaddik. He lived in
Cordova; he was appointed _Dayyan_, or Judge of the Jewish community of
that city in 1138; and he died in 1149. He is praised as a Talmudic
scholar by his countryman Moses ibn Ezra, and as a poet by Abraham ibn
Daud and Harizi, though we have no Talmudic composition from his pen,
and but few poems, whether liturgical or otherwise.[162] His fame rests
on his philosophical work, and it is this phase of his career in which
we are interested here. "Olam Katon" or "Microcosm" is the Hebrew name
of the philosophical treatise which he wrote in Arabic, but which we no
longer possess in the original, being indebted for our knowledge of it
to a Hebrew translation of unknown authorship.[163] Maimonides knew
Joseph ibn Zaddik favorably, but he was not familiar with the
"Microcosm." In a letter to Samuel Ibn Tibbon, the translator of his
"Guide of the Perplexed," Maimonides tells us that though he has not
seen the "Olam Katon" of Ibn Zaddik, he knows that its tendency is the
same as that of the Brothers of Purity (_cf._ above, p. 60).[164] This
signifies that its trend of thought is Neo-Platonic, which combines
Aristotelian physics with Platonic and Plotinian metaphysics, ethics and

An examination of the book itself confirms Maimonides's judgment. In
accordance with the trend of the times there is noticeable in Ibn Zaddik
an increase of Aristotelian influence, though of a turbid kind; a
decided decrease, if not a complete abandonment, of the ideas of the
Kalam, and a strong saturation of Neo-Platonic doctrine and point of
view. It was the fashion to set the Kalam over against the philosophers
to the disadvantage of the former, as being deficient in logical
knowledge and prejudiced by theological prepossessions. This is attested
by the attitude towards the Mutakallimun of Judah Halevi, Maimonides,
Averroes. And Ibn Zaddik forms no exception to the rule. The
circumstance that it was most likely from Karaite writings, which found
their way into Spain, that Ibn Zaddik gained his knowledge of Kalamistic
ideas, was not exactly calculated to prepossess him, a Rabbanite, in
their favor. And thus while we see him in the manner of Saadia and Bahya
follow the good old method, credited by Maimonides to the Mutakallimun,
of starting his metaphysics with proofs of the world's creation, and
basing the existence of God, his unity, incorporeality and other
attributes on the creation of the world as a foundation, he turns into
an uncompromising opponent of these much despised apologetes when he
comes to discuss the nature of God's attributes, of the divine will, and
of the nature of evil. And in all these cases the target of his attack
seems to be their Karaite representative Joseph al-Basir, whose
acquaintance we made before (p. 48 ff.).

He laid under contribution his predecessors and contemporaries, Saadia,
Bahya, Pseudo-Bahya, Gabirol; and his sympathies clearly lay with the
general point of view represented by the last, and his Mohammedan
sources; though he was enough of an eclectic to refuse to follow
Gabirol, or the Brethren of Purity and the other Neo-Platonic writings,
in all the details of their doctrine; and there is evidence of an
attempt on his part to tone down the extremes of Neo-Platonic tendency
and create a kind of level in which Aristotelianism and Platonism meet
by compromising. Thus he believes with Gabirol that all things corporeal
as well as spiritual are composed of matter and form;[165] but when it
comes to defining what the matter of spiritual things may be, he tells
us that we may speak of the genus as the matter of the species--a
doctrine which is not so Neo-Platonic after all. For we do not have to
go beyond Aristotle to hear that in the definition of an object, which
represents its _intelligible_ (opposed to sensible) essence, the genus
is like the matter, the difference like the form. Of the universal and
prime matter underlying all created things outside of God, of which
Gabirol says that it is the immediate emanation of God's essence and
constitutes with universal form the Universal Intelligence, Ibn Zaddik
knows nothing. Nor do we find any outspoken scheme of emanation, such as
we see in Plotinus or with a slight modification in the cyclopœdia of
the Brethren of Purity, or as it is presupposed in the "Fons Vitæ" of
Gabirol. Ibn Zaddik does refer to the doctrine of the divine Will, which
plays such an important rôle in the philosophy of Gabirol and of the
Pseudo-Empedoclean writings, which are supposed to have been Gabirol's
source.[166] But here, too, the negative side of Ibn Zaddik's doctrine
is developed at length, while the positive side is barely alluded to in
a hint. He takes pains to show the absurdity of the view that the divine
will is a momentary entity created from time to time to make possible
the coming into being of the things and processes of our world--a view
held by the Mutakallimun as represented by their spokesman al-Basir, but
when it comes to explaining his own view of the nature of the divine
will, and whether it is identical with God or not, he suddenly becomes
reticent, refers us to the writings of Empedocles, and intimates that
the matter is involved in mystery, and it is not safe to talk about it
too plainly and openly. Evidently Ibn Zaddik was not ready to go all the
length of Gabirol's emanationism and Neo-Platonic mysticism.

The Aristotelian ideas, of which there are many in the "Microcosm," are
probably not derived from a study of Aristotle's works, but from
secondary sources. This we may safely infer from the way in which he
uses or interprets them. An Aristotelian definition is a highly
technical proposition in which every word counts, and requires a
definition in turn to be understood. In the Aristotelian context the
reader sees the methodical derivation of the concept; and the several
technical terms making up the definition are made clear by illustrative
examples. Aside from the context the proposition is obscure even in the
original Greek. Now conceive an Arabic translation of an Aristotelian
definition taken out of its context, and you do not wonder that it is
misunderstood; particularly when the interpreter's point of view is
taken from a school of thought at variance with that of Aristotle. This
is exactly what happens to Ibn Zaddik. He quotes approvingly Aristotle's
definition of the soul, and proceeds to interpret it in a manner not
intended by the author of the "De Anima."[167] If he had read the
context he could not have misunderstood the definition as he did.

Unlike his predecessors, Ibn Zaddik did not confine himself to a special
topic in philosophy or to the metaphysical aspects of Judaism. Isaac
Israeli and Gabirol discuss special questions in Physics and Metaphysics
without bringing them into relation with Judaism or the text of the
Bible. Saadia takes cognizance of philosophical doctrine solely with a
view to establishing and rationalizing Jewish dogma, and only in so far
as it may thus be utilized. Bahya and Abraham bar Hiyya confine their
philosophical outlook within still narrower limits, having Jewish ethics
as their primary concern. All of the latter make a feature of Biblical
interpretation, which lends to their work the Jewish stamp and to their
style the element of homeliness and variety. To this they owe in a
measure their popularity, which, however, cannot be said for Abraham bar
Hiyya, whose "Hegyon ha-Nefesh" was not printed until the second half of
last century. The "Microcosm" of Ibn Zaddik is the first compendium of
science, philosophy and theology in Jewish literature. And yet it is a
small book; for Ibn Zaddik does not enter into lengthy discussions, nor
does he adorn his style with rhetorical flourishes or copious quotations
from Bible and Talmud. The "Olam Katon" is clearly meant for beginners,
who require a summary and compendious view of so much of physics,
psychology, metaphysics and ethics as will give them an idea of the
position of man in the world, and his duties, theoretical and practical,
in this life, that he may fulfil his destiny for which he was created.
It is very possible that Ibn Zaddik modelled his work on the
Encyclopædia of the Brethren of Purity, leaving out all that he regarded
as unessential or objectional and abridging the rest.

Accordingly, the "Microcosm" is divided into four parts. The first part
treats of what is called in the Aristotelian classification of the
sciences Physics, _i. e._, the principles and constitution of the
corporeal world and its processes. The second treats of man, including
anthropology and psychology. The third is devoted to a discussion of the
existence, unity, incorporeality and other attributes of God, based upon
the doctrine of the creation of the world. This bears the stamp of the
Kalam, and is indebted to the writings of Saadia, Bahya and Joseph
al-Basir. It covers the topics usually treated by the Mutakallimun in
the division of their works, known by the name of "Bab al Tauhid,"
treatise on Unity. The fourth part corresponds to the "Bab al Adi" of
the Kalam, _i. e._, the second division of Kalamistic works devoted to
theodicy, or vindication of God's justice in his dealings with mankind.
Hence it includes theological questions of an ethical nature, like
freedom of the will, reasons for divine worship, the nature of reward
and punishment, and so on.

The book was written, Ibn Zaddik tells us, in answer to the question of
a pupil concerning the meaning of such terms as "perfection" and
"permanent good," used by philosophers. They are not of this world these
men say, and yet every man of intelligence should seek them. This is a
very difficult subject, made more so by the small number of persons
engaged in its study. Particularly in our own generation is this true,
that the value of knowledge and investigation is not recognized. People
are Jews in name only, and men only in outward appearance. Former ages
were much superior in this regard.

Two fundamental requisites are necessary for the knowledge of our
subject. They are the knowledge of God, and performance of his will. For
this purpose we must understand the works of the philosophers. But these
in turn require a knowledge of the preliminary sciences of arithmetic,
geometry, music, astronomy, and logic. This takes a long time and is
likely to weary the student, especially the beginner. I have therefore
made it my purpose to show how a man can know himself, for from a
knowledge of self he will come to a knowledge of all. Man is called
"Microcosm," a world in miniature, because he has in him represented all
the elements of the universe. His body resembles the corporeal world;
his rational soul the spiritual world. Hence the importance of knowing
himself, and hence the definition of philosophy as a man's _knowledge of
himself_. Philosophy is the science of sciences and the end thereof,
because it is the path to a knowledge of the Creator.[168]

Here we see at the outset Ibn Zaddik's Neo-Platonic tendency to make a
short cut to knowledge through the study of man instead of the painful
and laborious mastery of the preliminary sciences. And so it was that
the Neo-Platonists added little to Aristotle's study of nature,
concentrating their attention upon the intelligible or spiritual world.

The first thing we must do then is to show that the human body is
similar to the corporeal world. This will require an analysis of the
structure of the latter. But before examining the _objects_ of
knowledge, we must say a word about the process of knowing. Man
perceives things in two ways--through sense and through intellect. His
senses give him the accidents of things, the shell or husk, so to speak.
He perceives color through sight, sound through hearing, odor through
smell, and so on. It takes reason to penetrate to the essence of an
object. Take as an example a book. The sense of sight perceives its
color, and through the color its form. This is then apprehended by the
power of imagination or representation. The latter in turn hands it over
to the cogitative power of the rational soul, from the reflection of
which results the spiritual reality of the object, which is its
knowledge. So we see that the reason knows the essence and reality of a
thing, whereas the senses know only its husk and its accidents. This
same thing is stated by the philosopher in another form. The senses, he
says, know only the particular, the universal can be known by the
intellect only. This is because the soul is fine and penetrating, while
the body is gross, and can reach the surface only.

We may also classify knowledge from another point of view as necessary
(or immediate), and demonstrated (or mediate). Necessary knowledge is
that which no sane man can deny. Such knowledge may be of the senses, as
the sight of the sun or the sound of thunder; or it may be of the
reason, such as that the whole is greater than its parts. We may then
enumerate four kinds of things known directly without the help of other
knowledge, (1) The percepts of the senses. (2) Truths generally admitted
by reason of their self-evidence. (3) Traditional truths, _i. e._,
truths handed down by a reliable and wise man, or by a community worthy
of credence. (4) First principles or axioms. These four can be easily
reduced to two; for traditional truths ultimately go back to the
testimony of the senses; while first principles or axioms are included
in self-evident propositions. We thus have two kinds of necessary or
immediate knowledge, the data of sense, and self-evident propositions.
The latter kind is superior to the former, because man shares sense
knowledge with the lower animals; whereas rational propositions are
peculiar to him alone.

Demonstrated knowledge is built upon necessary knowledge, and is derived
from it by means of logical inference.[169]

We may now proceed to discuss the principles of the corporeal world.
Matter is the foundation and principle of a thing. All things, natural
as well as artificial, are composed of matter and form. Wood is the
common matter of chair and bed. Their forms are different. So the common
matter of the four elements is the prime matter endowed with the form of
corporeality, _i. e._, with the capacity of filling place. This form of
corporeality makes the prime matter corporeal substance. Matter is
relative to form, form is relative to matter.

Spiritual things also have matter and form. In corporeal artificial
things like ring or bracelet, the matter is gold, the form is the form
of ring or bracelet, the efficient cause is the art of the goldsmith,
the final cause or purpose is the adornment. In spiritual things we may
compare genus to matter, species to form, specific difference to
efficient cause, the individual to the final cause.

Everything exists either by itself (_per se_) or in something else.
Matter exists by itself, form exists in something else, in matter.
Matter is potentially substance; after it assumes a form it becomes
actual substance. In reality there is no matter without form, but in
thought we can remove the form and leave the matter.

Substance may be described as that which bears opposite and changing
qualities. No substance can be the opposite of another substance through
its substantiality, but through its accidents; for opposition resides in
quality. Matter receiving form is substance. Absolute substance is
simple and spiritual, for it cannot be perceived through the five
senses. When the philosophers say that all body is substance, and that
the individual is a substance, they use substance in contradistinction
to accident, meaning that the individual exists by itself, and needs not
another for its existence, unlike accidents, which must have something
to exist in.

This absolute substance, which is simple and spiritual, seems to be
identical with Gabirol's "substantia quæ sustinet decem prædicamenta,"
the substance which supports the ten categories. Gabirol means by it
that which remains of a corporeal substance when we take away from it
everything that qualifies it as being here or there, of a particular
nature or size, in a given relation, and so on.

The expression corporeal world includes the celestial spheres and all
which is under them. To be sure, the body of the sphere is different
from the other bodies in matter and form and qualities. It consists of a
fifth nature, different from the four elements. It is not cold, or it
would move downward like earth and water. It is not warm, or it would
move upward like air and fire. It is not wet, for it would then roll
like the waves of the sea. Nor is it dry, for it would condense and not
move at all. Not being any one of these qualities, which constitute our
four elements, the sphere is not a composite of them either; for the
simple is prior to the composite, and we cannot regard the elements of
the sublunar world as prior and superior to the spheres.

The sphere is neither light nor heavy. For light and heavy are relative
terms. An object is heavy when out of its natural place, light when in
its natural place. Thus a stone is heavy when it is away from the earth,
which is its natural place, but is light when it comes to rest where it
belongs. The sphere is never out of its place or in its place, as it
moves constantly in a circle. Hence it is neither light nor heavy.

Ibn Zaddik's definition of light and heavy as being relative, and
dependent on the relation of the object to its natural place is
peculiar, and would lead him to say that fire and air are also heavy
when out of their natural place, which is outside of, and above earth
and water. But this does not seem in consonance with the Aristotelian
use of these terms. According to Aristotle an object is heavy if its
tendency is to move to the centre of the world; it is light if it moves
away from the centre to the circumference. Hence earth and water are
heavy, fire and air are light. The natural place of a body or element is
that to which it has a tendency to move, or in which it has a tendency
to rest, when left to itself. Hence a body will always move to its
natural place when away from it and under no restriction; and its
heaviness or lightness does not change with its position.

To continue, the sphere moves in a circle, the most perfect of all
motions, having neither beginning nor end. It is more perfect than all
bodies, and the knowledge of God is not hidden from it as it is hidden
from us. Whatever moves in a circle must move around a body at rest; for
if it moves around another moving body, this second body must have
another body around which it moves, and this third body another, and so
on _ad infinitum_, which is impossible. Hence the sphere moves around a
body at rest. This is the earth.

The four elements of the sublunar world are, fire, air, water, earth. In
their purity these elements have neither color nor taste, nor odor nor
any other sensible property. For the elements are simple bodies, whereas
the sensible qualities are the result of the composition of the
elements. If air had color, we should see it as we see all colored
things; and all other things would appear to us in the color of air, as
is the case when we look through a colored glass. The same argument
applies to water.

The elements change into each other. We see water changing under the
effect of heat into vapor, and the vapor condenses again under the
influence of cold and changes back to water, namely, rain. Air changes
into fire when flint strikes iron. Fire cannot exist here unless it has
something to take hold of; otherwise it changes into air. Earth and
water change into each other very slowly, because earth is hard to

The basis of the four elements is a substance filling place as a result
of its assuming the form of corporeality, _i. e._, extension in three
directions. Filling place, it moves; moving, it becomes warm. When its
motion is completed, it necessarily comes to rest and becomes cold. Heat
and cold are the active powers, wet and dry are the passive qualities,
wet being associated with heat, dry with cold. The mixture of these
qualities with the corporeal basis results in the four elements.

The three natures, mineral, plant, animal are composed of the four
elements. When a seed is put in the ground it cannot grow without water,
and sunshine and air. These form its food, and food is assimilated to
the thing fed. Our bodies are composed of the four elements, because
they are nourished by plants. The general process of the sublunar world
is that of genesis and dissolution. The genesis of one thing is the
dissolution of another. The dissolution of the egg is the genesis of the
chicken; the dissolution of the chicken is the genesis of the four
elements; for in the living being the elements are potential, and they
become actual when the animal dies. This continuous process of genesis
and dissolution proves that this world is not permanent, for the basis
of its processes is change.[170]

The human body corresponds to the corporeal world, and is similar to it
in its nature and matter. Man's body is subject to genesis and decay
like other objects. It is composed of the elements and returns to them.
It has in it the nature of minerals, plants and animals. It has the
power of growth, sustenance and reproduction like plants. Man is like
animal in having motion and sensation. He has the spirited power and the
appetitive like other animals. His body is perfect because it has
resemblances to all kinds of plants and animals. His body as a whole
resembles great trees, his hair is like grass and shrubs. Animals have
various qualities according to the relation of the animal soul to the
body. Thus the lion has strength, the lamb meekness, the fox shrewdness,
and so on. Mankind includes all of these qualities. In the same way
various animals have various instincts resembling arts, such as the
weaving of the spider, the building of the bird and the bee, and so on.
They also subsist on various foods. Man alone combines all arts and all
kinds of food.

The human body has three dimensions like inanimate bodies. It is also
similar to the bodies of plants and animals, and at the same time is
distinguished alone among animals by its erect position. This is due to
the fact that man's nature is proportionate, and his body is purer and
finer than other bodies. Thus we see when oil is pure, its flame rises
in a straight line; when the oil is impure the flame is not straight.
Another thing proving that man's nature is superior to that of other
animals is that the latter live in that element which is akin to their
constitution--fish in water, birds in air, quadrupeds on land. Man alone
can inhabit all three. Another reason for man's erect position is that
he is a plant originating in heaven. Hence his head, which is the root,
faces heaven.[171]

Man has three souls, a plant soul, an animal soul and a rational soul.
He must have a plant soul to account for the fact that man grows like
other plants and dies like them. For if he can grow without a plant
soul, plants can do the same. And if this too is granted, then there is
no reason why mountains and stones should not grow also. Again, if man
can grow without a plant soul, he can live without an animal soul, and
know without a rational soul, which is absurd.

The faculty of the vegetative soul is the appetitive power, whose seat
is in the liver. Its subordinate powers are those of nutrition and
growth. Through it man feels the need of food and other natural desires.
He has this in common with the lower animals. It is the first power that
appears in man while he is still in his mother's womb. First comes the
power which forms the combined seed of the male and the female into a
human being in its proper form and nature. In doing this it requires the
assistance of the "growing" power, which begins its activity as soon as
the first member is formed, and continues until the period of youth is
completed. This power in turn needs the assistance of the nourishing
power, which accompanies the other two from the beginning of their
activity to the end of the person's life. All this constitutes the plant
soul, and it must not be supposed that these powers are separated from
one another, and that one is in one place and another in another place.
_They are all spiritual powers derived from the universal powers in the
upper world._

When the form of the being is complete, the animal soul makes its
appearance. This soul is carried in the spirit of the animal or man,
which is found in the pure blood of the arteries. There are two
membranes in every artery, making two passages, one for blood and the
other for the spirit or wind. The seat of the animal soul is in the
heart, and it is borne in the pure red blood. This is why we see in the
heart two receptacles; in one is spirit, in the other, blood. Hence
after death we find congealed blood in the one, while the other is
empty. Death happens on account of the defective "mixture" of the heart.
This means that the four humors of which the body is composed, namely,
blood, yellow and black gall and phlegm, lose the proper proportionality
in their composition, and one or other of them predominates. An animal
does not die unless the mixture of the heart is injured, or the heart is
wounded seriously. Death is also caused by disease or injury of the
brain. For the brain is the origin of the nerves which control the
voluntary activities by means of contraction and expansion. If the chest
does not contract, the warm air does not come out; if it does not
expand, the cold air does not come in; and if the air does not come in
or out, the heart loses its proportionality, and the animal dies. The
functions of the animal soul are sensation and motion. This motion may
be active as well as passive. The active motions are those of the
arteries, and the expansion and contraction of the chest which results
in respiration. The passive motions give rise to the emotions of anger,
fear, shame, joy, sorrow.

Anger is the motion of the spirit within the body toward the outside,
together with the blood and the humors. This is found in animals also.
Fear is the entrance of the soul within, leaving the surface of the
body, and causing the extremities to become cold. Shame is a motion
inward, and forthwith again outward. Sorrow is caused in the same way as
fear, except that fear is sudden, while sorrow is gradual. This is why
fear sometimes kills when the body is weak. Joy is motion outward. Joy
may kill too, when it is very great, and the person is weak and without
control. Joy is of the nature of pleasure, except that pleasure is
gradual, while joy is sudden.

Pain is that feeling we have when we are taken out of our natural state
and put into an unnatural. Pleasure is felt when we are restored to the
natural. Take, for example, the heat of the sun. When a person is
exposed to it, the sun takes him out of his natural state. Heat is then
painful, and pleasure is produced by the thing which restores him to his
natural state; in this case a cold spring and a drink of cold water.
Similarly a person walking in the snow and cold air feels pain by reason
of the cold taking him out of his natural state. Heat then gives him
pleasure by restoring him. The same thing applies to hunger and thirst,
sleeping and waking, and other things which give us pleasure and pain.
Without pain there is no pleasure, and the pleasure varies in accordance
with the antecedent pain.

Life is the effect of the animal soul. The disappearance of the effect
does not necessarily involve the disappearance of the cause, as the
disappearance of the smoke does not require the cessation of the fire.
Death means simply the separation of the soul, not the destruction
thereof. It does not follow because the human soul remains after the
death of the body, that the soul of the ox and the ass continues
likewise, for the two souls are different. Animals were created for the
sake of man, whereas man exists for his own sake. Moreover, man's life
is ultimately derived from his rational soul. For if the animal soul of
man were the ultimate source of life, the rational soul too would be
dependent for its life upon the former, and hence would be inferior to
it, which is absurd. It remains then that the _rational soul gives
existence to the animal soul in man_.

Sleep is the rest of the senses, as death is their entire cessation. The
purpose of sleep is to give the brain rest so that the "spirit" of the
soul should not be dissolved and the "mixture" of the body injured
suddenly and cause death. The heart rests continually between
contraction and expansion, hence it needs no special rest at night.
Waking is the activity of the senses and the exercise of their functions
to satisfy the desires of the body. The motions of the soul in the
waking state are in the interest of the needs of the body. During sleep
the soul looks out for itself, for its better world, being then free
from the business of the body. If it is pure and bright, and the body
is free from the remnant of food, and the thought is not depressed by
sorrow and grief--then the soul is aroused in its desire for the future,
and beholds wonderful things.[172]

No one can deny that man has a rational soul because speech is an
attribute which man has above all other animals. The soul is not a
corporeal thing, for if it were it would have to occupy place like body,
and would have color and form and other qualities like body. Moreover,
it would require something else to give it life like body. In other
words, the soul would require another soul, and that soul another soul,
and so on _ad infinitum_, which is impossible. Hence the soul is not a
corporeal thing.

Nor can we say that the soul is _in_ the body. For if it were, it would
itself be body; since only body can fill the empty place in another
body, as water fills a jar.

The soul is a substance and not an accident. An accident is a quality
which makes its appearance in something else, and has no permanence. If
then the rational soul is an accident of the body, it has no permanence,
and man is sometimes rational and sometimes not. This is absurd, for in
that case there could be no purpose in giving him commandments and

There are inseparable accidents to be sure, like the color of the
Ethiopian's skin. But in that case we know the color is an accident
despite its inseparability, from the fact that in other things color is
an accident and may be removed. This will not apply to the reason. For
we do not find anything in which reason is a removable accident. The
moment you remove reason, you remove man, for reason is essential to
man. The fact that as a result of an injury a man may lose his reason is
no argument against us, for this happens only when an injury is
inflicted on the brain, which is the reason's instrument. This accounts
for the fact, too, that men in good health if given henbane to drink
lose their reason, because the drink affects the brain. On the other
hand, we see that those afflicted with a certain disease of the
intestines, which causes their death, are more rational and brighter at
the time of death than ever before, showing that the soul cannot be an
accident depending upon the "mixture" of the body.

To regard the soul as an accident, while the body is a substance, would
make the soul inferior to the body. This is absurd. For we have the
body in common with the beasts; whereas it is in virtue of the reason
that we are given commandments, and reward and punishment in the world
to come.

If the soul is neither a corporeal thing nor an accident of body, it
must be a spiritual substance. And the best definition of the soul is
that of Aristotle, who says it is _a substance giving perfection to a
natural organic body, which has life potentially_. Every phrase in this
definition tells. "Substance" excludes the view that the soul is an
accident. "Giving perfection" signifies that the soul is that which
makes man perfect, bringing him to the next world, and being the purpose
not merely of his creation and the composition of his body, but of the
creation of matter as well. "Natural organic body" indicates that the
body is an organon, or instrument in the function of the soul, the
latter using the body to carry out its own purposes. The rational soul
is like a king; the animal soul is like an official before the king,
rebuking the appetitive soul.

In the discussion of the last paragraph we have a good example of the
uncritical attitude of Ibn Zaddik toward the various schools of
philosophical thought, particularly those represented by Plato and
Aristotle. This attitude is typical of the middle ages, which appealed
to authority in philosophy as well as in theology, and hence developed a
harmonistic attitude in the presence of conflicting authorities. Aided
by their defective knowledge of the complete systems of the ancient
Greek philosophers, by the difficulties and obscurities incident to
translations from an alien tongue, and by the spurious writings
circulating in the name of an ancient Greek philosopher, the precise
demarcation of schools and tendencies became more and more confused, and
it was possible to prove that Plato and Aristotle were in entire
agreement. Thus Ibn Zaddik has no scruple in combining (unconsciously,
to be sure) Platonic and Neo-Platonic psychology with the Aristotelian
definition representing quite a different point of view. The one is
anthropological dualism, regarding the soul as a distinct entity which
comes to the body from without. The other is a biological monism, in
which the soul is the reality of the body, the essence of its
functioning, which makes the potentially living body an actually living
body. We cannot enter here into a criticism of the elements of the
Aristotelian definition of the soul as rendered and interpreted by Ibn
Zaddik, but will merely say that it misses completely the meaning of
Aristotle, and shows that Ibn Zaddik did not take it from the "De Anima"
of Aristotle, but found it without its context in some Arabic work.

To return from our digression, the three souls, Ibn Zaddik tells us, are
spiritual powers; every one of them is a substance by itself of benefit
to the body. The rational soul gets the name soul primarily, and the
others get it from the rational soul. The _Intellect_ is called soul
because the rational soul and the Intellect have a common matter. And
hence when the soul is perfected it becomes intellect. This is why the
rational soul is called potential intellect. The only difference between
them is one of degree and excellence. The world of Intellect is
superior, and its matter is the pure light, Intellect in which there is
no ignorance, because it comes from God without any intermediate agency.

Here we see just a touch of the Neo-Platonic doctrine of emanation, of
which the Universal Intellect is the first. But it is considerably toned
down and not continued down the series as in Plotinus or the Brethren of

The accidents of the soul are spiritual like the soul itself. They are,
knowledge, kindness, goodness, justice, and other similar qualities.
Ignorance, wrong, evil, and so on, are not the opposites of those
mentioned above, and were not created with the soul like the others.
They are merely the absence of the positive qualities mentioned before,
as darkness is the absence of light. God did not create any defect, nor
did he desire it. Evil is simply the result of the incapacity of a given
thing to receive a particular good. If all things were capable of
receiving goods equally, all things would be one thing, and the Creator
and his creatures would be likewise one. This was not God's purpose.

There is a tacit opposition to the Mutakallimun in Ibn Zaddik's
arguments against the view that the soul is an accident, as well as in
his statement in the preceding paragraph that the bad qualities and evil
generally are not opposites of the good qualities and good respectively,
but that they are merely privations, absences, and hence not created by
God. This is a Neo-Platonic doctrine. Pseudo-Bahya, we have seen (p. 108
f.), and Abraham bar Hiyya (p. 123 f.) adopt the Kalamistic view in the
latter point, and solve the problem of evil differently.

The function of the rational soul is knowledge. The rational soul
investigates the unknown and comprehends it. It derives general rules,
makes premises and infers one thing from another. Man alone has this
privilege. It is in virtue of the rational soul that we have been given
commandments and prohibitions, and become liable to reward and
punishment. Brute animals have no commandments, because they have no
reason. The soul has reason only potentially, and man makes it actual by
study. If the reason were actual originally in the soul, there would be
no difference between the soul's condition in its own world and in this
one; and the purpose of man, which is that he may learn in order to
choose the right way and win salvation, would have no meaning.

The existence of many individual souls, all of which have the soul
character in common, shows that there is a universal soul by virtue of
which all the particular souls exist. This division of the universal
soul into many individual souls is not really a division of the former
in its essence, which remains one and indivisible. It is the bodies
which receive the influence of the universal soul, as vessels in the sun
receive its light according to their purity. Hence the existence of
justice and evil, righteousness and wrong. This does not, however, mean
to say that the reception of these qualities is independent of a man's
choice. Man is free to choose, and hence he deserves praise and blame,
reward and punishment.

The rational soul is destined for the spiritual world, which is a pure
and perfect world, made by God directly without an intermediate agency.
It is not subject to change or defect or need. God alone created this
spiritual world to show his goodness and power, and not because he
needed it. The world is not like God, though God is its cause. It is not
eternal _a parte ante_, having been made out of nothing by God; but it
will continue to exist forever, for it cannot be more perfect than it
is. It is simple and spiritual. This applies also to the heavenly
spheres and their stars.

Man is obliged to reason and investigate, as all nations do according to
the measure of their capacities. No animal reasons because it has not
the requisite faculty. But if man should neglect to exercise the power
given him, he would lose the benefit coming therefrom and the purpose of
his existence. There would then be no difference between him and the

The first requisite for study and investigation is to deaden the animal
desires. Then with the reason as a guide and his body as a model, man
acquires the knowledge of the corporeal world. From his rational soul he
comes to the knowledge of the existence of a spiritual world. Finally he
will learn to know the Creator, who is the only real existent, for
nothing can be said truly to exist, which at one time did not exist, or
which at some time will cease to exist. When a man neglects this
privilege which is his of using his reason, he forfeits the name man,
and descends below the station of the beast, for the latter never falls
below its animal nature.

It is very important to study the knowledge of God, for it is the
highest knowledge and the cause of human perfection. The prophets are
full of recommendations in this regard. Jeremiah says (31, 33), "They
shall all know me, from the least of them even unto their greatest."
Amos (5, 6) bids us "Seek for the Lord and you shall live." Hosea
likewise (6, 3) recommends that "We may feel it, and strive to know the

The first loss a man suffers who does not study and investigate is that
he does not understand the real existence of God, and imagines he is
worshipping a body. Some think God is light. But this is as bad as to
regard him body. For light is an accident in a shining body, as is
proved by the fact that the air receives the light of the sun, and later
it receives the shadow and becomes dark. And yet these people are not
the worst by any means, for there are others who do not trouble to
concentrate their minds on God, and occupy their thoughts solely with
the business and the pleasures of this world. These people we do not
discuss at all. We are arguing against those who imagine they are wise
men and students of the Kalam. In fact they are ignorant persons, and do
not know what logic is and how it is to be used.

Before giving our own views of the nature and existence of God, we must
refute the objectionable doctrines of these people. Joseph al-Basir in a
work of his called "Mansuri" casts it up to the Rabbanites that in
believing that God descends and ascends they are not true worshippers of
God. But he forgets that his own doctrines are no better. Anyone who
believes that God created with a newly created will and rejects by means
of a newly created rejection has never truly served God or known him.
Just as objectionable is their view that God is living but not with life
residing in a subject, powerful but not with power, and so on. We shall
take up each of these in turn.

The Mutakallimun refuse to believe that God's will is eternal, for fear
of having a second eternal beside God. And so they say that whenever God
wills, he creates a will for the purpose, and whenever he rejects
anything he creates a "rejection" with which the objectionable thing is
rejected. But this leads them to a worse predicament than the one from
which they wish to escape, as we shall see. If God cannot create
anything without having a will as the instrument in creating, and for
this reason must first create a will for the purpose--how did he create
this will? He must have had another will to create this will, and a
third will to create the second, and so on _ad infinitum_, which is
absurd. If he created the first will without the help of another will,
why not create the things he wanted outright without any will? Besides,
in making God will at a given time after a state of not willing, they
introduce change in God.

As for the other dictum, that God is "living but not with life,"
"powerful but not with power," "knowing but not with knowledge," and so
on; what do they mean by this circumlocution? If they say "living" to
indicate that he is not dead, and add "but not with life," so as to
prevent a comparison of him with other living things, why not say also,
"He is body, but not like other bodies"? If the objection to calling him
body is that body is composite, and what is composite must have been
composed by someone and is not eternal, the same objection applies to
"living." For "living" implies "breathing" and "possessed of sensation,"
hence also composite and created. If they reply, we mean life peculiar
to him, we say why not also body peculiar to him? You see these people
entangle themselves in their own sophisms, because they do not know what
demonstration means.[174]

Having disposed of the errors of the Mutakallimun, we must now present
our own method of investigation into the nature of God. To know a thing,
we investigate its four causes--material, formal, efficient and final.
What has no cause but is the cause of all things, cannot be known in
this way. Still it is not altogether unknowable for this reason. Its
essence cannot be known, but it may be known through its activities, or
rather effects, which suggest attributes. We cannot therefore know
concerning God _what_ he is, nor _how_ he is, nor _on account of what_,
nor _of what kind_, nor _where_, nor _when_. For these can apply only to
a created thing having a cause. But we can ask concerning him, _whether_
he is; and this can best be known from his deeds.

We observe the things of the world and find that they are all composed
of substance and accident, as we saw before (p. 131). These are
correlative, and one cannot exist without the other. Hence neither
precedes the other. But accident is "new" (_i. e._, not eternal), hence
so is substance. That accident is new is proved from the fact that rest
succeeds motion and motion succeeds rest, hence accidents constantly
come and go and are newly created.

Now if substance and accident are both new there must be something that
brought them into being unless they bring themselves into being. But the
latter is impossible, for the agent must either exist when it brings
itself into being, or not. If it exists it is already there; if it does
not exist, it is nothing, and nothing cannot do anything. Hence there
must be a being that brought the world into existence. This is God.

God is one, for the cause of the many must be the one. If the cause of
the many is the many, then the cause of the second many is a third many,
and so on _ad infinitum_; hence we must stop with the one. God is to the
world as unity is to number. Unity is the basis of number without being
included in number, and it embraces number on all sides. It is the
foundation of number; for if you remove unity, you remove number; but
the removal of number does not remove unity. The one surrounds number on
all sides; for the beginning of number is the one, and it is also the
middle of number and the end thereof. For number is nothing but an
aggregate of ones. Besides, number is composed of odds and evens, and
one is the cause of odd as well as even.

If there were two eternal beings, they would either coincide in all
respects, and they would be one and not two. Or they would differ. In
the latter case, the world is either the work of both or of one only.
If of both, they are not omnipotent, and hence not eternal. If of one
only, then the other does not count, since he is not eternal, and there
is only one.

By saying God is one we do not mean that he comes under the category of
quantity, for quantity is an accident residing in a substance, and all
substance is "new." What we mean is that the essence of God is true
unity, not numerical unity. For numerical unity is also in a sense
multiplicity, and is capable of multiplication and division. God's unity
is alone separate and one in all respects.

God is not like any of his creatures. For if he were, he would be
possessed of quality, since it is in virtue of quality that a thing is
said to be like another, and quality is an accident contained in a

God is self-sufficient and not in need of anything. For if he needed
anything at all, it would be first of all the one who created him and
made him an existent thing. But this is absurd, since God is eternal. We
might suppose that he needs the world, which he created for some
purpose, as we sometimes make things to assist us. But this, too, is
impossible. For if he were dependent upon the world for anything, he
could not create it. It is different with us. We do not create things;
we only modify matter already existing.

Again, if God created the world for his own benefit, then either he was
always in need of the world, or the need arose at the time of creating.
If he was always in need of the world, it would have existed with him
from eternity, but we have already proved that the world is not eternal.
If the need arose in him at the time of creation, as heat arises in a
body after cold, or motion after rest, then he is like created things,
and is himself "new" and not eternal. To say the need was always there,
and yet he did not create it until the time he did would be to ascribe
inability to God of creating the world before he did, which is absurd.
For one who is unable at any given time, cannot create at all. It
remains then that he does not need anything, and that he created the
world by reason of his goodness and generosity and nothing else.

The question of God's will is difficult. The problem is this. If God's
will is eternal and unchanging, and he created the world with his will,
the world is eternal. If we say, as we must, that he created the world
after a condition of non-creation, we introduce a change in God, a
something newly created in him, namely, the will to create, which did
not exist before. This is a dilemma. My own view is that since God's
creating activity is his essence, and his essence is infinite and
eternal, we cannot say he created _after_ a condition of non-creation,
or that he willed _after_ a condition of non-willing, or that he was
formerly not able. And yet we do not mean that the world is eternal. It
was created a definite length of time before our time. The solution of
the problem is that time itself was created with the world; for time is
the measure of motion of the celestial sphere, and if there are no
spheres there is no time, and no before and after. Hence it does not
follow because the world is not eternal that _before_ its creation God
did not create. There is no _before_ when the world is not.

We objected to the view of the Mutakallimun (p. 142), who speak of God
creating a will on the ground that if he can create a will directly he
can create the world instead. Our opinion is therefore that God's will
is eternal and not newly created, for the latter view introduces
creation in God. There is still the difficulty of the precise relation
of the will to God. If it is different from God we have two eternals,
and if it is the same as God in all respects, he changes when he
creates. My answer is, it is not different from God in any sense, and
there is no changing attribute in God. But there is a subtle mystery in
this matter, which it is not proper to reveal, and this is not the place
to explain it. The interested reader is referred to the book of
Empedocles and other works of the wise men treating of this subject
(_cf._ above, p. 64).

God created the world out of nothing, and not out of a pre-existent
matter. For if the matter of the world is eternal like God, there is no
more reason for supposing that God formed a world out of it than that it
formed a world out of God.

The world is perfect. For we have repeatedly shown that its creation is
due entirely to God's goodness. If then it were not perfect, this would
argue in God either ignorance or niggardliness or weakness.[175]

Most of the ancients avoided giving God attributes for fear of making
him the bearer of qualities, which would introduce plurality and
composition in his essence. The proper view, however, is this. As God's
essence is different from all other essences, so are his attributes
different from all other attributes. His attributes are not different
from him; his knowledge and his truth and his power are his essence. The
way man arrives at the divine attributes is this. Men have examined his
works and learned from them God's existence. They then reflected on this
existent and found that he was not weak; so they called him strong. They
found his works perfect, and they called him wise. They perceived that
he was self-sufficient, without need of anything, and hence without any
motives for doing wrong. Hence they called him righteous. And so on with
the other attributes. All this they did in order that people may learn
from him and imitate his ways. But we must not forget that all these
expressions of God's attributes are figurative. No one must suppose that
if we do not say he has life, it means he is dead. What we mean is that
we cannot apply the term living to God literally, in the sense in which
we apply it to other living things. When the Bible does speak of God as
alive and living, the meaning is that he exists forever. The philosopher
is right when he says that it is more proper to apply negative
attributes to God than positive.[176]

Taking a glance at Ibn Zaddik's theology just discussed in its essential
outlines, we notice that while he opposes vigorously certain aspects of
Kalamistic thought, as he found them in al-Basir, the Karaite, his own
method and doctrine are not far removed from the Kalam. His proof of the
creation of the world from its composite character (substance and
accident) is the same as one of Saadia, which Maimonides cites as a
Kalamistic proof. We have already spoken of the fact that the method of
basing one's theology upon the creation of the world is one that is
distinctive of the Kalam, as Maimonides himself tells us. And this
method is common to Saadia, Bahya and Ibn Zaddik. In his discussion of
the attributes Ibn Zaddik offers little if anything that is new. His
attitude is that in the literal and positive sense no attribute can be
applied to God. We can speak of God negatively without running the risk
of misunderstanding. But the moment we say anything positive we do
become thus liable to comparing God with other things; and such
circumlocutions as the Kalamistic "Living without life," and so on, do
not help matters, for they are contradictory, and take away with one
hand what they give with the other. The Biblical expressions must be
taken figuratively; and the most important point to remember is that
God's essence cannot be known at all. The manner in which we arrive at
the divine attributes is by transferring them from God's effects in
nature to his own essence. All this we have already found in Bahya much
better expressed, and Bahya is also without doubt the source of Ibn
Zaddik's discussion of God's unity.

We must now review briefly the practical part of Ibn Zaddik's philosophy
as it is found in the fourth part of the "Microcosm." In the manner of
Bahya he points out the importance of divine service and obedience to
the commandments of God, viewing man's duties to his maker as an
expression of gratitude, which everyone owes to his benefactor. Like
Bahya he compares God's benefactions with those of one man to another to
show the infinite superiority of the former, and the greater duty which
follows therefrom.

The commandments which God gave us like the act of our creation are for
our own good, that we may enjoy true happiness in the world to come. As
it would not be proper to reward a person for what he has not done, God
gave man commandments. The righteous as well as the wicked are free to
determine their own conduct, hence reward and punishment are just.

Like Saadia and Bahya before him, Ibn Zaddik makes use of the
distinction (or rather takes it for granted) between rational and
traditional commandments; pointing out that the latter also have a cause
and explanation in the mind of God even though we may not know it. In
some cases we can see the explanation ourselves. Take for instance the
observance of the Sabbath. Its rational signification is two-fold. It
teaches us that the world was created, and hence has a Creator whom we
worship. And in the second place the Sabbath symbolizes the future
world. As one has nothing to eat on the Sabbath day unless he has
prepared food the day before, so the enjoyment of the future world
depends upon spiritual preparation in this world.

In his conduct a man must imitate God's actions by doing good and mercy
and kindness. Without the knowledge of God a person's good deeds are of
no account and no better than the work of idolaters. In fact it is not
possible to do good deeds without a knowledge of God, for he is the
source of all good, and there is no true good without him. When a fool
is seen with good qualities such as mercy and benevolence, they are due
to the weakness of his animal soul, the spirited part of his nature.
Similarly if this fool abstains from pleasures, it is because of the
weakness of his appetitive soul.

Thus we see that knowledge comes first in importance; for knowledge
leads to practice, and practice brings reward in the world to come. As
the purpose of man's creation is that he may enjoy the future life,
wisdom or knowledge is the first requisite to this great end.

The four principal qualities constituting goodness or virtue are (1)
knowledge of God's attributes; (2) righteousness or justice; (3) hope;
(4) humility. All other good qualities are derived from these. Jeremiah
names some of them when he says (9, 23), "I am the Lord who exercise
kindness, justice and righteousness on the earth; for in these things I
delight, saith the Lord." Similarly Zephaniah (2, 3) bids us, "Seek ye
the Lord, all ye meek of the earth, who have fulfilled his ordinances;
seek righteousness, seek meekness."

The four qualities of wisdom or knowledge, righteousness, hope and
humility are without doubt modified descendants of the four Platonic
virtues, wisdom, courage, temperance and justice, which we still find in
their original form and in their Platonic derivation and psychological
origin in Pseudo-Bahya (_cf._ above p. 111).

Reward and punishment of the real kind, Ibn Zaddik thinks, are not in
this world but in the next. In this way he accounts for the fact of the
prosperity of the wicked and the sufferings of the righteous. Another
proof that this world cannot be the place of final reward and punishment
is that pleasure in this world is not a real good, but only a temporary
respite from disease. Pain and pleasure are correlative, as we saw
before (p. 136). In fact pleasure is not a good at all; for if it were,
then the greater the pleasure, the greater the good, which is not true.
Reward in the next world is not a corporeal pleasure at all.

The evil which happens to the righteous in this world is often a natural
occurrence without reference to reward and punishment, and may be
compared to the natural pleasures which men derive from the sense of
sight and the other senses, and which have nothing to do with reward and
punishment. Sometimes, too, this evil is inflicted upon the good man to
forgive his sins. Real reward and punishment are in the future life,
and as that life is spiritual, the reward as well as the punishment is

The Mutakallimun think that animals and little children are also
rewarded in the next world for ill treatment, suffering and death which
are inflicted upon them in this world. So we find in Joseph al Basir's
Mansuri. But this is absurd. If the killing of animals is a wrong, God
would not have commanded us to do it, any more than he ordered us to
kill human beings in order that he may reward them later. Moreover, we
should then deserve punishment for killing animals if that is wrong, and
there would follow the absurdity that God commanded us to do that for
which we deserve punishment. Besides, if the animals deserve reward and
punishment, they should have been given commandments and laws like
ourselves. If this was not done because animals are not rational, reward
and punishment are equally out of place for the same reason.

When the soul leaves the body in death, if she exercised her reason in
the pursuit of knowledge, she will continue her existence forever in the
upper world. This is her happiness, her reward and her paradise, namely,
to cleave to her own world, and to shine with the true light emanating
from God directly. This is the end of the human soul. But if she did not
exercise her reason and did not pursue right conduct, she will not be
able to return to the spiritual world, for she will have lost her own
spirituality. She will be similar to the body, desiring this world and
its pleasures. Her fate will be to revolve forever with the sphere in
the world of fire, without being able to return to her world. Thus she
will be forever in pain, and homeless.

When the Messiah comes, the pious men of our nation, the Prophets, the
Patriarchs and those who died for the sanctification of the name, _i. e._,
the martyrs, will be brought back to life in the body, and will
never die again. There will be no eating and drinking, but they will
live like Moses on the mountain basking in the divine light. The wicked
will also be joined to their bodies and burned with fire.[177]



In Judah Halevi the poet got the better of the rationalist. Not that
Judah Halevi was not familiar with philosophical thinking and did not
absorb the current philosophical terminology as well as the ideas
contained therein. Quite the contrary. He shows a better knowledge of
Aristotelian ideas than his predecessors, and is well versed in
Neo-Platonism. While he attacks all those views of philosophers which
are inconsistent to his mind with the religion of Judaism, he speaks in
other respects the philosophic language, and even makes concessions to
the philosophers. If the reason should really demand it, he tells us,
one might adopt the doctrine of the eternity of matter without doing any
harm to the essence of Judaism.[178] As for the claims of reason to rule
our beliefs, he similarly admits that that which is really proved in the
same absolute manner as the propositions in mathematics and logic cannot
be controverted. But this opinion need cause one no difficulty as there
is nothing in the Bible which opposes the unequivocal demands of the
reason.[179] He cannot consistently oppose all philosophy and science,
for he maintains that the sciences were originally in the hands of the
Jews, and that it was from them that the Chaldeans borrowed them and
handed them over to the Persians, who in turn transferred them to Greece
and Rome, their origin being forgotten.[180] At the same time he insists
that philosophy and reason are not adequate means for the solution of
all problems, and that the actual solutions as found in the writings of
the Aristotelians of his day are in many cases devoid of all
demonstrative value. Then there are certain matters in theory as well as
in practice which do not at all come within the domain of reason, and
the philosophers are bound to be wrong because they apply the wrong
method. Revelation alone can make us wise as to certain aspects of God's
nature and as to certain details in human conduct; and in these
philosophy must fail because as philosophy it has no revelation. With
all due respect therefore to the philosophers, who are the most reliable
guides in matters not conflicting with revelation, we must leave them if
we wish to learn the truth concerning those matters in which they are
incompetent to judge.

This characterization of Judah Halevi's attitude is brief and
inadequate. But before proceeding to elaborate it with more detail and
greater concreteness, it will be well to sketch very briefly the little
we know of his life.[181]

Judah Halevi was born in Toledo in the last quarter of the eleventh
century. This is about the time when the city was taken from the
Mohammedans by the emperor Alphonso VI, king of Leon, Castile, Galicia
and Navarre. At the same time Toledo remained Arabic in culture and
language for a long while after this, and even exerted a great influence
upon the civilization of Christendom. The Jews were equally well treated
in Toledo by Mohammedan emir and Christian king. The youth of Halevi was
therefore not embittered or saddened by Jewish persecutions. It seems
that he was sent to Lucena, a Jewish centre, where he studied the Talmud
with the famous Alfasi, and made friends with Joseph ibn Migash,
Alfasi's successor, and Baruh Albalia, the philosopher. A poet by
nature, he began to write Hebrew verses early, and soon became famous as
a poet of the first order in no manner inferior to Gabirol. His living
he made not from his verses, but like many others of his day by
practicing the art of medicine. Later in life he visited Cordova,
already in its decline through the illiberal government of the Almoravid
dynasty. The rulers were strict religionists, implicit followers of the
"fukaha," the men devoted to the study of Mohammedan religion and law;
and scientific learning and philosophy were proscribed in their domains.
Men of another faith were not in favor, and the Jews who, unlike the
Christians, had no powerful emperor anywhere to take their part, had to
buy their lives and comparative freedom with their hard earned wealth.
Here Halevi spent some time as a physician. He was admitted in court
circles, but his personal good fortune could not reconcile him to the
sufferings of his brethren, and his letters give expression to his
dissatisfaction. He wrote a variety of poems on subjects secular and
religious; but what made him famous above all else was his strong
nationalism, and those of his poems will live longest which give
expression to his intense love for his people and the land which was
once their own. That it was not mere sentiment with Judah Halevi he
proved late in life when he decided to leave his many friends and his
birthplace and go to Palestine to end his life on the soil of his
ancestors. It was after 1140 that he left Spain for the East.
Unfavorable winds drove him out of course to Egypt, and he landed at
Alexandria. From there he went to Cairo at the invitation of his
admirers and friends. Everywhere he was received with great honor, his
fame preceding him, and he was urged to remain in Egypt. But no
dissuasion could keep him from his pious resolve. We find him later in
Damietta; we follow him to Tyre and Damascus, but beyond the last city
all trace of him is lost. We know not whether he reached Jerusalem or
not. Legend picks up the thread where history drops it, and tells of
Judah Halevi meeting his death at the gates of the holy city as with
tears he was singing his famous ode to Zion. An Arab horseman, the story
goes, pierced him through with his spear.

This sketch of Halevi's life and character, brief and inadequate as it
is, will prepare us to understand better his attitude to philosophy and
to Judaism. His was not a critical intellect whose curiosity is not
satisfied until the matter in dispute is proved in logical form. Reason
is good enough in mathematics and physics where the objects of our
investigation are accessible to us and the knowledge of their nature
exhausts their significance. It is not so with the truths of Judaism and
the nature of God. These cannot be known adequately by the reason alone,
and mere knowledge is not enough. God and the Jewish religion are not
simply facts to be known and understood like the laws of science. They
are living entities to be acquainted with, to be devoted to, to love.
Hence quite a different way of approach is necessary. And not everyone
has access to this way. The method of acquaintance is open only to those
who by birth and tradition belong to the family of the prophets, who had
a personal knowledge of God, and to the land of Palestine where God
revealed himself.[182]

We see here the nationalist speaking, the lover of his people and of
their land and language and institutions. David Kaufmann has shown that
Judah Halevi's anti-philosophical attitude has much in common with that
of the great Arab writer Al Gazali, from whom there is no doubt that he
borrowed his inspiration.[183] Gazali began as a philosopher, then lost
confidence in the logical method of proof, pointed to the contradictions
of the philosophers, to their disagreements among themselves, and went
over to the Sufis, the pietists and mystics of the Mohammedan faith.
There are a number of resemblances between Gazali and Halevi as Kaufmann
has shown, and there is no doubt that skepticism in respect of the
powers of the human reason on the one hand, and a deep religious sense
on the other are responsible for the point of view of Gazali as well as
Halevi. But there is this additional motive in Halevi that he was
defending a persecuted race and a despised faith against not merely the
philosophers but against the more powerful and more fortunate professors
of other religions. He is the loyal son of his race and his religion,
and he will show that they are above all criticism, that they are the
best and the truest there are. Maimonides, too, found it necessary to
defend Judaism against the attacks of philosophy. But in his case it was
the Jew in him who had to be defended against the philosopher in him. It
was no external enemy but an internal who must be made harmless, and the
method was one of reconciliation and harmonization. It is still truer to
say that with Maimonides both Judaism and philosophy were his friends,
neither was an enemy. He was attached to one quite as much as to the
other. And it was his privilege to reconcile their differences, to the
great gain, as he thought, of both. Judah Halevi takes the stand of one
who fights for his hearth and home against the attacks of foreign foes.
He will not yield an inch to the adversary. He will maintain his own.
The enemy cannot approach.

Thus Halevi begins his famous work "Kusari": "I was asked what I have to
say in answer to the arguments of philosophers, unbelievers and
professors of other religions against our own." Instead of working out
his ideas systematically, he wanted to give his subject dramatic
interest by clothing it in dialogue form. And he was fortunate in
finding a historical event which suited his purpose admirably.

Some three or four centuries before his time, the king of the Chazars, a
people of Turkish origin living in the Caucasus, together with his
courtiers and many of his subjects embraced Judaism. Hasdai ibn Shaprut,
the Jewish minister and patron of learning of Cordova, in the tenth
century corresponded with the then king of the Chazars, and received an
account of the circumstances of the conversion. In brief it was that the
king wishing to know which was the true religion invited representatives
of the three dominant creeds, Judaism, Christianity and Mohammedanism,
and questioned them concerning the tenets of their respective faiths.
Seeing that the Christian as well as the Mohammedan appealed in their
arguments to the truth of the Hebrew Bible, the king concluded that
Judaism must be the true religion, which he accordingly adopted. This
story gave Halevi the background and framework for his composition. He
works out his own ideas in the form of a dialogue between the Jewish
Rabbi and the king of the Chazars, in which the former explains to the
king the essentials of the Jewish religion, and answers the king's
questions and criticisms, taking occasion to discuss a variety of
topics, religious, philosophical and scientific, all tending to show the
truth of Judaism and its superiority to other religions, to philosophy,
Kalam, and also to Karaism.

The story is, Halevi tells us, in the introduction to his book, that the
king of the Chazars had repeated dreams in which an angel said to him,
"Your intentions are acceptable to God, but not your practice." His
endeavors to be faithful to his religion, and to take part in the
services and perform the sacrifices in the temple in person only led to
the repetition of the dream. He therefore consulted a philosopher about
his belief, and the latter said to him, "In God there is neither favor
nor hatred, for he is above all desire and purpose. Purpose and
intention argue defect and want, which the fulfilment of the intention
satisfies. But God is free from want. Hence there is no purpose or
intention in his nature.

"God does not know the particular or individual, for the individual
constantly changes, whereas God's knowledge never changes. Hence God
does not know the individual man and, needless to say, he does not hear
his prayer. When the philosophers say God created man, they use the word
created metaphorically, in the sense that God is the cause of all
causes, but not that he made man with purpose and intention.

"The world is eternal, and so is the existence of man. The character and
ability of a person depend upon the causes antecedent to him. If these
are of the right sort, we have a person who has the potentialities of a
philosopher. To realize them he must develop his intellect by study, and
his character through moral discipline. Then he will receive the
influence of the 'Active Intellect,' with which he becomes identified so
that his limbs and faculties do only what is right, and are wholly in
the service of the active Intellect.

"This union with the active Intellect is the highest goal of man; and he
becomes like one of the angels, and joins the ranks of Hermes,
Æsculapius, Socrates, Plato, Aristotle. This is the meaning of the
expression 'favor of God.' The important thing is to study the sciences
in order to know the truth, and to practice the ethical virtues. If one
does this, it matters not what religion he professes, or whether he
professes any religion at all. He can make his own religion in order to
discipline himself in humility, and to govern his relations to society
and country. Or he can choose one of the philosophical religions. Purity
of heart is the important thing, and knowledge of the sciences. Then the
desired result will come, namely, union with the active intellect, which
may also result in the power of prophecy through true dreams and

The king was not satisfied with the statement of the philosopher, which
seemed to him inadequate because he felt that he himself had the
necessary purity of heart, and yet he was told that his practice was not
satisfactory, proving that there is something in practice as such apart
from intention. Besides, the great conflict between Christianity and
Islam, who kill one another, is due to the difference in religious
practice, and not in purity of heart. Moreover, if the view of the
philosophers were true, there should be prophecy among them, whereas in
reality prophecy is found among those who did not study the sciences
rather than among those who did.

The king then said, I will ask the Christians and the Mohammedans. I
need not inquire of the Jews, for their low condition is sufficient
proof that the truth cannot be with them. So he sent for a Christian
sage, who explained to him the essentials of his belief, saying among
other things, We believe in the creation of the world in six days, in
the descent of all men from Adam, in revelation and Providence, in
short, in all that is found in the law of Moses and in the other
Israelitish Scriptures, which cannot be doubted because of the publicity
which was given to the events recorded therein. He also quoted the
words of the gospel, I did not come to destroy any of the commandments
of Israel and of Moses their teacher; I came to confirm them.

The king was not convinced by the Christian belief, and called a
Mohammedan doctor, who in describing the specific tenets of
Mohammedanism also mentioned the fact that in the Koran are quoted the
Pentateuch and Moses and the other leaders, and the wonderful things
they did. These, he said, cannot be denied; for they are well known.

Seeing that both Christian and Mohammedan referred to the law of Moses
as true, and as evidence that God spoke to man, the king determined to
call a Jewish sage also, and hear what he had to say.

The Jewish "Haber," as Judah Halevi calls him, began his discourse by
saying, We Jews believe in the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, who took
the children of Israel out of Egypt, supported them in the wilderness,
gave them the land of Canaan, and so on.

The king was disappointed and said, I had determined not to consult the
Jews in this matter at all, because their abject condition in the world
did not leave them any good quality. You should have said, he told the
Jew, that you believe in him who created the world and governs it; who
made man and provides for him. Every religionist defends his belief in
this way.

The Jew replied, The religion to which you refer is a rational religion,
established by speculation and argument, which are full of doubt, and
about which there is no agreement among philosophers, because not all
the arguments are valid or even plausible. This pleased the king, and he
expressed a wish to continue the discourse. The Rabbi then said, The
proper way to define one's religion is by reference to that which is
more certain, namely, actual experience. Jews have this actual
experience. The God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob spoke to Moses and
delivered the Israelites out of Egypt. This is well known. God gave
Israel the Torah. To be sure, all others not of Israel who accept the
Law will be rewarded, but they cannot be equal to Israel. There is a
peculiar relation between God and Israel in which the other peoples do
not share. As the plant is distinguished from the mineral, the animal
from the plant, and man from the irrational animal, so is the prophetic
individual distinguished above other men. He constitutes a higher
species. It is through him that the masses became aware of God's
existence and care for them. It was he who told them things unknown to
them; who gave them an account of the world's creation and its history.
We count now forty-five hundred years from the creation. This was handed
down from Adam through Seth and Enos to Noah, to Shem and Eber, to
Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to Moses, and finally to us. Moses came only
four hundred years after Abraham in a world which was full of knowledge
of heavenly and earthly things. It is impossible that he should have
given them a false account of the division of languages and the
relations of nations without being found out and exposed.

The philosophers, it is true, oppose us by maintaining that the world is
eternal. But the philosophers are Greeks, descended from Japheth, who
did not inherit either wisdom or Torah. Divine wisdom is found only in
the family of Shem. The Greeks had philosophy among them only during the
short time of their power. They borrowed it from the Persians, who had
it in turn from the Chaldeans. But neither before nor after did they
have any philosophers among them.

Aristotle, not having any inherited tradition concerning the origin of
the world, endeavored to reason it all out of his own head. Eternity was
just as hard to believe in as creation. But as he had no true and
reliable tradition, his arguments in favor of eternity seemed to him to
be the stronger. Had he lived among a people who had reliable traditions
on the other side, he would have found arguments in favor of creation,
which is more plausible than eternity. Real demonstration cannot be
controverted; and there is nothing in the Bible which opposes what the
reason unequivocally demands. But the matter of eternity or creation is
very difficult. The arguments on one side are as good as those on the
other. And tradition from Adam to Noah and Moses, which is better than
argument, lends its additional weight to the doctrine of creation. If
the believer in the Torah were obliged to hold that there is a primitive
eternal matter from which the world was made, and that there were many
worlds before this one, there would be no great harm, as long as he
believes that this world is of recent origin and Adam was the first

We see now the standpoint of Judah Halevi, for the "Haber" is of course
his spokesman. Philosophy and independent reasoning on such difficult
matters as God and creation are after all more or less guess work, and
cannot be made the bases of religion except for those who have nothing
better. The Jews fortunately have a surer foundation all their own. They
have a genuine and indisputable tradition. History is the only true
science and the source of truth; not speculation, which is subjective,
and can be employed with equal plausibility in favor of opposite
doctrines. True history and tradition in the case of the Jews goes back
ultimately to first hand knowledge from the very source of all truth.
The prophets of Israel constitute a higher species, as much superior to
the ordinary man as the ordinary man is to the lower animal, and these
prophets received their knowledge direct from God. In principle Judah
Halevi agrees with the other Jewish philosophers that true reason cannot
be controverted. He differs with them in the concrete application of
this abstract principle. He has not the same respect as Maimonides for
the actual achievements of the unaided human reason, and an infinitely
greater respect for the traditional beliefs of Judaism and the Biblical
expressions taken in their obvious meaning. Hence he does not feel the
same necessity as Maimonides to twist the meaning of Scriptural passages
to make them agree with philosophical theories.

According to this view Judah Halevi does not find it necessary with the
philosophers and the Mutakallimun painfully to prove the existence of
God. The existence of the Jewish people and the facts of their wonderful
history are more eloquent demonstrations than any that logic or
metaphysics can muster. But more than this. The philosophical view of
God is inadequate in more ways than one. It is inaccurate in content and
incorrect in motive. In the first place, they lay a great deal of stress
on nature as the principle by which objects move. If a stone naturally
moves to the centre of the world, they say this is due to a cause called
nature. And the tendency is to attribute intelligence and creative power
to this new entity as an associate of God. This is misleading. The real
Intelligence is God alone. It is true that the elements, and the sun and
moon, and the stars exert certain influences, producing heat and cold,
and various other effects in things material, by virtue of which these
latter are prepared for the reception of higher forms. And there is no
harm in calling these agencies Nature. But we must regard these as
devoid of intelligence, and as mere effects of God's wisdom and

The philosopher denies will in God on the ground that this would argue
defect and want. This reduces God to an impersonal force. We Jews
believe God has will. The word we use does not matter. I ask the
philosopher what is it that makes the heavens revolve continually, and
the outer sphere carry everything in uniform motion, the earth standing
immovable in the centre? Call it what you please, will or command; it is
the same thing that made the air shape itself to produce the sounds of
the ten commandments which were heard, and that caused the characters to
form on the Tables of Stone.[186]

The motive of the philosopher is also different from that of the
believer. The philosopher seeks knowledge only. He desires to know God
as he desires to know the exact position and form of the earth.
Ignorance in respect to God is no more harmful in his mind than
ignorance respecting a fact in nature. His main object is to have true
knowledge in order to become like unto the Active Intellect and to be
identified with it. As long as he is a philosopher it makes no
difference to him what he believes in other respects and whether he
observes the practices of religion or not.[187]

The true belief in God is different in scope and aim. What God is must
be understood not by means of rational proofs, but by prophetic and
spiritual insight. Rational proofs are misleading, and the heretics and
unbelievers also use rational proofs--those for example who believe in
two original causes, in the eternity of the world, or in the divinity of
the sun and fire. The most subtle proofs are those used by the
philosophers, and they maintain that God is not concerned about us, and
pays no attention to our prayers and sacrifices; that the world is
eternal. It is different with us, who heard his words, his commands and
prohibitions, and felt his reward and his punishment. We have a proper
name of God, Jhvh, representative of the communications he made to us,
and we have a conviction that he created the world. The first was Adam,
who knew God through actual communication and the creation of Eve from
one of his ribs. Cain and Abel came next, then Noah and Abraham, Isaac
and Jacob, and so on to Moses and the Prophets, who came after him. All
these called him Jhvh by reason of their insight. The people who
received the teaching of the Prophets, in whom they believed, also
called him Jhvh, because he was in communication with men; and the
select among them saw him through an intermediate agency, called
variously, Form, Image, Cloud, Fire, Kingdom, Shekinah, Glory, Rainbow,
and so on, proving that he spoke to them.[188]

As the sun's light penetrates different objects in varying degrees, for
example, ruby and crystal receive the sun's light in the highest degree;
clear air and water come next, then bright stones and polished surfaces,
and last of all opaque substances like wood and earth, which the light
does not penetrate at all; so we may conceive of different minds varying
in the degree to which they attain a knowledge of God. Some arrive only
as far as the knowledge of "Elohim," while others attain to a knowledge
of Jhvh, which may be compared to the reception of the sun's light in
ruby and crystal. These are the prophets in the land of Israel. The
conception involved in the name "Elohim" no intelligent man denies;
whereas many deny the conception of Jhvh, because prophecy is an unusual
occurrence even among individuals, not to speak of a nation. That is why
Pharaoh said (Exod. 5, 2), "I know not Jhvh." He knew "Elohim," but not
Jhvh, that is a God who reveals himself to man. "Elohim" may be arrived
at by reasoning; for the reason tells us that the world has a ruler;
though the various classes of men differ as to details, the most
plausible view being that of the philosophers. But the conception of
Jhvh cannot be arrived at by reason. It requires that prophetic vision
by which a person almost becomes a member of a new species, akin to
angels. Then the doubts he formerly had about "Elohim" fall away, and he
laughs at the arguments which led him to the conception of God and of
unity. Now he becomes a devotee, who loves the object of his devotion,
and is ready to give his life in his love for him, because of the great
happiness he feels in being near to him, and the misery of being away
from him. This is different from the philosopher, who sees in the
worship of God only good ethics and truth, because he is greater than
all other existing things; and in unbelief nothing more than the fault
of choosing the untrue.[189]

Here there is clearly a touch of religious poetry and mysticism, which
reveals to us Halevi's real attitude, and we have no difficulty in
understanding his lack of sympathy with what seemed to him the shallow
rationalism of the contemporaneous Aristotelian, who fancied in his
conceit that with a few logical formulæ he could penetrate the
mysteries of the divine, when in reality he was barely enabled to skim
the surface; into the sanctuary he could never enter.

Though, as we have just seen, Halevi has a conception of God as a
personal being, acting with purpose and will and, as we shall see more
clearly later, standing in close personal relation to Israel and the
land of Palestine, still he is very far from thinking of him
anthropomorphically. In his discussion of the divine attributes he
yields to none in removing from God any positive quality of those
ascribed to him in the Bible. The various names or appellatives applied
to God in Scripture, except the tetragrammaton, he divides, according to
their signification, into three classes, _actional_, _relative_,
_negative_. Such expressions as "making high," "making low," "making
poor," almighty, strong, jealous, revengeful, gracious, merciful, and so
on, do not denote, he says, feeling or emotion in God. They are ascribed
to him because of his visible acts or effects in the world, which we
judge on the analogy of our own acts. As a human being is prompted to
remove the misery of a fellowman because he feels pity, we ascribe all
instances of divine removal of misery from mankind to a similar feeling
in God, and call him merciful. But this is only a figure of speech. God
does remove misery, but the feeling of pity is foreign to him. We call
therefore the attribute merciful and others like it actional, meaning
that it is God's acts which suggest to us these appellations.

Another class of attributes found in the Bible embraces such expressions
as blessed, exalted, holy, praised, and so on. These are called
relative, because they are derived from the attitude of man to God. God
is blessed because men bless him, and so with the rest. They do not
denote any essential quality in God. And hence their number does not
necessitate plurality in God. Finally we have such terms as living, one,
first, last, and so on. These too do not denote God's positive essence,
for in reality God cannot be said to be either living or dead. Life as
we understand it denotes sensation and motion, which are not in God. If
we do apply to God the term living, we do so in order to exclude its
negative, dead. Living means not dead; one means not many; first means
not having any cause antecedent to him; last means never ceasing to be.
Hence we call these attributes negative.[190]

We see that Judah Halevi is at one with Bahya and Joseph ibn Zaddik in
his understanding of the divine attributes. The slight difference in the
mode of classification is not essential.

This God chose Israel and gave them the ten commandments in order to
convince them that the Law originated from God and not from Moses. For
they might have had a doubt in their minds, seeing that speech is a
material thing, and believe that the origin of a law or religion is in
the mind of a human being, which afterwards comes to be believed in as
divine. For this reason God commanded the people to purify themselves
and be ready for the third day, when they _all_ heard the word of God,
and were convinced that prophecy is not what the philosophers say it
is--a natural result of man's reason identifying itself with the Active
Intellect through the help of the imagination, which presents true
visions in a dream--but a real communication from God. Not only did they
hear the word of God, but they saw the writing of God on the Tables of

This does not mean that we believe in the corporeality of God; Heaven
forbid, we do not even think of the soul of man as corporeal. But we
cannot deny the things recorded, which are well known. Just as God
created heaven and earth, not by means of material tools as a man does,
but by his will, so he might have willed that the air should convey
articulate sounds to the ear of Moses, and that letters should be formed
on the Tables of Stone to convey to the people the ideas which he wanted
them to know. They might have happened in a still more wonderful way
than I have been able to conceive.

This may seem like an unwarranted magnifying of the virtues of our
people. But in reality it is true that the chain of individuals from
Adam to Moses and thereafter was a remarkable one of godly men. Adam was
surely a godlike man since he was made by the hand of God and was not
dependent on the inherited constitution of his parents, and on the food
and climate he enjoyed in the years of his growth. He was made perfect
as in the time of mature youth when a person is at his best, and was
endowed with the best possible soul for man. Abel was his successor in
excellence, also a godly man, and so down the line through Seth and
Noah, and so on. There were many who were unworthy and they were
excluded. But there was always one in every generation who inherited the
distinguished qualities of the Adam line. And even when, as in the case
of Terah, the individual was unworthy in himself, he was important as
being destined to give birth to a worthy son, who would carry on the
tradition, like Abraham. Among Noah's sons, Shem was the select one, and
he occupied the temperate regions of Palestine, whereas Japheth went
north and Ham went south--regions not so favorable to the development of

The laws were all given directly to Moses with all their details so that
there is no doubt about any of them. This was absolutely necessary, for
had there been any detail left out, a doubt might arise respecting it
which would destroy the whole spiritual structure of Judaism. This is
not a matter which philosophical reasoning can think out for itself. As
in the natural generation of plant and animal the complexity of elements
and conditions is so great that a slight tilting of the balance in the
wrong direction produces disease and death, so in the spiritual creation
of Israel the ceremonies and the laws are all absolutely essential to
the whole, whether we understand it or not, and none could be left to
speculation. All were given to Moses.

Moses addressed himself to his own people only. You say it would have
been better to call all mankind to the true religion. It would be better
also perhaps that all animals should be rational. You have forgotten
what I said about the select few that worthily succeeded Adam as the
heart of the family to the exclusion of the other members, who are as
the peel, until in the sons of Jacob all twelve were worthy, and from
them Israel is descended. These remarkable men had divine qualities
which made them a different species from ordinary men. They were aiming
at the degree of the prophet, and many of them reached it by reason of
their purity, holiness and proximity to the Prophets. For a prophet has
a great influence on the one who associates with him. He converts the
latter by awakening in him spirituality and a desire to attain that high
degree which brings visible greatness and reward in the world to come,
when the soul is separated from the senses and enjoys the heavenly
light. We do not exclude anyone from the reward due him for his good
works, but we give preference to those who are near to God, and we
measure their reward in the next world by this standard. Our religion
consists not merely in saying certain words, but in difficult practices
and a line of conduct which bring us near to God. Outsiders too may
attain to the grade of wise and pious men, but they cannot become equal
to us and be prophets.[192]

Not only is Israel a select nation to whom alone prophecy is given as a
gift, but Palestine is the most suitable place in the world for
communion with God, as a certain spot may be best for planting certain
things and for producing people of a particular character and
temperament. All those who prophesied outside of Palestine did so with
reference to Palestine. Abraham was not worthy of the divine covenant
until he was in this land. Palestine was intended to be a guide for the
whole world. The reason the second Temple did not last longer than it
did is because the Babylonian exiles did not sufficiently love their
fatherland and did not all return when the decree of Cyrus permitted
them to do so.[193]

Israel is the heart among the nations. The heart is more sensitive than
the rest of the body in disease as in health. It feels both more
intensely. It is more liable to disease than the other organs, and on
the other hand it becomes aware sooner of agencies dangerous to its
health and endeavors to reject them or ward them off. So Israel is among
the nations. Their responsibility is greater than that of other nations
and they are sooner punished. "Only you have I loved out of all the
families of the earth," says Amos (3, 2), "therefore will I visit upon
you all your iniquities." On the other hand, God does not allow our sins
to accumulate as he does with the other nations until they deserve
destruction. "He pardons the iniquities of his people by causing them to
pass away in due order." As the heart is affected by the other organs,
so Israel suffers on account of their assimilation to the other nations.
Israel suffers while the other nations are in peace. As the elements are
for the sake of the minerals, the minerals for the sake of the plants,
the plants for the sake of the animals, the animals for the sake of man,
so is man for the sake of Israel, and Israel for the sake of the
Prophets and the pious men. With the purification of Israel the world
will be improved and brought nearer to God.[194]

Associated with Israel and Palestine as a third privilege and
distinction is the Hebrew language. This is the original language which
God spoke to Adam. The etymologies of Biblical names prove it. It was
richer formerly, and has become impoverished in the course of time like
the people using it. Nevertheless it still shows evidence of
superiority to other languages in its system of accents which shows the
proper expression in reading, and in its wonderful system of vowel
changes producing euphony in expression and variation in meaning.[195]

The highest type of man, we have seen, is the Prophet, for whose sake
Israel and the whole of humanity exists. He is the highest type because
he alone has an immediate knowledge of Jhvh as distinguished from
"Elohim," the concept of universal cause and power, which the
philosopher also is able to attain. Jhvh signifies, as we have seen, the
personal God who performs miracles and reveals himself to mankind
through the prophet. We wish to know therefore how Judah Halevi
conceives of the essence and process of prophetic inspiration. We are
already aware that he is opposed to the philosophers who regard the
power of prophecy as a natural gift possessed by the man of pure
intellect and perfect power of imagination. To these Aristotelians, as
we shall have occasion to see more clearly later, the human intellect is
nothing more than an individualized reflection, if we may so term it, of
the one universal intellect, which is--not God, but an intellectual
substance wholly immaterial, some nine or ten degrees removed from the
Godhead. It is called the Active Intellect, and its business is to
govern the sublunar world of generation and decay. As pure thought the
Active Intellect embraces as its content the entire sublunar world in
essence. In fact it bestows the forms (in the Aristotelian sense) upon
the things of this world, and hence has a timeless knowledge of all the
world and its happenings. The individualized reflection of it in the
human soul is held there so long as the person is alive, somewhat as a
drop of water may hold the moon until it evaporates, and the reflection
is reabsorbed in the one real moon. So it is the Active Intellect which
is the cause of all conceptual knowledge in man through its
individualizations, and into it every human intellect is reabsorbed when
the individual dies. Some men share more, some less in the Active
Intellect; and it is in everyone's power, within limits, to increase and
purify his participation in the influence of the Active Intellect by
study and rigorous ethical discipline. The prophet differs from the
ordinary man and the philosopher in degree only, not in kind. His
knowledge comes from the influence of the Active Intellect as does the
knowledge of the philosopher. The difference is that in the prophet's
case the imagination plays an important rôle and presents concrete
visions instead of universal propositions, and the identification with
the Active Intellect is much closer.

This conception of prophecy, which in its essentials, we shall see, was
adopted by Abraham ibn Daud, Maimonides and Gersonides, naturally would
not appeal to Judah Halevi. Prophecy is the prerogative of Israel and of
Palestine. The philosophers have nothing to do with it. A mere
philosopher has no more chance of entering the kingdom of prophecy than
a camel of passing through the eye of a needle.[B] Have the philosophers
ever produced prophets? And yet, if their explanation is correct, their
ranks should abound in them. Prophecy is a supernatural power, and the
influence comes from God. The prophet is a higher species of mortal. He
is endowed with an internal eye, a hidden sense, which sees certain
immaterial objects, as the external sense sees the physical objects. No
one else sees those forms, but they are none the less real, for the
whole species of prophetic persons testify to their existence. In
ordinary perception we tell a real object from an illusion by appealing
to the testimony of others. What appears to a single individual only may
be an illusion. If all persons agree that the object is there, we
conclude it is real. The same test holds of the prophetic visions. All
prophets see them. Then the intellect of the prophet interprets the
vision, as our intellect interprets the data of our senses. The latter
give us not the essence of the sensible object, but the superficial
accidents, such as color, shape, and so on. It is the work of the reason
to refer these qualities to the essence of the object, as king, sun. The
same holds true of the prophet. He sees a figure in the form of a king
or a judge in the act of giving orders; and he knows that he has before
him a being that is served and obeyed. Or he sees the form in the act of
carrying baggage or girded for work; and he infers that he is dealing
with a being that is meant for a servant. What these visions really were
it is not in all cases possible to know with certainty. There is no
doubt that the Prophets actually saw the hosts of heaven, the spirits of
the spheres, in the form of man. The word angel in the Bible (Heb.
Mal'ak) means messenger. What these messengers or angels were we cannot
tell with certainty. They may have been specially created from the fine
elementary bodies, or they belonged to the eternal angels, who may be
the same as the spiritual beings of whom the philosophers speak. We can
neither reject their view nor definitely accept it. Similarly the
expression, "The Glory of Jhvh," may denote a fine body following the
will of God and formed every time it has to appear to a prophet, or it
may denote all the angels and spiritual beings, Throne and Chariot and
Firmament, and Ofannim and Galgalim, and other eternal beings
constituting, so to speak, the suite of God.

[B] This simile represents Halevi's thought. He does not use this

Even such phrases as, "They saw the God of Israel" (Exod. 24, 10), "He
saw the form of Jhvh" (Num. 12, 8), the Rabbinic expression "Maase
Merkaba" (work of the divine chariot, _cf._ above, p. xvi), and the
later discussions concerning the "Measure of the divine stature" (Shiʿur
Komah), must not be rejected. These visual images representative of God
are calculated to inspire fear in the human soul, which the bare
conception of the One, Omnipotent, and so on, cannot produce.[196]

As Judah Halevi is unwilling to yield to the philosophers and explain
away the supernaturalism of prophecy, maintaining rather on the contrary
that the supernatural character of the prophetic vision is an evidence
of the superior nature of Israel as well as of their land and their
language, so he insists on the inherent value of the ceremonial law,
including sacrifices. To Saadia, and especially to Bahya and Maimonides,
the test of value is rationality. The important laws of the Bible are
those known as the rational commandments. The other class, the so-called
traditional commandments, would also turn out to be rational if we knew
the reason why they were commanded. And in default of exact knowledge it
is the business of the philosopher to suggest reasons. Bahya lays the
greatest stress upon the commandments of the heart, _i. e._, upon the
purity of motive and intention, upon those laws which concern feeling
and belief rather than outward practice. Judah Halevi's attitude is
different. If the only thing of importance in religion were intention
and motive and moral sense, why should Christianity and Islam fight to
the death, shedding untold human blood in defence of their religion. As
far as ethical theory and practice are concerned there is no difference
between them. Ceremonial practice is the only thing that separates them.
And the king of the Chazars was told repeatedly in his dreams that his
intentions were good but not his practice, his religious practice. To be
sure the ethical law is important in any religion, but it is not
peculiar to religion as such. It is a necessary condition of social
life, without which no association is possible, not even that of a
robber band. There is honesty even among thieves. Religion has its
peculiar practices, and it is not sufficient for an Israelite to observe
the rational commandments alone. When the Prophets inveigh against
sacrifices; when Micah says (6, 8), "He hath shewed thee, O man, what is
good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to
love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God," they mean that the
ceremonies alone are not sufficient; but surely a man is not fully an
Israelite if he neglects the ceremonial laws and observes only the
rational commandments. We may not understand the value of the ceremonial
laws, the meaning of the institution of sacrifices. But neither do we
understand why the rational soul does not attach itself to a body except
when the parts are arranged in a certain manner and the elements are
mixed in a certain proportion, though the reason needs not food and
drink for itself. God has arranged it so, that only under certain
conditions shall a body receive the light of reason. So in the matter of
sacrifices God has ordained that only when the details of the
sacrificial and other ceremonies are minutely observed shall the nation
enjoy his presence and care. In some cases the significance of certain
observances is clearer than in others. Thus the various festivals are
also symbolic of certain truths of history and the divine government of
the world. The Sabbath leads to the belief in the exodus from Egypt and
the creation of the world; and hence inculcates belief in God.[197]

In his views of ethics Judah Halevi is more human than Bahya, being
opposed to all manner of asceticism. The law, he says, does not demand
excess in any direction. Every power and faculty must be given its due.
Our law commends fear, love and joy as means of worshipping God; so that
fasting on a fast day does not bring a man nearer to God than eating and
drinking and rejoicing on a feast day, provided all is done with a view
to honoring God. A Jewish devotee is not one who separates himself from
the world. On the contrary, he loves the world and a long life because
thereby he wins a share in the world to come. Still his desire is to
attain the degree of Enoch or Elijah, and to be fit for the association
of angels. A man like this feels more at home when alone than in
company of other people; for the higher beings are his company, and he
misses them when people are around him. Philosophers also enjoy solitude
in order to clarify their thoughts, and they are eager to meet disciples
to discuss their problems with them. In our days it is difficult to
reach the position of these rare men. In former times when the Shekinah
rested in the Holy Land, and the nation was fit for prophecy, there were
people who separated themselves from their neighbors and studied the law
in purity and holiness in the company of men like them. These were the
Sons of the Prophets. Nowadays when there is neither prophecy nor
wisdom, a person who attempted to do this, though he be a pious man,
would come to grief; for he would find neither prophets nor philosophers
to keep him company; nor enough to keep his mind in that high state of
exaltation needed for communion with God. Prayer alone is not
sufficient, and soon becomes a habit without any influence on the soul.
He would soon find that the natural powers and desires of the soul begin
to assert themselves and he will regret his separation from mankind,
thus getting farther away from God instead of coming nearer to him.

The right practice of the pious man at the present day is to give all
the parts of the body their due and no more, without neglecting any of
them; and to bring the lower powers and desires under the dominion of
the higher; feeding the soul with things spiritual as the body with
things material. He must keep himself constantly under guard and
control, making special use of the times of prayer for self-examination,
and striving to retain the influence of one prayer until the time comes
for the next. He must also utilize the Sabbaths and the festivals and
the Great Fast to keep himself in good spiritual trim. In addition he
must observe all the commandments, traditional, rational, and those of
the heart, and reflect on their meaning and on God's goodness and

Judah Halevi has no doubt of the immortality of the soul and of reward
and punishment after death, though the Bible does not dwell upon these
matters with any degree of emphasis. Other religions, he admits, make
greater promises of reward after death, whereas Judaism offers divine
nearness through miracles and prophecy. Instead of saying, If you do
thus and so, I will put you in gardens after death and give you
pleasures, our Law says, I will be your God and you will be my people.
Some of you will stand before me and will go up to heaven, walking among
the angels; and my angels will walk among you, protecting you in your
land, which is the holy land, not like the other nations, which are
governed by nature. Surely, he exclaims, we who can boast of such things
during life are more certain of the future world than those whose sole
reliance is on promises of the hereafter. It would not be correct, the
Rabbi says to the king of the Chazars, who was tempted to despise the
Jews as well as their religion because of their material and political
weakness, to judge of our destiny after death by our condition during
life, in which we are inferior to all other people. For these very
people, like the Christians and Mohammedans, glory in their founders,
who were persecuted and despised, and not in the present power and
luxury of the great kings. The Christians in particular worship the man
who said, "Whosoever smiteth thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the
other also. And if a man ... take away thy coat, let him have thy cloak
also" (Matth. 5, 39). Accordingly our worth is greater in the sight of
God than if we were prosperous. It is true that not all of us accept our
miserable condition with becoming humility. If we did, God would not
keep us so long in misery. But after all there is reward awaiting our
people for bearing the yoke of the exile voluntarily, when it would be
an easy matter for any one of us to become a brother to our oppressors
by the saying of one word.

Our wise men, too, have said a great deal about the pleasures and
sufferings awaiting us in the next world, and in this also they surpass
the wise men of other religions. The Bible, it is true, does not lay
stress on this aspect of our belief; but so much is clear from the Bible
also, that the spirit returns to God. There are also allusions to the
immortality of the soul in the disappearance of Elijah, who did not die,
and in the belief of his second coming. This appears also from the
prayer of Balaam, "Let me die the death of the righteous, and may my
last end be like his" (Num. 23, 10), and from the calling of Samuel from
the dead. The idea of paradise (Gan Eden) is taken from the Torah, and
Gehenna is a Hebrew word, the name of a valley near Jerusalem, where
fire always burned, consuming unclean bones, carcases, and so on. There
is nothing new in the later religions which is not already found in

An important ethical problem which Judah Halevi discusses more
thoroughly than any of his predecessors is that of free will, which he
defends against fatalistic determinism, and endeavors to reconcile with
divine causality and foreknowledge. We have already seen (p. xxi) that
this was one of the important theses of the Muʿtazilite Kalam. And there
is no doubt that fatalism is opposed to Judaism. A fatalistic
determinist denies the category of the contingent or possible. He says
not merely that an event is determined by its proximate cause, he goes
further and maintains that it is determined long in advance of any of
its secondary causes by the will of God. It would follow then that there
is no way of preventing an event thus predetermined. If we take pains to
avoid a misfortune fated to come upon us, our very efforts may carry us
toward it and land us in its clutches. Literature is full of stories
illustrating this belief, as for example the story of Œdipus. Against
this form of belief Judah Halevi vindicates the reality of the
contingent or possible as opposed to the necessary. No one except the
obstinate and perverse denies the possible or contingent. His
preparations to meet and avoid that which he hopes and fears prove that
he believes the thing amenable to pains and precautions. If he had not
this belief, he would fold his hands in resignation, never taking the
trouble to supply himself with arms to meet his enemy, or with water to
quench his thirst. To be sure, we may argue that whether one prepare
himself or omit to do so, the preparation or neglect is itself
determined. But this is no longer the same position as that maintained
at the outset. For we now admit that secondary causes do play a part in
determining the result, whereas we denied it at first. The will is one
of these secondary causes. Accordingly Judah Halevi divides all acts or
events into four classes, divine, natural, accidental and voluntary.
Strictly divine events are the direct results of the divine will without
any intermediate cause. There is no way of preparing for or avoiding
these; not, that is, physically; but it is possible to prepare oneself
mentally and morally, namely, through the secrets of the Torah to him
who knows them.

Natural events are produced by secondary causes, which bring the objects
of nature to their perfection. These produce their effects regularly and
uniformly, provided there is no hindrance on the part of the other
three causes. An example of natural events would be the growth of a
plant or animal under favorable conditions. Accidental events are also
produced by secondary causes, but they happen by chance, not regularly
and not as a result of purpose. Their causes are not intended for the
purpose of bringing perfection to their chance effects. These too may be
hindered by any one of the other three causes. An example of a chance
event might be death in war. The secondary cause is the battle, but its
purpose was not that this given person might meet his death there, and
not all men die in war.

Finally, voluntary acts are those caused by the will of man. It is these
that concern us most. We have already intimated that the human will is
itself a secondary cause and has a rôle in determining its effect. It is
true that the will itself is caused by other higher causes until we get
to the first cause, but this does not form a _necessary_ chain of
causation. Despite the continuous chain of causes antecedent to a given
volition the soul finding itself in front of a given plan is free to
choose either of the two alternatives. To say that a man's speech is as
necessary as the beating of his pulse contradicts experience. We feel
that we are masters of our speech and our silence. The fact that we
praise and blame and love and hate a person according to his deliberate
conduct is another proof of freedom. We do not blame a natural or
accidental cause. We do not blame a child or a person asleep when they
cause damage, because they did not do the damage deliberately and with
intention. If those who deny freedom are consistent, they must either
refrain from being angry with a person who injures them deliberately, or
they must say that anger and praise and blame and love and hate are
delusive powers put in our souls in vain. Besides there would be no
difference between the pious and the disobedient, because both are doing
that which they are by necessity bound to do.

But there are certain strong objections to the doctrine of freedom. If
man is absolutely free to do or forbear, it follows that the effects of
his conduct are removed from God's control. The answer to this is that
they are not absolutely removed from his control. They are still related
to him by a chain of causes.

Another argument against free will is that it is irreconcilable with
God's knowledge. If man alone is the master of his choice, God cannot
know beforehand what he will choose. And if God does know, the man
cannot but choose as God foreknew he would choose, and what becomes of
his freedom? This may be answered by saying that the knowledge of a
thing is not the cause of its being. We do not determine a past event by
the fact that we know it. Knowledge is simply evidence that the thing
is. So man chooses by his own determination, and yet God knows
beforehand which way he is going to choose, simply because he sees into
the future as we remember the past.[200]

Judah Halevi's discussion of the problem of freedom is fuller than any
we have met so far in our investigation. But it is not satisfactory.
Apart from his fourfold classification of events which is open to
criticism, there is a weak spot in the very centre of his argument,
which scarcely could have escaped him. He admits that the will is caused
by higher causes ending ultimately in the will of God, and yet maintains
in the same breath that the will is not determined. As free the will is
removed from God's control, and yet it is not completely removed, being
related to him by a chain of causes. This is a plain contradiction,
unless we are told how far it is determined and how far it is not.
Surely the aspect in which it is not determined is absolutely removed
from God's control and altogether uncaused. But Judah Halevi is
unwilling to grant this. He just leaves us with the juxtaposition of two
incompatibles. We shall see that Hasdai Crescas was more consistent, and
admitted determinism.

We have now considered Judah Halevi's teachings, and have seen that he
has no sympathy with the point of view of those people who were called
in his day philosophers, _i. e._, those who adopted the teachings
ascribed to Aristotle. At the same time he was interested in maintaining
that all science really came originally from the Jews; and in order to
prove this he undertakes a brief interpretation of the "Sefer Yezirah"
(Book of Creation), an early mystic work of unknown authorship and date,
which Judah Halevi in common with the uncritical opinion of his day
attributed to Abraham.[201] Not to lay himself open to the charge of
inconsistency, he throws out the suggestion that the Sefer Yezirah
represented Abraham's own speculations before he had the privilege of a
prophetic communication from God. When that came he was ready to abandon
all his former rationalistic lucubrations and abide by the certainty of
revealed truth.[202] We may therefore legitimately infer that Judah
Halevi's idea was that the Jews were the originators of philosophy, but
that they had long discarded it in favor of something much more valid
and certain; whereas the Greeks and their descendants, having nothing
better, caught it up and are now parading it as their own discovery and
even setting it up as superior to direct revelation.

Natural science in so far as it had to do with more or less verifiable
data could not be considered harmful, and so we find Judah Halevi taking
pains to show that the sages of Rabbinical literature cultivated the
sciences, astronomy in connection with the Jewish calendar; anatomy,
biology and physiology in relation to the laws of slaughter and the
examination of animal meat (laws of "Terefa").[203]

But so great was the fascination philosophy exerted upon the men of his
generation that even Judah Halevi, despite his efforts to shake its
authority and point out its inadequacy and evident inferiority to
revelation, was not able wholly to escape it. And we find accordingly
that he deems it necessary to devote a large part of the fifth book of
the Kusari to the presentation of a bird's eye view of the current
philosophy of the day. To be sure, he does not give all of it the stamp
of his approval; he repeatedly attacks its foundations and lays bare
their weakness. At the same time he admits that not every man has faith
by nature and is proof against the erroneous arguments of heretics,
astrologers, philosophers and others. The ordinary mortal is affected by
them, and may even be misled for a time until he comes to see the truth.
It is therefore well to know the principles of religion according to
those who defend it by reason, and this involves a knowledge of science
and theology. But we must not, he says, in the manner of the Karaites,
advance all at once to the higher study of theology. One must first
understand the fundamental principles of physics, psychology, and so on,
such as matter and form, the elements, nature, Soul, Intellect, Divine
Wisdom. Then we can proceed to the more properly theological matters,
like the future world, Providence, and so on.

Accordingly Judah Halevi gives us in the sequel a brief account such as
he has just outlined. It will not be worth our while to reproduce it all
here, as in the first place Judah Halevi does not give it as the result
of his own investigation and conviction, and secondly a good deal of it
is not new; and we have already met it in more or less similar form
before in Joseph ibn Zaddik, Abraham bar Hiyyah, and others. We must
point out, however, the new features which we did not meet before,
explain their origin and in particular indicate Judah Halevi's

In general we may say that Judah Halevi has a better knowledge of
Aristotelian doctrines than any of his predecessors. Thus to take one
example, which we used before (p. 138), Aristotle's famous definition of
the soul is quoted by Isaac Israeli, Saadia, Joseph ibn Zaddik as well
as by Judah Halevi. Israeli does not discuss the definition in
detail.[204] Saadia and Ibn Zaddik show clearly that they did not
understand the precise meaning of the definition. Judah Halevi is the
first who understands correctly all the elements of the definition. And
yet it would be decidedly mistaken to infer from this that Judah Halevi
studied the Aristotelian works directly. By a fortunate discovery of S.
Landauer[205] we are enabled to follow Judah Halevi's source with the
certainty of eyewitnesses. The sketch which he gives of the Aristotelian
psychology is taken bodily not from Aristotle's De Anima, but from a
youthful work of Ibn Sina. Judah Halevi did not even take the trouble to
present the subject in his own words. He simply took his model and
abridged it, by throwing out all argumentative, illustrative and
amplificatory material. Apart from this abridgment he follows his
authority almost word for word, not to speak of reproducing the ideas in
the original form and order. This is a typical and extremely instructive
instance; and it shows how careful we must be before we decide that a
mediæval writer read a certain author with whose ideas he is familiar
and whom he quotes.

In the sketch of philosophical theory Judah Halevi first speaks of the
hyle (ὕλη) or formless matter, which according to the
philosophers was in the beginning of things contained within the lunar
sphere. The "water" in the second verse of Genesis ("and the spirit of
God moved upon the face of the water") is supposed by them to denote
this primitive matter, as the "darkness" in the same verse and the
"chaos" ("Tohu") in the first verse signify the absence of form and
composition in the matter (the Aristotelian στέρησις). God then
willed the revolution of the outermost sphere, known as the diurnal
sphere, which caused all the other spheres to revolve with it, thereby
producing changes in the hyle in accordance with the motions of the
sphere. The first change was the heating of that which was next to the
lunar sphere and making it into pure fire, known among the philosophers
as "natural fire," a pure, fine and light substance, without color or
burning quality. This became the sphere of fire. The part that was
further away changed as a result of the same revolution into the sphere
of air, then came the sphere of water, and finally the terrestrial globe
in the centre, heavy and thick by reason of its distance from the place
of motion. From these four elements come the physical objects by
composition. The forms (in the Aristotelian sense) of things are imposed
upon their matters by a divine power, the "Intellect, and Giver of
Forms"; whereas the matters come from the hyle, and the accidental
proximity of different parts to the revolving lunar sphere explains why
some parts became fire, some air, and so on.

To this mechanical explanation of the formation of the elements Judah
Halevi objects. As long as the original motion of the diurnal sphere is
admittedly due not to chance but to the will of God, what is gained by
referring the formation of the elements to their accidental proximity to
the moving sphere, and accounting for the production of mineral, plant
and animal in the same mechanical way by the accidental composition of
the four elements in proportions varying according to the different
revolutions and positions of the heavenly bodies? Besides if the latter
explanation were true, the number of species of plants and animals
should be infinite like the various positions and formations of the
heavenly bodies, whereas they are finite and constant. The argument from
the design and purpose that is clearly visible in the majority of plants
and animals further refutes such mechanical explanation as is attempted
by the philosophers. Design is also visible in the violation of the
natural law by which water should always be above and around earth;
whereas in reality we see a great part of the earth's surface above
water. This is clearly a beneficent provision in order that animal life
may sustain itself, and this is the significance of the words of the
Psalmist (136, 6), "To him that stretched out the earth above the

The entire theory of the four elements and the alleged composition of
all things out of them is a pure assumption. Take the idea of the world
of fire, the upper fire as they call it, which is colorless, so as not
to obstruct the color of the heavens and the stars. Whoever saw such a
fire? The only fire we know is an extremely hot object in the shape of
coal, or as a flame in the air, or as boiling water. And whoever saw a
fiery or aëry body enter the matter of plant and animal so as to warrant
us in saying that the latter are composed of the four elements? True, we
know that water and earth do enter the matter of plants, and that they
are assisted by the air and the heat of the sun in causing the plant to
grow and develop, but we never see a fiery or aëry body. Or whoever saw
plants resolved into the four elements? If a part changes into earth, it
is not real earth, but ashes; and the part changed to water is not real
water, but a kind of moisture, poisonous or nutritious, but not water
fit for drinking. Similarly no part of the plant changes to real air fit
for breathing, but to vapor or mist. Granted that we have to admit the
warm and the cold, and the moist and the dry as the primary qualities
without which no body can exist; and that the reason resolves the
composite objects into these primary qualities, and posits substances as
bearers of these qualities, which it calls fire, air, water and
earth--this is true conceptually and theoretically only. It cannot be
that the primary qualities really existed in the simple state _extra
animam_, and then all existing things were made out of them. How can the
philosophers maintain such a thing, since they believe in the eternity
of the world, that it always existed as it does now?

These are the criticisms of their theory of the elements. According to
the Torah God created the world just as it is, with its animals and
plants already formed. There is no need of assuming intermediate powers
or compositions. The moment we admit that the world was created out of
nothing by the will of God in the manner in which he desired, all
difficulties vanish about the origin of bodies and their association
with souls. And there is no reason why we should not accept the
firmament, and the waters above the heaven, and the demons mentioned by
the Rabbis, and the account of the days of the Messiah and the
resurrection and the world to come.[206]

Another theory he criticizes is that developed by Alfarabi and Avicenna,
the chief Aristotelians of the Arabs before Averroes. It is a
combination of Aristotelianism with the Neo-Platonic doctrine of
emanation, though it was credited as a whole to Aristotle in the middle
ages. We have already seen in the Introduction (p. xxxiv) that Aristotle
conceived the world as a series of concentric spheres with the earth in
the centre. The principal spheres are eight in number, and they carry in
order, beginning with the external sphere, (1) the fixed stars, (2)
Saturn, (3) Jupiter, (4) Mars, (5) Mercury, (6) Venus, (7) Sun, (8)
Moon. To account for the various motions of the sun and the planets
additional spheres had to be introduced amounting in all to fifty-six.
But the principal spheres remained those mentioned. Each sphere or group
of spheres with the star it carries is moved by an incorporeal mover, a
spirit or Intelligence, and over them all is the first unmoved mover,
God. He sets in motion the outer sphere of the fixed stars, and so the
whole world moves. There is nothing said in this of the origin of these
spheres and their intelligible movers. On the other hand, in the
Neo-Platonic system of Plotinus all existence and particularly that of
the intelligible or spiritual world issues or emanates from the One or
the Good. Intellect is the first emanation, Soul the second, Nature the
third and Matter the last.

On account of the confusion which arose in the middle ages, as a result
of which Neo-Platonic writings and doctrines were attributed to
Aristotle, Alfarabi and Avicenna worked out a scheme which combined the
motion theory of Aristotle with the doctrine of emanation of Plotinus.
The theory is based upon a principle alleged to be Aristotle's that from
a unitary cause nothing but a unitary effect can follow. Hence, said
Avicenna, God cannot have produced directly all the world we see in its
complexity. He is the direct cause of the first Intelligence only, or
first angel as Judah Halevi calls him. This Intelligence contemplates
itself and it contemplates its cause. The effect of the latter act is
the emanation of a second intelligence or angel; the effect of the
former is a sphere--that of the fixed stars, of which the first
Intelligence is the mover. The second Intelligence again produces a
third Intelligence by its contemplation of the First Cause, and by its
self-contemplation it creates the second sphere, the sphere of Saturn,
which is moved by it. So the process continues until we reach the sphere
of the moon, which is the last of the celestial spheres, and the Active
Intellect, the last of the Intelligences, having in charge the sublunar

This fanciful and purely mythological scheme arouses the antagonism of
Judah Halevi. It is all pure conjecture, he says, and there is not an
iota of proof in it. People believe it and think it is convincing,
simply because it bears the name of a Greek philosopher. As a matter of
fact this theory is less plausible than those of the "Sefer Yezirah";
and there is no agreement even among the philosophers themselves except
for those who are the followers of the same Greek authority, Empedocles,
or Pythagoras, or Aristotle, or Plato. These agree not because the
proofs are convincing, but simply because they are members of a given
sect or school. The objections to the theory just outlined are manifold.
In the first place why should the series of emanations stop with the
moon? Is it because the power of the First Cause has given out? Besides
why should self-contemplation result in a sphere and contemplation of
the First Cause in an Intelligence or angel? It should follow that when
Aristotle contemplates himself he produces a sphere, and when he
contemplates the First Cause he gives rise to an angel. Granting the
truth of the process, one does not see why the mover of Saturn should
not produce two more emanations, one by contemplating the Intelligence
immediately above it, and the other by contemplating the first
Intelligence, thus making four emanations instead of two.[207]

In his outline of the philosophers' psychology, which as we have seen
(p. 175) is borrowed verbally from Avicenna, what is new to us is the
exposition of the inner senses and the account of the rational faculty.
We must therefore reproduce it here in outline together with Judah
Halevi's criticism.

The three kinds of soul, vegetative, animal and rational, we have
already met before. We have also referred to the fact that Judah Halevi
analyzes correctly the well-known Aristotelian definition of the soul.
We must now give a brief account of the inner senses as Judah Halevi
took it from Avicenna. The five external senses, seeing, hearing,
touching, smelling and tasting, give us merely colors, sounds, touch
sensations, odors and tastes. These are combined into an object by the
_common sense_, known also as the _forming power_. Thus when we see
honey we associate with its yellow color a sweet taste. This could not
be done unless we had a power which combines in it all the five senses.
For the sense of sight cannot perceive taste, nor can color be
apprehended by the gustatory sense. There is need therefore of a common
sense which comprehends all the five external senses. This is the first
internal sense. This retains the forms of sensible objects just as the
external senses present them. Then comes the _composing power_ or power
of imagination. This composes and divides the material of the common
sense. It may be true or false, whereas the common sense is always true.
Both of these give us merely forms; they do not exercise any judgment.
The latter function belongs to the third internal sense, the _power of
judgment_. Through this an animal is enabled to decide that a given
object is to be sought or avoided. It also serves to rectify the errors
of reproduction that may be found in the preceding faculty of
imagination. Love, injury, belief, denial, belong likewise to the
judging faculty together with such judgments as that the wolf is an
enemy, the child a friend. The last of the internal senses is that of
_factual memory_, the power which retains the judgments made by the
faculty preceding.

In addition to these sensory powers the animal possesses motor
faculties. These are two, the _power of desire_, which moves the animal
to seek the agreeable; and the _power of anger_, which causes it to
reject or avoid the disagreeable. All these powers are dependent upon
the corporeal organs and disappear with the destruction of the latter.

The highest power of the soul and the exclusive possession of man (the
faculties mentioned before are found also in animals) is the rational
soul. This is at first simply a potentiality. Actually it is a _tabula
rasa_, an empty slate, a blank paper. But it has the power (or is the
power) of acquiring general ideas. Hence it is called hylic or material
intellect, because it is like matter which in itself is nothing actual
but is potentially everything, being capable of receiving any form and
becoming any real object. As matter receives sensible forms, so the
material intellect acquires intelligible forms, _i. e._, thoughts,
ideas, concepts. When it has these ideas it is an _actual intellect_. It
is then identical with the ideas it has, _i. e._, thinker and thought
are the same, and hence the statement that the actual intellect is
"intelligent" and "intelligible" at the same time. As matter is the
principle of generation and destruction the rational soul, which is thus
shown to be an immaterial substance, is indestructible, hence immortal.
And it is the ideas it acquires which make it so. When the rational soul
is concerned with pure knowledge it is called the _speculative_ or
_theoretical intellect_. When it is engaged in controlling the animal
powers, its function is conduct, and is called the _practical
intellect_. The rational soul, _i. e._, the speculative intellect, is
separable from the body and needs it not, though it uses it at first to
acquire some of its knowledge. This is proved by the fact that whereas
the corporeal powers, like the senses, are weakened by strong stimuli,
the reason is strengthened by hard subjects of thought. Old age weakens
the body, but strengthens the mind. The activities of the body are
finite; of the mind, infinite.

We must also show that while the rational soul makes use of the data of
sense perception, which are corporeal, as the occasions for the
formation of its general ideas, it is not wholly dependent upon them,
and the sense data alone are inadequate to give the soul its
intellectual truths. Empirical knowledge is inductive, and no induction
can be more general and more certain than the particular facts from
which it is derived. As all experience, however rich, is necessarily
finite, empirical knowledge is never universally certain. But the soul
does possess universally certain knowledge, as for example the truths of
mathematics and logic; hence the origin of these truths can not be
empirical. How does the soul come to have such knowledge? We must assume
that there is a divine emanation cleaving to the soul, which stands to
it in the relation of light to the sense of sight. It is to the
illumination of this intellectual substance and not to the data of sense
perception that the soul owes the universal certainty of its knowledge.
This divine substance is the _Active Intellect_. As long as the soul is
united with the body, perfect union with the Active Intellect is
impossible. But as the soul becomes more and more perfect through the
acquisition of knowledge, it cleaves more and more to the Active
Intellect, and this union becomes complete after death. Thus the
immortality of the soul is proved by reason. It is based upon the
conviction that the soul is an immaterial substance and that its
perfection lies in its acquisition of intellectual ideas.[208]

Judah Halevi cannot help admitting the fascination such speculation
exercises upon the mind of the student. But he must warn him against
being misled by the fame of such names as Plato and Aristotle, and
supposing that because in logic and mathematics the philosophers give us
real proofs, they are equally trustworthy in metaphysical speculation.
If the soul is, as they say, an intellectual substance not limited in
place and for this reason not subject to genesis and decay, there is no
way to distinguish one soul from another, since it is matter which
constitutes individual existence. How then can my soul be distinguished
from yours, or from the Active Intellect and the other Intelligences, or
from the First Cause itself? The souls of Plato and Aristotle should
become one so that the one should know the secret thoughts of the other.
If the soul gets its ideas through divine illumination from the Active
Intellect, how is it that philosophers do not intuit their ideas at once
like God and the Active Intellect, and how is it they forget?

Then as to their ideas about immortality. If immortality is a necessary
phenomenon due to the intellectual nature of the soul and dependent upon
the degree of intellectual knowledge it possesses, how much knowledge
must a man have to be immortal? If any amount is sufficient, then every
rational soul is immortal, for everybody knows at least the axioms of
logic and mathematics, such as that things equal to the same thing are
equal to each other, that a thing cannot both be and not be, and so on.
If a knowledge of the ten categories is necessary, and of the other
universal principles which embrace existence conceptually, though not
practically, this knowledge can be gotten in a day, and it is not likely
that a man can become an angel in a day. If on the other hand one must
know everything not merely conceptually but in detail, no one can ever
acquire universal knowledge and no one is immortal The philosophers may
be excused because this is the best they can do with the help of pure
reason. We may commend them for their mode of life in accordance with
the moral law and in freedom from the world, since they were not bound
to accept our traditions. But it is different with us. Why should we
seek peculiar proofs and explanations for the immortality of the soul,
since we have promises to that effect whether the soul be corporeal or
spiritual? If we depend upon logical proof, our life will pass away
without our coming to any conclusion.[209]

Judah Halevi takes issue also with the Mutakallimun. These, as we know,
were Mohammedan theologians who, unlike the philosophers, were not
indifferent to religion. On the contrary their sole motive in
philosophizing was to prove the dogmas of their faith. They had no
interest in pure speculation as such. Judah Halevi has no more sympathy
with them than with the philosophers. Owing to the fact that the
Karaites were implicit followers of the Kalam and for other reasons, no
doubt, more objective, he thinks less of them than he does of the
philosophers. The only possible use, he tells us, of their methods is to
afford exercise in dialectics so as to be able to answer the arguments
of unbelievers. To the superficial observer the Mutakallim may seem to
be superior to the prophet, because he argues, whereas the latter
affirms without proving. In reality, however, this is not so. The aim of
the Mutakallim is to acquire the belief which the prophet has by nature.
But his Kalam may injure his belief instead of confirming it, by reason
of the many difficulties and doubts it introduces. The prophet, who has
natural belief, teaches not by means of dialectic discussion. If one has
a spark of the true belief in his nature, the prophet by his personality
will benefit him by a slight hint. Only he who has nothing of true
belief in his nature must have recourse to Kalam, which may benefit him
or injure.

Judah Halevi follows up this general comment by a brief sketch of the
system of the Kalam, but we need not enter into this matter as there is
little there that we do not already know, and there is no detailed
criticism on the part of Judah Halevi.[210]

The Rabbi concludes his discourse with the king of the Chazars by
declaring his intention to leave the land in order to go to Jerusalem.
Although the visible Shekinah is no longer in Palestine, the invisible
and spiritual presence is with every born Israelite of pure heart and
deed; and Palestine is the fittest land for this communion, being
conducive to purity of heart and mind.[211]



_1. Moses ibn Ezra_

Among the Jewish Neo-Platonists must be included the two Ibn Ezras,
Moses and Abraham. They were contemporary and came from Spain. Moses,
the older of the two, was born at Granada about 1070 and died after
1138. Abraham, who travelled all over the world, was born at Toledo in
1092 and died in 1167. Neither is particularly famous as a philosopher.
Moses's celebrity rests on his poetic productions, secular as well as
religious, which are highly praised by Harizi, above even those of
Halevi. Abraham is best known as a grammarian and Biblical commentator,
particularly the latter, though his versatility is remarkable. Besides
grammar and exegesis he wrote on mathematics, astronomy and astrology,
on religious philosophy, and was a poet of no mean order; though, as
Zunz says,[212] "flashes of thought spring from his words, but not
pictures of the imagination."

All that is accessible in print of Moses Ibn Ezra's philosophical
treatise is a Hebrew translation of extracts under the title "Arugat
ha-Bosem" (Bed of Spices).[213] If we may judge of the rest of the work
by these Hebrew fragments, we should say that philosophy was not Ibn
Ezra's forte. He dabbled in it as any poet of that age did, but what
caught his fancy was more the mysteriously sounding phrases of
celebrated authorities like Pythagoras, Empedocles, Socrates, Plato,
Aristotle, Hermes (whom he identifies with Enoch), than a strictly
reasoned out argument. Accordingly the Hebrew selections consist of
little more than a string of quotations on the transcendence and
unknowableness of God, on the meaning of philosophy, on the position of
man in the universe, on motion, on nature and on intellect. It is of
historical interest to us to know that Moses ibn Ezra, so famous as a
poet, was interested in philosophy, and that the views which appealed to
him were those of Ibn Gabirol, whose "Fountain of Life" he knew, and
from which he quotes a celebrated mystical passage. A few details will
suffice to make this clear.

Man is a microcosm, a world in miniature, and there is nothing above or
below, the counterpart of which is not found in man. There is no sphere,
or star, or animal, or plant, or mineral, or power, or nature, but
something similar, _mutatis mutandis_, is found in man. The ten
categories, which according to the philosophers embrace all existence,
are also found, all of them, in man. The perfection of man's creation
points to a wise Creator. Man comes after multiplicity, God is before
multiplicity. Man is like the great universe, and in both the spiritual
cannot come in direct contact with the corporeal, but needs
intermediating powers to bring the extremes together. In man soul and
spirit stand between intellect and body.

Hence a man must know himself before he can know the universe, else he
is like a person who feeds other people while he is himself hungry. To
know the Creator, the soul must first know herself, and this is one of
the definitions of philosophy, to know one's own soul. He who can strip
his soul of his corporeal senses and worldly desires, and rise to the
sphere will find there his reward. Other similarly ascetic and mystical
expressions are quoted from Aristotle(!), Pythagoras, and "one of the
modern philosophers." The last is none other than Ibn Gabirol, and the
passage quoted is the same as that cited above, (p. 69).

Unity precedes the unitary object as heat comes before the hot object.
Unity alone is self-subsistent. Numerical unity is prior to two, and is
the very root and essence of number. God's unity is above all other
unities, hence it cannot be described, because it has no cause, being
the cause of everything else. As our eye cannot see the sun by reason of
its very brilliance, so our intellect cannot comprehend God because of
the extreme perfection of his existence. The finite and imperfect cannot
know the infinite and perfect. Hence no names can apply to God except
metaphorically. When we say that God knows, we mean that he is knowledge
itself, not that knowledge is an attribute which he possesses. Socrates(!)
said in his prayers, "Thou art not far from me so that I should
raise my voice to thee, nor art Thou near unto me that I should content
myself with a low whisper and the meditation of the heart; nor art Thou
on any side of me so that I may turn toward Thee; for nearness and
distance have measure, but there is no measure between me and Thee. Thou
art united with me and embracest me more closely than my intellect and

He who knows most of the secret of the Creator, knows least; and he who
knows least, knows most. As the limbs of the body and the senses cannot
know the intelligible ideas because the latter are superior to them, so
the intellect cannot know the essence of the Creator because he is above
the sphere of the intellect. Although the intellect is spiritual, it
cannot comprehend the Creator because he is above all intellectual
powers, and is infinite. What is infinite has no division or
multiplication, or part or whole.

The Gentiles make use of the anthropomorphic expressions in the Bible to
annoy us, charging us with believing in a corporeal God. Would that we
had strength to silence their impudence by a crushing reply. But alas!
their tyranny prevents us from raising our voice. But it is still more
aggravating to hear men of our own people, heretics, repeating the same
charge against the Bible and Talmud, when they ought to know better,
since the expressions in question are metaphorical. Saadia has made this
sufficiently clear.

The Active Intellect is the first of God's creations. It is a power
emanating from the Will. It is a simple, pure and transparent substance,
bearing in itself the forms of all existing things. The human intellect
is known as the passive intellect. The rational soul is a pure substance
giving perfection to a natural body, etc. It is inferior to the
intellect, and the animal soul is inferior to the rational. The soul is
the horseman, the body represents the soldiers and the arms. As the
horseman must take care of his arms that he may not be put to death, so
the soul must take care of the body that she may not perish. And the
senses must be taken into account, for the powers of the soul are
dependent upon the powers of the body. If the food of the body is in
proper proportion, the activity of the soul is proper and right.
Similarly if one neglects moderation in food, he is bound to suffer
morally and spiritually.

The above selections, which are representative of the accessible portion
of Moses ibn Ezra's philosophical treatise, except that such recurring
phrases have been omitted as "And the philosopher said," "And they say,"
etc., show that the work is nothing but a compilation of sayings on
various philosophical topics, without any attempt on the author's part
to think out the subject or any part thereof, for himself.

_2. Abraham ibn Ezra_

Abraham Ibn Ezra did not write any special work on philosophy, and his
importance lies chiefly in his Biblical commentary, which unlike that of
Rashi, is based upon a scientific and philological foundation. Ibn Ezra
was thoroughly familiar with Arabic and well versed in the philological,
scientific and philosophical studies cultivated by Arabs and Jews in his
native land. For reasons not known to us--poverty was very likely one of
them--he left his native Spain and wandered as far as Rome in the east,
Egypt and Morocco in the south, and London in the north. Everywhere he
was busy with literary activity, and as he wrote in Hebrew his purpose
must have been, as the result certainly proved to be, the enlightenment
of the non-Arabic speaking Jews of England, France and Italy, by
bringing before them in a language that they knew the grammar of Hayyuj,
the mathematics and astronomy of the Greeks and the Arabs, the
philosophy of Neo-Platonism, and the scientific and rationalistic spirit
generally, as enlightened Spain had developed it in Jew and Arab alike.

We are interested here more particularly in Ibn Ezra's philosophical
views. These are scattered through his Biblical commentaries and in a
few other small works devoted to an investigation of the laws of the
Pentateuch and the meaning of the names of God.[214] For though Ibn Ezra
favors the philological method as the best way to arrive at the true
meaning of Scripture, and decries allegory as well as Midrash when
pushed too far, and though his commentary is for the most part based
upon the philological method of interpretation, he was too much a child
of his age to be able to refrain from finding in the Bible views akin to
those he learned from Gabirol, the Brethren of Purity and what other
philosophical literature of the Arabs he read and was influenced by. And
so he, too, the grammarian and philologist, succumbed to the allegorical
and symbolical method he condemned. Without denying the historical
reality of the Garden of Eden, the Tree of Knowledge and the Tree of
Life, he also sees in these expressions symbols of cosmological,
psychological and ethical ideas. In the fashion of Philo he sees in Eden
a representation of the higher world of the divinity, in the Garden the
intermediate world of the spheres and Intelligences, in the river
issuing from the Garden the substance of the sublunar world, in the four
heads into which the river divides the four elements, and so on. He
speaks of these symbolic meanings as the "secrets," and so we have the
secret of the Garden, of the rivers, of the coats. And in the same way
he speaks of the secret of the Cherubim, of the ark and the Tabernacle.
These objects also symbolize metaphysical and cosmological truths. He
was a believer in astrology, and laid this pseudo-science also under
contribution in the interpretation of Holy Writ. Here the various
numbers found in the Bible in connection with ritual prescriptions, the
construction of the Tabernacle, and so on, were of great service to Ibn
Ezra in his symbolizations. Like Philo and the Neo-Pythagoreans he
analyzes the virtues and significances of the different numbers, and
thus finds a symbol in every number found in the Bible. Writing as he
did for the Jews of central Europe, who were not trained in secular
science and philosophy, Ibn Ezra was not prepared to shock the
sensibilities of his readers by his novel and, to them, heretical views;
and hence he expressed himself in cryptic phrases and allusions, which
often make his meaning difficult if not impossible to decipher. This,
taken together with the fact that his views are not laid down anywhere
systematically and in connected fashion, but are thrown out briefly,
often enigmatically, in connection with the explanation of Biblical
verses and phrases, accounts for the difference among critics concerning
the precise doctrines of Abraham Ibn Ezra.

Of his predecessors among the Jewish philosophers Ibn Ezra shows closest
relation to Solomon ibn Gabirol. He does not quote the "Fountain of
Life," but he names its author as a great thinker and writer of poems,
and shows familiarity with Gabirol's doctrines. Like Gabirol he says
that all except God consists of substance (matter) and form. Not only
the sublunar things, subject to generation and decay, but the higher
incorporeal things, also, are in essence two, _i. e._, are composed of
two elements, subject and predicate. God alone is One; he is subject
only and not predicate. And Ibn Ezra also has some allusion to the
divine Will as taught by Gabirol.

In giving a connected sketch of Ibn Ezra's philosophical ideas, the most
one can do is to collect all the sayings bearing upon our subject which
are found scattered through Ibn Ezra's writings, and classify them and
combine them into a connected whole. This has been done before by Nahman
Krochmal[215] and by David Rosin,[216] and we shall follow the latter in
our exposition here.

God is the One. He gives forms to all things, and is himself all things.
God alone is the real existent, all else is an existent by virtue of
him. Unity is the symbol of God because in number also the unit is the
foundation of all number, and yet is not itself number. It exists by
virtue of itself and needs not the numbers that come after. At the same
time the unit is also all number, because all number is made up of the
unit. God alone is one, because he alone is not composed of matter and
form, as everything else is. God has neither likeness nor form, for he
is the creator of all things, _i. e._, of all likeness and form. He is
therefore incorporeal. In God the subject knowing and the object of his
knowledge are one and the same thing. Else he would not be one. In
knowing himself, therefore, he knows the universe. God as the cause and
creator of all things must know all things, the universal as well as the
particular, the world soul as well as the various species, and even
every single creature, but he knows the particular in a general way. For
God knows only what is permanent, whereas the particular is constantly
changing, hence he does not know the particular as such, but only as
involved in the general and permanent.

As God is incorporeal he is not subject to corporeal accidents or human
feelings. Hence the many expressions in the Bible which ascribe such
accidents and feelings to God must be understood as metaphors. It is a
psychological necessity for man wishing to communicate his ideas to
other men to speak in human terms, whether he speak of beings and things
inferior or superior to him. The result is that the metaphor he finds it
necessary to employ either raises or lowers the object to which it
refers. It elevates the sub-human and lowers the superhuman to the
human. This is the explanation of such phrases as "the mouth of the
earth" the "hand of the Jordan," the "head of the dust of the world,"
and so on, in which the figure is that of personification. And the
fundamental explanation is the same in such phrases as "The Lord
repented," "The Lord rested," "The Lord remembered," "He that dwelleth
in heaven laughs," and so on, where the process is the reverse of
personification. The motive common to both is to convey some idea to the

The Hebrew word "bara," ordinarily translated "created," which implies
to most people the idea of _creatio ex nihilo_, Ibn Ezra renders, in
accordance with its etymology, to limit, to define, by drawing or
incising a line or boundary. Having said this, Ibn Ezra, in his wonted
mysterious manner, stops short, refusing to say more and preferring to
mystify the reader by adding the tantalizing phrase, "The intelligent
will understand." He means apparently to indicate that an eternal matter
was endowed with form. In fact he seems to favor the idea of eternal
creation and maintenance of the universe, the relation of which to God
is as the relation of speech to the speaker, which exists only so long
as the speaker speaks. The moment he ceases speaking the sounds cease to

The two ideas of eternal emanation of the world from God after the
manner of the Neo-Platonists and of an eternal matter which God endows
with forms, are not really quite consistent, for the latter implies that
matter is independent of God, whereas according to the former everything
owes its existence and continuance to God, from whom it emanates. But it
is difficult from the fragmentary and laconic sayings of Ibn Ezra to
extract a consistent and certain system.

The world consists of three parts, three worlds Ibn Ezra calls them. The
highest world consists of the separate Intelligences or angels,
including the world-soul of which the human soul is a part. The
intermediate world consists of the spheres, planets and fixed stars.
Finally the lower world contains the four elements and the product of
their various mixtures, minerals, plants, animals, man. These three
worlds, Ibn Ezra appears to intimate in his oracular manner, are
symbolized by the three divisions of the Tabernacle, the holy of holies
typifying the world of spirits, the holy pointing to the spheres, while
the outer court represents the sublunar world.

The highest world, the world of Intelligences and angels, is eternal,
though it too is dependent upon God for its existence. The angels, too,
are composed of matter and form, and their function is to move the
bodies of the intermediate world, the spheres and their stars. Through
the instrumentality of the heavenly bodies, the angels form the lower
world. This amounts to saying that the corporeal world is the last stage
in the descending series of emanations from the One, and is preceded by
the heavenly bodies and the Intelligences. The angels are also the
immediate agents in prophetic inspiration.

Not all mention of angels in the Bible, however, must be identified with
a separate Intelligence or a spheral soul (for the latter too is called
angel by Ibn Ezra). There are instances of the expression angel which
refer to a momentary, special creation of a light or air for the special
benefit of the people. This explains a number of theophanies in the
Bible, such as the burning bush, "the glory of the Lord," the cloud in
the wilderness, and so on.

The intermediate world of spheres is also eternal and consists of nine
spheres, that of the Intelligences making up the perfect number ten. The
nine spheres are arranged as follows, the spheres of the seven planets,
the sphere of the fixed stars, and the diurnal sphere without stars,
which gives the motion from east to west to the whole heaven.

The lower world, the sublunar and corporeal world of generation and
decay, was created in time. This, however, does not mean that there was
time before this creation, for time exists only with motion and change.
Creation here signifies the formation of the chaotic matter. As God
cannot come in contact with the material and changeable (we have already
seen that he cannot know it as such), it follows that this lower world
was not made directly by him, but by the angels, hence the word "Elohim"
is used in the first chapter of Genesis, which means primarily the
angels, and secondarily God as acting through the angels.

In this lower world man is the noblest creature. By means of his soul he
may attain eternal life as an individual like God and the angels (_i. e._,
the Intelligences), whereas all other creatures of the lower world
are permanent in species only but not as individuals. This is the
meaning of the expression in Genesis, "Let us make man in our image," in
the image, that is, of God and the angels. Man is a microcosm, a
universe in little, for like the great universe he consists of a body
animated by a soul.

As the noblest part of man is his soul, it becomes his duty to know it.
He must know whether it is substance or accident, whether it will die
when it is separated from the body, and for what purpose it was brought
into union with the body. In order to learn all this one must first
study the preparatory branches, grammar, logic, mathematics and physics.
In the study of psychology we learn that man has three souls,
vegetative, animal and rational, and the latter alone is immortal. It is
a part of the world soul, having existed before it came into the body,
and under favorable conditions will return again to the world soul when
separated from the body. The condition which must be fulfilled by the
soul before it can return to the world soul is the acquisition of
wisdom, for this is the purpose for which it was put into the body,
namely, in order that it may learn the work of its master and observe
his commandments. There are many sciences, but they are related to each
other, all leading up to the one highest science, the knowledge of God
and his goodness. A person must advance gradually in studying the work
of God from the knowledge of minerals, plants, animals, the human body,
to the knowledge of the spheres and heavenly bodies, the causes of
eclipses, etc., and from this he will gradually come to know God. The
commandments of the Bible are also of importance for this purpose. To
understand the secret of the commandments is to gain eternal life. For
wisdom is the form of the soul, and hence the soul does not die like a

The reward of the soul is re-absorption in the world soul of which it is
a part, and the punishment of the unworthy soul that neglected to
acquire knowledge is destruction. What Ibn Ezra means by the Hebrew word
"abad" (ordinarily rendered to perish, to be destroyed) is not clear. It
is hard to see how a pre-existing soul can perish utterly. Rosin
suggests that Ibn Ezra is alluding to transmigration,[217] but it is not

We have seen that Ibn Ezra holds that the events of the sublunar world
and the destinies of men are governed by the positions and motions of
the heavenly bodies, which in turn are determined by the Intelligences
or angels. The heavenly bodies, he tells us, follow necessary laws
imposed upon them, and are not responsible for any good or evil which
results to mankind from them, since the effects are not of their
intention, and they cannot change them if they would. Accordingly it is
foolish to pray to the heavenly bodies in order to appease them and
prevent evil, as some of the heathen are accustomed to do. The motions
of the heavenly bodies are determined and invariable, and no prayer will
change them. This, however, does not mean to say that no one can escape
the evil which is destined for him in the stars. Ordinarily, it is true,
God does not know the particular individual as such. He knows him only
as implied in the whole, and his destiny is determined accordingly. But
there are exceptions when a person by developing his soul and intellect,
as we saw above, succeeds in his lifetime in separating his soul from
the corporeal and particular, and brings it into contact with the
spiritual and universal. In that case he attracts to himself the special
providence of God, which enables him to evade the evil threatened by his
star, without in any way changing the star's natural course or ordinary
effects. How this is done, Ibn Ezra illustrates by an example.[218]
Suppose, he says, that it is fated according to the stars that a given
city shall be flooded by a river and its inhabitants drowned. A prophet
comes and warns them, urging them to repent of their evil ways before
their fate is sealed. They obey him, return to God with all their heart
and leave the city to offer prayer to God. The river rises in their
absence, as often happens, and floods the city. The wolf is satisfied
and the lamb is whole. The decree of the stars is not interfered with,
and the good man is delivered from evil. In this way Ibn Ezra endeavors
to reconcile natural law (or astrological fatalism) with the ethical
purpose of divine providence. And he also vindicates free will and
responsibility. The rational soul of man has power, he says, to
counteract in part the indications of the stars, though it cannot annul
them entirely. The punishment of the wicked is that they are left
entirely to the fates determined for them by their constellations.

The highest good of man, we have seen, is the knowledge of God and his
work. There are two ways of knowing God. One is through a study of
nature, the work of God. This is described in the first part of the
nineteenth Psalm, "The Heavens declare the glory of God; and the
firmament showeth his handiwork." But there is a second and, in a sense,
a better way of knowing God. This is derived from his revelation in the
Law. As we are told in the second part of the above Psalm (_v._ 7), "The
law of the Lord is perfect, restoring the soul." The law of the Lord
restores the soul, Ibn Ezra says, by removing doubt from it. For the
first method of knowing God, with all its importance for the man of
wisdom and reason, is not fit for all persons; and not everything can be
proved by reason. Revelation in the Law is necessary for the simple
minded. "I am the Lord thy God" (Exod. 20, 2) is a hint to the
philosopher, who need not depend on hearsay, for real knowledge is
proved knowledge. But as not everyone is in a position to have such
knowledge, the Bible adds, "which brought thee out of the land of
Egypt." This all can understand, the simple minded as well as the
philosopher. The Law has also a practical purpose, to strengthen the
rational soul so as to prevent the body from gaining the upper hand.

God's messenger, through whom his will is made known, is the prophet. He
seeks retirement so as to get in communion with God, and receives such
influence as he is capable of getting. Moses was the greatest of the
prophets. He was able to communicate with God whenever he chose, whereas
the others had to wait until the inspiration came. The revelation of God
to Moses was without an intermediary, and without visions and
likenesses. Moses saw the things presented to him in their true form.

The laws may be divided into 1. Innate or rational laws, _i. e._, laws
planted by God in the mind of every rational being. There are many such
in the Torah. All the laws of the Ten Commandments belong to this class,
with the exception of the Sabbath. Hence all mankind believe in them,
and Abraham observed them all before ever the Law was given on Sinai. 2.
Hidden laws, _i. e._, laws, the reason of which is not given. We must
not suppose for a moment that there is any law which is against reason,
Heaven forbid! We must observe them all, whether we understand the
reason or not. If we find a law that apparently is unreasonable, we must
assume that it has some hidden meaning and is not to be taken in its
literal sense. It is our duty, then, to look for this hidden meaning,
and if we cannot find it, we must admit that we do not understand it.

The laws may also be classified as 1. Commandments of the heart, 2.
Commandments of the tongue, and 3. Commandments of action. An example of
commandments of the heart is, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God," "Thou
shalt not hate thy brother in thy heart," and so on. To the commandments
of the tongue belong the reading of the _Shema_, grace after meals, the
priestly benediction, and so on. The laws of the third class are so
numerous that there is no need of mentioning them. The laws of the heart
are the most important of all. The reader will recognize in this
two-fold classification Saadia's division of the laws into rational and
traditional, and Bahya's classification of duties of the heart and
duties of the limbs. This second class includes Ibn Ezra's second and
third classes, tongue and action.[219]

The problem of evil Ibn Ezra solves by saying that from God comes good
only. The world as a whole is good; evil is due to the defect of the
object receiving higher influence. To argue that because of the small
part of evil the whole world, which is good, should not have been
created, is foolish.

The highest good of man is to develop his reason. As the traveller and
the captive long to return to the land of their birth and be with their
family, so the rational soul is eager to rise to the upper world which
is not made of clay. This it can do only if it purifies itself from the
uncleanness of corporeal desire which drags it down, and takes pains to
know its own nature and origin, with the help of Wisdom whose eyes are
undimmed. Then she will know the truth, which will remain indelibly
impressed upon her when she separates from the body, where she was put
for her own good. The suffering she underwent here for a time will give
place to everlasting rest and joy. All man's work is vain, for man can
neither create nor annihilate a substance. All his corporeal activity
consists in combination and separation of accidents. The only thing of
value is the fear of God. But no man can rise to this stage until he has
ascended the ladder of wisdom, and has acquired understanding.[220]

More concretely the way to purify the soul from the body is by uniting
the rational and spirited soul, as Plato has it, against the appetitive,
and giving the reason the mastery over the spirited soul as well. A
moderate degree of asceticism is to be recommended as favoring the
emancipation of the soul from the tyranny of the body. This is the
meaning of the institution of the Nazirite; and the offering he must
bring after the expiration of his period is to atone for the sin of
returning to a life of indulgence. But one should not go to extremes.
Too much praying and fasting results in stupefaction. It is a mistake to
develop one side of one's nature at the expense of another. Every one
of the three souls (the rational, the spirited and the appetitive) must
be given its due.

But the most important activity of man, which leads to eternal life and
happiness, is the knowledge of God. This knowledge cannot be attained at
once. It must be preceded by a study of one's own soul and of the
natural sciences. Through a knowledge of oneself and nature, one arrives
finally at a knowledge of God. The soul, originally a _tabula rasa_, is
gradually perfected by the ideas which theoretical speculation acquires.
These ideas are identified with the rational soul, and there results the
acquired Intellect, which, as absolutely immaterial, is immortal and
becomes one with the world soul of which it is a part. During life
complete union with the spiritual world is impossible. Even Moses could
only see the "rear part" of God. But when one has during life kept as
far as possible away from the sensuous and corporeal, then at the time
of death, when the soul is separated from the body, he will be
completely absorbed in the world soul and possess the knowledge of God.



What was poison to Judah Halevi is meat to Abraham Ibn Daud. We must, he
says, investigate the principles of the Jewish religion and seek to
harmonize them with true philosophy. And in order to do these things
properly a preliminary study of science is necessary. Nowadays all this
is neglected and the result is confusion in fundamental principles, for
a superficial and literal reading of the Bible leads to contradictory
views, not to speak of anthropomorphic conceptions of God which cannot
be the truth. Many of our day think that the study of philosophy is
injurious. This is because it frequently happens in our time that a
person who takes up the study of philosophy neglects religion. In
ancient times also this happened in the person of Elisha ben Abuya,
known by the name of Aher. Nevertheless science was diligently studied
in Rabbinic times. Witness what was said concerning Rabbi Yohanan ben
Zakkai, Samuel and the Synhedrin.[221] It cannot be that God meant us to
abstain from philosophical study, for many statements in the Bible, such
as those relating to freedom of the will, to the nature of God and the
divine attributes, to the creation of the world, and so on, are a direct
stimulus to such investigation. Surely mental confusion cannot be the
purpose God had in mind for us. If he preferred our ignorance he would
not have called our attention to these matters at all.[222]

This, as we see, is decidedly a different point of view from that of
Judah Halevi. The difference between them is not due to a difference in
their age and environment, but solely to personal taste and temperament.
Toledo was the birthplace of Ibn Daud as it was of Halevi. And the
period in which they lived was practically the same. Judah Halevi's
birth took place in the last quarter of the eleventh century, whereas
Ibn Daud is supposed to have been born about 1110, a difference of some
twenty-five or thirty years. The philosopher whom Judah Halevi presents
to us as the typical representative of his time is an Aristotelian of
the type of Alfarabi and Avicenna. And it is the same type of philosophy
that we meet in the pages of the "Emunah Ramah" (Exalted Faith), Ibn
Daud's philosophical work.[223] Whereas, however, Judah Halevi was a
poet by the grace of God, glowing with love for his people, their
religion, their language and their historic land, Ibn Daud leaves upon
us the impression of a precise thinker, cold and analytical. He exhibits
no graces of style, eloquence of diction or depths of enthusiasm and
emotion. He passes systematically from one point to the next, uses few
words and technical, and moves wholly in the Peripatetic philosophy of
the day. In 1161, the same year in which the Emunah Ramah was composed,
he also wrote a historical work, "Sefer Hakabala" (Book of Tradition),
which we have; and in 1180, regarded by some as the year of his death,
he published an astronomical work, which is lost. This gives an index of
his interests which were scientific and philosophic. Mysticism, whether
of the poetic or the philosophic kind, was far from his nature; and this
too may account for the intense opposition he shows to Solomon Ibn
Gabirol. On more than one occasion he gives vent to his impatience with
that poetic philosopher, and he blames him principally for two faults.
Choosing to devote a whole book to one purely metaphysical topic, in
itself not related to Judaism, Gabirol, we are told by Ibn Daud, gave
expression to doctrines extremely dangerous to the Jewish religion. And
apart from his heterodoxy, he is philosophically incompetent and his
method is abominable. His style is profuse to the point of weariness,
and his logic carries no conviction.[224]

While Abraham Ibn Daud is thus expressly unsympathetic to Gabirol and
tacitly in disagreement with Halevi (he does not mention him), he shows
the closest relation to Maimonides, whose forerunner he is. We feel
tempted to say that if not for Ibn Daud there would have been no
Maimonides. And yet the irony of history has willed that the fame of
being the greatest Jewish philosopher shall be Maimonides's own, while
his nearest predecessor, to whose influence he owed most, should be all
but completely forgotten. The Arabic original of Ibn Daud's treatise is
lost, and the Hebrew translations (there are two) lay buried in
manuscript in the European libraries until one of them was published by
Simson Weil in 1852.[225]

Abraham Ibn Daud is the first Jewish philosopher who shows an intimate
knowledge of the works of Aristotle and makes a deliberate effort to
harmonize the Aristotelian system with Judaism. To be sure, he too owes
his Aristotelian knowledge to the Arabian exponents of the Stagirite,
Alfarabi and Avicenna, rather than to the works of Aristotle himself.
But this peculiarity was rooted in the intellectual conditions of his
time, and must not be charged to his personal neglect of the sources.
And Maimonides does nothing more than repeat the effort of Ibn Daud in a
more brilliant and masterly fashion.

The development of the three religious philosophies in the middle ages,
Jewish, Christian and Mohammedan, followed a similar line of
progression. In all of them it was not so much a development from
within, the unfolding of what was implicit and potential in the original
germ of the three respective religions, as a stimulus from without,
which then combined, as an integral factor, with the original mass, and
the final outcome was a resultant of the two originally disparate
elements. We know by this time what these two elements were in each
case, Hellenic speculation, and Semitic religion in the shape of sacred
and revealed documents. The second factor was in every case complete
when the process of fusion began. Not so the first. What I mean is that
not all of the writings of Greek antiquity were known to Jew, Christian
and Mohammedan at the beginning of their philosophizing career. And the
progress in their philosophical development kept equal step with the
successive accretion of Greek philosophical literature, in particular
Aristotle's physical, psychological and metaphysical treatises, and
their gradual purgation of Neo-Platonic adhesions.

The Syrian Christians, who were the first to adopt Greek teachings, seem
never to have gone beyond the mathematical and medical works of the
Greeks and the logic of Aristotle. The Arabs began where their Syrian
teachers ended, and went beyond them. The Mutakallimun were indebted to
the Stoics,[226] the Pure Brethren to the Neo-Platonists; and it was
only gradually that Aristotle became the sole master not merely in
logic, which he always had been, but also in physics, metaphysics and
psychology. Alfarabi, Avicenna and Averroes represent so many steps in
the Aristotelization of Arabic philosophy.

Christian mediæval thought, which was really a continuation of the
Patristic period, likewise began with Eriugena in the ninth century
under Platonic and Neo-Platonic influences. Of Aristotle the logic alone
was known, and that too only in small part. Here also progress was due
to the increase of Aristotelian knowledge; though in this case it was
not gradual as with the Arabs before them, but sudden. In the latter
part of the twelfth and the early part of the thirteenth century,
through the Crusades, through the Moorish civilization in Spain, through
the Saracens in Sicily, through the Jews as translators and mediators,
Aristotle invaded Christian Europe and transformed Christian philosophy.
Albertus Magnus, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Occam are the
results of this transformation.

The same thing holds true of the Jews. Their philosophizing career
stands chronologically between that of their Arab teachers and their
Christian disciples. And the line of their development was similar. It
was parallel to that of the Arabs. First came Kalam in Saadia, Mukammas,
the Karaites Al Basir and Jeshua ben Judah. Then Neo-Platonism and Kalam
combined, or pure Neo-Platonism, in Bahya, Gabirol, Ibn Zaddik and the
two Ibn Ezras, Abraham and Moses. In Judah Halevi, so far as philosophy
is represented, we have Neo-Platonism and Aristotelianism. Finally in
Ibn Daud and Maimonides, Neo-Platonism is reduced to the vanishing
point, and Aristotelianism is in full view and in possession of the
field. After Maimonides the only philosopher who deviates from the
prescribed path and endeavors to uproot Aristotelian authority in
Judaism is Crescas. All the rest stand by Aristotle and his major domo,

This may seem like a purely formal and external mode of characterizing
the development of philosophical thought. But the character of mediæval
philosophy is responsible for this. Their ideal of truth as well as
goodness was in the past. Knowledge was thought to have been discovered
or revealed in the past,[227] and the task of the philosopher was to
acquire what was already there and to harmonize contradictory
authorities. Thus the more of the past literature that came to them, the
greater the transformation in their own philosophy.

The above digression will make clear to us the position of Ibn Daud and
his relation to Maimonides. Ibn Daud began what Maimonides finished--the
last stage in the Aristotelization of Jewish thought. Why is it then
that so little was known about him, and that his important treatise was
neglected and practically forgotten? The answer is to be found partly in
the nature of the work itself and partly in historical circumstances.

The greatest and most abiding interest in intellectual Jewry was after
all the Bible and the Talmud. This interest never flagged through
adversity or through success. The devotion paid to these Jewish classics
and sacred books may have been fruitful in original research and
intelligent application at one time and place and relatively barren at
another. Great men devoted to their study abounded in one country and
were relatively few in another. The nature of the study applied to these
books was affected variously by historical conditions, political and
economic; and the cultivation or neglect of the sciences and philosophy
was reflected in the style of Biblical and Talmudical interpretation.
But at all times and in all countries, under conditions of comparative
freedom as well as in the midst of persecution, the sacred heritage of
Israel was studied and its precepts observed and practiced. In this
field alone fame was sure and permanent. All other study was honored
according to the greater or less proximity to this paramount interest.
In times of freedom and of great philosophic and scientific interest
like that of the golden era in Spain, philosophical studies almost
acquired independent value. But this independence, never quite absolute,
waned and waxed with external conditions, and at last disappeared
entirely. If Ibn Daud had made himself famous by a Biblical commentary
or a halakic work, or if his philosophic treatise had the distinction of
being written in popular and attractive style, like Bahya's "Duties of
the Hearts," or Halevi's "Cusari," it might have fared better. As it is,
it suffers from its conciseness and technical terminology. Add to this
that it was superseded by the "Guide of the Perplexed" of Maimonides,
published not many years after the "Emunah Ramah," and the neglect of
the latter is completely explained.

Abraham ibn Daud tells us in the introduction to his book that it was
written in response to the question of a friend concerning the problem
of free will. The dilemma is this. If human action is determined by God,
why does he punish, why does he admonish, and why does he send prophets?
If man is free, then there is something in the world over which God has
no control. The problem is made more difficult by the fact that Biblical
statements are inconsistent, and passages may be cited in favor of
either of the theories in question. This inconsistency is to be
explained, however, by the circumstance that not all Biblical phrases
are to be taken literally--their very contradiction is a proof of this.
Now the passages which require exegetic manipulation are in general
those which seem opposed to reason. Many statements in the Bible are in
fact intended for the common people, and are expressed with a view to
their comprehension, and without reference to philosophic truth. In the
present instance the objections to determinism are much greater and more
serious than those to freedom. In order to realize this, however, it is
necessary to investigate the principles of the Jewish religion and seek
to harmonize them with true philosophy. This in turn cannot be done
without a preliminary study of science. A question like that of
determinism and freedom cannot be decided without a knowledge of the
divine attributes and the consequences flowing from them. But to
understand these we must have a knowledge of the principles of physics
and metaphysics.[228] Accordingly Abraham Ibn Daud devotes the entire
first part of the "Emunah Ramah" to general physics and metaphysics in
the Aristotelian conception of these terms.

Concerning the kind of persons for whom he wrote his book, he says, I
advise everyone who is perfectly innocent, who is not interested in
philosophical and ethical questions like that of determinism and freedom
on the ground that man cannot grasp them; and is entirely unconcerned
about his ignorance--I advise such a person to refrain from opening this
book or any other of a similar nature. His ignorance is his bliss, for
after all the purpose of philosophy is conduct. On the other hand, those
who are learned in the principles of religion and are also familiar with
philosophy need not my book, for they know more than I can teach them
here. It is the beginner in speculation who can benefit from this work,
the man who has not yet been able to see the rational necessity of
beliefs and practices which he knows from tradition.

That the principles of the Jewish religion are based upon philosophic
foundations is shown in Deuteronomy 4, 6: "Keep therefore and do them;
for this is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the
peoples, which shall hear all these statutes, and say, surely this great
nation is a wise and understanding people." This cannot refer to the
ceremonial precepts, the so-called "traditional" commandments; for there
is nothing in them to excite the admiration of a non-Jew. Nor can it
refer to the political and moral regulations, for one need not profess
the Jewish or any other religion in order to practice them; they are a
matter of reason pure and simple. The verse quoted can only mean that
the other nations will be seized with admiration and wonder when they
find that the fundamental principles of the Jewish religion, which we
received by tradition and without effort, are identical with those
philosophical principles at which they arrived after a great deal of
labor extending over thousands of years.[229]

Ibn Daud is not consistent in his idea of the highest aim of man. We
have just heard him say that the purpose of philosophy is conduct. This
is true to the spirit of Judaism which, despite all the efforts of the
Jewish philosophers to the contrary, is not a speculative theology but a
practical religion, in which works stand above faith. But as an
Aristotelian, Ibn Daud could not consistently stand by the above
standpoint as the last word in this question. Accordingly we find him
elsewhere in true Aristotelian fashion give priority to theoretical

Judging from the position of man among the other creatures of the
sublunar world, we come to the conclusion, he tells us, that that which
distinguishes him above his surroundings, namely, his rational soul, is
the aim of all the rest; and they are means and preparations for it. The
rational soul has two forms of activity. It may face upward and receive
wisdom from the angels (theoretical knowledge). Or it may direct its
attention downwards and judge the other corporeal powers (practical
reason). But it must not devote itself unduly or without system to any
one occupation. The aim of man is wisdom, science. Of the sciences the
highest and the aim of all the rest is the knowledge of God. The body of
man is his animal, which leads him to God. Some spend all their time in
feeding the animal, some in clothing it, and some in curing it of its
ills. The latter is not a bad occupation, as it saves the body from
disease and death, and so helps it to attain the higher life. But to
think of the study of medicine as the aim of life and devote all one's
time to it is doing injury to one's soul. Some spend their time in
matters even less significant than this, _viz._, in studying grammar and
language; others again in mathematics and in solving curious problems
which are never likely to happen. The only valuable part here is that
which has relation to astronomy. Some are exclusively occupied in
"twisting threads." This is an expression used by an Arabian
philosopher,[230] who compares man's condition in the world to that of a
slave who was promised freedom and royalty besides if he made the
pilgrimage to Mecca and celebrated there. If he made the journey and was
prevented from reaching the holy city, he would get freedom only; but if
he did not undertake the trip he would get nothing. The three steps in
the realization of the purpose are thus: making the preparations for the
journey, getting on the road and passing from station to station, and
finally wandering about in the place of destination. One small element
in the preparation for the journey is twisting the threads for the water
bottle. Medicine and law as means of gaining a livelihood and a
reputation represent the stage of preparing for the journey. They are
both intended to improve the ills of life, whether in the relations of
man to man as in law; or in the treatment of the internal humors as in
medicine. Medicine seems more important, for on the assumption of
mankind being just, there would be no need of law, whereas the need for
medicine would remain. To spend one's whole life in legal casuistry and
the working out of hypothetical cases on the pretext of sharpening one's
wits, is like being engaged in twisting threads continually--a little is
necessary, but a great deal is a waste of time. It would be best if the
religious man would first learn how to prove the existence of God, the
meaning of prophecy, the nature of reward and punishment and the future
world, and how to defend these matters before an unbeliever. Then if he
has time left, he may devote it to legalistic discussions, and there
would be no harm.

Self-examination, in order to purify oneself from vices great and small,
represents the second stage of getting on the road and travelling from
station to station. The final stage, arriving in the holy city and
celebrating there, is to have a perfect knowledge of God. He who attains
this is the best of wise men, having the best of knowledge, which deals
with the noblest subject. The reader must not expect to find it all in
this book. If he reads this and does not study the subject for himself,
he is like a man who spent his time in reading about medicine and cannot
cure the simplest ailment. The knowledge of God is a form that is
bestowed from on high upon the rational soul when she is prepared by
means of moral perfection and scientific study. The prophet puts all
three functions of the soul on the same level, and gives preference to
knowledge of God. "Thus saith the Lord," says Jeremiah (9, 22), "Let not
the wise man glory in his wisdom [rational soul], neither let the mighty
man glory in his might [spirited soul], let not the rich man glory in
his riches [nutritive soul]: but let him that glorieth glory in this,
that he understandeth, and knoweth me...." Jeremiah also recommends
(_ib._) knowing God through his deeds--"That I am the Lord which
exercise loving-kindness"--in order that man may imitate him.[231]

We have now a general idea of Ibn Daud's attitude and point of view; and
in passing to the details of his system it will not be necessary to
rehearse all the particulars of his thought, much of it being common to
all mediæval writers on Jewish philosophy. We shall confine ourselves to
those matters in which Ibn Daud contributed something new, not contained
in the writings of his predecessors.

Following the Aristotelian system, he begins by describing substance and
accident and gives a list and characterization of the ten categories.
This he follows up by showing that the classification of the ten
categories lies at the basis of the 139th Psalm. It needs not our saying
that it must be an extraordinary mode of exegesis that can find such
things in such unusual places. But the very strangeness of the
phenomenon bears witness to the remarkable influence exerted by the
Aristotelian philosophy upon the thinking of the Spanish Jews at that

From the categories he passes to a discussion of the most fundamental
concepts in the Aristotelian philosophy, matter and form. And here his
method of proving the existence of matter is Aristotelian and new. It is
based upon the discussion in Aristotle's Physics, though not necessarily
derived from there directly. Primary matter, he says, is free from all
form. There must be such, for in the change of one thing to another, of
water to air for example, it cannot be the _form_ of water that receives
the form of air; for the form of water disappears, whereas that which
receives the new form must be there. Reason therefore leads us to assume
a common substrate of all things that are subject to change. This is
primary matter, free from all form. This matter being at the basis of
all change and becoming, could not itself have come to be through a
similar process, or we should require another matter prior to it, and it
would not be the prime matter we supposed it to be. This last argument
led Aristotle to the concept of an eternal matter, the basis of becoming
for all else besides, itself not subject to any such process. It is an
ultimate, to ask for the origin of which would signify to misunderstand
the meaning of origin. All things of the sublunar world originate in
matter, hence matter itself is the unoriginated, the eternal.

Ibn Daud as a Jew could not accept this solution, and so he cut the knot
by saying that while it is true that matter cannot originate in the way
in which the composite objects of the sublunar world come to be, it does
not yet follow that it is absolutely ultimate and eternal. God alone is
the ultimate and eternal; nothing else is. Matter is a relative
ultimate; relative, that is, to the composite and changeable objects of
our world; but it is itself an effect of God as the universal cause. God
created it outright.

Prime matter, therefore, represents the first stage in creation. The
next stage is the endowment of this formless matter with corporeality in
the abstract, _i. e._, with extension. Then come the specific forms of
the four elements, then their compounds through mineral, plant and
animal to man. This is not new; we have already met with it in Gabirol
and Ibn Zaddik. Nor is the following significant statement altogether
new, though no one before Ibn Daud expressed it so clearly and so
definitely. It is that the above analysis of natural objects into
matter, universal body, the elements, and so on, is not a physical
division but a logical. It does not mean that there was a time when
prime matter actually existed as such before it received the form of
corporeality, and then there existed actually an absolute body of pure
extension until it received the four elements. No, nothing has existence
_in actu_ which has not individuality, including not only form, but also
accidents. The above analysis is theoretical, and the order of priority
is logical not real. In reality only the complete compound of matter and
form (the individual) exists.

Allusion to matter and form is also found in the Bible in Jeremiah (18,
1ff.), "Arise and go down to the potter's house.... Then I went down to
the potter's house, and, behold, he wrought his work on the wheels....
Behold as the clay in the potter's hand...."[233]

The next important topic analyzed by Ibn Daud is that of motion. This is
of especial importance to Ibn Daud because upon it he bases a new proof
of the existence of God, not heretofore found in the works of any of his
predecessors. It is taken from Aristotle's Physics, probably from
Avicenna's treatises on the subject, is then adopted by Maimonides, and
through his example no doubt is made use of by Thomas Aquinas, the great
Christian Scholastic of the thirteenth century, who gives it the most
prominent place in his "Summa Contra Gentiles."

Ibn Daud does not give Aristotle's general definition of motion as the
"actualization of the potential qua potential" (_cf._ above, p. xxxii),
but his other remarks concerning it imply it. Motion, he says, is
applied first to movement in place, and is then transferred to any
change which is gradual, such as quantitative or qualitative change.
Sudden change is not called motion. As the four elements have all the
same matter and yet possess different motions--earth and water moving
downward, fire and air upward--it cannot be the matter which is the
cause of their motions. It must therefore be the forms, which are
different in different things.

Nothing can move itself. While it is true that the form of a thing
determines the kind of motion it shall have, it cannot in itself produce
that motion, which can be caused only by an efficient cause from
without. The case of animal motions may seem like a refutation of this
view, but it is not really so. The soul and the body are two distinct
principles in the animal; and it is the soul that moves the body. The
reason why a thing cannot move itself is because the thing which is
moved is potential with reference to that which the motion is intended
to realize, whereas the thing causing the motion is actual with respect
to the relation in question. If then a thing moved itself, it would be
actual and potential at the same time and in the same relation, which is
a contradiction. The Bible, too, hints at the idea that every motion
must have a mover by the recurring questions concerning the origin of
prophetic visions, of the existence of the earth, and so on. Such are
the expressions in Job (38, 36, 37): "Who hath put wisdom in the inward
parts?" "Who can number the clouds by wisdom?" In Proverbs (30, 4): "Who
hath established all the ends of the earth?" and in many passages

The question of infinity is another topic of importance for proving
the existence of God. We proceed as follows: An infinite line is an
impossibility. For let the lines _a_------------_b_ be infinite in the
directions _b_, _d_. Take away from _cd_ a finite length = _ce_, and pull
up the line _ed_ so that _e_ coincides with _c_. Now if _ed_ is equal to
_ab_, and _cd_ was also equal to _ab_ by hypothesis, it follows that
_ed_ = _cd_, which is impossible, for _ed_ is a part of _cd_. If it is
shorter than _cd_ and yet is infinite, one infinite is shorter than
another infinite, which is also impossible. The only alternative left is
then that _ed_ is finite. If then we add to it the finite part _ce_, the
sum, _ce_ + _ed_ = _cd_, will be finite, and _cd_ being equal to _ab_ by
hypothesis, _ab_ is also finite. Hence there is no infinite line. If
there is no infinite line, there is no infinite surface or infinite
solid, for we could in that case draw in them infinite lines. Besides we
can prove directly the impossibility of infinite surface and solid by
the same methods we employed in line.

We can prove similarly that an infinite series of objects is also an
impossibility. In other words, infinite number as an actuality is
impossible because it is a contradiction in terms. A number of things
means a known number; infinite means having no known number. A series is
something that has beginning, middle and end. Infinite means being all
middle. We have thus proved that an actual infinite is impossible,
whether as extension or number. And the Bible also alludes to the
finiteness of the universe in the words of Isaiah (40, 12): "Who hath
measured the waters in the hollow of his hand...," intimating that the
universe is capable of being measured.

We must prove next that no finite body can have an infinite power.
For let the line _ae_ ------------- be a finite line having an infinite
                 _a_  _b_  _c_  _d_  _e_
power. Divide into the several parts _ab_, _be_, _cd_, _de_, etc. If
every one of the parts has an infinite power, _ab_ has an infinite
power, _ac_ a greater infinite power, _ad_ a still greater, _ae_ a still
greater, and so on. But this is absurd, for there cannot be anything
greater than the infinite. It follows then that each of the parts has a
finite power; and as the sum of finites is finite, the line _ae_ also
has a finite power. All these principles we must keep in mind, for we
shall by means of them prove later the existence and incorporeality of

As the concepts of physics are essential for proving the existence of
God, so are the principles of psychology of importance in showing that
there are intermediate beings between God and the corporeal substances
of the world. These are called in the Bible angels. The philosophers
call them secondary causes.

Accordingly Ibn Daud follows his physical doctrines with a discussion of
the soul. There is nothing new in his proof that such a thing as soul
exists. It is identical with the deduction of Joseph Ibn Zaddik
(_supra_, p. 134). Stone and tree and horse and man are all bodies and
yet the last three have powers and functions which the stone has not,
_viz._, nutrition, growth and reproduction. Horse and man have in
addition to the three powers above mentioned, which they have in common
with tree, the powers of sensation and motion and imagination, which
plants have not. Finally man is distinguished above all the rest of
animal creation in possessing the faculty of intelligence, and the
knowledge of art and of ethical discrimination. All these functions
cannot be body or the result of body, for in that case all corporeal
objects should have all of them, as they are all bodies. We must
therefore attribute them to an extra-corporeal principle; and this we
call soul. As an incorporeal thing the soul cannot be strictly defined,
not being composed of genus and species; but we can describe it in a
roundabout way in its relation to the body. He then gives the
Aristotelian definition of the soul as "the [first] entelechy of a
natural body having life potentially" (_cf._ above, p. xxxv).

Like many of his predecessors who treated of the soul, Ibn Daud also
finds it necessary to guard against the materialistic theory of the soul
which would make it the product of the elemental mixture in the body, if
not itself body. This would reduce the soul to a phenomenon of the body,
or in Aristotelian terminology, an accident of the body, and would
deprive it of all substantiality and independence, not to speak of
immortality. How can that which is purely a resultant of a combination
of elements remain when its basis is gone? Accordingly Ibn Daud takes
pains to refute the most important of these phenomenalistic theories,
that of Hippocrates and Galen. Their theory in brief is that the
functions which we attribute to the soul are in reality the results of
the various combinations of the four elementary qualities, hot, cold,
moist, dry. The more harmonious and equable the proportion of their
union, the higher is the function resulting therefrom. The difference
between man and beast, and between animal and plant is then the
difference in the proportionality of the elemental mixture. They prove
this theory of theirs by the observation that as long as the mixture is
perfect the activities above mentioned proceed properly; whereas as soon
as there is a disturbance in the mixture, the animal becomes sick and
cannot perform his activities, or dies altogether if the disturbance is
very great. The idea is very plausible and a great many believe it, but
it is mistaken as we shall prove.

His refutation of the "accident" or "mixture" theory of the soul, as
well as the subsequent discussion of the various functions, sensuous and
rational, of the tripartite soul, are based upon Ibn Sina's treatment of
the same topic, and we have already reproduced some of it in our
exposition of Judah Halevi. We shall therefore be brief here and refer
only to such aspects as are new in Ibn Daud, or such as we found it
advisable to omit in our previous expositions.

His main argument against the materialistic or mechanistic theory of the
soul is that while a number of phenomena of the growing animal body can
be explained by reference to the form of the mixture in the elementary
qualities, not all aspects can be thus explained. Its growth and general
formation may be the result of material and mechanical causes, but not
so the design and purpose evident in the similarity, to the smallest
detail, of the individuals of a species, even when the mixture is not
identical. There is no doubt that there is wisdom here working with a
purpose. This is soul. There is another argument based upon the visible
results of other mixtures which exhibit properties that cannot be
remotely compared with the functions we attribute to the soul. The
animal and the plant exhibit activities far beyond anything present in
the simple elements of the mixture. There must therefore be in animals
and plants something additional to the elements of the mixture. This
extra thing resides in the composite of which it forms a part, for
without it the animal or plant is no longer what it is. Hence as the
latter is substance, that which forms a part of it is also substance;
for accident, as Aristotle says, is that which resides _in_ a thing but
not as forming a part of it.

We have now shown that the soul is substance and not accident. We must
still make clear in which of the four senses of the Aristotelian
substance the soul is to be regarded. By the theory of exclusion Ibn
Daud decides that the soul is substance in the sense in which we apply
that term to "form." The form appears upon the common matter and
"specifies" it, and makes it what it is, bringing it from potentiality
to actuality. It is also the efficient and final cause of the body. The
body exists for the sake of the soul, in order that the soul may attain
its perfection through the body. As the most perfect body in the lower
world is the human body, and it is for the sake of the soul, it follows
that the existence of the sublunar world is for the sake of the human
soul, that it may be purified and made perfect by science and moral

While we have proved that soul is not mixture nor anything like it, it
is nevertheless true that the kind of soul bestowed upon a given body
depends upon the state of the mixture in the elementary qualities of
that body. Thus we have the three kinds of soul, vegetative, animal and
human or rational. We need not follow Ibn Daud in his detailed
descriptions of the functions of the several kinds of soul, as there is
little that is new and that we have not already met in Joseph Ibn Zaddik
and Judah Halevi. Avicenna (Ibn Sina) is the common source for Halevi
and Ibn Daud, and the description of the inner senses is practically
identical in the two, with the slight difference that Halevi attributes
to the "common sense" the two functions which are divided in Ibn Daud
between the common sense and the power of representation.

The soul is not eternal. It was created and bestowed upon body. When a
body comes into being, the character of its mixture determines that a
soul of a certain kind shall be connected with it. The other
alternatives are (1) that the soul existed independently before the
body, is then connected with the body and dies with the death of the
latter; or (2) it remains after the death of the body. The first
alternative is impossible; because if the soul is connected with the
body in order to die with it, its union is an injury to the soul, for in
its separate existence it was free from the defects of matter. The
second alternative is equally impossible; for if the soul was able to
exist without the body before the appearance of the latter and after its
extinction, of what use is its connection with the body? Far from being
of any benefit, its union with the body is harmful to the soul, for it
is obliged to share in the corporeal accidents. Divine wisdom never does
anything without a purpose.

The truth is that the soul does not exist before the body. It arises at
the same time as, and in connection with body, realizing and actualizing
the latter. Seed and sperm have in them the possibility of becoming
plant and animal respectively. But they need an agent to bring to
actuality what is in them potentially. This agent--an angel or a sphere,
or an angel using a sphere as its instrument--bestows forms upon bodies,
which take the places of the previous forms the bodies had. The sphere
or star produces these forms (or souls) by means of its motions, which
motions ultimately go back to the first incorporeal mover, by whose
wisdom forms are connected with bodies in order to perfect the former by
means of the latter.

Now the human soul has the most important power of all other animals,
that of grasping intelligibles or universals. It is also able to
discriminate between good and evil in conduct, moral, political and
economic. The human soul, therefore, has, it seems, two powers,
_theoretical_ and _practical_. With the former it understands the simple
substances, known as angels in the Bible and as "secondary causes" and
"separate intelligences" among the philosophers. By this means the soul
rises gradually to its perfection. With the practical reason it attends
to noble and worthy conduct. All the other powers of the soul must be
obedient to the behests of the practical reason. This in turn is
subservient to the theoretical, putting its good qualities at the
disposition of the speculative reason, and thus helping it to come into
closer communion with the simple substances, the angels and God. This is
the highest power there is in the _world of nature_.

We must now show that the rational power in man is neither itself body
nor is it a power residing in a corporeal subject. That it is not itself
body is quite evident, for we have proved that the lower souls too,
those of animals and plants, are not corporeal. But we must show
concerning the rational power that it is independent of body in its
activity. This we can prove in various ways. One is by considering the
object and content of the reason. Man has general ideas or universal
propositions. These are not divisible. An idea cannot be divided into
two halves or into parts. Reason in action consists of ideas. Now if
reason is a power residing in a corporeal subject, it would be divisible
like the latter. Take heat as an example. Heat is a corporeal power,
_i. e._, a power residing in a body. It extends through the dimensions of
the body, and as the latter is divided so is the former. But this is
evidently not true of general ideas, such as that a thing cannot both be
and not be, that the whole is greater than its part, and so on. Hence
the rational power is independent of body.

Ibn Daud gives several other proofs, taken from Aristotle and Avicenna,
to show that reason is independent, but we cannot reproduce them all
here. We shall, however, name one more which is found in the "De Anima"
of Aristotle and is based on experience. If the reason performed its
thinking by means of a corporeal organ like the external senses, the
power of knowing would be weakened when confronted with a difficult
subject, and would thereby be incapacitated from exercising its powers
as before. This is the case with the eye, which is dazzled by a bright
light and cannot see at all, or the ear, which cannot hear at all when
deafened by a loud noise. But the case of knowledge is clearly
different. The more difficult the subject the more is the power of the
reason developed in exercising itself therein. And in old age, when the
corporeal organs are weakened, the power of reason is strongest.

Although it is thus true that the rational soul is independent of the
body, nevertheless it did not exist before the body any more than the
lower souls. For if it did, it was either one soul for all men, or there
were as many souls as there are individual men. The first is impossible;
for the same soul would then be wise and ignorant, good and bad, which
is impossible. Nor could the separate souls be different, for being all
human souls they cannot differ in essence, which is their common
humanity. But neither can they differ in accidental qualities, for
simple substances have no accidents. They cannot therefore be either one
or many, _i. e._, they cannot be at all before body.

Nor must we suppose because the reason exercises its thought functions
without the use of a corporeal organ that it appears full fledged in
actual perfection in the person of the infant. Experience teaches
otherwise. The perfections of the human soul are in the child potential.
Later on by divine assistance he acquires the first principles of
knowledge about which there is no dispute, such as that two things equal
to the same thing are equal to each other, that two contrary predicates
cannot apply to the same subject at the same time in the same relation,
and so on. Some of these are the fundamental principles of mathematics,
others of other sciences. Then he progresses further and learns to make
premises and construct syllogisms and argue from the known to the
unknown. We have thus three stages in the development of the reason. The
first potential stage is known as the _hylic_ or _potential intellect_.
The second is known as the _actual intellect_, and the third is the
_acquired intellect_. If not for the body the person could not make this
progress. For without body there are no senses, and without senses he
would not see how the wine in the barrel ferments and increases in
volume, which suggests that quantity is accident and body is substance.
Nor would he learn the distinction between quality and substance if he
did not observe a white garment turning black, or a hot body becoming
cold. There is need therefore of the body with its senses to lead to a
knowledge of the universals. But this knowledge once acquired, the soul
needs not the body for its subsequent existence; and as the soul is not
a corporeal power, the death of the body does not cause the extinction
of the soul.

Some think that because the soul is the form of the body it is dependent
upon it and cannot survive it, as no other form survives its substance.
But this inference is not valid. For if the human soul is included in
the statement that no form survives its matter, we assume what we want
to prove, and there is no need of the argument. If it is not as a matter
of fact included, because it is the question at issue, its comparison
with the other observed cases is simply a matter of opinion and not

The reader will see that the problem of the rational soul gave Ibn Daud
much concern and trouble. The pre-existence of the soul as Plato teaches
it did not appeal to him for many reasons, not the least among them
being the statement in Genesis (2, 7), "And God breathed into his
nostrils the breath of life," which seems to favor the idea of the soul
originating with the body; though, to be sure, a harmless verse of this
kind would not have stood in his way, had he had reason to favor the
doctrine of pre-existence. Immortality was also a dogma which he dared
not deny. The arguments against it seemed rather strong. From the
doctrine of the soul's origin with the body and its being fitted to the
material composition of the latter, would seem to follow the soul's
extinction with the death of the body. The same result was apparently
demanded by the observation that the intellect develops as the body
matures, and that without the senses and their data there would be no
intellect at all. The fluctuation of intellectual strength with the
state of bodily health would seem to tend to the same end, against the
doctrine of immortality. Moreover, the Aristotelian definition of the
soul as the entelechy or form of the body, if it applies to the rational
faculty as well as to the lower powers, implies necessarily that it is a
form like other forms and disappears with the dissolution of its
substance. To avoid all these pitfalls Ibn Daud insists upon the
incorporeal character of the reason's activity, _i. e._, its independence
of any corporeal organ, and its increasing power in old age despite the
gradual weakening of the body. He admits that its development is
dependent on the data of sense perception, but insists that this is not
incompatible with its freedom from the body when fully developed and
perfected. As for its being a form of body, not all forms are alike; and
it is not so certain that the rational power is a form of body. Neither
the difficulties nor the solution are of Ibn Daud's making. They are as
old as Aristotle, and his successors grappled with them as best they

There is still the question of the manner of the soul's survival. The
same reasons which Ibn Daud brings forward against the possibility of
the existence of many souls before the body, apply with equal cogency to
their survival after death. If simple substances having a common essence
cannot differ either in essence or in accident, the human souls after
the death of the body must exist as one soul, and what becomes of
_individual_ immortality, which religion promises? Ibn Daud has not a
word to say about this, and it is one of the weak points religiously in
his system as well as in that of Maimonides, which the critics and
opponents of the latter did not fail to observe.

Before leaving the problem of the soul Ibn Daud devotes a word to
showing that metempsychosis is impossible. The soul of man is suited to
the character of his elemental mixture, which constitutes the
individuality of his body. Hence every individual's body has its own
peculiar soul. A living person cannot therefore have in him a soul
which formerly resided in a different body unless the two bodies are
identical in all respects. But in that case it is not transmigration but
the re-appearance of the same person after he has ceased to be. But this
has never yet happened.

Finally Ibn Daud finds it necessary to defend the Bible against those
who criticize the Jews on the ground that there is no mention of the
future world and the existence of the soul after death in the Biblical
writings. All the rewards and punishments spoken of in the Bible, they
say, refer to this world. His answer offers nothing new. Judah Halevi
had already tried to account for this phenomenon, besides insisting that
altogether devoid of allusion to the future world the Bible is not. Ibn
Daud follows in Halevi's footsteps (_cf._ above, p. 170).[236]

Abraham Ibn Daud closes the first, the purely scientific part of his
treatise, by a discussion of the heavenly spheres and their motions. In
accordance with the view of Aristotle, which was shared by the majority
of writers throughout the middle ages, he regards the spheres with their
stars as living beings, and their motions as voluntary, the result of
will and purpose, and not simply "natural," _i. e._, due to an
unconscious force within them called nature. One of his arguments to
prove this is derived from the superiority of the heavenly bodies to our
own. Their size, their brightness and their continued duration are all
evidence of corporeal superiority. And it stands to reason that as the
human body, which is the highest in the sublunar world, has a soul that
is nobler than that of plant or animal, so the heavenly bodies must be
endowed with souls as much superior to the human intellect as their
bodies are to the human body. The Bible alludes to this truth in the
nineteenth Psalm, "The heavens declare the glory of God.... There is no
speech nor language...." The last expression signifies that they praise
God with the intellect. There are other passages in the Bible besides,
and particularly the first chapter of Ezekiel, which make it clear that
the heavenly bodies are living and intelligent beings; not, to be sure,
in the sense of taking nourishment and growing and reproducing their
kind and making use of five senses, but in the sense of performing
voluntary motions and being endowed with intellect.[237]

We have now concluded our preliminary discussion of the scientific
principles lying at the basis of Judaism. And our next task is to study
the fundamental doctrines of Jewish theology which form the highest
object of knowledge, dealing as they do with God and his attributes and
his revelation. The first thing to prove then is the existence of God,
since we cannot define him. For definition means the designation of the
genus or class to which the thing defined belongs, whereas God cannot be
put in a class. As the essence of a thing is revealed by its definition,
we cannot know God's essence and are limited to a knowledge of his

The principles for this proof we have already given. They are that a
thing cannot move itself, and that an actual infinite series is
impossible. The argument then proceeds as follows: Nothing can move
itself, hence everything that moves is moved by something other than
itself. If this is also moving, it must be moved by a third, and so on
_ad infinitum_. But an actual infinite series of things moving and being
moved is impossible, and unless we ultimately arrive at a first link in
this chain, all motion is impossible. Hence there must be a first to
account for the motion we observe in the world. This first must not
itself be subject to motion, for it would then have to have another
before it to make it move, and it would not be the first we supposed it
to be. We have thus proved, therefore, the existence of a _primum movens
immobile_, a first unmoved mover.

We must now show that this unmoved mover is incorporeal. This we can
prove by means of another principle of physics, made clear in the first
part. We showed there that a finite body cannot have an infinite power.
But God is infinite. For, being immovable, his power is not affected by
time. Hence God cannot be body.

This proof, as we said before, is new in Jewish philosophy. In Bahya we
found a proof which bears a close resemblance to this one (_cf._ above,
p. 87); but the difference is that Bahya argues from being, Ibn Daud
from motion. Bahya says if a thing is, some cause must have made it to
be, for a thing cannot make itself. As we cannot proceed _ad infinitum_,
there must be a first which is the cause of the existence of everything
else. The objection here, of course, is that if a thing cannot make
itself, how did the first come to be.

The Aristotelian proof of Ibn Daud knows nothing about the origin of
being. As far as Aristotle's own view is concerned there is no
_temporal_ beginning either of being or of motion. Both are eternal, and
so is matter, the basis of all genesis and change. God is the eternal
cause of the eternal motion of the world, and hence of the eternal
genesis and dissolution, which constitutes the life of the sublunar
world. How to reconcile the idea of eternal time and eternal motion with
the doctrine that an actual infinite is impossible we shall see when we
treat Maimondes (p. 251). Ibn Daud does not adopt eternity of motion
even hypothetically, as Maimonides does. But this merely removes the
difficulty one step. For the infinity which is regarded impossible in
phenomena is placed in God. But another more serious objection is the
adoption of an Aristotelian argument where it does not suit. For the
argument from motion does not give us a creator but a first mover. For
Aristotle there is no creator, and his proof is adequate. But for Ibn
Daud it is decidedly inadequate. We are so far minus a proof that God is
a creator _ex nihilo_. Ibn Daud simply asserts that God created matter,
but this argument does not prove it. As to the incorporeality of God
Aristotle can prove it adequately from the eternity of motion. If a
finite body (and there is no such thing as an infinite body) cannot have
an infinite power, God, whose causing eternal motion argues infinite
power, is not a body. Ibn Daud's attempt to prove God's infinity without
the theory of infinite motion on the ground that time cannot affect what
is immovable, is decidedly less satisfactory. On the whole then this
adoption of Aristotle's argument from motion is not helpful, as it leads
to eternity of matter, and God as the mover rather than the Creator.
Gersonides was frank enough and bold enough to recognize this
consequence and to adopt it. We shall see Maimonides's attitude when we
come to treat of his philosophy.

Ibn Daud may have been aware of the inadequacy of his argument from
motion, and therefore he adds another, based upon the distinction
between the "possible existent" and the "necessary existent"--a
distinction and an argument due to Alfarabi and Avicenna. A possible
existent is a thing whose existence depends upon another, and was
preceded by non-existence. It may exist or not, depending upon its
cause; hence the name _possible_ existent. A necessary existent is one
whose existence is in itself and not derived from elsewhere. It is a
necessary existent because its own essence cannot be thought without
involving existence. Now the question is, Is there such a thing as a
necessary existent, or are all existents merely possible? If all
existents are possible, we have an infinite series, every link of which
is dependent for its existence upon the link preceding it; and so long
as there is no first there is nothing to explain the existence of any
link in the chain. We must therefore assume a first, which is itself not
again dependent upon a cause prior to it. This is by definition a
necessary existent, which is the cause of the existence of everything
else. This proof is compatible with God as a Creator.

Having shown the existence and incorporeality of God we must now prove
his unity. We shall base this proof upon the idea of the necessary
existent. Such an existent cannot have in it any multiplicity; for if it
has, its own essence would not be able to keep the elements together,
and there would be need of an external agent to do this. But in this
case the object would be dependent upon something else, which is
incompatible with the idea of a necessary existent.

Nor is it possible there should be two necessary existents; for the
necessary existent, we have just shown, must be of the utmost
simplicity, and hence cannot have any attribute added to its essence.
Now if there is a second, there must be something by which the first
differs from the second, or they are identical. Either the first or the
second therefore would not be completely simple, and hence not a
necessary existent.

We have thus shown that God is one both in the sense of simple and in
the sense of unique. To have a clear insight into the nature of his
unity, we must now show that nothing else outside of God is really one,
though we apply the term one to many things. No one will claim that a
collective is one; but neither is an individual really one, for an
individual man, for example, consists of many organs. You might think
that a homogeneous and continuous elementary mass like air or water is
one. But this is not true either, for everything that is corporeal is
composed of matter and form. If then we set aside corporeal objects and
aim to find real unity in mathematical entities like line and surface,
which are not corporeal, we are met with the difficulty that line and
surface are divisible, and hence potentially multiple. But neither are
the simple intellectual substances, like the angels, true ones; for they
are composed of their own possible existence and the necessary
existence they acquire from another. The only being therefore that may
be a true one is that which is not corporeal and not dependent upon
another for its existence.

Considering the question of unity from a different aspect, in its
relation, namely, to the thing designated as one, we find that unity
never forms the essence of anything called by that name; but is in every
case an accident. Thus if it were the essence of man as man that he is
one, there could not on the one hand be many men, and on the other there
could not also at the same time be one horse, one tree, one stone. In
God his unity cannot be an accident, since as simple he has no
accidents. Hence his unity is his essence. And if we examine the matter
carefully we find that it is a negative concept. It involves two things.
First, that every other unity involves plurality in some form or
another. And second that being unlike anything else, he cannot bear
having other things associated with him to make the result many, as we
can in the case of man. A, for example, is one; and with B, C, and D he
becomes many. This is not applicable to God.[238]

The divine attributes form the next topic we must consider. Here Ibn
Daud offers little or nothing that is essentially new. He admits neither
essential nor accidental attributes, for either would bring plurality
and composition in the nature of God. The only attributes he admits are
negative and relative. When we speak of God as cause we do not place any
special entity in his essence, but merely indicate the dependence of
things upon him. The truest attributes are the negative, such as that he
is not body, that his existence is not dependent upon another, and so
on; the only difficulty being that negative attributes, though removing
many doubts, do not give us any positive information. All the
anthropomorphic attributes in the Bible endowing God with human
functions like sleeping and waking, or ascribing to him human limbs,
eyes, ears, hands, feet, etc., must be understood metaphorically. For
the Bible itself warns us against corporealizing God, "Take ye therefore
good heed unto yourselves; for ye saw no manner of form on the day that
the Lord spake unto you in Horeb" (Deut. 4, 15). When the Bible speaks
of God's anger and favor, the meaning is that good deeds bring man near
to God and cause happiness which is known as paradise ("Gan Eden"), and
bad deeds remove far away from God and lead to misfortune, called
Gehenna. It is like the apparent motion of the trees and the mountains
to the traveller, when in reality it is he that is moving. So here God
is said to approach and depart, to be angry with and favor, when in
reality it is man who by his deeds comes near to God or departs far from
him. When we assign many attributes to God we do not mean that there is
any multiplicity in his nature. This cannot be. It is like the case of a
man whose eyes are not properly co-ordinated. He sees double when there
is only one. So we too suffer from intellectual squinting, when we seem
to see many attributes in the one God.

The most common and most important attributes are the following eight:
One, existent, true, eternal, living, knowing, willing, able. It can be
easily shown (and Ibn Daud does proceed to show, though we shall not
follow him in his details) that all these are at bottom negative. Unity
means that there is nothing like him and that he is indivisible. Eternal
means he is not subject to change or motion. True means he will never
cease existing and that his existence does not come from another, and so
on with the rest.

He closes his discussion of the attributes by intimating that he has
more to say on this topic, but had better be content with what has been
said so far, for a more thorough discussion of these matters in a book
might do harm to those who do not understand and interpret the author's
words incorrectly. This reminds us of Maimonides's adjuration of the
reader to keep what he finds in the "Guide of the Perplexed" to himself
and not to spread it abroad. Philosophy clearly was a delicate subject
and not meant for intellectual babes, whose intellectual digestion might
be seriously disturbed.[239]

We have now concluded our theory of God and his attributes; and in doing
so we made use of principles of physics, such as matter and form,
potentiality and actuality, motion and infinity. The next step is to
prove the existence and nature of intermediate spiritual beings between
God and the corporeal objects of the superlunar and sublunar worlds,
called angels in the Bible, and secondary causes by the philosophers.
For this purpose we shall have to apply the principles we have proved
concerning the soul and the motions of the heavenly bodies. We have
proved above that the human soul is at first in the child intelligent
potentially and then becomes intelligent actually. This requires an
agent, in whom the end to which the potential is proceeding is always
actual. As the rational soul is neither body nor a corporeal power, this
actual agent cannot be either of these, hence it is neither a sphere nor
the soul of a sphere, but it must be a simple substance called _Active
Intellect_. The prophets call it "Holy Spirit" ("Ruah Ha-Kodesh"). We
thus have a proof of the existence of at least one such simple
intellectual substance, or angel, the relation of which to the human
soul is as that of light to vision. Without light vision is potential,
light makes it actual. So the active intellect makes the potential soul
actual and gives it first the axioms, which are universally certain, and
hence could not have originated by induction from experience.

Similarly we can prove the existence of other simple substances from the
motions of the heavenly spheres. We have already shown that the spheres
are living beings and endowed with souls. But souls, while causing
motion in their bodies are at the same time themselves in a sort of
psychic motion. This must be caused by unmoved movers, or intellects,
who are also the causes of the souls. To make this difficult matter
somewhat clearer and more plausible, we may instance an analogy from
familiar experience. A ship is made by the shipbuilder, who is its
corporeal cause. But there is also an incorporeal cause, likewise a
ship, _viz._, the ship in the mind of the shipbuilder. The analogy is
imperfect, because the incorporeal ship in the mind of the builder
cannot produce an actual corporeal ship without the builder employing
material, such as wood, iron, etc., and in addition to that expending
time and physical exertion on the material. But if he had the power to
give the form of a ship to the material as soon as the latter was
prepared for it without time and physical manipulation, we should have
an instance of what we want to prove, namely, the existence of simple
immaterial substances causing forms to emanate upon corporeal
existences. This is the nature of the active intellect in its relation
to the soul of man, and it is in the same way that the philosophers
conceive of the motions of the heavenly spheres. God is the first
unmoved mover. The angels or simple substances stand next to him; and
they, too, are always actual intelligences, and move the heavenly bodies
as the object of love and desire moves the object loving it without
itself being moved. The heavenly bodies move therefore because of a
desire to perfect themselves, or to become like unto their movers.

So far Ibn Daud agrees with the philosophers, because the doctrines so
far expounded are not incompatible with the Bible. But when the
philosophers raise the question, How can the many originate from the
One, the manifold universe from the one God, and attempt to answer it by
their theory of successive emanations, Ibn Daud calls a halt. The human
mind is not really so all-competent as to be able to answer all
questions of the most difficult nature. The doctrine of successive
emanations is that elaborated by Alfarabi and Avicenna, which we have
already seen quoted and criticized by Judah Halevi (_cf._ above, p. 178
f.). It is slightly more complicated in Ibn Daud, who speaks of the
treble nature of the emanations after the first Intelligence--an
intelligence, a soul and a sphere--whereas in Halevi's account there
were only two elements, the soul not being mentioned.[240]

We have so far dealt with the more theoretical part of theology and
religion, so much of it as may be and is accepted by nations and
religions other than Jews. It remains now to approach the more practical
and the more specifically Jewish phases of religion; though in the
purely ethical discussions and those relating to Providence we have once
more a subject of general application, and not exclusively Jewish.

As the introduction to this second part of the subject, Abraham Ibn Daud
devotes a few words to the theoretical defence of tradition, or rather
of mediate knowledge. He does so by analyzing the various kinds of
knowledge. Knowledge, he says, is either intelligible or sensible.
Sensible knowledge is either directly perceived by the subject or
received by him from another who perceived it directly, and whom he
believes or not as the case may be. That is why some things believed by
some people are not believed by others. The ignorant may think that this
weakness is inherent in matters received from others. As a matter of
fact such indirect knowledge is at the basis of civilization and makes
it possible. If every man were to judge only by what he sees with his
own eyes, society could never get along; there would be no way of
obtaining justice in court, for the judge would not put credence in
witnesses, and the parties would have to fight out their differences,
which would lead to bloodshed and the disruption of social life. The
different attitude of different persons to a given matter of belief is
due not necessarily to the uncertainty of the thing itself, but to the
manner in which the object of the belief came down to us. If a thing
rests upon the testimony of one man, its warrant is not very strong. But
if a whole nation witnessed an event, it is no longer doubtful, unless
we suppose that the account itself is due to one writer, and the event
never happened. We shall discuss these matters in the sequel.[241]

Having justified in a general way the knowledge derived from the
testimony of others by showing that society could not exist without
depending upon such knowledge; though admitting at the same time that
caution should be exercised and criticism in determining what
traditional testimony is valid or not, we now take up one of these
traditional phenomena which plays perhaps the most important rôle in
Jewish theology, namely, the phenomenon of prophecy. Before discussing
the traditional aspect of this institution and its purpose in the
history of religion we must consider it from its natural and
psychological aspect.

The explanation of Ibn Daud--it was not original with him, as we have
already seen the non-religious philosopher in Halevi's Cusari giving
utterance to the same idea, and in Jewish philosophy Israeli touches on
it--the explanation of Ibn Daud is grounded in his psychology, the
Aristotelian psychology of Avicenna. The first degree of prophecy, he
says, is found in true dreams, which happen to many people. Just as
waking is a state of the body in which it uses the external as well as
the internal senses, so sleeping is a state of the body in which the
soul suppresses the external senses by putting them to sleep, and
exercises its "natural" powers only, such as the beating of the heart
pulse, respiration, and so on. The internal senses are also at work
during sleep, or at least some of them. In particular the power of
imagination is active when the external senses are at rest. It then
makes various combinations and separations and brings them to the common
sense. The result is a dream, true or false. When the senses are weak
for one reason or another this power becomes active and, when not
controlled by the reason, produces a great many erroneous visions and
ideas, as in the delusions of the sick.

The Deity and the angels and the Active Intellect have a knowledge of
the past, present and future, and we already know that the soul, _i. e._,
the rational soul, receives influence from the Active Intellect as
a natural thing in every person. Now just as it gets from it science and
general ideas, so it may receive a knowledge of hidden things if the
soul is adequately prepared. The reason it cannot receive information of
hidden things from the Active Intellect in its waking state, is because
the soul is then busy in acquiring knowledge through the senses. In
sleep, too, it may be prevented by the thick vapors rising from the food
consumed during the day, or by anxiety due to want of food or drink. The
imagination also sometimes hinders this process by the constant
presentation of its foolish combinations to the common sense. But
sometimes this power comes under the control of the reason, and then the
rational soul is prepared to receive hidden things from the Active
Intellect. In those cases the imagination transforms these facts into
images, which are true dreams. If they concern an individual or a
particular event, we do not call them prophecy, or at least the share of
prophecy they may have is very small. We call them prophetic dreams when
they concern important matters and have reference to a whole nation or
nations, and come to pass in the distant future. An example of such a
dream is that recorded in Daniel 7, 1.

Sometimes the information comes to the prophet without the aid of an
image, when the reason prevails over the imagination, like the dream of
Abraham at the "covenant of the pieces" (Gen. 15, 12ff.). Sometimes,
also, the activity of the senses does not prevent the prophet from
seeing the hidden things of the future, and he receives prophetic
inspirations while awake. The prophet sometimes faints as he is overcome
by the unusual phenomenon, at other times he succeeds in enduring it
without swooning. All these cases can be illustrated from the Bible, and
examples will readily occur to the reader who is familiar with the
various instances and descriptions of prophetic visions and activities
in Scripture.

The purpose of prophecy is to guide the people in the right way. With
this end in view God inspires a proper man as a prophet and gives him
superior powers to perform miracles. Not every man is capable of
prophecy, only one who has a pure soul. For the most part the prophetic
gift is innate, at the same time study and good associations help to
develop this power in him who has it. Witness the "company of prophets,"
whose example inspired Saul (1 Sam. 19, 20), and Elisha as the disciple
of Elijah.

While we thus see Ibn Daud, unlike Halevi, adopting the philosophical
explanation of prophecy, which tries to bring it within the class of
natural psychological phenomena and relates it to dreams, he could not
help recognizing that one cannot ignore the supernatural character of
Biblical prophecy without being untrue to the Bible. He accordingly adds
to the above naturalistic explanation a number of conditions which
practically have the effect of taking the bottom out of the
psychological theory. If Judah Halevi insists that only Israelites in
the land of Palestine and at the time of their political independence
had the privilege of the prophetic gift, we realize that such a belief
is of the warp and woof of Halevi's innermost sentiment and thinking,
which is radically opposed to the shallow rationalism and superficial
cosmopolitanism of the "philosophers" of his day. But when the champion
of Peripateticism, Abraham Ibn Daud, after explaining that prophecy is
of the nature of true dreams, and though in most cases innate, may be
cultivated by a pure soul through study and proper associations--repeats
with Judah Halevi that the time and the place are essential conditions
and that Israelites alone are privileged in this respect, he is giving
up, it seems to us, all that he previously attempted to explain. This is
only one of the many indications which point to the essential
artificiality of all the mediæval attempts to harmonize a given system
of philosophy with a supernaturalistic standpoint, such as is that of
the Bible. It is not in this way that the Bible is to be saved if it
needs saving.[242]

The next practical question Ibn Daud felt called upon to discuss was
that of the possibility of the Law being repealed, abrogated or altered.
This he found it necessary to do in order to defend the Jewish
standpoint against that of Christianity in particular. How he will
answer this question is of course a foregone conclusion. We are only
interested in his manner of argument. He adopts a classification of long
standing of the Biblical laws into rational and traditional. The first,
he says, are accepted by all nations and can never be changed. Even a
band of thieves, who disregard all laws of right and wrong as they
relate to outsiders, must observe them in their own midst or they
cannot exist. These laws bring people of different nationalities and
beliefs together, and hence there can be no change in these. Nor can
there be any alteration in that part of the Law which is historical in
content. An event of the past cannot be repealed.

It only remains therefore to see whether abrogation may possibly be
compatible with the nature of the traditional or ceremonial laws.
Without arguing like the philosophers that change of a divine law is
incompatible with the nature of God, which is unchangeable, our sages
nevertheless have a method of explaining such phrases as, "And it
repented the Lord that he had made man" (Gen. 6, 6), so as to reconcile
the demands of reason with those of tradition. Now if there were laws of
the traditional kind stated in the Bible without any indication of time
and without the statement that they are eternal, and afterwards other
laws came to change them, we should say that the Lord has a certain
purpose in his laws which we do not know, but which is revealed in the
new law taking the place of the old. But as a matter of fact the Bible
states explicitly in many cases that the laws are not to be changed, "A
statute for ever throughout your generations" (Num. 10, 8, and
_passim_). Arguments from phrases like, "Your new moons and your
appointed feasts my soul hateth, etc." (Is. 1, 14), have no validity,
for there is no indication here that sacrifices are abolished. The
meaning of Isaiah is that sacrifices in conjunction with wrong living
are undesirable.

Our opponents also argue that Biblical expressions to the effect that
the laws are eternal prove nothing, for we know of similar instances in
which promises have been withdrawn as in the priesthood of Eli's family
and the royalty of the house of David, where likewise eternity is
mentioned. We answer these by saying, first, that in David's case the
promise was withdrawn only temporarily, and will return again, as the
Prophets tell us. Besides the promise was made only conditionally, as
was that made to Eli. But there is no statement anywhere that the Law is
given to Israel conditionally and that it will ever be taken away from

The claim of those who say that the laws of the Old Testament were true,
but that they were repealed and the New Testament took its place, we
meet by pointing to a continuous tradition against their view. We have
an uninterrupted tradition during two thousand four hundred and
seventy-two years that there was a man Moses who gave a Law accepted by
his people and held without any break for two thousand four hundred and
seventy-two years. We do not have to prove he was a genuine prophet
since they do not deny it.

Some of them say that in the captivity in Babylon the old Law was
forgotten and Ezra made a new law, the one we have now. This is absurd.
The law could not have been forgotten, for the people did not all go
into captivity at one time. They were not all put to death; they were
led into exile in a quiet fashion, and there were great men among them
like Hananiah, Mishael, Azariah, Daniel and others who surely could not
have forgotten the Law. Besides Ezra could never have had the consent of
all the people scattered everywhere if he had made a law of his own. As
a matter of fact the Law as we have it is the same in all details
throughout the world.[243]

The next problem we must consider is the perennial one--the problem of
evil and of freedom. It is the purpose of the entire book, as Ibn Daud
tells us in his introduction.

The further a thing is removed from matter the more perfect is its
knowledge. For, as we have already said, it is matter that hinders
knowledge. All defect and evil is the result of the potential. Hence the
farther a thing is removed from potentiality the more perfect it is and
the freer it is from defect. God's essence is the most perfect thing
there is; and as he knows his essence, his is the most perfect
knowledge. God knows, too, that his perfection is not stationary in him,
but that it extends and communicates itself to all other things in
order. And the further a thing is from him the less is its perfection
and the greater is its imperfection. We have thus a graduated series, at
one end the most perfect being, at the other the least perfect, _viz._,

Now it is impossible from any point of view, either according to reason
or Bible or tradition, that evil or defect should come from God. Not by
reason, for two contradictories in the same subject are impossible. Now
if good and evil both came from God, he would have to be composite just
like man, who can be the cause of good and evil, the one coming from his
rational power, the other from the spirited or appetitive. But God is
simple and if evil comes from him, good cannot do so, which is absurd.
Besides, the majority of defects are privational in character and not
positive, like for example darkness, poverty, ignorance, and so on,
which are not things, but the negations of light, wealth, wisdom,
respectively. Being negative, not positive, they are not _made_ by any

One may argue that it is in the nature of man that he should have
understanding and perfection; and if God deprives him of it, he does
evil. The answer is that the evil in the world is very small in
comparison with the good. For evil and defect are found only in things
composed of the elements, which have a common matter, receiving forms in
accordance with the mixture of the elementary qualities in the matter.
Here an external cause sometimes prevents the form from coming to the
matter in its perfection. The seed, for example, depends upon the
character of the soil which it finds for its growth. Now it does not
follow that God was bound to give things the highest perfection
possible. For in that case all minerals would be plants, all plants
animals, all animals men, all men angels; and there would be no world,
but only God and a few of the highest angels. In order that there shall
be a world, it was necessary to make a graduated series as we actually
have it. And as a matter of fact the very defects in the material
composites are a good when we have in view not the particular thing but
the whole. Thus if all men were of a highly intellectual type, there
would be no agriculture or manual labor.

Now there are men whose temperament is such that they cannot distinguish
between right and wrong, and they follow their inclinations. To
counteract these bad qualities God gave his commandments and warnings.
This shows that it is not impossible to oppose these evil tendencies,
for in that case the commandments would be useless. The acts of man come
neither under the category of the _necessary_, nor under that of the
_impossible_, but under the category of the _possible_.

There are two senses in which we may understand the term possible. A
thing may be possible subjectively, _i. e._, in relation to our
ignorance, though objectively it may be necessary and determined. Thus
we in Spain do not know whether the king of Babylon died to-day or not;
and so far as we are concerned, it is possible that he is dead or that
he is alive. In reality it is not a question of possibility but of
necessity. God knows which is true. The same thing applies to the
occurrence of an eclipse in the future for the man who is ignorant of
astronomy. Such possibility due to ignorance does not exist in God.

But there is another sense of the word possible; the sense in which an
event is objectively undetermined. An event is possible if there is
nothing in the previous chain of causation to determine the thing's
happening in one way rather than another. The result is then a matter of
pure chance or of absolute free will. Now God may make a thing possible
in this objective sense, and then it is possible for him also. If you
ask, but is God then ignorant of the result? We say, this is not
ignorance. For to assume that it is, and that everything should be
determined like eclipses, and that God cannot create things _possible_,
means to destroy the order of the world, of this world as well as the
next. For why shall man engage in various occupations or pursue definite
lines of conduct since his destiny is already fixed?

The truth of the matter is that there are several orders of causes. Some
are directly determined by God, and there is no way of evading them;
others are entrusted to nature, and man is able to enjoy its benefits
and avoid its injuries by proper management. A third class contains the
things of chance, and one may guard against these also. So we are bidden
in the Bible to make a parapet on the roofs of our houses to guard
against the possibility of falling down. Finally there is the fourth
class, those things which depend upon the free choice of the individual.
Right and wrong conduct are matters of choice, else there would be no
use in prophets, and no reward and punishment. When a person makes an
effort to be good, his desire increases, and he obtains assistance from
the angels.

Since freedom is supported by reason, Scripture and tradition, the
passages in the Bible which are in favor of it should be taken
literally, and those against it should be interpreted figuratively. When
the Bible says that God hardened Pharaoh's heart, it means simply that
Pharaoh was allowed to proceed as he began. All the ancient sages of our
nation were in favor of freedom.[244]

If we compare the above discussion of the problem of freedom with that
of Judah Halevi (above, p. 171), we see that Ibn Daud is more
consistent, whatever we may think of his success in solving the
insoluble problem. He frankly insists on the absolute freedom of the
will and on the reality of the objectively contingent, not shrinking
before the unavoidable conclusion that the events which are the results
of such freedom or chance are no more known beforehand to God than they
are to man. And he tries to avoid the criticism of attributing
imperfection to God by insisting that not to be able to foretell the
contingent is not ignorance, and hence not an imperfection. The reader
may think what he pleases of this defence, but there seems to be a more
serious difficulty in what this idea implies than in what it explicitly

If the contingent exists for God also, it follows that he is not the
complete master of nature and the world. To say as Ibn Daud does that
God made the contingent, _i. e._, made it to be contingent, sounds like
a contradiction, and reminds one of the question whether God can make a
stone so big that he cannot lift it himself.

His proofs in favor of freedom and the contingent are partially
identical with those of Judah Halevi, but in so far as he does not
explicitly admit that the will may itself be influenced by prior causes
he evades, to be sure, the strongest argument against him, but he does
so at the expense of completeness in his analysis. Halevi is less
consistent and more thorough, Ibn Daud is more consistent, because he
fails to take account of real difficulties.

In the final outcome of their respective analyses, Halevi maintains
God's foreknowledge at the expense of absolute freedom, or rather he
does not see that his admissions are fatal to the cause he endeavors to
defend. Ibn Daud maintains absolute freedom and frankly sacrifices
foreknowledge; though his defence of freedom is secured by blinding
himself to the argument most dangerous to that doctrine.

Abraham Ibn Daud concludes his "Emunah Ramah" by a discussion of ethics
and the application of the principles thus discovered to the laws of the
Bible. He entitles this final division of his treatise, "Medicine of the
Soul," on the ground that virtue is the health of the soul as vice is
its disease. In his fundamental ethical distinctions, definitions and
classifications he combines Plato's psychology and the virtues based
thereon with the Aristotelian doctrine of the mean, which he also
applies in detail. He omits wisdom as one of the Platonic virtues and,
unlike Plato for whom justice consists in a harmony of the other three
virtues and has no psychological seat peculiar to it, Ibn Daud makes
justice the virtue of the rational soul.

The end of practical philosophy is, he says, happiness. This is
attained, first, by good morals; second, by proper family life; and
third, by means of correct social and political conduct.

The human soul consists of three principal faculties, vegetative,
animal, rational. Corresponding to these the principal virtues and vices
are also three. The vegetative power, whose functions are nourishment,
growth and reproduction, is related to appetite, and is called the
appetitive soul. The animal power as being the cause of sensation,
voluntary motion, cruelty, revenge, mercy and kindness, is called the
spirited soul, because these qualities are dependent upon the energy or
weakness of the spirit. The rational power has two aspects. One is
directed upwards and is the means of our learning the sciences and the
arts. The other aspect is directed downwards, and endeavors to control
(successfully or not as the case may be), the two lower powers of the
soul, guarding them against excess and defect. This function we call
conduct, and virtue is the mean between the two extremes of too much and
too little. The mean of the appetitive power is temperance; of the
spirited power, bravery and gentleness; of the rational soul,

Justice consists in giving everything its due without excess or defect.
Justice is therefore the highest of all qualities, and is of value not
merely in a person's relations to his family and country, but also in
the relations of his powers one to another. The rational power must see
to it that the two lower faculties of the soul get what is their due, no
more and no less. This quality has an important application also in the
relations of a man to his maker. It is just that a person should requite
his benefactor as much as he received from him, if possible. If he
cannot do this, he should at least thank him. Hence the reason for
divine worship, the first of commandments. This quality, the greatest of
men possessed in the highest degree. Moses "said to him that did the
wrong, wherefore smitest thou thy fellow?" (Ex. 2, 13). And when the
shepherds came and drove away the daughters of the priest of Midian,
"Moses stood up and helped them, and watered their flock" (_ib._ 17).
This is the reason why God sent him to deliver Israel.

God showed the care he had of his nation by revealing himself to them,
and thus showing them the error of those who think that God gave over
the rule of this world to the stars, and that he and the angels have no
further interest in it. Hence the first commandment is "I am the Lord
thy God," which is followed by "You shall have no other gods," "Thou
shalt not take the name of the Lord thy God in vain" (Ex. 20, 2ff.).
"Remember the Sabbath day" is for the purpose of condemning the belief
in the eternity of the world, as is evident from the conclusion, "For in
six days the Lord made heaven and earth, the sea, and all that in them
is...." (_ib._ 11). "Honor thy father and thy mother" (_ib._ 12) is
intended to inculcate the duty of honoring the cause of one's being,
including God. Thus the first five commandments all aim to teach the
revelation and Providence of God. The rest deal with social and
political conduct, especially the last one, "Thou shalt not covet,"
which is important in the preservation of society.

The commandment to love God involves the knowledge of God, for one
cannot love what one does not know. A man must know therefore God's
attributes and actions. He must be convinced likewise that no evil comes
from God, or he cannot love him as he should. He may fear him but not
with the proper fear. For there are two kinds of fear, and the one that
is commanded is fear of majesty and awe, not fear of punishment.

Divine service means not merely prayer three times a day, but constant
thought of God. To develop and train this thought of God in us we are
commanded to put on phylacteries and fringes, and to fasten the
"mezuzah" to our door posts. For the same reason we celebrate the
festivals of Passover, Tabernacles, Hanukkah and Purim, as a remembrance
of God's benefits to our people. All these observances are ultimately
based upon the duty of thanking our benefactor, which is part of
justice, the highest of the virtues.

Among moral virtues we are also commanded to practice suppression of
anger, and its inculcation is emphasized by making it a divine
attribute, "The Lord, the Lord, a God full of compassion and
gracious...." (Ex. 34, 6). Other virtues of the same kind are, not to
repay evil for evil, not to be jealous, to practice humility like Moses,
and so on. In fact all the virtues laid down by ethical philosophers are
found better expressed in the Bible.

In respect to family virtues, we are bidden to care for and protect the
members of our family, wife, children and slaves. Of social virtues we
have love of our neighbor, honesty in dealing, just weights and
measures, prohibition of interest and of taking a pledge from the poor,
returning a find to the loser, and a host of other teachings.

There are, however, some of the traditional laws, the purpose of which
is not known, especially the details of sacrifices and the like. In
explanation of these we must say that the law consists of a rule of life
composed of several parts. First is belief; second, moral qualities;
third, family life; fourth, social and political life; fifth, the
commandments above referred to, which we shall characterize as dictated
by divine wisdom, though we do not understand them. Not all the parts of
the Law are of the same order of value. The fundamental portion and the
most important is that dealing with belief. Next in importance are the
laws governing social and moral conduct, without which society is
impossible. That is why all nations agree about these; and there is
honesty even among thieves. The last class of commandments, whose
purpose is not known, are the least in importance, as is clear also from
statements in the Bible, such as, "I spake not unto your fathers, nor
commanded them in the day that I brought them out of the land of Egypt,
concerning burnt offerings or sacrifices...." (Jer. 7, 22). At the same
time we cannot deny that there are some reasons for their observance.
Thus sacrifice leads to repentance as a result of reflection, even if
the person does not confess his sin, as he is bidden to do in certain

In fact there is one aspect which gives this class of commandments even
greater importance than the social duties. It is the principle of
implicit obedience even when we do not see the value of the commandment.
I do not mean that a man should not study science, particularly what
concerns the knowledge of God. This is not to be recommended. But when a
man is convinced that there is such a thing as genuine prophecy, showing
God's providence, as we see in the case of Moses who delivered his
nation, performed wonders for them and was always honored and
believed--he should not balk at the acceptance of some laws given by
such a divine man simply because he does not understand them. Abraham is
a good example. For when God promised him that Isaac would become a
great nation, and then commanded him to sacrifice his only child, he did
not ask any questions and was ready to do God's behest. His example is
meant to be followed by all. This is the purpose of these subtle
commandments, which are made with wisdom. Through them we may see the
difference between belief and unbelief.[246]

The above discussion is extremely typical of the rationalistic attitude
of Ibn Daud and his school, which includes such men as Maimonides,
Gersonides and others. Reason, theory, science, explanation--these are
the important considerations in things philosophical, as well as things
religious. Theory is more important than practice, and belief stands
higher than mere conduct. No wonder that Maimonides was not satisfied
until he elaborated a creed with a definite number of dogmas. Dogmas and
faith in reason go together. It is the mystic who is impatient of
prescribed generalities, for he is constantly refreshed by the living
and ever flowing stream of individual experience. The rationalist has a
fixed unchangeable Idea or reason or method, whose reality and value
consists in its unity, permanence and immutability. In favor of this
hypostatised reason, the rationalist Ibn Daud is ready to sacrifice so
fundamental an institution as sacrifice in the face of the entire book
of Leviticus, pretending that a single verse of Jeremiah entitles him to
do so. But the Jew Ibn Daud in the end asserted himself, and he finds it
necessary to admit that in a sense these non-rational laws may be of
even greater importance than the rational; not, however, as a simple
believer might say, because we must not search the wisdom of God, but
for the reason that unreasoned obedience is itself a virtue.

In conclusion we remind the reader that Ibn Daud was the precursor of
Maimonides, touching upon, and for the most part answering every
question treated by his more famous successor. Ibn Daud was the first to
adopt Aristotelianism for the purpose of welding it with Judaism. He
showed the way to follow. Maimonides took his cue from Ibn Daud and
succeeded in putting the latter in the shade. Historic justice demands
that Ibn Daud be brought forward into the light and given the credit
which is deservedly his due.



With Maimonides we reach the high water mark of mediæval Jewish
philosophy. He was by far the most comprehensive mind of mediæval Jewry,
and his philosophy was the coping stone of a complete system of Judaism.
In his training and education he embraced all Jewish literature,
Biblical and Rabbinic, as well as all the science and philosophy of his
day. And his literary activity was fruitful in every important branch of
study. He was well known as a practicing physician, having been in the
employ of the Caliph's visier at Cairo (Fostat), and he wrote on medical
theory and practice. He was versed in mathematics and astronomy, and his
knowledge of these subjects served him in good stead not merely as an
introduction to theology and metaphysics, but was of direct service in
his studies and writings on the Jewish calendar. It goes without saying
that he knew logic, for this was the basis of all learning in mediæval
times; but in this branch, too, Maimonides has left us a youthful
treatise,[247] which bears witness to his early interest in science and
his efforts to recommend its study as helpful to a better understanding
of Jewish literature.

But all these activities and productions were more or less side issues,
or preparations for a _magnum opus_, or rather _magna opera_. From his
youth we can trace the evident purpose, not finally completed until
toward the end of his brilliant and useful career,--the purpose to
harmonize Judaism with philosophy, to reconcile the Bible and Talmud
with Aristotle. He was ambitious to do this for the good of Judaism, and
in the interest of a rational and enlightened faith. Thus in his
commentary on the Mishna,[248] the earliest of his larger works, he had
already conceived the idea of writing a composition of a harmonizing
nature, _viz._, to gather all the homiletical disquisitions of the
Talmud (the "derashot") and explain them in a rationalistic manner so as
to remove what appears on the surface to be offensive to sound reason.
But instead of proceeding at once to the performance of this cherished
object of his philosophic ambition, he kept it in his bosom, brooding
over it during a life of intense literary and practical activity, until
it was in the end matured and brought to fruition in a manner quite
different from that at first intended. The book explanatory of the
Rabbinic legends was given up for reasons which will appear later. But
the object that work was to realize was carried out in a much more
effective manner because it was delayed, and was published toward the
end of his life as the systematic and authoritative pronouncement of the
greatest Jew of his time. The "Guide of the Perplexed" would not have
attracted the attention it did, it would not have raised the storm which
divided Jewry into two opposed camps, if it had not come as the mature
work of the man whom all Jewry recognized as the greatest Rabbinic
authority of his time. Others had written on philosophy before
Maimonides. We have in these pages followed their ideas--Saadia,
Gabirol, Ibn Zaddik, Abraham Ibn Daud. The latter in particular
anticipated Maimonides in almost all his ideas. None had the effect of
upsetting the theological equilibrium of Jewry. Everyone had his
admirers, no doubt, as well as his opponents. Gabirol was forgotten, Ibn
Zaddik and Ibn Daud were neglected, and Jewish learning continued the
even tenor of its course. Maimonides was the first to make a profound
impression, the first who succeeded in stirring to their depths the
smooth, though here and there somewhat turbid, Rabbinic waters, as they
flowed not merely in scientific Spain and Provence, or in the Orient,
but also in the strictly Talmudic communities of northern France. It was
the Commentary on the Mishna and the Talmudic code known as the "Yad
ha-Hazaka" that was responsible for the tremendous effect of the "More
Nebukim" ("Guide of the Perplexed").

In these two Rabbinical treatises, and particularly in the "Yad
ha-Hazaka," the Rabbinic Code, Maimonides showed himself the master of
Rabbinic literature. And all recognized in him the master mind. Having
been written in Hebrew the Code soon penetrated all Jewish communities
everywhere, and Maimonides's fame spread wherever there were Jews
engaged in the study of the Talmud. His fame as a court physician in
Egypt and as the official head of Oriental Jewry enhanced the influence
of his name and his work. Jealousy no doubt had its share in starting
opposition to the Code itself even before the publication of the
"Guide," and during the lifetime of its author. When the "More Nebukim"
was translated from the original Arabic into Hebrew, so that all could
read it, and Maimonides was no longer among the living, the zealots
became emboldened and the storm broke, the details of which, however, it
is not our province to relate.

For completeness' sake let us set down the facts of his life. Moses ben
Maimon was born in the city of Cordova on the fourteenth of Nissan (30th
of March) at one o'clock in the afternoon, on a Sabbath which was the
day before Passover, in the year 1135. It is not often that the birth of
a mediæval Jewish writer is handed down with such minute detail. Usually
we do not even know the year, to say nothing of the day and the hour.
Cordova had long fallen from its high estate. It was no longer the
glorious city of the days before the Almoravid conquest. And it was
destined to descend lower still when the fanatical hordes of the
Almohades renewed the ancient motto of the early Mohammedan conquerors,
"The Koran or the Sword."

Maimonides was barely thirteen when his native city fell into the hands
of the zealots from Morocco, and henceforth neither Jew nor Christian
dared avow his faith openly in Cordova. Adoption of Islam, emigration or
death were the choices held out to the infidel. Many Jews adopted the
dominant faith outwardly--that was all that was demanded of them--while
in the secret of their homes they observed Judaism. Some emigrated, and
among them was the family of Moses' father. For a time they wandered
about from city to city in Spain, and then crossed over to Fez in
Morocco. This seems to us like going from the frying pan into the fire,
for Fez was the lion's den itself. The conquerors of Cordova came from
Morocco. And there seems to be some evidence too that the Maimon family
had to appear outwardly as Mohammedans. Be that as it may, Maimonides
did not stay long in Fez. On the 18th of April, 1165, the family set
sail for Palestine, and after a month's stormy voyage they arrived in
Acco. He visited Jerusalem and Hebron, but did not find Palestine a
promising place for permanent residence and decided to go to Egypt. He
settled in Old Cairo (Fostat), and with his brother David engaged in the
jewel trade. His father died soon after, and later his brother met an
untimely death when the ship on which he was a passenger on one of his
business trips was wrecked in the Indian Ocean. Thereafter Maimonides
gave up the jewel business and began to practice medicine, which at
first did not offer him more than the barest necessities. But in the
course of time his fame spread and he was appointed physician to
Saladin's grand visier Alfadhil. He was also made spiritual head[C] of
the Jews of Egypt, and what with his official duties as court physician,
leader of the Jewish community, practicing physician among the people,
and his literary activities, Jewish and secular, Rabbinical and
scientific, he was a busy man indeed; so much so that he dissuades
Samuel Ibn Tibbon, the translator of the "Guide," from paying him a
visit on the ground that he would scarcely have time to spare to see
him, much less to enter into scientific discussions with him.[249]
Maimonides died on Monday, December 13 (20 Tebeth), 1204.

[C] Not a paid post.

The philosophy of Maimonides is contained in the "Guide of the
Perplexed," his last great work, which was published in Arabic in
1190.[250] Some philosophic and ethical material is also found in the
introductory chapters of his commentary on the Mishnaic treatise "Abot"
(the so-called "Eight Chapters"--"Shemonah Perakim"),[251] in the
introduction to the eleventh chapter (Helek) of the Talmudic treatise
"Sanhedrin," and in the introductory sections of the Code ("Hilkot
Yesode ha-Torah" and "Hilkot Deot"). Here, however, the treatment is
popular and elementary, and is intended for popular consumption. He lays
down results in their simplest form without discussing their origin or
the arguments _pro_ and _con_. The "Guide of the Perplexed," on the
other hand, is intended for a special class of persons, for the
sophisticated; for those who are well trained in science and philosophy,
not to speak of Bible and Talmud, and are as a result made uneasy by the
apparent disagreement of philosophical teaching with the ideas expressed
in the Biblical and Rabbinic writings. His purpose is deliberately
apologetic and concordistic. The work is not a treatise of science or
philosophy. The latter are presupposed. He introduces philosophic
principles, Aristotelian or Kalamistic, only with a view to their
relation to Jewish theology. And he either accepts them, provisionally
or absolutely, if he regards them as proven, as true and useful; or he
refutes and rejects them if untenable. In the former case he shows by
proper interpretation that similar principles are taught in Bible and
Talmud; in the latter he contents himself by proving that Aristotle or
the Mutakallimun, as the case may be, did not prove their point.

His method, in general, of quieting the doubts of the "perplexed" is the
old one--as old as Philo and beyond--of regarding Biblical phrases as
metaphors and allegories, containing an esoteric meaning beside or
opposed to the literal. Accordingly he lays the greatest stress on the
explanation of Scriptural "homonyms," as he calls them, borrowing an
Aristotelian term. A homonym is a word which has more than one meaning;
a word which denotes several things having nothing in common. Thus when
I apply the word dog to the domestic animal we know by that name, as
well as to Sirius, known as the dog-star, I use dog as a homonym. The
star and the animal have nothing in common. So the word "merciful," one
of the attributes of God in the Bible, is a homonym. That is, we denote
by the same word also a quality in a human being; but this quality and
that which is denoted by the same word when applied to God have nothing
in common. They are not merely different in degree but in kind. In fact,
as Maimonides insists, there is really nothing _in_ God corresponding to
the word merciful.

There are besides certain passages in the Bible which while having an
acceptable meaning when taken literally, contain besides a deeper
signification which the practiced eye can detect. Thus in the
description of the harlot in the seventh chapter of Proverbs there is
beside the plain meaning of the text, the doctrine of matter as the
cause of corporeal desires. The harlot, never faithful to one man,
leaving one and taking up with another, represents matter which, as
Aristotle conceives it, never is without form and constantly changes one
form for another.

There is really nothing new in this, and Philo apart, whom Maimonides
did not know, Ibn Daud anticipated Maimonides here also in making use of
the term "homonym" as the basis of this method of interpretation.[252]
But whereas Ibn Daud relegates the chapter treating of this principle to
a subordinate place, his interest being as he tells us primarily
ethical--to solve the problem of free will; Maimonides places it in the
very centre of his system. The doctrine of attributes as leading to a
true conception of God,--of God as absolutely incorporeal and without
any resemblance or relation whatsoever to anything else--is the very
keystone of Maimonides's philosophical structure. His purpose is to
teach a spiritual conception of God. Anything short of this is worse
than idolatry. He cannot reconcile the Bible to such a view without this
"homonymic" tool. Hence the great importance of this in his system; and
he actually devotes the greater part of the first book of the "Guide" to
a systematic and exhaustive survey of all terms in the Bible used as
homonyms.[253] All this is preparatory to his discussion of the divine

This consideration will account also for the fact that, systematic and
logical thinker as he was, he perpetrates what might appear at first
sight as a logical blunder. Instead of first proving the existence of
God and then discussing his nature and attributes, as Saadia, Bahya, Ibn
Daud and others did before him, he treats exhaustively of the divine
attributes in the first book, whereas the proof of the existence of God
does not appear until the second book. This inversion of the logical
order is deliberate. Maimonides's method is directed _ad hominem_. The
Jews for whom he wrote his "Guide" did not doubt the existence of God.
But a great many of them had an inadequate idea of his spiritual nature.
And apparently the Bible countenanced their anthropomorphism. Hence
Maimonides cast logical considerations to the wind, and dealt first with
that which was nearest to his heart. The rest could wait, this could

I promised in my commentary on the Mishna, he tells us in the
introduction to the "Guide," to explain the allegories and "Midrashim"
in two works to be entitled "The Book of Reconciliation" and "The Book
of Prophecy." But after reflecting on the matter a number of years I
decided to desist from the attempt. The reasons are these. If I
expressed my explanations obscurely, I should have accomplished nothing
by substituting one unintelligible statement for another. If, on the
other hand, I were really to make clear the matters that require
explanation, the result would not be suitable for the masses, for whom
those treatises were intended. Besides, those Midrashim when read by an
ignorant man are harmless because to such a person nothing is
impossible. And if they are read by a person who is learned and worthy,
one of two things is likely to happen. Either he will take them
literally and suspect the author of ignorance, which is not a serious
offence; or he will regard the legendary statements as containing an
esoteric meaning and think well of the author--which is a good thing,
whether he catch the meaning intended or not. Accordingly I gave up the
idea of writing the books mentioned. In this work I am addressing myself
to those who have been philosophizing; who are believers in the Bible
and at the same time know science; and are perplexed in their ideas on
account of the homonymous terms.

Having made clear Maimonides's chief interest and purpose in his
masterpiece we need not follow his own method of treatment, which often
gives the impression of a studied attempt to conceal his innermost ideas
from all but the initiated. At least he is not willing that anyone who
has not taken the trouble carefully to study and scrutinize every
chapter and compare it with what precedes and follows, should by a
superficial browsing here and there arrive at an understanding of the
profound problems treated in the work. He believes that the mysterious
doctrines passing by the name of "Maase Bereshit" and "Maase Merkaba" in
the Talmud (_cf._ Introduction, p. xvi) denote respectively Physics and
Metaphysics--the very sciences of which he treats in the "Guide."
Accordingly he tells us that following the instructions of the Rabbis he
must not be expected to give more than bare allusions. And even these
are not arranged in order in the book, but scattered and mixed up with
other subjects which he desires to explain. For, as he says, "I do not
want to oppose the divine intention, which concealed the truths of his
being from the masses."

"You must not suppose," he continues, "that these mysteries are known to
anybody completely. By no means. But sometimes the truth flashes upon us
and it is day; and then again our natural constitution and habits shut
them out, and we are again in darkness. The relative proportion of light
and darkness which a person enjoys in these matters, makes the
difference in the grade of perfection of great men and prophets. The
greatest of the prophets had comparatively little if any darkness. With
those who never see light at all, namely the masses of the people, we
have nothing to do in this book."

Finally he adjures the reader not to explain to anyone else the novel
ideas found in his work, which are not contained in the writings of his
predecessors. Heaven knows, he exclaims, I hesitated long before writing
this book, because it contains unknown matters, never before treated by
any Jewish writer in the "Galut." But I relied on two Rabbinic
principles. One is that when it is a question of doing something for a
great cause in a critical time, it is permitted to transgress a law. The
other is the consciousness that my motives are pure and unselfish. In
short, he concludes, I am the man who, when he finds himself in a
critical position and cannot teach truth except by suiting one worthy
person and scandalizing ten thousand fools, chooses to say the truth for
the benefit of the one without regard for the abuse of the great

As we are not bound by Maimonides's principle of esoterism and mystery,
nor are we in fear of being an offence and a stumbling block to the
fools, we shall proceed more directly in our exposition of his
philosophy; and shall begin with Maimonides's general ideas on the need
of science for intelligent faith and the relation thereto of Jewish
history and literature.

The highest subject of study is metaphysics or theology, the knowledge
of God (_cf._ below, p. 285). This is not merely not forbidden in the
Bible, but it is directly commanded. When Moses says, "That I may know
thee, to the end that I may find grace in thy sight" (Exod. 33, 13), he
intimates that only he finds favor with God who knows him, and not
merely who fasts and prays.[254] Besides, the commandment, "Thou shalt
love the Lord thy God," cannot be fulfilled without a study and
understanding of the whole of nature.[255] Thus, as we shall see, it is
only by a study of physics that we come to understand that affection is
a defect and must therefore be removed from the conception of God. The
same thing applies to the ideas of potentiality and actuality. We should
not know what they signify without a study of physics, nor should we
understand that potentiality is a defect and hence not to be found in
God. It is therefore a duty to study both physics and metaphysics for a
true knowledge of God.[256] At the same time we must recognize that
human reason has a limit and that there are matters which are beyond its
ken. Not to realize this and to deny what has not been proved impossible
is dangerous, and may lead a man astray after the imagination and the
evil desires which quench the light of the intellect. And it is this the
Bible and the Rabbis had in mind in such passages as, "Hast thou found
honey? eat so much as is sufficient for thee; lest thou be filled
therewith, and vomit it" (Prov. 25, 16); or in the following from the
Mishna, "Whoever pries into four things, had better not come into the
world, _viz._, what is above and what is below, what was before and what
will be after" (Hagigah, ch. 2). The meaning is not, as some fools
think, that the Rabbis forbid the use of the reason entirely to reach
what is in its power. It is _abuse_ of the reason that they prohibit,
and neglect of the truth that the human reason has a limit.[257]

Accordingly while the study of metaphysics and the explanation of the
allegories of Scripture are thus shown to be a necessity of intelligent
belief, it is not proper to begin with these difficult subjects. One
must first be mature intellectually and possessed of the preliminary
sciences. Otherwise the study of metaphysics is likely not merely to
confuse the mind in its belief, but to destroy belief entirely. It is
like feeding an infant on wheat bread and meat and wine. These are not
bad in themselves, but the infant is not prepared to digest them. That
is why these matters are given in the Bible in the form of allegories,
because the Bible is intended for all--men, women and children--not
because metaphysical ideas are injurious in themselves, as some fools
imagine, who believe they are wise men. For beginners it is sufficient
that they have the right view by tradition and know the existence of
certain beings, without being able to prove the opinions they hold, or
to understand the essence of the being in the existence of which they
believe. This they will acquire gradually if they are capable.[258]

There are five causes preventing the study of metaphysics on the part of
the general masses. First, the difficulty of the subject itself. Second,
the limitations of all people's minds at the beginning. Third, the great
amount of preparatory training that is necessary, and which everybody is
not ready to undertake, however eager he may be to know the results. And
to study metaphysics without preliminary training is worse than not to
study it at all. For there is nothing in existence except God and his
creation. To know God's existence and what is and is not proper to
ascribe to him we must examine his creation; and thus arithmetic, the
nature of number, and the properties of geometrical figures help us a
great deal in determining what attributes are inapplicable to God. Even
much more important for metaphysics is the study of spherical astronomy
and physics, which throw light on the relation of God to the world. Then
there are some theoretical topics which, while not directly of help in
metaphysics, are useful in training the mind and enabling it to know
what is true demonstration. One who wishes therefore to undertake the
study of metaphysics, must first study logic, then the mathematical
sciences in order, then physics, and not until he has mastered all these
introductory branches should he take up metaphysics. This is too much
for most people, who would die in the midst of their preparatory
studies, and if not for tradition would never know whether there is a
God or not, not to speak of knowing what attributes are applicable to
him and what are not.

The fourth cause which keeps people away from the study of metaphysics
is their natural disposition. For it has been shown that intellectual
qualities are dependent upon moral; and the former cannot be perfect
unless the latter are. Now some persons are temperamentally incapable of
right thinking by reason of their passionate nature; and it is foolish
to attempt to teach them, for it is not medicine or geometry, and not
everybody is prepared for it. This is the reason, too, why young men
cannot study it, because of the passions which are still strong in them.
Finally as a fifth reason, the necessities of the body and its luxuries,
too, stand in the way of a person's devoting enough time and attention
to this subject.[259]

Like many others before him, Christians as well as Jews, Maimonides also
believed that in ancient times the Jews diligently cultivated the
sciences, which were gradually forgotten on account of foreign
domination. Maimonides adds another reason for their disappearance,
namely, that they were not disseminated abroad. They were confined to a
select few and were not put down in writing but handed down by word of
mouth. As a result only a few hints are found in the Talmud and
Midrashim, where the kernel is small and the husk large, so that people
mistake the husk for the kernel.[260]

He then traces the history of philosophical thinking in Jewish mediæval
literature from the time of the Geonim, and tells us that the little
that is found of the Kalam concerning the Unity of God and related
topics in the works of some of the Geonim and the Karaites in the East
is borrowed from the Mutakallimun of the Mohammedans and constitutes a
small fraction of the writings of the latter on this subject. The first
attempt in this direction among the Moslems was that of the party known
as the Muʿtazila, whom our people followed. Later came the party of the
Ashariya with different opinions which, however, were not adopted by any
of our people. This was not due, he tells us, to a deliberate decision
in favor of the Muʿtazila, but solely to the historical accident of
their chronological priority. On the other hand, the Spanish Jews of
Andalusia adopted the views of the philosophers, _i. e._, the
Aristotelians, so far as they are not in conflict with our religion.
They do not follow the Mutakallimun, and hence what little of the
subject is found in the works of the later writers of this class
resembles our own method and views.[261]

There seems no doubt that whatever other Spanish writers Maimonides had
in mind, whose works are not extant, his characterization fits admirably
the "Emunah Ramah" of Abraham Ibn Daud (_cf._ above, p. 217), and in a
less degree it is also true of Ibn Gabirol, Bahya, Judah Halevi, Moses
and Abraham Ibn Ezra. Bahya as we saw above (p. 86) still retains a good
deal of Kalamistic material and so does Ibn Zaddik (p. 126). As for
Mukammas, Saadia and the two Karaites Al Basir and Jeshua ben Judah, we
have seen (pp. 17, 24, 48, 56) that they move wholly in the ideas of the
Mutakallimun. It becomes of great interest for us therefore to see what
Maimonides thinks of these Islamic theologians, of their origins, of
their methods and of their philosophical value. Maimonides's exposition
and criticism of the principles of the Mutakallimun is of especial
interest, too, because up to recent times his sketch of the tenets of
this school was the only extensive account known; and it has not lost
its value even yet. We shall, however, be obliged to abridge his
detailed exposition in order not to enlarge our volume beyond due
limits. Besides, there is no occasion for repeating what we have already
said of the Kalam in our Introduction (p. xxi ff.); though the account
there given was not taken from Maimonides and does not follow his order.

Maimonides is aware that the Arabs are indebted to the Christians,
Greeks as well as Syrians. The Muʿtazila and Ashariya, he says, base
their opinions upon premises and principles borrowed from Greek and
Syrian Christians, who endeavored to refute the opinions of the
philosophers as dangerous to the Christian religion. There was thus a
Christian Kalam prior to the Mohammedan.[262] Their method was to lay
down premises favorable to their religion, and by means of these to
refute the opinions opposed to them. When the Mohammedans came upon the
scene and translated the works of the philosophers, they included in
their work of translation the refutations composed by the Christians. In
this way they found the works of Philoponus, Yahya ben Adi and others;
and adopted also the opinions of the pre-Socratic philosophers, which
they thought would be of help to them, though these had already been
refuted by Aristotle, who came after. Such are the atomic theory of
matter and the belief in the existence of a vacuum. These opinions they
carried to consequences not at all contemplated by their authorities,
who were closer to the philosophers.

To characterize briefly the methods of the Mutakallimun, Maimonides
continues, I would say that the first among them, the Greeks and the
Mohammedans, did not follow reality, but adopted principles which were
calculated to help them in defending their religious theses, and then
interpreted reality to suit their preconceived notions. The later
members of the school no longer saw through the motives of their
predecessors and imagined their principles and arguments were _bona
fide_ refutations of philosophical opinions.

On examination of their works I found, he continues, that with slight
differences they are all alike. They do not put any trust in reality and
nature. For, they say, the so-called laws of nature are nothing more
than the order of events to which we are accustomed. There is no kind of
necessity in them, and it is conceivable they might be different. In
many cases the Mutakallimun follow the imagination and call it reason.
Their method of procedure is as follows. They first state their
preliminary principles, then they prove that the world is "new," _i. e._,
created in time. Then they argue that the world must have had an
originator, and that he is one and incorporeal. All the Mutakallimun
follow this method, and they are imitated by those of our own people who
follow in their footsteps.

To this method I have serious objections, continues Maimonides, for
their arguments in favor of the creation of the world are not convincing
unless one does not know a real demonstration from a dialectical or
sophistic. The most one can do in this line is to invalidate the
arguments for eternity. But the decision of the question is by no means
easy, as is shown by the fact that the controversy is three thousand
years old and not yet settled. Hence it is a risky policy to build the
argument for the existence of God on so shaky a foundation as the
"newness" of the world. The best way then, it seems to me, is to prove
God's existence, unity and incorporeality by the methods of the
philosophers, which are based upon the eternity of the world. Not that I
believe in eternity or that I accept it, but because on this hypothesis
the three fundamental doctrines are validly demonstrated. Having proved
these doctrines we will then return to the problem of the origin of the
world and say what can be said in favor of creation.[263]

This is a new contribution of Maimonides. All the Jewish writers before
Halevi followed in their proofs of the existence of God the method
designated by Maimonides as that of the Kalam. Judah Halevi criticised
the Mutakallimun as well as the philosophers in the interest of a point
of view all his own (pp. 176 ff., 182). Ibn Daud tacitly ignored the
Kalam and based his proof of the existence of God upon the principles of
motion as exhibited in the Aristotelian Physics, without, however,
finding it necessary to assume even provisionally the eternity of motion
and the world (p. 217 ff.). His proof of the incorporeality of God is,
as we have seen (_ibid._), weak, just because he does not admit the
eternity of motion, which alone implies infinity of power in God and
hence incorporeality. Maimonides is the first who takes deliberate
account of the Mutakallimun, gives an adequate outline of the essentials
of their teaching and administers a crushing blow to their principles as
well as their method. He then follows up his destructive criticism with
a constructive method, in which he frankly admits that in order to
establish the existence, unity and incorporeality of God--the three
fundamental dogmas of Judaism--beyond the possibility of cavil, we must
make common cause with the philosophers even though it be only for a
moment, until they have done our work for us, and then we may fairly
turn on our benefactors and taking advantage of their weakness, strike
them down, and upon their lifeless arguments for the eternity of the
world establish our own more plausible theory of creation. The attitude
of Maimonides is in brief this. If we were certain of creation, we
should not have to bother with the philosophers. Creation implies the
existence of God. But the question cannot be strictly demonstrated
either way. Hence let us prove the existence of God on the least
promising hypothesis, namely, that of eternity, and we are quite secure
against all possible criticism.

Of the twelve propositions of the Mutakallimun enumerated by Maimonides
as the basis of their doctrine of God, we shall select a few of the most

1. _The Theory of Atoms._ The entire universe is made up of indivisible
bodies having no magnitude. Their combination produces magnitude and
corporeality. They are all alike. Genesis and dissolution means simply
the combination or rather aggregation of atoms and their separation.
These atoms are not eternal, as Epicurus believed them to be, but

2. This atomic theory they extend from magnitude to time. Time also
according to them is composed of moments or atomic units of time.
Neither magnitude, nor matter, nor time is continuous or infinitely

3. Applying these ideas to motion they say that motion is the passage of
an atom of matter from one atom of place to the next in an atom of time.
It follows from this that one motion is as fast as another; and they
explain the apparent variation in speed of different motions, as for
example when two bodies cover unequal distances in the same time, by
saying that the body covering the smaller distance had more rests in the
intervals between the motions. The same thing is true in the flight of
an arrow, that there are rests even though the senses do not reveal
them. For the senses cannot be trusted. We must follow the reason.

Maimonides's criticism of the atomic theory of matter and motion just
described is that it undermines the bases of geometry. The diagonal of a
square would be the same length as its side. The properties of
commensurability and incommensurability in lines and surfaces, of
rational and irrational lines would cease to have any meaning. In fact
all that is contained in the tenth book of Euclid would lose its

4. The atom is made complete by the accidents, without which it cannot
be. Every atom created by God, they say, must have accidents, such as
color, odor, motion, and so on, except quantity or magnitude, which
according to them is not accident. If a substance has an accident, the
latter is not attributed to the body as a whole, but is ascribed to
every atom of which the body is composed. Thus in a white body every
atom is white, in a moving body every atom is in motion, in a living
body every atom is alive, and every atom is possessed of sense
perception; for life and sense and reason and wisdom are accidents in
their opinion like whiteness and blackness.

6. Accident does not last more than one moment of time. When God creates
an atom he creates at the same time an accident with it. Atom without
accident is impossible. The accident disappears at the end of the moment
unless God creates another of the same kind, and then another, and so
on, as long as he wants the accident of that kind to continue. If he
ceases to create another accident, the substance too disappears.

Their motive in laying down this theory of accidents is in order to
destroy the conception that everything has a peculiar nature, of which
its qualities and functions are the results. They attribute everything
directly to God. God created a particular accident at this moment, and
this is the explanation of its being. If God ceases to create it anew
the next moment, it will cease to be.

7. All that is not atom is accident, and there is no difference between
one kind of accident and another in reference to essentiality. All
bodies are composed of similar atoms, which differ only in accidents;
and animality and humanity and sensation and reason are all accidents.
Hence the difference between the individuals of the same species is the
same as that between individuals of different species. The philosophers
distinguish between essential forms of things and accidental properties.
In this way they would explain, for example, why iron is hard and black,
while butter is soft and white. The Mutakallimun deny any such
distinction. All forms are accidents. Hence it would follow that there
is no intrinsic reason why man rather than the bat should be a rational
creature. Everything that is conceivable is possible, except what
involves a logical contradiction; and God alone determines at every
instant what accident shall combine with a given atom or group of atoms.

8. It follows from the above also that man has no power of agency at
all. When we think we are dyeing a garment red, it is not we who are
doing it at all. God creates the red color in the garment at the time
when we apply the red dye to it. The red dye does not enter the garment,
as we think, for an accident is only momentary, and cannot pass beyond
the substance in which it is.

What appears to us as the constancy and regularity of nature is nothing
more than the will of God. Nor is our knowledge of to-day the same as
that of yesterday. Yesterday's is gone and to-day's is created anew. So
when a man moves a pen, it is not he who moves it. God creates motion in
the hand, and at the same time in the pen. The hand is not the cause of
the motion of the pen. In short they deny causation. God is the sole

In respect to human conduct they are divided. The majority, and the
Ashariya among them, say that when a person moves a pen, God creates
four accidents, no one of which is the cause of the other. They merely
exist in succession, but no more. The first accident is the man's will
to move the pen; the second, his ability to move it; the third, the
motion of the hand; the fourth, the motion of the pen. It follows from
this that when a person does anything, God creates in him a will, the
ability and the act itself, but the act is not the effect of the
ability. The Muʿtazila hold that the ability is the cause of the effect.

9. _Impossibility of the Infinite._ They hold that the infinite is
impossible in any sense, whether actual or potential or accidental. That
an actual infinite is impossible is a matter of proof. So it can be and
has been proved that the potential infinite is possible. For example
extension is infinitely divisible, _i. e._, potentially. As to the
accidental infinite, _i. e._, an infinity of parts of which each ceases
to be as soon as the next appears, this is doubtful. Those who boast of
having proved the eternity of the world say that time is infinite, and
defend their view against criticism by the claim that the successive
parts of time disappear. In the same way these people regard it as
possible that an infinite number of accidents have succeeded each other
on the universal matter, because here too they are not all present now,
the previous having disappeared before the succeeding ones came. The
Mutakallimun do not admit of any kind of infinite. They prove it in this
way. If past time and the world are infinite, then the number of men who
died up to a given point in the past is infinite. The number of men who
died up to a point one thousand years before the former is also
infinite. But this number is less than the other by the number of men
who died during the thousand years between the two starting points.
Hence the infinite is larger than the infinite, which is absurd. If the
accidental infinite were really impossible the theory of the eternity of
the world would be refuted at once. But Alfarabi has shown that the
arguments against accidental infinity are invalid.

10. _Distrust of the Senses._ The senses, they say, cannot be regarded
as criteria of truth and falsehood; for many things the senses cannot
see at all, either because the objects are so fine, or because they are
far away. In other cases the senses are deceptive, as when the large
appears small at a distance, the small appears great in the water, and
the straight appears broken when partly in water and partly without. So
a man with the jaundice sees everything yellow, and one with red bile on
his tongue tastes everything bitter. There is method in their madness.
The motive for this sceptical principle is to evade criticism. If the
senses testify in opposition to their theories, they reply that the
senses cannot be trusted, as they did in their explanation of motion and
in their theory of the succession of created accidents. These are all
ancient theories of the Sophists, as is clear from Galen.[265]

Having given an outline of the fundamental principles of the
Mutakallimun and criticised them, Maimonides next gives their arguments
based upon these principles in favor of creation in time and against
eternity. It will not be worth our while to reproduce them here as they
are not adopted by Maimonides, and we have already met some of them
though in a somewhat modified form before (_cf._ above, pp. 29 ff.).[266]

The Kalamistic proofs for the unity of God are similarly identical for
the most part with those found in Saadia, Bahya and others, and we need
only mention Maimonides's criticism that they are inadequate unless we
assume with the Mutakallimun that all atoms in the universe are of the
same kind. If, however, we adopt Aristotle's theory, which is more
plausible, that the matter of the heavenly bodies is different from that
of the sublunar world, we may defend dualism by supposing that one God
controls the heavens and the other the earth. The inability of the one
to govern the domain of the other would not necessarily argue
imperfection, any more than we who believe in the unity of God regard it
as a defect in God that he cannot make a thing both be and not be. This
belongs to the category of the impossible; and we should likewise class
in the same category the control of a sphere that is independent of one
and belongs to another. This is purely an _argumentum ad hominem_, for
Maimonides does not regard the sublunar and superlunar worlds as
independent of each other. He recognizes the unity of the universe.[267]

Maimonides closes his discussion of the Kalamistic system by citing
their arguments for incorporeality, which he likewise finds inadequate,
both because they are based upon God's unity, which they did not succeed
in proving (Saadia, in so far as he relates the two, bases unity upon
incorporeality), and because of inherent weakness.[268]

Having disposed of the arguments of the Mutakallimun, Maimonides
proceeds to prove the existence, unity and incorporeality of God by the
methods of the philosophers, _i. e._, those who, like Alfarabi and
Avicenna, take their arguments from Aristotle. The chief proof[269] is
based upon the Aristotelian principles of motion and is found in the
eighth book of Aristotle's Physics. We have already met this proof in
Ibn Daud (_cf._ above, p. 217), and the method in Maimonides differs
only in form and completeness, but not in essence. There is, however,
this very important difference that Ibn Daud fights shy of Aristotle's
theory of the eternity of motion and time, thus losing his strongest
argument for God's infinite power and incorporeality (_cf._ p. 218);
whereas Maimonides frankly bases his entire argument from motion
(provisionally to be sure) upon the Aristotelian theory, including
eternity of motion. With this important deviation there is not much in
this part of the Maimonidean discussion which is not already contained,
though less completely, in the "Emunah Ramah" of Abraham Ibn Daud. We
should be tempted to omit these technical arguments entirely if it were
not for the fact that it is in the form which Maimonides gave them that
they became classic in Jewish philosophy, and not in that of Ibn Daud.

The second proof of God's existence, unity and incorporeality, that
based upon the distinction between "possible" and "necessary"
existent,[270] which has its origin in Alfarabi and Avicenna, is also
found in Ibn Daud.[271] The other two proofs[272] are Maimonides's own,
_i. e._, they are not found in the works of his Jewish predecessors.

As in the exposition of the theory of the Mutakallimun Maimonides began
with their fundamental principles, so here he lays down twenty-six
propositions culled from the Physics and Metaphysics of Aristotle and
his Arabian commentators, and applies them later to prove his points. He
does not attempt to demonstrate them, expecting the reader to take them
for granted, or to be familiar with them from a study of the
philosophical sources. Ibn Daud presupposed less from his readers,
having written as he said, for beginners; hence he proves many of the
propositions which Maimonides lays down dogmatically. Possibly
Maimonides expected his readers to be familiar with the work of his
immediate Jewish predecessor.

The twenty-six propositions of the philosophers are as follows:

1. There can be no infinite object possessing magnitude.

2. There cannot be an infinite number of bodies possessing magnitude,
all at the same time.

3. There cannot be an infinite chain of cause and effect, even if these
links are not possessed of magnitude, for example, intellects.

4. Change is found in four categories. In substance--genesis and decay.
In quantity--growth and diminution. In quality--qualitative change. In
place--motion of translation.

5. All motion is change, and is the realization of the potential.

6. Motion may be _per se_, _per accidens_, forcible, partial, the latter
coming under _per accidens_. An example of motion _per se_ is the motion
of a body from one place to the next; of motion _per accidens_, when the
blackness of an object is said to move from one place to another.
Forcible motion is that of the stone when it is forced upward. Partial
motion is that of a nail of a ship when the ship moves.

7. Every changeable thing is divisible; hence every movable thing is
divisible, _i. e._, every body is divisible. What is not divisible is
not movable, and hence cannot be body.

8. That which is moved _per accidens_ is necessarily at rest because its
motion is not in itself. Hence it cannot have that accidental motion

9. A body moving another must itself be in motion at the same time.

10. Being in a body means one of two things: being in it as an accident,
or as constituting the essence of the body, like a natural form. Both
are corporeal powers.

11. Some things which are in a body are divided with the division of the
body. They are then divided _per accidens_, like colors and other powers
extending throughout the body. Some of the things which constitute the
body are not divisible at all, like soul and intellect.

12. Every power which extends throughout a body is finite, because all
body is finite.

13. None of the kinds of change mentioned in 4 is continuous except
motion of translation; and of this only circular motion.

14. Motion of translation is the first by nature of the motions. For
genesis and decay presuppose qualitative change; and qualitative change
presupposes the approach of the agent causing the change to the thing
undergoing the change. And there is no growth or diminution without
antecedent genesis and decay.

15. Time is an accident following motion and connected with it. The one
cannot exist without the other. No motion except in time, and time
cannot be conceived except with motion. Whatever has no motion does not
come under time.

16. Whatever is incorporeal cannot be subject to number, unless it is a
corporeal power; in which case the individual powers are numbered with
their matters or bearers. Hence the separate forms or Intelligences,
which are neither bodies nor corporeal powers, cannot have the
conception of number connected with them, except when they are related
to one another as cause and effect.

17. Everything that moves, necessarily has a mover, either outside, like
the hand moving the stone, or inside like the animal body, which
consists of a mover, the soul, and a moved, the body proper. Every
_mobile_ of the last kind is called a self-moving thing. This means that
the motor element in the thing is part of the whole thing in motion.

18. If anything passes from potentiality to actuality, the agent that
caused this must be outside the thing. For if it were inside and there
was no obstruction, the thing would never be potential, but always
actual; and if there was an obstruction, which was removed, the agency
which removed the obstruction is the cause which caused the thing to
pass from potentiality to actuality.

19. Whatever has a cause for its existence is a "possible" existent in
so far as itself is concerned. If the cause is there, the thing exists;
if not, it does not. Possible here means not necessary.

20. Whatever is a necessary existent in itself, has no cause for its

21. Every composite has the cause of its existence in the composition.
Hence it is not in itself a necessary existent; for its existence is
dependent upon the existence of its constituent parts and upon their

22. All body is composed necessarily of two things, matter and form; and
it necessarily has accidents, _viz._, quantity, figure, situation.

23. Whatever is potential and has in it a possibility may at some time
not exist as an actuality.

24. Whatever is potential is necessarily possessed of matter, for
possibility is always in matter.

25. The principles of an individual compound substance are matter and
form; and there must be an agent, _i. e._, a mover which moves the
object or the underlying matter until it prepares it to receive the
form. This need not be the ultimate mover, but a proximate one having a
particular function. The idea of Aristotle is that matter cannot move
itself. This is the great principle which leads us to investigate into
the existence of the first mover.

Of these twenty-five propositions, Maimonides continues, some are clear
after a little reflection, some again require many premises and proofs,
but they are all proved in the Physics and Metaphysics of Aristotle and
his commentators. My purpose here is, as I said, not to reproduce the
writings of the philosophers. I will simply mention those principles
which we must have for our purpose. I must add, however, one more
proposition, which Aristotle thinks is true and more deserving of belief
than anything else. We will grant him this by way of hypothesis until we
explain what we intend to prove. The proposition is:

26. Time and motion are eternal and actual. Hence there must be a body
moving eternally and existing actually. This is the matter constituting
the substance of the heavenly bodies. Hence the heavens are not subject
to genesis and decay, for their motion is eternal. This presupposes the
possibility of accidental infinity (_cf._ above, p. 251). Aristotle
regards this as true, though it does not seem to me that he claims he
has proved it. His followers and commentators maintain that it is a
necessary proposition and demonstrated. The Mutakallimun, on the other
hand, think it is impossible that there should be an infinite number of
states in succession (_cf._ _ibid._). It seems to me it is neither
necessary nor impossible, but possible. This is, however, not the place
to discuss it.[273]

Now follows the classical proof of the existence of God from motion. It
is in essence the same as that given by Ibn Daud, but much more
elaborate. We shall try to simplify it as much as possible. The numbers
in parentheses in the sequel refer to the preliminary propositions above

We start with something that is known, namely, the motion we see in the
sublunar world, the motion which is involved in all the processes of
genesis and decay and change generally. This motion must have a mover
(25). This mover must have another mover to move it, and this would lead
us to infinity, which is impossible (3). We find, however, that all
motion here below ends with the motion of the heaven. Let us take an
example. The wind is blowing through an opening in the wall. I take a
stone and stop up the hole. Here the stone is moved by the hand, the
hand by the tendons, the tendons by the nerves, the nerves by the veins,
the veins by the natural heat, the natural heat by the animal soul, the
animal soul by a purpose, namely, to stop the hole from which the wind
comes, the purpose by the wind, the wind by the motion of the heavenly
sphere. But this is not the end. The sphere must also have a mover (17).
This mover is either outside the sphere it moves or within it. If it is
something outside, it is either again a body like the sphere, or an
incorporeal thing, a "Separate Intelligence." If the mover of the sphere
is something within the sphere, two alternatives are again possible. The
internal moving power of the sphere may be a corporeal force extended
throughout the body of the sphere and divisible with it like heat, or an
indivisible power like soul or intellect (10, 11). We thus have four
possibilities in all. The mover of the heavenly sphere may be (a) a body
external to the sphere; (b) a separate incorporeal substance; (c) an
internal corporeal power divisible with the division of the sphere; (d)
an internal indivisible power. Of these four, (a) is impossible. For if
the mover of the sphere is another body, it is likewise in motion (9)
and must have another to move it, which, if a body, must have another,
and so on _ad infinitum_, which is impossible (2). The third hypothesis,
(c), is likewise impossible. For as the sphere is a body it is finite
(1), and its power is also finite (12), since it is divisible with the
body of the sphere (11). Hence it cannot move infinitely (26). Nor can
we adopt the last alternative, (d). For a soul residing within the
sphere could not alone be the cause of continuous motion. For a soul
that moves its body is itself in motion _per accidens_ (6); and whatever
moves _per accidens_ must necessarily sometime stop (8), and with it the
thing set in motion by it will stop also. There is thus only one
alternative left, (b), _viz._, that the cause of the motion of the
sphere is a "separate" (_i. e._, incorporeal) power, which is itself not
subject to motion either _per se_ or _per accidens_; hence it is
indivisible and unchangeable (7, 5). This is God. He cannot be two or
more, for "separate" essences which are not body are not subject to
number unless one is cause and the other effect (16). It follows, too,
that he is not subject to time, for there is no time without motion

We have thus proved with one stroke God's existence as well as his unity
and incorporeality. But, it will be observed, if not for the
twenty-sixth proposition concerning the eternity of motion, which
implies an infinite power, we should not have been forced to the
alternative (b), and could have adopted (c) as well as (d). That is, we
might have concluded that God is the soul of the heavenly sphere
resident within it, or even that he is a corporeal force pervading the
extension of the sphere as heat pervades an ordinary body. But we must
admit that in this way we prove only the existence of a God who is the
cause of the heavenly motions, and through these of the processes of
genesis and decay, hence of all the life of our sublunar world. This is
not the God of Jewish tradition, who creates out of nothing, who is the
cause of the being of the universe as well as of its life processes.
Maimonides was aware of this defect in the Aristotelian view, and he
later repudiates the Stagirite's theory of eternal motion on
philosophical as well as religious grounds. Before, however, we speak of
Maimonides's attitude in this matter, we must for completeness' sake
briefly mention three other proofs for the existence of God as given by
Maimonides. They are not strictly Aristotelian, though they are based
upon Peripatetic principles cited above and due to the Arabian
commentators of Aristotle.

The second proof is as follows. If we find a thing composed of two
elements, and one of these elements is also found separately, it follows
that the other element is found separately also. Now we frequently find
the two elements of _causing motion_ and _being moved_ combined in the
same object. And we also find things which are moved only, but do not
cause motion, as for example matter, or the stone in the last proof. It
stands to reason therefore that there is something that causes motion
without being itself subject to motion. Not being subject to motion, it
is indivisible, incorporeal and not subject to time, as above.

The third proof is based upon the idea of necessary existence. There is
no doubt that there are existing things, for example the things we
perceive with our senses. Now either all things are incapable of decay,
or all are subject to genesis and decay, or some are and some are not.
The first is evidently untrue for we see things coming into, and passing
out, of being. The second hypothesis is likewise untrue. For if all
things are subject to genesis and decay, there is a possibility that at
some time all things might cease to be and nothing should exist at all.
But as the coming and going of individuals in the various species in the
world has been going on from eternity, the possibility just spoken of
must have been realized--a possibility that is never realized is not a
possibility--and nothing existed at all at that moment. But in that case
how could they ever have come into being, since there was nothing to
bring them into being? And yet they do exist, as ourselves for example
and everything else. There is only one alternative left, therefore, and
that is that beside the great majority of things subject to genesis and
decay, there is a being not subject to change, a necessary existent, and
ultimately one that exists by virtue of its own necessity (19).

Whatever is necessary _per se_ can have no cause for its existence (20)
and can have no multiplicity in itself (21); hence it is neither a body
nor a corporeal power (12).

We can also prove easily that there cannot be two necessary existents
_per se_. For in that case the element of necessary existence would be
something added to the essence of each, and neither would then be
necessary _per se_, but _per_ that element of necessary existence which
is common to both.

The last argument against dualism may also be formulated as follows. If
there are two Gods, they must have something in common--that in virtue
of which they are Gods--and something in which they differ, which makes
them two and not one. If each of them has in addition to divinity a
differential element, they are both composite, and neither is the first
cause or the necessary existent (19). If one of them only has this
differentia, then this one is composite and is not the first cause.

The fourth proof is very much like the first, but is based upon the
ideas of potentiality and actuality instead of motion. But when we
consider that Aristotle defines motion in terms of potentiality and
actuality, the fourth proof is identical with the first. It reads in
Maimonides as follows: We see constantly things existing potentially and
coming into actuality. Every such thing must have an agent outside (18).
It is clear, too, that this agent was first an agent potentially and
then became one actually. This potentiality was due either to an
obstacle in the agent himself or to the absence of a certain relation
between the agent and its effect. In order that the potential agent may
become an actual agent, there is need of another agent to remove the
obstacle or to bring about the needed relation between the agent and the
thing to be acted upon. This agent requires another agent, and so it
goes _ad infinitum_. As this is impossible, we must stop somewhere with
an agent that is always actual and in one condition. This agent cannot
be material, but must be a "separate" (24). But the _separate_ in which
there is no kind of potentiality and which exists _per se_, is God. As
we have already proved him incorporeal, he is one (16).[274]

We must now analyze the expressions _incorporeal_ and _one_, and see
what in strictness they imply, and how our logical deductions agree with
Scripture. Many persons, misled by the metaphorical expressions in the
Bible, think of God as having a body with organs and senses on the
analogy of ours. Others are not so crude as to think of God in
anthropomorphic terms, nor are they polytheists, and yet for the same
reason, namely, misunderstanding of Scriptural expressions, ascribe a
plurality of essential attributes to God. We must therefore insist on
the absolute incorporeality of God and explain the purpose of Scripture
in expressing itself in anthropomorphic terms, and on the other hand
emphasize the absolute unity of God against the believers in essential

Belief in God as body or as liable to suffer affection is worse than
idolatry. For the idolater does not deny the existence of God; he merely
makes the mistake of supposing that the image of his own construction
resembles a being which mediates between him and God. And yet because
this leads to erroneous belief on the part of the people, who are
inclined to worship the image itself instead of God (for the people
cannot discriminate between the outward act and its idea), the Bible
punishes idolatry with death, and calls the idolater a man who angers
God. How much more serious is the error of him who thinks God is body!
He entertains an error regarding the nature of God directly, and surely
causes the anger of God to burn. Habit and custom and the evidence of
the literal understanding of the Biblical text are no more an excuse for
this erroneous belief than they are for idolatry; for the idolater, too,
has been brought up in his wrong ideas and is confirmed in them by some
false notions. If a man is not himself able to reason out the truth,
there is no excuse for his refusing to listen to one who has reasoned it
out. A person is not an unbeliever for not being able to _prove_ the
incorporeality of God. He _is_ an unbeliever if he thinks God is

The expressions in the Bible which have led many to err so grievously in
their conceptions of God are due to a desire on the part of their
authors to show all people, the masses including women and children,
that God exists and is possessed of all perfection, that he is existent,
living, wise, powerful, and active. Hence it was necessary to speak of
him as body, for this is the only thing that suggests real existence to
the masses. It was necessary to endow him with motion, as this alone
denotes life; to ascribe to him seeing, hearing, and so on, in order to
indicate that he understands; to represent him as speaking, in order to
show that he communicates with prophets, because to the minds of common
people this is the only way in which ideas are communicated from one
person to another. As we are active by our sense of touch, God, too, is
described as doing. He is given a soul, to denote that he is alive. Then
as all these activities are among us done by means of organs, these also
are ascribed to God, as feet, hands, ear, eye, nose, mouth, tongue,
voice, fingers, palm, arm. In other words, to show that God has all
perfections, certain senses are ascribed to him; and to indicate these
senses the respective organs are related to them, organs of motion to
denote life, of sensation to denote understanding, of touch to denote
activity, of speech to denote revelation. As a matter of fact, however,
since all these organs and perceptions and powers in man and animals are
due to imperfection and are for the purpose of satisfying various wants
for the preservation of the individual or the species, and God has no
wants of any kind, he has no such powers or organs.[276]

Having disposed of crude anthropomorphism we must now take up the
problem of attributes, which endangers the unity. It is a self-evident
truth that an attribute is something different from the essence of a
thing. It is an accident added to the essence. Otherwise it is the thing
over again, or it is the definition of the thing and the explanation of
the name, and signifies that the thing is composed of these elements. If
we say God has many attributes, it will follow that there are many
eternals. The only belief in true unity is to think that God is one
simple substance without composition or multiplicity of elements, but
one in all respects and aspects. Some go so far as to say that the
divine attributes are neither God's essence nor anything outside of his
essence. This is absurd. It is saying words which have nothing
corresponding to them in fact. A thing is either the same as another, or
it is not the same. There is no other alternative. The imagination is
responsible for this error. Because bodies as we know them always have
attributes, they thought that God, too, is made up of many essential
elements or attributes.

Attributes may be of five kinds:

1. The attributes of a thing may be its definition, which denotes its
essence as determined by its causes. This everyone will admit cannot be
in God, for God has no cause, hence cannot be defined.

2. An attribute may consist of a part of a definition, as when we say,
"man is rational," where the attribute rational is part of the
definition of man, "rational animal" being the whole definition. This
can apply to God no more than the first; for if there is a part in God's
essence, he is composite.

3. An attribute may be an expression which characterizes not the essence
of the thing but its quality. Quality is one of the nine categories of
accident, and God has no accidents.

4. An attribute may indicate relation, such as father, master, son,
slave. At first sight it might seem as if this kind of attribute may be
applicable to God; but after reflection we find that it is not. There
can be no relation of time between God and anything else; because time
is the measure of motion, and motion is an accident of body. God is not
corporeal. In the same way it is clear that there cannot be a relation
of place between God and other things. But neither can there be any
other kind of relation between God and his creation. For God is a
necessary existent, while everything else is a possible existent. A
relation exists only between things of the same proximate species, as
between white and black. If the things have only a common genus, and
still more so if they belong to two different genera, there is no
relation between them. If there were a relation between God and other
things, he would have the accident of relation, though relation is the
least serious of attributes, since it does not necessitate a
multiplicity of eternals, nor change in God's essence owing to change in
the related things.

5. An attribute may characterize a thing by reference to its effects or
works, not in the sense that the thing or author of the effect has
acquired a character by reason of the product, like carpenter, painter,
blacksmith, but merely in the sense that he is the one who made a
particular thing. An attribute of this kind is far removed from the
essence of the thing so characterized by it; and hence we may apply it
to God, provided we remember that the varied effects need not be
produced by different elements in the agent, but are all done by the one

Those who believe in attributes divide them into two classes, and number
the following four as _essential_ attributes, not derived from God's
effects like "creator," which denotes God's relation to his work, since
God did not create himself. The four essential attributes about which
all agree are, living, powerful, wise, possessed of will. Now if by wise
is meant God's knowledge of himself, there might be some reason for
calling it an essential attribute; though in that case it implies
"living," and there is no need of two. But they refer the attribute wise
to God's knowledge of the world, and then there is no reason for calling
it an essential attribute any more than the word "creator," for example.
In the same way "powerful" and "having will" cannot refer to himself,
but to his actions. We therefore hold that just as we do not say that
there is something additional in his essence by which he created the
heavens, something else with which he created the elements, and a third
with which he created the Intelligences, so we do not say that he has
one attribute with which he exercises power, another with which he
wills, a third with which he knows, and so on, but his essence is simple
and one.[277]

Four things must be removed from God: (1) corporeality, (2) affection,
(3) potentiality, (4) resemblance to his creatures. The first we have
already proved. The second implies change, and the author of the change
cannot be the same as he who suffers the change and feels the affection.
If then God were subject to affection, there would be another who would
cause the change in him. So all want must be removed from him; for he
who is in want of something is potential, and in order to pass into
actuality requires an agent having that quality _in actu_. The fourth is
also evident; for resemblance involves relation. As there is no relation
between God and ourselves, there is no resemblance. Resemblance can
exist only between things of the same species. All the expressions
including "existent" are applied to God and to ourselves in a homonymous
sense (_cf._ above, p. 240). The use is not even analogical; for in
analogy there must be some resemblance between the things having the
same name, but not so here. Existence in things which are determined by
causes (and this includes all that is not God), is not identical with
the essence of those things. The essence is that which is expressed in
the definition, whereas the existence or non-existence of the thing so
defined is not part of the definition. It is an accident added to the
essence. In God the case is different. His existence has no cause, since
he is a necessary existent; hence his existence is identical with his
essence. So we say God exists, but not with existence, as we do.
Similarly he is living, but not with life; knowing, but not with
knowledge; powerful, but not with power; wise, but not with wisdom.
Unity and plurality are also accidents of things which are one or many
as the case may be. They are accidents of the category of quantity. God,
who is a necessary existent and simple cannot be one any more than many.
He is one, but not with unity. Language is inadequate to express our
ideas of God. Wishing to say he is not many, we have to say he is one;
though one as well as many pertains to the accidents of quantity. To
correct the inexactness of the expression, we add, "but not with unity."
So we say "eternal" to indicate that he is not "new," though in reality
eternal is an accident of time, which in turn is an accident of motion,
the latter being dependent upon body. In reality neither "eternal" nor
"new" is applicable to God. When we say one, we mean merely that there
is none other like him; and when Scripture speaks of him as the first
and the last, the meaning is that he does not change.

The only true attributes of God are the negative ones. Negative
attributes, too, by excluding the part of the field in which the thing
to be designated is not contained, bring us nearer to the thing itself;
though unlike positive attributes they do not designate any part of the
thing itself. God cannot have positive attributes because he has no
essence different from his existence for the attributes to designate,
and surely no accidents. Negative attributes are of value in leading us
to a knowledge of God, because in negation no plurality is involved. So
when we have proved that there is a being beside these sensible and
intelligible things, and we say he is existent, we mean that his
non-existence is unthinkable. In the same way living means not dead;
incorporeal is negative; eternal signifies not caused; powerful means
not weak; wise--not ignorant; willing denotes that creation proceeds
from him not by natural necessity like heat from fire or light from the
sun, but with purpose and design and method. All attributes therefore
are either derived from God's effects or, if they have reference to
himself, are meant to exclude their opposites, _i. e._, are really
negatives. This does not mean, however, that God is devoid of a quality
which he might have, but in the sense in which we say a stone does not
see, meaning that it does not pertain to the nature of the stone to

All the names of God except the tetragrammaton designate his activities
in the world. Jhvh alone is the real name of God, which belongs to him
alone and is not derived from anything else. Its meaning is unknown. It
denotes perhaps the idea of necessary existence. All the other so-called
divine names used by the writers of talismans and charms are quite
meaningless and absurd. The wonderful claims these people bespeak for
them are not to be believed by any intelligent man.[279]

The above account of Maimonides's doctrine of attributes shows us that
he followed the same line of thought as his predecessors. His treatment
is more thorough and elaborate, and his requirements of the religionist
more stringent. He does not even allow attributes of relation, which
were admitted by Ibn Daud. Negative attributes and those taken from
God's effects are the only expressions that may be applied to God. This
is decidedly not a Jewish mode of conceiving of God, but it is not even
Aristotelian. Aristotle has very little to say about God's attributes,
it is true, but there seems no warrant in the little he does say for
such an absolutely transcendental and agnostic conception as we find in
Maimonides. To Aristotle God is pure form, thought thinking itself. In
so far as he is thought we may suppose him to be similar in kind, though
not in degree, to human thought. The only source of Maimonides's ideas
is to be sought in Neo-Platonism, in the so-called Theology of Aristotle
which, however, Maimonides never quotes. He need not have used it
himself. He was a descendant of a long line of thinkers, Christian,
Mohammedan and Jewish, in which this problem was looked at from a
Neo-Platonic point of view; and the Theology of Aristotle had its share
in forming the views of his predecessors. The idea of making God
transcendent appealed to Maimonides, and he carried it to the limit. How
he could combine such transcendence with Jewish prayer and ceremony it
is hard to tell; but it would be a mistake to suppose that his
philosophical deductions represented his last word on the subject. As in
Philo so in Maimonides, his negative theology was only a means to a
positive. Its purpose was to emphasize God's perfection. And in the
admission, nay maintenance, of man's inability to understand God lies
the solution of the problem we raised above. Prayer _is_ answered, man
_is_ protected by divine Providence; and if we cannot understand how, it
is because the matter is beyond our limited intellect.

Having discussed the existence and nature of God, our next problem is
the existence of angels and their relation to the "Separate
Intelligences" of the philosophers. In this matter, too, Ibn Daud
anticipated Maimonides, though the latter is more elaborate in his
exposition as well as criticism of the extreme philosophic view. He
adopts as much of Aristotelian (or what he thought was Aristotelian)
doctrine as is compatible in his mind with the Bible and subject to
rigorous demonstration, and rejects the rest on philosophic as well as
religious grounds.

The existence of separate intelligences he proves in the same way as Ibn
Daud from the motions of the celestial spheres. These motions cannot be
purely "natural," _i. e._, unconscious and involuntary like the
rectilinear motions of the elements, fire, air, water and earth, because
in that case they would stop as soon as they came to their natural
place, as is true of the elements (_cf._ above, p. xxxiii); whereas the
spheres actually move in a circle and never stop. We must therefore
assume that they are endowed with a soul, and their motions are
conscious and voluntary. But it is not sufficient to regard them as
irrational creatures, for on this hypothesis also their motions would
have to cease as soon as they attained the object of their desire, or
escaped the thing they wish to avoid. Neither object can be accomplished
by circular motion, for one approaches in this way the thing from which
one flees, and flees the object which one approaches. The only way to
account for continuous circular motion is by supposing that the sphere
is endowed with reason or intellect, and that its motion is due to a
desire on its part to attain a certain conception. God is the object of
the conception of the sphere, and it is the love of God, to whom the
sphere desires to become similar, that is the cause of the sphere's
motion. So far as the sphere is a body, it can accomplish this only by
circular motion; for this is the only continuous act possible for a
body, and it is the simplest of bodily motions.

Seeing, however, that there are many spheres having different kinds of
motions, varying in speed and direction, Aristotle thought that this
difference must be due to the difference in the objects of their
conceptions. Hence he posited as many separate Intelligences as there
are spheres. That is, he thought that intermediate between God and the
rational spheres there are pure incorporeal intelligences, each one
moving its own sphere as a loved object moves the thing that loves it.
As the number of spheres were in his day thought to be fifty, he assumed
there were fifty separate Intelligences. The mathematical sciences in
Aristotle's day were imperfect, and the astronomers thought that for
every motion visible in the sky there must be a sphere, not knowing that
the inclination of one sphere may be the cause of a number of apparent
motions. Later writers making use of the more advanced state of
astronomical science, reduced the number of Intelligences to ten,
corresponding to the ten spheres as follows: the seven planetary
spheres, the sphere of the fixed stars, the diurnal sphere embracing
them all and giving all of them the motion from east to west, and the
sphere of the elements surrounding the earth. Each one of these is in
charge of an Intelligence. The last separate Intelligence is the Active
Intellect, which is the cause of our mind's passing from potentiality to
actuality, and of the various processes of sublunar life generally.

These are the views of Aristotle and his followers concerning the
separate Intelligences. And in a general way his views, says Maimonides,
are not incompatible with the Bible. What he calls Intelligences the
Scriptures call angels. Both are pure forms and incorporeal. Their
rationality is indicated in the nineteenth Psalm, "The heavens declare
the glory of God." That God rules the world through them is evident from
a number of passages in Bible and Talmud. The plural number in "Let _us_
make man in our image" (Gen. 1, 26), "Come, let _us_ go down and confuse
their speech" (_ib._ 11, 7) is explained by the Rabbis in the statement
that "God never does anything without first looking at the celestial
'familia.'" (Bab. Talm. Sanhedrin 38b.) The word "looking" ("Mistakkel")
is striking;[280] for it is the very expression Plato uses when he says
that God looks into the world of Ideas and produces the universe.[281]

For once Maimonides in the last Rabbinic quotation actually hit upon a
passage which owes its content to Alexandrian and possibly Philonian
influence. Having no idea of the Alexandrian School and of the works of
Philo and his relation to some theosophic passages in the Haggadah, he
made no distinction between Midrash and Bible, and read Plato and
Aristotle in both alike, as we shall see more particularly later.

Maimonides's detailed criticism of Aristotle we shall see later. For the
present he agrees that the philosophic conception of separate
Intelligences is the same as the Biblical idea of angels with this
exception that according to Aristotle these Intelligences and powers are
all eternal and proceed from God by natural necessity, whereas the
Jewish view is that they are created. God created the separate
Intelligences; he likewise created the spheres as rational beings and
implanted in them a desire for the Intelligences which accounts for
their various motions.

Now Maimonides has prepared the ground and is ready to take up the
question of the origin of the world, which was left open above. He
enumerates three views concerning this important matter.

1. _The Biblical View._ God created everything out of nothing. Time
itself is a creation, which did not exist when there was no world. For
time is a measure of motion, and motion cannot be without a moving
thing. Hence no motion and no time without a world.

2. _The Platonic View._ The world as we see it now is subject to genesis
and decay; hence it originated in time. But God did not make it out of
nothing. That a composite of matter and form should be made out of
nothing or should be reduced to nothing is to the Platonists an
impossibility like that of a thing being and not being at the same time,
or the diagonal of a square being equal to its side. Therefore to say
that God cannot do it argues no defect in him. They believe therefore
that there is an eternal matter, the effect of God to be sure, but
co-eternal with him, which he uses as the potter does the clay.

3. _The Aristotelian View._ Time and motion are eternal. The heavens and
the spheres are not subject to genesis and decay, hence they were always
as they are now. And the processes of change in the lower world existed
from eternity as they exist now. Matter is not subject to genesis and
decay; it simply takes on forms one after the other, and this has been
going on from eternity. It results also from his statements, though he
does not say it in so many words, that it is impossible there should be
a change in God's will. He is the cause of the universe, which he
brought into being by his will, and as his will does not change, the
universe has existed this way from eternity.

The arguments of Aristotle and his followers by which they defend their
view of the eternity of the world are based partly upon the nature of
the world, and partly upon the nature of God. Some of these arguments
are as follows:

Motion is not subject to beginning and end. For everything that comes
into being after a state of non-existence requires motion to precede it,
namely, the actualization from non-being. Hence if motion came into
being, there was motion before motion, which is a contradiction. As
motion and time go together, time also is eternal.

Again, the prime matter common to the four elements is not subject to
genesis and decay. For all genesis is the combination of a pre-existing
matter with a new form, namely, the form of the generated thing. If
therefore the prime matter itself came into being, there must be a
previous matter from which it came, and the thing that resulted must be
endowed with form. But this is impossible, since the prime matter has no
matter before it and is not endowed with form.

Among the proofs derived from the nature of God are the following:

If God brought forth the world from non-existence, then before he
created it he was a creator potentially and then became a creator
actually. There is then potentiality in the creator, and there must be a
cause which changed him from a potential to an actual creator.

Again, an agent acts at a particular time and not at another because of
reasons and circumstances preventing or inducing action. In God there
are no accidents or hindrances. Hence he acts always.

Again, how is it possible that God was idle an eternity and only
yesterday made the world? For thousands of years and thousands of worlds
before this one are after all as yesterday in comparison with God's

These arguments Maimonides answers first by maintaining that Aristotle
himself, as can be inferred from his manner, does not regard his
discussions favoring the eternity of the world as scientific
demonstrations. Besides, there is a fundamental flaw in Aristotle's
entire attitude to the question of the ultimate principles and
beginnings of things. All his arguments in favor of eternity of motion
and of the world are based upon the erroneous assumption that the world
as a whole must have come into being in the same way as its parts appear
now after the world is here. According to this supposition it is easy to
prove that motion must be eternal, that matter is not subject to
genesis, and so on. Our contention is that at the beginning, when God
created the world, there were not these laws; that he created matter
_out of nothing_, and then made it the basis of all generation and

We can also answer the arguments in favor of eternity taken from the
nature of God. The first is that God would be passing from potentiality
to actuality if he made the world at a particular time and not before,
and there would be need of a cause producing this passage. Our answer
is that this applies only to material things but not to immaterial,
which are always active whether they produce visible results or not. The
term action is a homonym (_cf._ above, p. 240), and the conditions
applying to it in the ordinary usage do not hold when we speak of God.

Nor is the second argument conclusive. An agent whose will is determined
by a purpose external to himself is subject to influences positive and
negative, which now induce, now hinder his activity. A person desires to
have a house and does not build it by reason of obstacles of various
sorts. When these are removed, he builds the house. In the case of an
agent whose will has no object external to itself this does not hold. If
he does not act always, it is because it is the nature of will sometimes
to will and sometimes not. Hence this does not argue change.[282]

So far our results have been negative. We have not proved that God did
create the world in time; we have only taken the edge off the
Aristotelian arguments and thereby shown that the doctrine of creation
is not impossible. We must now proceed to show that there are positive
reasons which make creation a more plausible theory than eternity.

The gist of Maimonides's arguments here is that the difference between
eternity and creation resolves itself into a more fundamental difference
between an impersonal mechanical law as the explanation of the universe
and an intelligent personality acting with will, purpose and design.
Aristotle endeavors to explain all motions in the world above the moon
as well as below in terms of mechanics. He succeeds pretty well as far
as the sublunar world is concerned, and no one who is free from
prejudice can fail to see the cogency of his reasoning. If he were just
as convincing in his explanation of celestial phenomena on the
mechanical principle as he is in his interpretation of sublunar events,
eternity of the world would be a necessary consequence. Uniformity and
absolute necessity of natural law are more compatible with an eternal
world than with a created one. But Aristotle's method breaks down the
moment he leaves the sublunar sphere. There are too many phenomena
unaccounted for in his system.

Aristotle tries to find a reason why the heavens move from east to west
and not in the opposite direction; and his explanation for the
difference in speed of the motions of the various spheres is that it is
due to their relative proximity to the outer sphere, which is the cause
of this motion and which it communicates to all the other spheres under
it. But his reasons are inadequate, for some of the swift moving spheres
are below the slow moving and some are above. When he says that the
reason the sphere of the fixed stars moves so slowly from west to east
is because it is so near to the diurnal sphere (the outer sphere), which
moves from east to west, his explanation is wonderfully clever.[283] But
when he infers from this that the farther a sphere is from the fixed
stars the more rapid is its motion from west to east, his conclusion is
not true to fact. Or let us consider the existence of the stars in the
spheres. The matter of the stars must be different from that of the
spheres, for the latter move, whereas the stars are always stationary.
Now what has put these two different matters together? Stranger still is
the existence and distribution of the fixed stars in the eighth sphere.
Some parts are thickly studded with stars, others are very thin. In the
planetary spheres what is the reason (since the sphere is simple and
uniform throughout) that the star occupies the particular place that it
does? This can scarcely be a matter of necessity. It will not do to say
that the differences in the motions of the spheres are due to the
separate Intelligences for which the respective spheres have a desire.
For the Intelligences are not bodies, and hence do not occupy any
position relative to the spheres. There must therefore be a being who
determines their various motions.

Further, it is argued on the philosophical side that from a simple cause
only a simple effect can follow; and that if the cause is composite, as
many effects will follow as there are simple elements in the cause.
Hence from God directly can come only one simple Intelligence. This
first Intelligence produces the second, the second produces the third,
and so on (_cf._ above, p. 178). Now according to this idea, no matter
how many Intelligences are produced in this successive manner, the last,
even if he be the thousandth, would have to be simple. Where then does
composition arise? Even if we grant that the farther the Intelligences
are removed from the first cause the more composite they become by
reason of the composite nature of their ideas or thoughts, how can we
explain the emanation of a sphere from an Intelligence, seeing that the
one is body, the other Intellect? Granting again this also on the ground
that the Intelligence producing the sphere is composite (since it thinks
itself and another), and hence one of its parts produces the next lower
Intelligence and the other the sphere, there is still this difficulty
that the part of the Intelligence producing the sphere is simple,
whereas the sphere has four elements--the matter and the form of the
sphere, and the matter and the form of the star fixed in the sphere.

All these are difficulties arising from the Aristotelian theory of
mechanical causation, necessity of natural law and eternity of the
world. And they are all removed at a stroke when we substitute
intelligent cause working with purpose, will and design. To be sure, by
finding difficulties attaching to a theory we do not disprove it, much
less do we prove our own. But we should follow the view of Alexander,
who says that where a theory is not proved one should adopt the view
which has the least number of objections. This, we shall show, is the
case in the doctrine of creation. We have already pointed out a number
of difficulties attaching to the Aristotelian view, which are solved if
we adopt creation. And there are others besides. It is impossible to
explain the heavenly motions as a necessary mechanical system. The
hypotheses made by Ptolemy to account for the apparent motions conflict
with the principles of the Aristotelian Physics. According to these
principles there is no motion of translation, _i. e._, there is no
change of place, in the heavenly spheres. Also there are three kinds of
motion in the world, toward the centre (water, earth), away from the
centre (air, fire) and around the centre (the celestial spheres). Also
motion in a circle must be around a fixed centre. All these principles
are violated in the theories of the epicycle and eccentric, especially
the first. For the epicycle is a sphere which changes place in the
circumference of the large sphere.

Finally, an important objection to the doctrine of eternity as taught by
Aristotle, involving as it does necessity and absolute changelessness of
natural phenomena, is that it subverts the foundations of religion, and
does away with miracles and signs. The Platonic view (_cf._ above, p.
269) is not so bad and does not necessitate the denial of miracles; but
there is no need of forcing the Biblical texts to that opinion so long
as it has not been proved. As long as we believe in creation all
possible questions concerning the reasons for various phenomena such as
prophecy, the various laws, the selection of Israel, and so on, can be
answered by reference to the will of God, which we do not understand.
If, however, the world is a mechanical necessity, all these questions
arise and demand an answer.[284]

It will be seen that Maimonides's objections to eternity and mechanical
necessity (for these two are necessarily connected in his mind), are
twofold, philosophic and religious. The latter objection we may conceive
Maimonides to insist upon if he were living to-day. Mechanical necessity
as a universal explanation of phenomena would exclude free will and the
efficacy of prayer as ordinarily understood, though not necessarily
miracles, if we mean by miracle simply an extraordinary phenomenon not
explicable by the laws of nature as we know them, and happening only on
rare occasions. But in reality this is not what we mean by miracle. A
miracle is a discontinuity in the laws of nature brought to pass on a
special occasion by a personal being in response to a prayer or in order
to realize a given purpose. In this sense miracles are incompatible with
the doctrine of necessity, and Maimonides's objections hold to-day,
except for those to whom religion is independent of the Bible, tradition
or any external authority.

As concerns the scientific objections, the case is different. We may
allow Maimonides's negative criticism of the Aristotelian arguments,
namely, that they are not convincing. His positive criticism that
Aristotle's interpretation of phenomena on the mechanical principle does
not explain all the facts is not valid. Aristotle may be wrong in his
actual explanations of particular phenomena and yet be correct in his
method. Modern science, in fact, has adopted the mechanical method of
interpreting phenomena, assuming that this is the only way in which
science can exist at all. And if there is any domain in which mechanical
causation is still denied, it is not the celestial regions about which
Maimonides was so much concerned--the motions of the heavenly bodies
have been reduced to uniformity in accordance with natural law quite as
definitely as, and in some cases more definitely than, some terrestrial
phenomena--but the regions of life, mind and will. In these domains the
discussion within the scientific and philosophic folds is still going
on. But in inanimate nature modern science has succeeded in justifying
its method by the ever increasing number of phenomena that yield to its
treatment. Maimonides fought an obsolete philosophy and obsolete
scientific principles. It is possible that he might have found much to
object to in modern science as well, on the ground that much is yet
unexplained. But an objection of this sort is captious, particularly if
we consider what Maimonides desires to place in science's stead. Science
is doing its best to classify all natural phenomena and to discover the
uniformities underlying their behavior. It has succeeded admirably and
is continually widening its sphere of activity. It has been able to
predict as a result of its method. The principle of uniformity and
mechanical necessity is becoming more and more generally verified with
every new scientific discovery and invention.

And what does Maimonides offer us in its stead? The principle of
intelligent purpose and design. This, he says, is not open to the
objections which apply to the Aristotelian principles and methods. It is
as if one said the coward is a better man than the brave warrior,
because the latter is open to the danger of being captured, wounded or
killed, whereas the former is not so liable. The answer obviously would
be that the only way the coward escapes the dangers mentioned is by
running away, by refusing to fight. Maimonides's substitution is
tantamount to a refusal to fight, it is equivalent to flight from the
field of battle.

Aristotle tries to explain the variation in speed of the different
celestial motions, and succeeds indifferently. Another man coming after
Aristotle and following the same method may succeed better. This has
actually been the case. Leverrier without ever looking into a telescope
discovered Neptune, and told the observers in what part of the heavens
they should look for the new planet. Substitute Maimonides's principle,
and death to science! Why do the heavenly bodies move as they do?
Maimonides replies in effect, because so God's wisdom has determined and
his wisdom is transcendent. There is no further impulse to investigation
in such an answer. It is the reply of the obscurantist, and it is very
surprising that Maimonides the rationalist should so far have forgotten
his own ideal of reason and enlightenment. He is here playing into the
hands of those very Mutakallimun whom he so severely criticises. They
were more consistent. Distrustful of the irreligious consequences of the
philosophical theories of Aristotle and his Arabian followers, they
deliberately denied causation and natural law, and substituted the will
of God as interfering continuously in the phenomena of nature. A red
object continues red because and as long as God creates the "accident"
red and attaches it to the atoms of which the object is composed. Fire
taking hold of wood burns it and reduces it to ashes because God wills
at the particular moment that this shall be the result. The next moment
God may will otherwise and the fire and the wood will lie down in peace
together and no harm done. This makes miracles possible and easy.
Maimonides would not think of going so far; he has no names harsh enough
to describe this unscientific, unphilosophic, illogical, irrational,
purely imaginary procedure. But we find that he is himself guilty of the
same lack of scientific insight when he rejects a method because it is
not completely successful, and substitutes something else which will
always be successful because it will never tell us anything at all and
will stifle all investigation. Were Maimonides living in our day, we may
suppose he would be more favorably inclined to the mechanical principle
as a scientific method.

Having laid the philosophical foundations of religion in proving the
existence, unity and incorporeality of God, and purposeful creation in
time, Maimonides proceeds to the more properly religious doctrines of
Judaism, and begins with the phenomenon of prophecy. Here also he
follows Aristotelian ideas as expressed in the writings of the Arabs
Alfarabi and Avicenna, and was anticipated among the Jews by Ibn Daud.
His distinction here as elsewhere is that he went further than his model
in the manner of his elaboration of the doctrine.

He cites three opinions concerning prophecy:

1. _The Opinion of the Masses._ God chooses any person he desires, be he
young or old, wise or ignorant, and inspires him with the prophetic

2. _The Opinion of the Philosophers._ Prophecy is a human gift and
requires natural aptitude and hard preparation and study. But given
these qualifications, and prophecy is sure to come.

3. _The Opinion of Judaism._ This is very much like that of the
philosophers, the only difference being that a man may have all the
qualifications and yet be prevented from prophesying if God, by way of
punishment, does not desire that he should.

Prophecy is an inspiration from God, which passes through the mediation
of the Active Intellect to the rational power first and then to the
faculty of the imagination. It is the highest stage a man can attain and
is not open to everyone. It requires perfection in theoretical wisdom
and in morals, and perfect development of the imaginative power. This
latter does its work when the senses are at rest, giving rise to true
dreams, and producing also prophetic visions. Dream and prophecy differ
in degree, not in kind. What a man thinks hard in his waking state, that
the imagination works over in sleep. Now if a person has a perfect
brain; develops his mind as far as a man can; is pure morally; is eager
to know the mysteries of existence, its causes and the First Cause; is
not susceptible to the purely animal desires, or to those of the
spirited soul ambitious for dominion and honor--if a man has all these
qualifications, he without doubt receives through his imagination from
the Active Intellect divine ideas. The difference in the grade of
prophets is due to the difference in these three requirements--perfection
of the reason, perfection of the imagination and perfection of moral

According to the character and development of their reasons and
imaginations men may be divided into three classes.

1. Those whose rational faculties are highly developed and receive
influences from the Active Intellect, but whose imagination is defective
constitutionally, or is not under the influence of the Active Intellect.
These are wise men and philosophers.

2. When the imagination also is perfect in constitution and well
developed under the influence of the Active Intellect, we have the class
of prophets.

3. When the imagination alone is in good condition, but the intellect is
defective, we have statesmen, lawgivers, magicians, dreamers of true
dreams and occult artists. These men are so confused sometimes by
visions and reveries that they think they have the gift of prophecy.

Each of the first two classes may be further divided into two according
as the influence from above is just sufficient for the perfection of the
individual himself, or is so abundant as to cause the recipient to seek
to impart it to others. We have then authors and teachers in the first
class, and preaching prophets in the second.

Among the powers we have in varying degrees are those of courage and
divination. These are innate and can be perfected if one has them in any
degree. By means of the power of divination we sometimes guess what a
person said or did under certain conditions, and guess truly. The result
really follows from a number of premises, but the mind passes over these
so rapidly that it seems the guess was made instantaneously. The prophet
must have these two faculties in a high degree. Witness Moses braving
the wrath of a great king. Some prophets also have their rational powers
more highly developed than those of an ordinary person who perfects his
reason by theoretical study. The same inspiration which renders the
activity of the imagination so vivid that it seems to it its perceptions
are real and due to the external senses--this same inspiration acts also
upon the rational power, and makes its ideas as certain as if they were
derived by intellectual effort.

The prophetic vision (Heb. Mar'ah) is a state of agitation coming upon
the prophet in his waking state, as is clear from the words of Daniel,
"And I saw this great vision, and there remained no strength in me: for
my comeliness was turned in me into corruption, and I retained no
strength" (Dan. 10, 8). In vision also the senses cease their functions,
and the process is the same as in sleep.

Whenever the Bible speaks of prophecy coming to anyone, it is always
through an angel and in a dream or vision, whether this is specifically
stated or not. The expression, "And God came to ... in a dream of the
night," does not denote prophecy at all. It is merely a dream that comes
to a person warning him of danger. Laban and Abimelech had such dreams,
but no one would credit these heathens with the prophetic power.

Whenever an angel is met in Scripture speaking or communicating with a
person, it is always in a dream or vision. Examples are, Abraham and the
three men, Jacob wrestling with the angel, Balaam and the ass, Joshua
and the angel at Jericho;--all these were in a dream or vision.
Sometimes there is no angel at all, but merely a voice that is heard by
such as are not deserving of prophecy, for example Hagar, and Manoah and
his wife.

The prophets see images in their visions. These images are sometimes
interpreted in the vision itself; sometimes the interpretation does not
appear until the prophet wakes up. Sometimes the prophet sees a
likeness, sometimes he sees God speaking to him, or an angel; or he
hears an angel speaking to him, or sees a man speaking to him, or sees
nothing at all but only hears a voice.

In this way we distinguish eleven grades of prophecy. The first two are
only preparatory, not yet constituting one who has them a prophet.

1. When one is endowed by God with a great desire to save a community or
a famous individual, and he undertakes to bring it about, we have the
first grade known as the "Spirit of God." This was the position of the
Judges. Moses always had this desire from the moment he could be called
a man, hence he killed the Egyptian and chided the two quarreling men,
and delivered the daughters of Jethro from the shepherds, and so on. The
same is true of David. Not everyone, however, who has this desire is a
prophet until he succeeds in doing a very great thing.

2. When a person feels something come upon him and begins to
speak--words of wisdom and praise or of warning, or relating to social
or religious conduct--all this while in a waking state and with full
consciousness, we have the second stage called the "Holy Spirit." This
is the inspiration which dictated the Psalms, the Proverbs,
Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs, Daniel, Job, Chronicles and the other
sacred writings (Hagiographa). Balaam's discourses also belong to this
class. David, Solomon and Daniel belong here, and are not in the same
class with Isaiah, Jeremiah, Nathan, Ahiah, and so on. God spoke to
Solomon through Ahiah the Shilonite; at other times he spoke to him in a
dream, and when Solomon woke up, he knew it was a dream and not a
prophecy. Daniel's visions were also in dreams. This is why his book is
classed in the third division of the Biblical writings (Hagiographa),
and not in the second (Prophets).

3. This is the first grade of real prophecy, _i. e._, when a prophet
sees a picture in a dream under the proper conditions, and the picture
is explained to him in the dream itself. Most of the dreams of Zechariah
are of this nature.

4. When he hears speech in a prophetic dream, but does not see the
speaker, as happened to Samuel in the beginning of his career.

5. When a man speaks to him in a dream, as we find in some of the
prophecies of Ezekiel, "And the man said unto me, son of man...."

6. When an angel speaks to him in a dream. This is the condition of most
prophets, as is indicated in the expression, "And an angel of God said
to me in a dream."

7. When it seems to him in a prophetic dream as if God is speaking to
him; as we find in Isaiah, "I saw the Lord ... and he said, whom shall I
send and who will go for us" (Isa. 6, 1, 8).

8. When a _vision_ appears to him and he sees pictures, like Abraham at
the covenant of the pieces (Gen. 15).

9. When he hears words in a vision, as in the case of Abraham, "And,
behold, the word of the Lord came unto him saying, This man shall not be
thine heir" (Gen. 15, 4).

10. When he sees a man speaking to him in a prophetic vision. Examples,
Abraham in the plain of Mamre, Joshua in Jericho.

11. When he sees an angel speaking to him in a vision, like Abraham in
the sacrifice of Isaac. This is the highest degree of prophecy,
excepting Moses. The next higher stage would be that a prophet should
see God speaking to him in a vision. But this seems impossible, as it is
too much for the imaginative faculty. In fact it is possible that in a
vision speech is never heard at all, but only likenesses are seen. In
that case the eleven grades are reduced to eight.

All the details of actions and travels that are described in prophetic
visions must not be understood as having actually taken place, as for
example Hosea's marrying a harlot. They appear only in the prophet's
vision or dream. Many expressions in the prophets are hyperbolical or
metaphorical, and must not be taken literally.

Moses was the greatest of the prophets. He alone received his
communications direct from God. All the others got their divine messages
through an angel. Moses performed his miracles before the whole people
as no one else did. The standing still of the sun produced by Joshua was
not in the presence of _all_ the people. Besides it may be the meaning
is that that day seemed to the people the longest of any they
experienced in those regions. Moses alone, by reason of his superiority
to all other prophets before or after, called the people to the Law. No
one before him did this, though there were many prophets before Moses.
Abraham taught a few people, and so did others. But no one like Moses
said to the people, "The Lord sent me to you that you may do thus and
so." After Moses all the prophets urge upon the people obedience to the
law of Moses. This shows that the law of Moses will never change. For it
is perfect, and any change in any direction would be for the worse.[285]

From the theoretical part of philosophy we pass to the practical. This
includes ethics and other topics related thereto, theodicy, providence,
free will and its compatibility with God's omniscience. To give his
ethical doctrine a scientific character, Maimonides bases it upon a
metaphysical and psychological foundation. The doctrine of matter and
form gives him a convenient formula underlying his ethical discussion.
Sin and vice are due to matter, virtue and goodness to form. For
sensuous desires, which are due to matter, are at the basis of vice;
whereas intellectual pursuits, which constitute the noblest activity of
the soul, the form of the living body, lead to virtue. We may therefore
state man's ethical duty in broad philosophical terms as follows:
Despise matter, and have to do with it only so far as is absolutely
necessary.[286] This is too general to be enlightening, and it is
necessary to have recourse to psychology. Ethics has for its
subject-matter the improvement and perfection of character. Making use
of a medical analogy we may say that as it is the business of the
physician to cure the body, so it is the aim of the moral teacher to
cure the soul. We may carry this figure further and conclude that as the
physician must know the anatomy and physiology of the body before he can
undertake to cure it of its ills, so the moralist must know the nature
of the soul and its powers or faculties.

In the details of his psychology Maimonides follows Alfarabi instead of
Avicenna who was the model of Judah Halevi and Ibn Daud (pp. 175, 211).

The soul consists of five parts or faculties: the nutritive, the
sensitive, the imaginative, the appetitive and the rational. The further
description of the nutritive soul pertains to medicine and does not
concern us here. The sensitive soul contains the well known five senses.
The imaginative faculty is the power which retains the forms of sensible
objects when they are no longer present to the external senses. It also
has the function of original combination of sense elements into
composite objects having no real existence in the outside world. This
makes the imagination an unreliable guide in matters intellectual.

The appetitive faculty is the power of the soul by which a person
desires a thing or rejects it. Acts resulting from it are the pursuit of
an object and its avoidance; also the feelings of anger, favor, fear,
courage, cruelty, pity, love, hate, and so on. The organs of these
powers, feelings and activities are the members of the body, like the
hand, which takes hold of an object; the foot, which goes toward a thing
or away from it; the eye, which looks; the heart, which takes courage or
is stricken with fear; and so with the rest.

The rational faculty is the power of the soul by which a person
reflects, acquires knowledge, discriminates between a praiseworthy act
and a blameworthy. The functions of the rational soul are practical and
theoretical. The practical activity of the reason has to do with the
arts directly, as in learning carpentry, agriculture, medicine,
seamanship; or it is concerned with reflecting upon the methods and
principles of a given art. The theoretical reason has for its
subject-matter the permanent and unchangeable, what is known as science
in the true sense of the term.[287]

Now as far as the commandments, mandatory and prohibitive, of the Bible
are concerned, the only parts of the soul which are involved are the
sensitive and the appetitive. For these are the only powers subject to
control. The nutritive and the imaginative powers function in sleep as
well in waking, hence a person cannot be held responsible for their
activities, which are involuntary. There is some doubt about the
rational faculty, but it seems that here too a person is responsible for
the opinions he holds, though no practical acts are involved.

Virtues are divided into ethical and intellectual (dianoetic); and so
are the contrary vices. The intellectual virtues are the excellencies of
the reason. Such are _science_, which consists in the knowledge of
proximate and remote causes of things; _pure reason_, having to do with
such innate principles as the axioms; _the acquired reason_, which we
cannot discuss here; _clearness of perception_ and _quick insight_. The
intellectual vices are the opposites or the contraries of these.

The ethical virtues are resident in the appetitive faculty. The
sensitive soul is auxiliary to the appetitive. The number of these
virtues is large. Examples are; temperance, generosity, justice,
modesty, humility, contentment, courage, and so on. The vices of this
class are the above qualities carried to excess, or not practiced to the
required extent. The faculties of nutrition and imagination have neither
virtues nor vices. We say a person's digestion is good or it is poor;
his imagination is correct or it is defective, but we do not attach the
idea of virtue or vice to these conditions.

Virtue is a permanent and enduring quality of the soul occupying an
intermediate position between the two opposite extremes each of which is
a vice, sinning by exceeding the proper measure of the golden mean or by
falling short of it. A good act is that form of conduct which follows
from a virtuous disposition as just defined. A bad act is the result of
a tendency of the soul to either of the two extremes, of excess or
defect. Thus temperance or moderation is a virtue. It is the mean
between over-indulgence in the direction of excess, and insensibility or
indifference in the direction of defect. The last two are vices.
Similarly generosity is a mean between niggardliness and extravagance;
courage is a mean between foolhardiness and cowardice; dignity is a mean
between haughtiness and loutishness; humility is a mean between
arrogance and self-abasement; contentment is a mean between avarice and
slothful indifference; kindness is a mean between baseness and excessive
self-denial; gentleness is a mean between irascibility and insensibility
to insult; modesty is a mean between impudence and shamefacedness.
People are often mistaken and regard one of the extremes as a virtue.
Thus the reckless and the foolhardy is often praised as the brave; the
man of no backbone is called gentle; the indolent is mistaken for the
contented; the insensible for the temperate, the extravagant for the
generous. This is an error. The mean alone is worthy of commendation.

The ethical virtues and vices are acquired as a result of repeated
practice during a long time of the corresponding acts until they become
a confirmed habit and a second nature. A person is not born virtuous or
vicious. What he will turn out to be depends upon the way he is trained
from childhood. If his training has been wrong and he has acquired a
vicious disposition in a particular tendency, he may be cured. And here
we may borrow a leaf from the book of medicine. As in bodily disease the
physician's endeavor is to restore the disturbed equilibrium in the
mixture of the humors by increasing the element that is deficient, so in
diseases of the soul, if a person has a decided tendency to one of the
vicious extremes, he must as a curative measure, for a certain length of
time, be directed to practice the opposite extreme until he has been
cured. Then he may go back to the virtuous mean. Thus if a person has
the vice of niggardliness, the practice of liberality is not sufficient
to cure him. As a heroic measure he must practice extravagance until the
former tendency has left him. Then he may return to the liberal mean.
The same thing applies to the other virtues, except that it is necessary
to use proper judgment in the amount of practice of a vicious extreme
necessary to bring about a satisfactory result. Too great deviation and
too long continued from the mean would in some cases be dangerous, as
likely to develop the opposite vice. Thus it is comparatively safe to
indulge in extravagance as a cure for niggardliness; the reverse process
must be used with caution. Care should likewise be taken in trying to
wean a person away from a habit of insensibility to pleasure by means of
a régime of indulgence. If it is not discontinued in time, he may become
a pleasure seeker, which is even worse than total indifference.

It is in this way that we must explain the conduct of certain pious men
and saints who were not content with following the middle way, and
inclined to one extreme, the extreme of asceticism and self-abasement.
They did this as a measure of cure, or because of the wickedness of
their generation, whose example they feared would contaminate them by
its contagion. Hence they lived a retired and solitary life, the life of
a recluse. It was not meant as the normal mode of conduct, which would
be as unwholesome to the soul as an invalid's drugs would be dangerous
if taken regularly by a person of sound health.

The will of God is that we should follow the middle way and eat and
drink and enjoy ourselves in moderation. To be sure, we must be always
on our guard against slipping into the forbidden extreme, but it is not
necessary for this purpose to inflict additional burdens upon ourselves
or to practice mortification of the flesh and abstention from food and
drink beyond what is prescribed in the Law. For many of the regulations
in the Pentateuch have been laid down for this very purpose. The dietary
laws, the laws of forbidden marriages, the laws of tithes, the laws
prescribing that the corner of the field, the dropped and forgotten
ears and the gleanings of the vintage should be left to the poor, the
laws of the sabbatical year, the Jubilee, and the regulations governing
charity--all these are intended to guard us against avarice and
selfishness. Other laws and precepts are for the purpose of moderating
our tendency to anger and rage, and so with all the other virtues and
vices. Hence it is folly and overscrupulousness to add restrictions of
one's own accord except in critical instances, as indicated above.

The purpose of all human life and activity is to know God as far as it
is possible for man. Hence all his activities should be directed to that
one end. His eating and drinking and sleeping and waking and motion and
rest and pleasure should have for their object the maintenance of good
health and cheerful spirits, not as an end in themselves, but as a means
to intellectual peace and freedom from worry and care in order that he
may have leisure and ability to study and reflect upon the highest
truths of God. Good music, beautiful scenery, works of art, splendid
architecture and fine clothing should not be pursued for their own sake,
but only so far as they may be necessary to relieve the tedium and
monotony of toil and labor, or as a curative measure to dispel gloom and
low spirits or a tendency to melancholy. The same thing applies to the
arts and sciences. Medicine is of assistance in maintaining bodily
health and curing it of its ills. The logical, mathematical and physical
sciences are either directly helpful to speculative theology, and their
value is evident; or they serve to train the mind in deduction and
analysis, and are thus indirectly of benefit for the knowledge of

The ethical qualities similarly conduce to intellectual perfection, and
the difference between one prophet and another is in large measure
dependent upon relative ethical superiority. Thus when the Rabbis say
that Moses saw God through a luminous mirror, and the other prophets
through a non-luminous, the meaning is that Moses had intellectual and
moral perfection, so far as a human being is capable of having them, and
the only partition separating him from a complete vision of God was his
humanity. The other prophets had other defects besides, constituting so
many additional partitions obscuring the divine view.[289]

Some foolish astrologers are of the opinion that a man's character is
determined in advance by the position of the stars at the time of his
birth. This is a grave error, as can be shown from reason as well as
tradition. The Bible as well as the Greek philosophers are agreed that a
man's acts are under his own control, and that he himself and no one
else is responsible for his virtues as well as his vices. It is true
that a person's temperament, which is constitutional and over which he
has no control, plays an important rôle in his conduct. There is no
denying that men are born with certain tendencies. Some are born
phlegmatic, some are passionate and hot-blooded. One man has a tendency
to fearlessness and bravery, another is timid and backward. But while it
is true that it is more difficult for the hot-blooded to develop the
virtue of temperance and moderation than it is for the phlegmatic, that
it is easier for the warm-tempered to learn courage than it is for the
cold-tempered--these are not impossible. Virtue, we have seen before, is
not a natural state, but an acquired possession due to long continued
discipline and practice. One man may require longer and more assiduous
practice than another to acquire a certain virtue, but no matter what
his inherited temperament, he can acquire it if he undertakes to do so,
or if properly trained. If man's character and conduct were determined,
all the commandments and prohibitions in the Bible would be in vain, for
without freedom command has no effect. Similarly there would be no use
in a person's endeavoring to learn any trade or profession; for if it is
determined beforehand that a given individual shall be a physician or a
carpenter, he is bound to be one whether he studies or not. This would
make all reward and punishment wrong and unjust whether administered by
man or by God. For the person so rewarded or punished could not help
doing what he did, and is therefore not responsible. All our plans and
preparations would on this supposition be useless and without meaning,
such as building houses, acquiring food, avoiding danger, and so on. All
this is absurd and opposed to reason as well as to sense. It undermines
the foundation of religion and imputes wrong to God. The Bible says
distinctly, "See, I have set before thee this day life and the good,
death and the evil ... therefore choose thou life...." (Deut. 30, 15,

There are some passages in the Bible which apparently lend color to the
idea that a person's acts are determined from on high. Such are the
expressions used in relation to Pharaoh's conduct toward the Israelites
in refusing to let them go out of Egypt. We are told there that God
hardened the heart of Pharaoh that he should not let the Israelites go.
And he did this in order to punish the Egyptians. The criticism here is
twofold. First, these expressions indicate that a person is not always
free; and second, it seems scarcely just to force a man to act in a
certain way and then to punish him for it.

The explanation Maimonides gives to this passage is as follows: He
admits that in Pharaoh's case there was a restriction of Pharaoh's
freedom. But this was a penal measure and exceptional. Normally a man is
free, but he may forfeit this freedom if he abuses it. So Pharaoh's
primary offence was not that he would not let the children of Israel go
out of Egypt. His sin consisted in his tyrannical treatment of Israel in
the past, which he did of his own accord and as a result of free choice.
His loss of freedom in complying with Moses's request to let the
Israelites go was already in the nature of a punishment, and its object
was to let all the world know that a person may forfeit his freedom of
action as a punishment for abusing his human privilege. To be sure God
does not always punish sin so severely, but it is not for us to search
his motives and ask why he punishes one man in one way and another in
another. We must leave this to his wisdom.

Another argument against free will is that it is incompatible with the
knowledge of God. If God is omniscient and knows the future as well as
the past and the present, he knows how a given person will act at a
given moment. But since God's knowledge is certain and not liable to
error, the person in question cannot help acting as God long foreknew he
would act, and hence his act is not the result of his free will.
Maimonides's answer to this objection is virtually an admission of
ignorance. He takes refuge in the transcendence of God's knowledge, upon
which he dwelt so insistently in the earlier part of his work (p. 260
ff.). God is not qualified by attributes as we his creatures are. As he
does not live by means of life, so he does not know by means of
knowledge. He knows through his own essence. He and his existence and
his knowledge are identical. Hence as we cannot know his essence, we
cannot have any conception of his knowledge. It is mistaken therefore to
argue that because we cannot know a future event unless it is already
determined in the present, God cannot do so. His knowledge is of a
different kind from ours, and he can do what we cannot. [290]

The next problem Maimonides takes up is the doctrine of evil. The
presence of evil in the world, physical as well as moral, was a
stumbling block to all religious thinkers in the middle ages. The
difficulty seems to find its origin in Neo-Platonism, or, farther back
still, in Philo of Alexandria, who identified God with the Good. If he
is the Good, evil cannot come from him. How then account for the evil in
the world? The answer that was given was extremely unsatisfactory. It
was founded on a metaphysical distinction which is as old as Plato,
namely, of matter as the non-existent. Matter was considered a principle
without any definite nature or actual being, and this was made the basis
of all imperfection, death, sin. Evil partakes of the non-existence of
matter, it is nothing positive, but only a negation or privation of good
as darkness is the absence of light; hence it needs no creator, it has
no efficient cause, but only a deficient cause. In this way physical
evil was accounted for. Moral evil as the result of man's inhumanity to
man could easily be explained by laying it to the charge of man's free
will or even to the free will of the fallen angels as Origen conceives
it. This removes from God all responsibility for evil. We shall find
that Maimonides has nothing essentially new to contribute to the
solution of the problem.

Strictly speaking, he says, only a positive thing can be made, negation
or privation cannot. We may speak loosely of the negative being produced
when one removes the positive. So if a man puts out a light, we say he
made darkness, though darkness is a negation.

Evil is nothing but the negation of the positive, which is good. All
positive things are good. Hence God cannot be said to produce evil. The
positive thing which he produces is good; the evil is due to defect in
the thing. Matter also is good so far as it is positive, _i. e._, so far
as it causes continued existence of one thing after another. The evil in
matter is due to its negative or privative aspect as the formless, which
makes it the cause of defect and evil. All evil that men do to each
other is also due to negation, namely, absence of wisdom and knowledge.

Many people think there is more evil in the world than good. Their
mistake is due to the fact that they make the experience of the
individual man the arbiter in this question, thinking that the universe
was made for his sake. They forget that man is only a small fraction of
the world, which is made by the will of God. Even so man should be
grateful for the great amount of good he receives from God, for many of
the evils of man are self-inflicted. In fact the evils befalling man
come under three categories.

1. The evil that is incident to man's nature as subject to genesis and
decay, _i. e._, as composed of matter. Hence arise the various accidents
to which man is liable on account of bad air and other natural causes.
These are inevitable, and inseparable from matter, and from the
generation of individuals in a species. To demand that a person of flesh
and blood shall not be subject to impressions is a contradiction in
terms. And with all this the evils of this class are comparatively few.

2. They are the evils inflicted by one man upon the other. These are
more frequent than the preceding. Their causes are various. And yet
these too are not very frequent.

3. These are the most common. They are the evils man brings upon himself
by self-indulgence and the formation of bad habits. He injures the body
by excess, and he injures the mind through the body by perverting and
weakening it, and by enslaving it to luxuries to which there is no end.
If a person is satisfied with that which is necessary, he will easily
have what he needs; for the necessaries are not hard to get. God's
justice is evident in affording the necessaries to all his creatures and
in making all the individuals of the same species similar in power and

The next problem Maimonides discusses is really theoretical and should
have its place in the discussion of the divine attributes, for it deals
with the character of God's knowledge. The reason for taking it up here
is because, according to Maimonides, it was an ethical question that was
the motive for the formulation of the view of the opponents. Accordingly
the problem is semi-ethical, semi-metaphysical, and is closely related
to the question of Providence.

Observing that the good are often wretched and the bad prosperous, the
philosophers came to the conclusion that God does not know individual
things. For if he knows and does not order them as is proper, this must
be due either to inability or to jealousy, both of which are impossible
in God. Having come to this conclusion in the way indicated, they then
bolstered it up with arguments to justify it positively. Such are that
the individual is known through sense and God has no sensation; that the
number of individual things is infinite, and the infinite cannot be
comprehended, hence cannot be known; that knowledge of the particular is
subject to change as the object changes, whereas God's knowledge is
unchangeable. Against us Jews they argue that to suppose God knows
things before they are connects knowledge with the non-existent; and
besides there would be two kinds of knowledge in God, one knowledge of
potential things, and another of actual things. So they came to the
conclusion that God knows only species but not individuals. Others say
that God knows nothing except his own essence, else there would be
multiplicity in his nature. As the entire difficulty, according to
Maimonides, arose from the supposed impropriety in the government of
individual destinies, he first discusses the question of Providence and
comes back later to the problem of God's knowledge.[292]

He enumerates five opinions concerning Providence.

1. _The Opinion of Epicurus._ There is no Providence at all; everything
is the result of accident and concurrence of atoms. Aristotle has
refuted this idea.

2. _The Opinion of Aristotle._ Some things are subject to Providence,
others are governed by accident. God provides for the celestial spheres,
hence they are permanent individually; but, as Alexander says in his
name, Providence ceases with the sphere of the moon. Aristotle's
doctrine concerning Providence is related to his belief in the eternity
of the world. Providence corresponds to the nature of the object in
question. As the individual spheres are permanent, it shows that there
is special Providence which preserves the spheres individually. As,
again, there proceed from them other beings which are not permanent
individually but only as species, namely, the species of our world, it
is clear that with reference to the sublunar world there is so much
Providential influence as to bring about the permanence of the species,
but not of the individual. To be sure, the individuals too are not
completely neglected. There are various powers given to them in
accordance with the quality of their matters; which powers determine the
length of their duration, their motion, perception, purposive existence.
But the other incidents and motions in individual human as well as
animal life are pure accident. When a storm scatters the leaves of
trees, casts down some trunks and drowns a ship with its passengers, the
incident is as accidental with the men drowned as with the scattered
leaves. That which follows invariable laws Aristotle regards as
Providential, what happens rarely and without rule is accidental.

3. _The View of the Ashariya._ This is the very opposite of the
preceding opinion. The Ashariya deny all accident. Everything is done by
the will of God, whether it be the fall of a leaf or the death of a man.
Everything is determined, and a person cannot of himself do or forbear.
It follows from this view that the category of the possible is ruled
out. Everything is either necessary or impossible. It follows also that
all laws are useless, for man is helpless, and reward and punishment are
determined solely by the will of God, to whom the concepts of right and
wrong do not apply.

4. _The Opinion of the Muʿtazila._ They vindicate man's power to do and
forbear, thus justifying the commands and prohibitions, and the rewards
and punishments of the laws. God does not do wrong. They also believe
that God knows of the fall of a leaf, and provides for all things. This
opinion, too, is open to criticism. If a person is born with a defect,
they say this is due to God's wisdom, and it is better for the man to be
thus. If a pious man is put to death, it is to increase his reward in
the next world. They extend this to lower animals also, and say that the
mouse killed by the cat will be rewarded in the next world.

The last three opinions all have their motives. Aristotle followed the
data of nature. The Ashariya refused to impute ignorance to God. The
Muʿtazila object to imputing to him wrong, or to denying reason, which
holds that to cause a person pain for no offence is wrong. Their opinion
leads to a contradiction, for they say God knows everything and at the
same time man is free.

5. _The Opinion of our Law._ A fundamental principle of the law of Moses
is that man has absolute freedom in his conduct, and so has an
irrational animal. No one of our religion disputes this. Another
fundamental principle is that God does no wrong, and hence all reward
and punishment is justly given. There is only one exception mentioned by
the Rabbis, what they call "suffering for love," _i. e._, misfortunes
which are not in the nature of punishment for sins committed, but in
order to increase reward. There is no support, however, for this view in
the Bible. All this applies only to man. Nothing is said in the Bible or
in the Talmud of reward and punishment of animals. It was adopted by
some of the later Geonim from the Muʿtazila.

After citing these five opinions on the nature of Providence, Maimonides
formulates his own to the following effect:

My own belief in the matter, not as a result of demonstration, but based
upon what seems to me to be the meaning of Scripture is that in the
sublunar world man alone enjoys individual Providence. All other
individual things besides are ruled by chance, as Aristotle says. Divine
Providence corresponds to divine influence or emanation. The more one
has of divine influence, the more one has of Providence. Thus in plants
and animals divine Providence extends only to the species. When the
Rabbis tell us that cruelty to animals is forbidden in the Torah, the
meaning is that we must not be cruel to animals for our own good, in
order not to develop habits of cruelty. To ask why God does not provide
for the lower animals in the same way as he does for man, is the same as
to ask why he did not endow the animals with reason. The answer would
be, so he willed, so his wisdom decreed. My opinion is not that God is
ignorant of anything or is incapable of doing certain things, but that
Providence is closely related to reason. One has as much of Providence
as he has of the influence of the divine reason. It follows from this
that Providence is not the same for all individuals of the human
species, but varies with the person's character and achievements. The
prophets enjoy a special Providence; the pious and wise men come next;
whereas a person who is ignorant and disobedient is neglected and
treated like a lower animal, being left to the government of

Having disposed of the question of Providence, we may now resume the
discussion undertaken above (p. 289) of the nature of God's knowledge.
The idea that God does not know the particular things in our world below
is an old one and is referred to in the Bible often. Thus, to quote one
instance from the Psalms, the idea is clearly enunciated in the
following passage, "And they say [sc. the wicked], How doth God know?
And is there knowledge in the most High? Behold, these are the wicked;
and, being alway at ease, they increase in riches. Surely in vain have I
cleansed my heart, and washed my hands in innocency...." (73, 11-13).
The origin of this notion is in human experience, which sees the
adversity of the good and the prosperity of the wicked, though many of
the troubles are of a man's own doing, who is a free agent. But this
view is wrong. For ignorance of any kind is a defect, and God is
perfect. David pointed out this when he said, "He that planted the ear
shall he not hear? He that formed the eye shall he not see?" (94, 9).
This means that unless God knows what the senses are, he could not have
made the sense organs to perceive.

We must now answer the other metaphysical arguments against God's
knowledge of particulars. It is agreed that no new knowledge can come to
God which he did not have before, nor can he have many knowledges. We
say therefore (we who are believers in the Torah) that with one
knowledge God knows many things, and his knowledge does not change as
the objects change. We say also that he knows all things before they
come into being, and knows them always; hence his knowledge never
changes as the objects appear and disappear. It follows from this that
his knowledge relates to the non-existent and embraces the infinite. We
believe this and say that only the absolutely non-existent cannot be
known; but the non-existent whose existence is in God's knowledge and
which he can bring into reality can be known. As to comprehending the
infinite, we say with some thinkers that knowledge relates primarily to
the species and extends indirectly to the individuals included in the
species. And the species are finite. The philosophers, however, decide
that there cannot be knowledge of the non-existent, and the infinite
cannot be comprehended. God, therefore, as he cannot have new and
changing knowledge knows only the permanent things, the species, and not
the changing and temporary individuals. Others go still further and
maintain that God cannot even know the permanent things, because
knowledge of many things involves many knowledges, hence multiplicity in
God's essence. They insist therefore that God knows only himself. My
view is, says Maimonides, that the error of all these people is that
they assume there is a relation of resemblance between our knowledge and
God's knowledge. And it is surprising that the philosophers should be
guilty of such an error, the very men who proved that God's knowledge is
identical with his essence, and that our reason cannot know God's

The difference between our knowledge and God's knowledge is that we get
our knowledge from the data of experience, upon which it depends. Each
new datum adds to our knowledge, which cannot run ahead of that which
produces it. It is different in the case of God. He is the cause of the
data of experience. The latter follow his knowledge, and not _vice
versa_. Hence by knowing himself he knows everything else before it
comes into being. We cannot conceive of his knowledge, for to do this
would be to have it ourselves.[294]

The last topic Maimonides considers in his philosophical work is the
reason and purpose of the commandments of the Bible, particularly the
ceremonial precepts which apparently have no rational meaning. In fact
there are those who maintain that it is vain to search for reasons of
the laws where none are given in the Bible itself; that the sole reason
in those cases is the will of God. These people labor under the absurd
impression that to discover a rational purpose in the ceremonial laws
would diminish their value and reduce them to human institutions. Their
divine character and origin is attested in the minds of these people by
their irrationality, by the fact that they have no human meaning. This
is clearly absurd, says Maimonides the rationalist. It is tantamount to
saying that man is superior to God; and that whereas a man will command
only that which is of benefit, God gives orders which have no earthly
use. The truth is quite the reverse, and all the laws are for our

Accordingly Maimonides undertakes to account for all the laws of the
Bible. The Law, he says, has two purposes, the improvement of the body
and the improvement of the soul or the mind. The improvement of the soul
is brought about by study and reflection, and the result of this is
theoretical knowledge. But in order to be able to realize this perfectly
a necessary prerequisite is the improvement of the body. This is
inferior in value to perfection of the soul, but comes naturally and
chronologically first as a means to an end. For bodily perfection one
must have health and strength as far as one's constitution permits, and
for this purpose a person must have his needs at all times. Social life
is necessary for the supply of the individuals' needs, and to make
social life possible there must be rules of right and wrong to be

Applying what has just been said to the Law, we may divide its contents
broadly into four classes, (1) Precepts inculcating true beliefs and
ideas, such as the existence of God, his unity, knowledge, power, will,
eternity. (2) Legal and moral precepts, such as the inculcation of
justice and a benevolent disposition for the good of society. (3) The
narratives and genealogies of the Law. (4) The ceremonial prescriptions.

Of these the purpose of the first two divisions is perfectly clear and
admitted by all. True beliefs and ideas regarding God and his government
of the world are directly conducive to the highest end of man, knowledge
and perfection of the soul. Honorable and virtuous conduct is a
preliminary requisite to intellectual perfection. The genealogies and
narratives of the Bible are also not without a purpose. They are
intended to inculcate a theoretical doctrine or a moral, and to
emphasize the one or the other, which cannot be done so well by a bare
statement or commandment. Thus, to take a few examples, the creation of
the world is impressed upon the reader beyond the possibility of a doubt
by a circumstantial narrative of the various steps in the process, the
gradual peopling of the earth by the multiplication of the human race
descended from the first pair, and so on. The story of the flood and of
the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah has for its purpose to emphasize
the truth that God is a just judge, who rewards the pious and punishes
the wicked. The genealogy of the kings of Edom in Genesis (36, 31) is
intended as a warning to Israel in the appointment of kings. These kings
of the Edomites were all of them foreigners not of Edom, and it is
probable that the history of their tyrannical rule and oppression of
their Edomite subjects was well known to the people in Moses's time.
Hence the point of the enumeration of the list of kings and their origin
is to serve as a deterring example to the Israelites never to appoint as
king of Israel a man who came from another nation, in accordance with
the precept in Deuteronomy (17,15), "Thou mayest not put a foreigner
over thee, which is not thy brother."[297]

There remains the division of the ceremonial laws, which are the subject
of dispute. The purpose in these precepts is not evident, and opinions
are divided as to whether they have any purpose. I will endeavor to
show, says Maimonides, that these also have one or more of the following
objects: to teach true beliefs and opinions, to remove injustice and to
inculcate good qualities.

Abraham grew up among the Sabeans, who were star worshippers and
believers in the eternity of the world. The object of the law is to keep
men away from the erroneous views of the Sabeans, which were prevalent
in those days. The Sabeans believed that the worship of the stars helps
in the cultivation of the ground to make it fruitful. For this reason
they think highly of the husbandmen and laborers on the land. They also
respect cattle and prohibit slaughtering them because they are of
benefit in the cultivation of the land. In the interest of agriculture
they instituted the worship of the stars, which they believed would
cause the rain to fall and the earth to yield its fertility. On this
account we find the reverse of this in the Bible, telling us that
worship of the stars will result in lack of rain and infertility.

In the life of nature we see how one thing serves another, and certain
objects are not brought about except through certain others, and
development is gradual. So, for example, a young infant cannot be fed on
meat and solid food, and nature provides milk in the mother's breast.
Similarly in governing the people of Israel, who were living in a
certain environment, God could not at once tear them away from the
habits of thought to which they were accustomed, but he led them
gradually. Hence as they were accustomed to sacrificing to the stars,
God ordered them to sacrifice to him, the object being to wean them away
from the idols in the easiest way possible. This is why the prophets do
not lay stress on the sacrifices. To be sure, it was not impossible for
God to form their minds so that they would not require this form of
training, and would see at once that God does not need sacrifices, but
this would have been a miracle. And while God does perform miracles
sometimes for certain purposes, he does not change the nature of man;
not because he cannot, but because he desires man to be free and
responsible. Otherwise there would be no sense in laws and prophets.

Among the purposes of the law are abstention from self-indulgence in the
physical appetites, like eating and drinking and sensuous pleasure,
because these things prevent the ultimate perfection of man, and are
likewise injurious to civil and social life, multiplying as they do
sorrow and trouble and strife and jealousy and hate and warfare.

Another purpose is to inculcate gentleness and politeness and docility.
Another is purity and holiness. External cleanliness is also
recommended, but not as a substitute for internal. The important thing
is internal purity, external takes a secondary place.

Maimonides ends the discussion of the Pentateuchal laws by dividing them
into fourteen classes (following in this the divisions in his great
legal code, the "Yad Ha-Hazakah") and explaining the purposes of each
class. It will be useful briefly to reproduce the division here.

1. Those laws that concern fundamental ideas of religion and theology,
including the duty of learning and teaching, and the institutions of
repentance and fasting. The purpose here is clear. Intellectual
perfection is the greatest good of man, and this cannot be attained
without learning and teaching; and without wisdom there is neither good
practice nor true opinion. Similarly honoring the wise, swearing by
God's name, and not to swear falsely--all these lead to a firm belief in
God's greatness. Repentance is useful to guard against despair and
continuance in evil doing on the part of the sinner.

2. The precepts and prohibitions relating to idolatry. Here are included
also the prohibition to mix divers kinds of seeds in planting, the
prohibition against eating the fruit of a tree during the first three
years of its growth, and against wearing a garment made of a mixture of
wool and flax. The prohibition of idolatry is evident in its purpose,
which is to teach true ideas about God. The other matters above
mentioned are connected with idolatry. Magic is a species of idolatry
because it is based on a belief in the direct influence of the stars.
All practices done to produce a certain effect, which are not justified
by a reason or at least are not verified by experience, are forbidden as
being superstitious and a species of magic. Cutting the beard and the
earlocks is forbidden on a similar ground because it was a custom of the
idolatrous priests. The same thing applies to mixing of cotton and flax,
to men wearing women's garments and _vice versa_, though here there is
the additional reason, to prevent, namely, laxness in sexual morality.

3. The precepts relating to ethical and moral conduct. Here the purpose
is clear, namely, to improve social life.

4. The rules relating to charity, loans, gifts, and so on. The purpose
is to teach kindness to the poor, and the benefit is mutual, for the
rich man to-day may be poor to-morrow.

5. Laws relating to injury and damages. The purpose is to remove wrong
and injustice.

6. Laws relating to theft, robbery, false witnesses. The purpose is to
prevent injury by punishing the offender.

7. The regulation of business intercourse, like loan, hire, deposits,
buying and selling, inheritance, and so on. The purpose here is social
justice to make life in society possible.

8. Laws relating to special periods, such as the Sabbath and the
festivals. The purpose is stated in each case in the Law itself, and it
is either to inculcate a true idea like the creation in the case of the
Sabbath, or to enable mankind to rest from their labors, or for both

9. The other practical observances like prayer, the reading of "Shema,"
and so on. These are all modes of serving God, which lead to true
opinions concerning him, and to fear and love.

10. The regulations bearing upon the temple and its service. The purpose
of these was explained above in connection with the institution of
sacrifice, namely that it was a concession to the primitive ideas and
customs of the people of those times for the purpose of gradually
weaning them away from idolatry.

11. Laws relating to sacrifices. The purpose was stated above and under

12. Laws of cleanness and uncleanness. The purpose is to guard against
too great familiarity with the Temple in order to maintain respect for
it. Hence the regulations prescribing the times when one may, and the
occasions when one may not, approach or enter the Temple.

13. The dietary laws. Unwholesome food is forbidden, also unclean
animals. The purpose in some cases is to guard against excess and
self-indulgence. Some regulations like the laws of slaughter and others
are humanitarian in their nature.

14. Forbidden marriages, and circumcision. The purpose is to guard
against excess in sexual indulgence, and against making it an end in

To sum up, there are four kinds of human accomplishments or
excellencies, (1) Acquisition of wealth, (2) Physical perfection,
strength, beauty, etc., (3) Moral perfection, (4) Intellectual and
spiritual perfection. The last is the most important. The first is
purely external; the second is common to the lower animals; the third is
for the sake of one's fellowmen, in the interest of society, and would
not exist for a solitary person. The last alone concerns the individual
himself. Jeremiah expresses this truth in his statement, "Thus saith the
Lord, Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, neither let the mighty
man glory in his might, let not the rich man glory in his riches: but
let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth, and knoweth
me, that I am the Lord which exercise loving kindness, judgment and
righteousness in the earth" (Jer. 9, 22). "Wise man" in the above
quotation means the man of good morals. The important thing, Jeremiah
says, is to know God through his actions and to imitate him.[299]

Maimonides's ethics as well as his interpretation of the Pentateuchal
laws is intellectualistic, as the foregoing account shows. And it is
natural that it should be. The prevailing trend of thought in the middle
ages, alike among the Arabs, Jews and Christians, was of this character.
Aristotle was the master of science, and to him intellectual
contemplation is the highest good of man. The distinction of man is his
rational faculty, hence the excellence and perfection of this faculty is
the proper function of man and the realization of his being. This alone
leads to that "eudaimonia" or happiness for which man strives. To be
sure complete happiness is impossible without the complete development
of all one's powers, but this is because the reason in man is not
isolated from the rest of his individual and social life; and perfection
of mind requires as its auxiliaries and preparation complete living in
freedom and comfort. But the aim is after all the life of the intellect,
and the "dianoetic" virtues are superior to the practical. Theoretic
contemplation stands far higher than practical activity. Add to this
that Aristotle's God is pure thought thinking eternally itself, the
universal mover, himself eternally unmoved, and attracting the celestial
spheres as the object of love attracts the lover, without itself
necessarily being affected, and the intellectualism of Aristotle stands
out clearly.

Maimonides is an Aristotelian, and he endeavors to harmonize the
intellectualism and theorism of the Stagirite with the diametrically
opposed ethics and religion of the Hebrew Bible. And he is apparently
unaware of the yawning gulf extending between them. The ethics of the
Bible is nothing if not practical. No stress is laid upon knowledge and
theoretical speculation as such. The wisdom and the wise man of the book
of Proverbs no more mean the theoretical philosopher than the fool and
the scorner in the same book denote the one ignorant in theoretical
speculation. "The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord." This is
the keynote of the book of Proverbs, and its precepts and exhortations
are practical and nothing else. That the Pentateuchal law is solely
concerned with practical conduct, religious, ceremonial and moral, needs
not saying. It is so absolutely clear and evident that one wonders how
so clear-sighted a thinker like Maimonides could have been misled by the
authority of Aristotle and the intellectual atmosphere of the day to
imagine otherwise. The very passage from Jeremiah which he quotes as
summing up his idea of the _summum bonum_, speaks against him, and he
only succeeds in manipulating it in his favor by misinterpreting the
word "wise." Whatever the wise man may denote in the book of Proverbs,
here in Jeremiah he is clearly contrasted with the person who in
imitation of God practices kindness, judgment and righteousness. The
word does not denote the theoretical philosopher, to be sure, but it
approximates it more closely than the expression describing the ideal
man of Jeremiah's commendation.

It is in line with Maimonides's general rationalistic and
intellectualistic point of view when he undertakes to find a reason for
every commandment, where no reason is given in the Law. He shows himself
in this an opponent of all mysticism, sentimentality and arbitrariness.
Reason is paramount. The intellect determines the will, and not even
God's will may be arbitrary. His will is identical with his reason,
hence there is a reason in everything that he wills. We may not in every
case succeed in finding the reason where he himself did not choose to
tell us, but a reason there always is, and the endeavor on our part to
discover it should be commended rather than condemned.

The details of his motivation of the ceremonial laws are very
interesting, and in many cases they anticipated, though in a cruder
form, the more scientific theories of modern critics. Take his
interpretation of the institution of sacrifices. Take away the personal
manner of expression, which might seem to imply that God spoke to Moses
in some such fashion as this: You and I know that sacrifices have no
inherent meaning or value. They rather smack of superstition and
idolatry. But what can we do? We cannot, _i. e._, we must not, change
the nature of these people. We must train them gradually to see the
truth for themselves. They are now on the level of their environment,
and believe in the efficacy of killing sheep and oxen to the stars and
the gods. We will use a true pedagogical method if we humor them in this
their crudity for the purpose of transferring their allegiance from the
false gods to the one true God. Let us then institute a system of
sacrifices with all the details and minutiae of the sacrificial systems
of the heathens and star worshippers. We shall impose this system upon
our people for the time being, and in the end as they grow wiser they
will outgrow it--take away this mode of expression in Maimonides's
interpretation, which is not essential, and the essence may be rendered
in more modern terms thus. Man's religion is subject to change and
development and progress like all his other institutions. The forms they
successively take in the course of their development are determined by
the state of general intelligence and positive knowledge that the given
race or nation possesses. The same thing holds of religious development.
The institution of sacrifices is prevalent in all religious communities
at a certain stage in their career. It starts with human sacrifice,
which is later discarded and replaced by sacrifices of animals. And this
is again in the course of time discontinued, leaving its traces only in
the prayer book, which in Judaism has officially taken the place of the
Temple service.

While the merit of Maimonides in foreshadowing this modern understanding
of ancient religion cannot be overestimated, it is clear that in some of
his other interpretations of Jewish ceremonial, he is wide of the mark.
His rationalism could not take the place of a knowledge of history. His
motivation of the dietary laws on the score of hygiene or of moderation
and self-restraint is probably not true. Nor is the prohibition against
mixing divers seeds, or wearing garments of wool and flax mixed, or
shaving the corner of the beard, and so on, due to the fact that these
were the customs of the idolaters and their priests. If Maimonides was
bold enough to pull the sacrificial system down from its glorious
pedestal in Jewish tradition and admit that being inherently nothing but
a superstition, it was nevertheless instituted with such great pomp and
ceremony, with a priestly family, a levitical tribe and a host of
prescriptions and regulations, merely as a concession to the habits and
prejudices of the people, why could he not apply the same method of
explanation to the few prohibitions mentioned above? Why not say the
ancient Hebrews were forbidden to mix divers seeds because they had been
from time immemorial taught to believe that there was something sinful
in joining together what God has kept asunder; and in order not to shock
their sensibilities too rudely the new religion let them have these
harmless notions in order by means of these to inculcate real truths?

Before concluding our sketch of Maimonides we must say a word about his
Bible exegesis. Though the tendency to read philosophy into the Bible is
as old as Philo, from whom it was borrowed by Clement of Alexandria and
Origen and by them handed down to the other Patristic writers, and
though in the Jewish middle ages too, from Saadia down, the verses of
the Bible were employed to confirm views adopted from other
considerations; though finally Abraham Ibn Daud in the matter of
exegesis, too, anticipated Maimonides in finding the Aristotelian
metaphysic in the sacred scriptures, still Maimonides as in everything
else pertaining to Jewish belief and practice, so in the interpretation
of the Bible also obtained the position of a leader, of the founder of a
school and the most brilliant and most authoritative exponent thereof,
putting in the shade everyone who preceded him and every endeavor in the
same direction to which Maimonides himself owed his inspiration.
Maimonides's treatment of the Bible texts and their application to his
philosophical disquisitions is so much more comprehensive and masterly
than anything in the same line done before him, that it made everything
else superfluous and set the pace for manifold imitation by the
successors of Maimonides, small and great. Reading the Bible through
Aristotelian spectacles became the fashion of the day after Maimonides.
Joseph Ibn Aknin, Samuel Ibn Tibbon, Jacob Anatoli, Joseph Ibn Caspi,
Levi Ben Gerson and a host of others tried their hand at Biblical
exegesis, and the Maimonidean stamp is upon their work.

We have already spoken of Maimonides's general attitude toward the
anthropomorphisms in the Bible and the manner in which he accounts for
the style and mode of expression of the Biblical writers. He wrote no
special exegetical work, he composed no commentaries on the Bible. But
his "Guide of the Perplexed" is full of quotations from the Biblical
books, and certain sections in it are devoted to a systematic
interpretation of those Biblical chapters and books which lend
themselves most easily and, as Maimonides thought, imperatively to
metaphysical interpretation. It is impossible here to enter into
details, but it is proper briefly to point out his general method of
treating the Biblical passages in question, and to state what these
passages are.

We have already referred more than once to the Talmudic expressions
"Maase Bereshit" (Work of Creation) and "Maase Merkaba" (Work of the
Chariot). Maimonides says definitely that the former denotes the science
of physics, _i. e._, the fundamental notions of nature as treated in
Aristotle's Physics, and the latter signifies metaphysics or theology,
as represented in Aristotle's Metaphysics. The creation chapters in
Genesis contain beneath their simple exterior of a generally
intelligible narrative, appealing to young and old alike, women as well
as children, a treatment of philosophical physics. And similarly in the
obscure phraseology of the vision of Ezekiel in the first and tenth
chapters of that prophet's book, are contained allusions to the most
profound ideas of metaphysics and theology, concerning God and the
separate Intelligences and the celestial spheres. As the Rabbis forbid
teaching these profound doctrines except to one or two worthy persons at
a time, and as the authors of those chapters in the Bible clearly
intended to conceal the esoteric contents from the gaze of the vulgar,
Maimonides with all his eagerness to spread abroad the light of reason
and knowledge hesitates to violate the spirit of Bible and Talmud. His
interpretations of these mystic passages are therefore expressed in
allusions and half-concealed revelations. The diligent student of the
"Guide," who is familiar with the philosophy of Aristotle as taught by
the Arabs Alfarabi and Avicenna will be able without much difficulty to
solve Maimonides's allusions, the casual reader will not. Without going
into details it will suffice for our purpose to say that in the creation
story Maimonides finds the Aristotelian doctrines of matter and form,
of the four elements, of potentiality and actuality, of the different
powers of the soul, of logical and ethical distinctions (the true and
the false on one hand, the good and the bad on the other), and so
on.[300] In the Vision of Ezekiel he sees the Peripatetic ideas of the
celestial spheres, of their various motions, of their souls, their
intellects and the separate Intelligences, of the Active Intellect, of
the influence of the heavenly bodies on the changes in the sublunar
world, of the fifth element (the ether) and so on.[301] Don Isaac
Abarbanel has already criticized this attempt of Maimonides by justly
arguing that if the meaning of the mysterious vision of Ezekiel is what
Maimonides thinks it is, there was no occasion to wrap it in such
obscurity, since the matter is plainly taught in all schools of
philosophy.[302] We might, however, reply that no less a man than Plato
expresses himself in the Timæus in similarly obscure terms concerning
the origin and formation of the world. Be this as it may, Munk is
certainly right when he says that if, as is not improbable, Ezekiel's
vision does contain cosmological speculations, they have nothing to do
with the Aristotelian cosmology, but must be related to Babylonian

Another favorite book of the Bible for the exegesis of philosophers was
the book of Job. In this Maimonides sees reflected the several views
concerning Providence, divine knowledge and human freedom, which he
enumerates (p. 290 ff.).[304]

The influence of Maimonides upon his contemporaries and immediate
successors was indeed very great, and it was not confined to Judaism.
Christian Scholastics and Mohammedan theologians studied and used the
Guide of the Perplexed. Maimonides himself, it seems, though he wrote
his "Guide" in the Arabic language, did not desire to make it accessible
to the Mohammedans, fearing possibly that some of his doctrines
concerning prophecy might be offensive to them. Hence he is said to have
instructed his friends and disciples not to transliterate the Hebrew
characters, which he in accordance with general Jewish usage employed in
writing Arabic, into Arabic characters. But he was powerless to enforce
his desire and there is no doubt that such transcriptions were in use.
Samuel Tibbon himself, the Hebrew translator of the "Guide," made use of
manuscript copies written in Arabic letters. We are told that in the
Mohammedan schools in the city of Fez in Morocco, Jews were appointed
to teach Maimonides's philosophy, and there is extant in Hebrew
translation a commentary by a Mohammedan theologian on the twenty-five
philosophical propositions laid down by Maimonides as the basis of his
proof of the existence of God (p. 254).[305]

The influence of Maimonides on Christian scholasticism is still greater.
We have already said (p. 199 f.) that the philosophical renaissance in
Latin Europe during the thirteenth century was due to the introduction
of the complete works of Aristotle in Latin translation. These
translations were made partly from the Arabic versions of the
Mohammedans, partly from the Greek originals, which became accessible
after the capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders in 1207.[306]
Before this time the scope of philosophical research and investigation
in Christian Europe was limited, and its basis was the Platonism of St.
Augustine and fragments of Aristotle's logic. In general Platonism was
favorable to Christian dogma. Plato according to Augustine came nearest
to Christianity of all the ancient Greek philosophers.[307] And the
dangers to Church doctrine which lurked in philosophical discussion
before the thirteenth century were a tendency to Pantheism on the part
of thinkers imbued with the Neo-Platonic mode of thought, and an undue
emphasis either on the unity of God as opposed to the Trinity (Abélard),
or on the Trinity at the expense of the unity (Roscellinus of
Compiègne)--conclusions resulting from the attitudes of the thinkers in
question on the nature of universals.

In the early part of the thirteenth century for the first time, the
horizon of the Latin schoolmen was suddenly enlarged and brilliantly
illumined by the advent of the complete Aristotle in his severe,
exacting and rigorous panoply. All science and philosophy opened before
the impoverished schoolmen, famished for want of new ideas. And they
threw themselves with zeal and enthusiasm into the study of the new
philosophy. The Church took alarm because the new Aristotle constituted
a danger to accepted dogma. He taught the eternity of the world, the
uniformity of natural law, the unity of the human intellect, denying by
implication Providence and freedom and individual immortality. Some of
these doctrines were not precisely those of Aristotle but they could be
derived from Aristotelian principles if interpreted in a certain way;
and the Arab intermediators between Aristotle and his Christian students
had so interpreted him. Averroes in particular, who gained the
distinction of being the commentator _par excellence_ of Aristotle, was
responsible for this mode of interpretation; and he had his followers
among the Masters of Arts in the University of Paris. These and similar
tendencies the Church was striving to prevent, and it attempted to do
this at first crudely by prohibiting the study and teaching of the
Physical and Metaphysical works of Aristotle. Failing in this the Papacy
commissioned three representatives of the Dominican order to expurgate
Aristotle in order to render him harmless. You might as well think of
expurgating a book on geometry! The task was never carried out. But
instead something more valuable for the welfare of the Church was
accomplished in a different way. Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas
undertook the study of Aristotle and the interpretation of his works
with a view to harmonizing his teachings with the dogmas of
Christianity. Albertus Magnus began the task, Thomas Aquinas, his
greater disciple, the Maimonides of Christian philosophy, completed it.
And in this undertaking Maimonides was Thomas Aquinas's model.[308]

The Guide of the Perplexed was translated into Latin not long after its
composition.[309] Before Albertus Magnus, Alexander of Hales, the
Franciscan leader, and William of Auvergne, the Bishop of Paris, had
read and made use of Maimonides's philosophical masterpiece. Albertus
Magnus was still more diligent in his adoption of Maimonidean views, or
in taking account of them, where he is opposed to their adoption. But it
remained for Thomas Aquinas, who made the most systematic attempt in the
mediæval schools to harmonize the philosophy of Aristotle with the
doctrine of the Church, to use Maimonides as his guide and model. Like
Maimonides he employs Aristotelian proofs for the existence of God,
proofs based on the eternity of motion; and like him Aquinas argues that
if motion is not eternal and the world was made in time, the existence
of God is still more readily evident. In his discussion of the divine
attributes, of angels, of Providence, of Prophecy, of free will, of the
ceremonial laws in the Pentateuch, Thomas Aquinas constantly takes
account of Maimonides's views, whether he agrees with them or not. It is
no doubt an exaggeration to say that there would have been no Aquinas if
Maimonides had not preceded him. For Aquinas had access to the works of
Aristotle and his Arabian commentators, the former of whom he studied
more diligently than Maimonides himself. But there is no doubt that the
method of harmonizing Aristotelian doctrine with traditional teaching so
far as the common elements of Judaism and Christianity were concerned
was suggested to Aquinas by his Jewish predecessor. It is not our
province here to go into details of the system of Aquinas to show
wherein he agrees or disagrees with Maimonides, nor is it possible to do
more than mention the fact that after Aquinas also, Duns Scotus, the
head of the Franciscan school, had the "Guide" before him, and in
comparatively modern times, such celebrities as Scaliger and Leibnitz
speak of the Jewish philosopher with admiration and respect.[310]

That Maimonides's influence upon Jewish theology and thought was deep
and lasting is a truism. The attitude of the prominent theologians and
philosophers who succeeded him will appear in the sequel in connection
with our treatment of the post-Maimonidean writers. Here a word must be
said of the general effect of Maimonides's teaching upon Jews and
Judaism throughout the dispersion. His fame as the greatest Jew of his
time--great as a Talmudical authority, which appealed to all classes of
Jewish students, great as a physician with the added glory of being a
favorite at court, great as the head of the Jewish community in the
East, and finally great as a philosopher and scientist--all these
qualifications, never before or after united in the same way in any
other man, served to make him the cynosure of all eyes and to make his
word an object of notice and attention throughout the Jewish diaspora.
What he said or wrote could not be ignored whether people liked it or
not. They could afford to ignore a Gabirol even, or an Ibn Daud. But
Maimonides must be reckoned with. The greater the man, the greater the
alertness of lesser, though not less independent, spirits, to guard
against the enslavement of all Judaism to one authority, no matter how
great. And in particular where this authority erred in boldly adopting
views in disagreement with Jewish tradition, as it seemed to many, and
in setting up a new source of truth alongside of, or even above, the
revelation of the Torah and the authority of tradition, to which these
latter must be bent whether they will or no--his errors must be
strenuously opposed and condemned without fear or favor. This was the
view of the traditionalists, whose sole authorities in all matters of
theology and related topics were the words of Scripture and Rabbinic
literature as tradition had interpreted them. On the other hand, the
rationalistic development during the past three centuries, which we have
traced thus far, and the climax of that progress as capped by Maimonides
was not without its influence on another class of the Jewish community,
particularly in Spain and southern France; and these regarded Maimonides
as the greatest teacher that ever lived. Their admiration was unbounded
for his personality as well as his method and his conclusions. His
opponents were regarded as obscurantists, who, rather than the object of
their attack, were endangering Judaism. All Jewry was divided into two
camps, the Maimunists and the anti-Maimunists; and the polemic and the
struggle between them was long and bitter. Anathema and counter
anathema, excommunication and counter excommunication was the least of
the matter. The arm of the Church Inquisition was invoked, and the altar
of a Parisian Church furnished the torch which set on flame the pages of
Maimonides's "Guide" in the French capital. More tragic even was the
punishment meted out to the Jewish informers who betrayed their people
to the enemy. The men responsible had their tongues cut out.

The details of the Maimunist controversy belong to the general
historian.[311] Our purpose here is to indicate in brief outline the
general effect which the teaching of Maimonides had upon his and
subsequent ages. The thirteenth century produced no great men in
philosophy at all comparable to Moses Ben Maimon or his famous
predecessors. The persecutions of the Jews in Spain led many of them to
emigrate to neighboring countries, which put an end to the glorious era
inaugurated three centuries before by Hasdai Ibn Shaprut. The centre of
Jewish liberal studies was transferred to south France, but the literary
activities there were a pale shadow compared with those which made
Jewish Spain famous. Philosophical thought had reached its perigee in
Maimonides, and what followed after was an attempt on the part of his
lesser disciples and successors to follow in the steps of their master,
to extend his teachings, to make them more widespread and more popular.
With the transference of the literary centre from Spain to Provence went
the gradual disuse of Arabic as the medium of philosophic and scientific
culture, and the age of translation made its appearance. Prior to, and
including, Maimonides all the Jewish thinkers whom we have considered,
with the exception of Abraham Bar Hiyya and Abraham Ibn Ezra, wrote
their works in Arabic. After Maimonides Hebrew takes the place of
Arabic, and in addition to the new works composed, the commentaries
on the "Guide" which were now written in plenty and the
philosophico-exegetical works on the Bible in the Maimonidean spirit,
the ancient classics of Saadia, Bahya, Gabirol, Halevi, Ibn Zaddik, Ibn
Daud and Maimonides himself had to be translated from Arabic into
Hebrew. In addition to these religio-philosophical works, it was
necessary to translate those writings which contained the purely
scientific and philosophical branches that were preliminary to the study
of religious philosophy. This included logic, the various branches of
mathematics and astronomy, medical treatises and some of the books of
the Aristotelian corpus with the Arabic compendia and commentaries
thereon. The grammatical and lexical treatises of Hayyuj and Ibn Janah
were also translated. The most famous of the host of translators, which
the need of the times brought forth, were the three Tibbonides, Judah
(1120-1190), Samuel (1150-1230) and Moses (fl. 1240-1283), Jacob Anatoli
(fl. 1194-1256), Shemtob Falaquera (1225-1290), Jacob Ben Machir
(1236-1304), Moses of Narbonne (d. after 1362), and others. Some of
these wrote original works besides. Samuel Ibn Tibbon wrote a
philosophical treatise, "Ma'amar Yikkawu ha-Mayim,"[312] and
commentaries in the Maimonidean vein on Ecclesiastes and the Song of
Songs. His greater fame rests on his translation of the "Guide of the
Perplexed." He translated besides Maimonides's "Letter on Resurrection,"
the "Eight Chapters," and other Arabic writings on science and
philosophy. Moses Ibn Tibbon was prolific as an original writer as well
as a translator. Joseph Ibn Aknin (1160-1226), the favorite pupil of
Maimonides, for whom the latter wrote his "Guide," is the author of
treatises on philosophical topics, and of exegetical works on certain
books of the Bible and on the Mishnic treatise, the "Ethics of the
Fathers."[312a] Jacob Anatoli, in addition to translating Ptolemy's
Almagest and Averroes's commentaries on Aristotle's logic, wrote a work,
"Malmad ha-Talmidim," on philosophical homiletics in the form of a
commentary on the Pentateuch.[313] Shemtob Falaquera, the translator of
portions of Gabirol's "Fons Vitæ,"[314] is the author of a commentary
on the "Guide," entitled "Moreh ha-Moreh,"[315] and of a number of
ethical and psychological works.[316] Jacob Ben Machir translated a
number of scientific and philosophical works, particularly on astronomy,
and is likewise the author of two original works on astronomy. Joseph
Ibn Caspi (1297-1340) was a very prolific writer, having twenty-nine
works to his credit, most of them exegetical, and among them a
commentary on the "Guide."[317] Moses of Narbonne wrote an important
commentary on the "Guide,"[318] and is likewise the author of a number
of works on the philosophy of Averroes, of whom he was a great admirer.
The translations of Judah Ibn Tibbon, the father of translators as he
has been called, go back indeed to the latter half of the twelfth
century, and Abraham Ibn Ezra translated an astronomical work as early
as 1160. But the bulk of the work of translation is the product of the
thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. The result of these translations
was that scientific and philosophical works became accessible to all
those who knew Hebrew instead of being confined to the lands of Arabian
culture. Another effect was the enlargement of the Hebrew language and
the development of a new Hebrew dialect with a philosophical and
scientific terminology. These translations so far as they relate to pure
science and philosophy were neglected in the closing centuries of the
middle ages, when conditions among the Jews were such as precluded them
from taking an interest in any but purely religious studies. Continuous
persecutions, the establishment of the Ghettoes, the rise of the Kabbala
and the opposition of the pietists and mystics to the rationalism of the
philosophers all tended to the neglect of scientific study and to the
concentration of all attention upon the Biblical, Rabbinic and mystical
literature. The Jews at the close of the middle ages and the beginning
of modern times withdrew into their shell, and the science and learning
of the outside had little effect on them. Hence, and also for the reason
that with the beginning of modern times all that was mediæval was, in
the secular world, relegated, figuratively speaking, to the ash-heap, or
literally speaking to the mouldering dust of the library shelves--for
both of these reasons the very large number of the translations above
mentioned were never printed, and they are still buried on the shelves
of the great European libraries, notably of the British Museum, the
national library of Paris, the Bodleian of Oxford, the royal library of
Munich, and others. The reader who wishes to have an idea of the
translating and commenting activity of the Jews in the thirteenth and
following centuries in the domains of logic, philosophy, mathematics,
astronomy, medicine and folklore is referred to the monumental work of
the late Moritz Steinschneider, the prince of Hebrew Bibliographers,
"Die Hebräischen Uebersetzungen des Mittelalters und die Juden als
Dolmetscher," (The Hebrew translations of the middle ages, and the Jews
as dragomen) Berlin, 1893, containing 1077 pages of lexicon octavo size
devoted to brief enumerations and descriptions of extant editions and
manuscripts of the translations referred to.[319]



In the post-Maimonidean age all philosophical thinking is in the nature
of a commentary on Maimonides whether avowedly or not. The circle of
speculation and reflection is complete. It is fixed by the "Guide of the
Perplexed," and the efforts of those who followed Maimonides are to
elaborate in his spirit certain special topics which are treated in his
masterpiece in a summary way. In the case of the more independent
thinkers like Levi ben Gerson we find the further attempt to carry out
more boldly the implications of the philosophical point of view, which,
as the latter thought, Maimonides left implicit by reason of his
predisposition in favor of tradition. Hasdai Crescas went still farther
and entirely repudiated the authority of Aristotle, substituting will
and emotion for rationalism and logical inference. Not knowledge of God
as logically demonstrated is the highest aim of man, but love of God.
But even in his opposition Crescas leans on Maimonides's principles,
which he takes up one by one and refutes. Maimonides was thus the point
of departure for his more rigorous followers as well as for his
opponents. In the matter of external sources philosophical reflection
after Maimonides was enriched in respect to details by the works of
Averroes on the Arabic side and those of the chief Christian scholastics
among the Latin writers. Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas furnished
some material to men like Hillel of Verona in the thirteenth century and
Don Isaac Abarbanel in the fifteenth. Maimonides was limited to the
Aristotelian expositions of Alfarabi and Avicenna. The works of
Averroes, his contemporary, he did not read until toward the end of his
life. After his death Averroes gained in prestige and influence until he
succeeded in putting into the shade his Arabian predecessors and was
regarded by Jew and Christian alike as the Commentator of Aristotle _par
excellence_. His works were rapidly translated into Hebrew and Latin,
and the Jewish writers learned their Aristotle from Averroes. The
knowledge of the Arabic language was gradually disappearing among the
Jews of Europe, and they were indebted for their knowledge of science
and philosophy to the works translated. Philosophy was declining among
the Arabs themselves owing to the disfavor of the powers that be, and
many of the scientific writings of the Arabs owe their survival to the
Hebrew translations or transcriptions in Hebrew characters which escaped
the proscription of the Mohammedan authorities.

The one problem that came to the front as a result of Averroes's
teaching, and which by the solution he gave it formed an important
subject of debate in the Parisian schools of the thirteenth century, was
that of the intellect in man, whether every individual had his own
immortal mind which would continue as an individual entity after the
death of the body, or whether a person's individuality lasted only as
long as he was alive, and with his death the one human intellect alone
survived. This was discussed in connection with the general theory of
the intellect and the three kinds of intellect that were distinguished
by the Arabian Aristotelians, the material, the acquired and the active.
The problem goes back to Aristotle's psychology, who distinguishes two
intellects in man, passive and active (above, p. xxxvi). But the
treatment there is so fragmentary and vague that it gave rise to widely
varying interpretations by the Greek commentators of Aristotle,
Alexander of Aphrodisias and Themistius, as well as among the Arabs,
Alfarabi, Avicenna and Averroes. The latter insisted on the unity of the
intellect for the human race, thereby destroying individual immortality,
and this Averroistic doctrine, adopted by some Masters of Arts at the
University of Paris, was condemned among other heresies, and refuted in
the writings of Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas. Maimonides does not
discuss these problems in detail in his "Guide." He drops a remark
incidentally here and there, and it would appear that for him too, as
for Averroes, the intellect when in separation from the body is not
subject to individual distinction, that there cannot be several human
intellects, since matter is the principle of individuation and the
immaterial cannot embrace a number of individuals of the same
species.[320] The problem of immortality he does not treat _ex professo_
in the "Guide." Hence this was a matter taken up by his successors.
Hillel ben Samuel as well as Levi ben Gerson discuss this question in

Hillel ben Samuel does not tower as a giant in mediæval Jewish
literature. His importance is local, as being the first devotee of
Jewish learning and philosophy in Italy in the middle of the thirteenth
century, at the close of a period of comparative ignorance. The Italian
Jews before his time contributed little to knowledge and learning
despite their external circumstances, which were more favorable than in
some other countries. Hillel ben Samuel (1220-1295) was a strong admirer
of Maimonides and undertook to comment on the "Guide of the Perplexed."
He defended Maimonides against the aspersions of his opponents, and was
so confident in the truth of his master's teachings that he proposed a
conference of the learned men of Jewry to judge the works and doctrines
of Maimonides and to decide whether the "Guide" should be allowed to
live or should be destroyed. Another interest attaching to Hillel ben
Samuel is that he was among the first, if not the first Jew who by his
knowledge of Latin had access to the writings of the scholastics, to
whom he refers in his "Tagmule ha-Nefesh" (The Rewards of the Soul) as
the "wise men of the nations." He was also active as a translator from
the Latin.

His chief work, which entitles him to brief notice here, is the "Tagmule
ha-Nefesh" just mentioned.[321] He does not offer us a system of
philosophy, but only a treatment of certain questions relating to the
nature of the soul, its immortality and the manner of its existence
after the death of the body, questions which Maimonides passes over
lightly. With the exception of the discussion relating to the three
kinds of intellect and the question of the unity of the acquired
intellect for all mankind, there is not much that is new or remarkable
in the discussion, and we can afford to pass it by with a brief notice.

Men of science know, he tells us in the introduction, that the valuable
possession of man is the soul, and the happiness thereof is the final
purpose of man's existence. And yet the number of those who take pains
to investigate the nature of the soul is very small, not even one in a
hundred. And even the few who do undertake to examine this subject are
hindered by various circumstances from arriving at the truth. The matter
itself is difficult and requires long preparation and preliminary
knowledge. Then the vicissitudes of life and the shortness of its
duration, coupled with the natural indolence of man when it comes to
study, completely account for the lack of true knowledge on this most
important topic.

Induced by these considerations Hillel ben Samuel undertook to collect
the scattered notices in the extensive works of the philosophers and
arranged and expounded them briefly so as not to discourage those who
are in search of wisdom. His purpose is the knowledge of truth, which is
an end in itself. He desires to explain the existence of the soul, its
nature and reward. The soul is that which makes man man, hence we should
know the nature of that which makes us intelligent creatures, else we do
not deserve the name.

Another reason for the importance of knowing the nature of the soul is
that error in this matter may lead to more serious mistakes in other
departments of knowledge and belief. Thus if a man who calls himself
pious assumes that the soul after parting from the body is subject to
corporeal reward and punishment, as appears from a literal rendering of
passages in Bible and Talmud, he will be led to think that the soul
itself is corporeal. And since the soul, it is believed, comes from on
high, the upper world must have bodies and definite places, and hence
the angels too are bodies. But since the angels are emanations from the
divine splendor, God too is body! Thus you see how serious are the
consequences of a belief, in itself perhaps not so dangerous, as that of
the corporeality of the soul.[322]

We must first prove the existence of the soul. This can be shown in
various ways. We see that of natural bodies some take food, grow,
propagate their like, while others, like stones, do not do these things.
This shows that the powers and functions mentioned cannot be due to the
corporeal part of the objects performing them, else stones, too, would
have those powers, as they are also corporeal like the rest. There must
therefore be a different principle, not body, which is responsible for
those activities. We call it soul.

As all existents are divided into substance and accident, the soul must
be either the one or the other. Now an accident, according to Aristotle,
is that which may be or not be without causing the being or destruction
of the object in which it is. But the body cannot be a living body
without the soul. Hence the soul is not an accident; it is therefore a
substance. Substance may be corporeal or incorporeal. The soul cannot be
a corporeal substance, for all body is divisible, and subject to motion
and change, whereas the soul, as will be shown later, is not movable,
not changeable and not divisible. It might seem that the soul is subject
to motion, since it descends into the body and rises again when it
leaves the body. But this is not so. Descent and ascent when thus
applied to the soul are metaphorical. The union of soul and body is not
a spatial relation. The upper world from which the soul comes is not
corporeal, hence there is no such thing as place there, nor anything
limited by space. Hence the coming of the soul from the spiritual world
and its return thither are not motions at all. The relation of the soul
to the body is as that of form to matter, as Aristotle says.

Granted that the soul's union with and separation from the body are not
motions, is not the soul subject to motion while in the body? Hillel's
answer is that it is not, and he proves his point in the prescribed
fashion by making use of Aristotle's classification of motion into (1)
genesis and (2) decay, (3) increase and (4) diminution, (5) qualitative
change and (6) motion proper, or motion of translation. He then
undertakes to show that the soul can have none of the kinds of motion
here enumerated. The arguments offer nothing striking or interesting,
and we can afford to omit them. It is worth while, however, to refer to
his interpretation of emotion. The passage of the soul from joy to
grief, from anger to favor, might seem to be a kind of motion. Hillel
answers this objection by saying that these emotions do not pertain to
the soul as such. Their primary cause is the state of mixture of the
humors in the body, which affects certain corporeal powers in certain
ways; and the soul shares in these affections only so far as it is
united with the body. In its own nature the soul has no emotions.

We can also prove that the soul is not divisible. For a divisible thing
must have parts. Now if the soul is divided or divisible, this means
either that every part of the soul, no matter how small, has the same
powers as the whole, or that the powers of the soul are the resultant of
the union of the parts. The first alternative is impossible, for it
leads us to the absurd conclusion that instead of one soul every person
has an infinite number of souls, or at least a great number of souls.
The second alternative implies that while the soul is not actually
divided, since its powers are the summation of the parts, which form a
unit, it is potentially divisible. But this signifies that at some time
this potential divisibility will be realized (or potentiality would be
vain and meaningless) and we are brought back to the absurdity of a
multiplicity of souls in the human body.

Having shown that the soul is not movable, changeable or divisible, we
are certain of its incorporeality, and we are ready to give a definition
of the soul. Hillel accordingly defines the soul as "a stage of
emanation, consisting of a formal substance, which subsists through its
own perfection, and occupies the fourth place in the emanatory process,
next to the Active Intellect. Its ultimate source is God himself, who is
the ultimate perfection and the Good, and it emanates from him
indirectly through the mediation of the separate Powers standing above
it in the scale of emanation. The soul constitutes the first entelechy
of a natural body."[323]

The above definition is interesting. It shows that Hillel did not
clearly distinguish the Aristotelian standpoint from the Neo-Platonic,
for in the definition just quoted, the two points of view are combined.
That all mediæval Aristotelianism was tinged with Neo-Platonism,
especially in the doctrine of the Active Intellect, is well known. But
in Hillel's definition of the soul we have an extreme form of this
peculiar combination, and it represents a step backward to the
standpoint of Pseudo-Bahya and Ibn Zaddik. The work of Ibn Daud and
Maimonides in the interest of a purer Aristotelianism seems not to have
enlightened Hillel. The Neo-Platonic emanation theory is clearly
enunciated in Hillel's definition. The soul stands fourth in the series.
The order he has in mind is probably (1) God, (2) Separate
Intelligences, (3) Active Intellect, (4) Soul. We know that Hillel was a
student of the Neo-Platonic "Liber de Causis" (_cf._ above, p. xx),
having translated some of it into Hebrew, and he might have imbibed his
Neo-Platonism from that Proclean book.

Continuing the description of the soul in man, he says that the noblest
part of matter, _viz._, the human body, is endowed with the rational
soul, and becomes the subject of the powers of the latter. Thereby it
becomes a man, _i. e._, a rational animal, distinguished from all other
animals, and similar to the nature of the angels.

The Active Intellect causes its light to emanate upon the rational soul,
thus bringing its powers out into actuality. The Active Intellect,
which is one of the ten degrees of angels, is related to the rational
power in man as the sun to the power of sight. The sun gives light,
which changes the _potentially_ seeing power into _actually_ seeing, and
the potentially visible object into the actually visible. Moreover, this
same light enables the sight to see the sun itself, which is the cause
of the actualization in the sight. So the Active Intellect gives
something to the rational power which is related to it as light to the
sight; and by means of this something the rational soul can see or
understand the Active Intellect itself. Also the potentially
intelligible objects become through this influence actually
intelligible, and the man who was potentially intelligent becomes
thereby actually intelligent.

_Intellect_ ("sekel") in man is distinguished from _wisdom_ ("hokmah").
By the former power is meant an immediate understanding of abstract
principles. The latter is _mediate_ understanding. Wisdom denotes
speculation about universals through inference from particulars.
Intellect applies directly to the universals and to their influence upon
the particulars.[324]

Hillel next discusses the live topic of the day, made popular by
Averroes, namely, whether there are in essence as many individual souls
as there are human bodies, or, as Averroes thought, there is only one
universal soul, and that its individualizations in different men are
only passing incidents, due to the association of the universal soul
with the human body, and disappear when the body dies. The "sages of the
Gentiles," Hillel tells us, regard Averroes's notion as heretical, and
leading besides to the absurd conclusion that the same soul is both
rewarded and punished; a view which upsets all religion. Averroes
employs a number of arguments to prove his point, among them being the
following. If there are many souls, they are either all existing from
eternity or they are created with the body. The first is impossible, for
since the soul is a form of the body, we should have actually an
infinite number of forms, and this would necessitate the actual
existence of an infinite number of bodies also; else the existence of
these souls for the purpose of joining the bodies would be in vain. But
it is absurd to suppose that there has been from eternity an infinite
number of bodies created like the number of souls, and yet they have not
become real bodies with souls until now.

The second alternative is also impossible. For if there are many souls
which came into being with the bodies, they either came from nothing or
from something. From nothing is impossible, for nothing comes from
nothing except by way of creation, which is a miracle; and we do not
believe in miracles unless we have to. That they came from something is
also impossible; for this something can be neither matter nor form. It
cannot be matter, for form, the actual and superior, cannot come from
the potential and inferior. It cannot be form, for then form would
proceed from form by way of genesis and dissolution, which is not true.
Matter is the cause of generation and dissolution, not form. We are thus
forced to the conclusion that the soul is one and eternal, one in
substance and number; and that it becomes many only _per accidens_, by
virtue of the multiplicity of its receiving subjects, comparable to the
light of the one sun, which divides into many rays.

The Bible cannot help us to decide this question, for its expressions
can be interpreted either way. Hillel then undertakes to adjudicate
between the contending views by striking a compromise. He feels that he
is contributing to the solution of an important problem by an original
suggestion, which he says is to be found nowhere else expressed with
such clearness and brevity.

Here again Hillel's Neo-Platonic tendencies are in evidence. For he
assumes both a universal soul and a great number of individual souls
emanating from it in a descending series. The objection that forms
cannot come from other forms by way of generation and dissolution,
Hillel says, is not valid, for no such process is here involved.
Generation and dissolution is peculiar to the action of body upon body,
which is by contact. A _spiritual_ form acts upon other forms not
through contact, because it is not limited by time or place. We know
concerning the Intelligences that each comes from the one previous to it
by way of emanation, and the same thing applies to the issue of many
human souls from the one universal soul. After death the rational part
of every soul remains; that part which every soul receives from the
Active Intellect through the help of the _possible_ or _material
intellect_, and which becomes identified with the Active and separate
Intellect. This is the part which receives reward and punishment,
whereas the one universal soul from which they all emanate is a divine
emanation, and is not rewarded or punished.[325]

We must now discuss further the nature of the three grades of intellect.
For this it will be necessary to lay down three preliminary

1. There must be an intellect whose relation to the material intellect
is the same as that of the object of sense perception is to the sense.
This means that just as there must be a real and actual object to arouse
the sense faculty to perceive, so there must be an actual intelligible
object to stir the rational power to comprehend.

2. It follows from 1 that as the material sense has the power of
perceiving the sensible object, so the material intellect has the power
of perceiving this other intellect.

3. If it has this power, this must at some time be realized _in actu_.
Therefore at some time the material intellect is identified with the
other intellect, which is the Active Intellect.

We must now prove 1. This is done as follows: We all know that we are
potentially intelligent, and it takes effort and pains and study to
become actually intelligent. In fact the process of intellection has to
pass several stages from sense perception through imagination. Now our
intellect cannot make itself pass from potentiality to actuality. Hence
there must be something else as agent producing this change; and this
agent must be actually what it induces in us. Hence it is an active

The material intellect has certain aspects in common with the sense
faculty, and in certain aspects it differs. It is similar to it in being
receptive and not active. But the mode of receptivity is different in
the two. As the intellect understands all forms, it cannot be a power
residing in a body in the sense of extending through it and being
divided with the division of the body, as we see in some of the powers
of sense. This we can prove as follows:

1. If the intellect were receptive in the same manner as the senses, it
would receive only a definite kind of form, as for example the sense of
sight does not receive taste.

2. If the intellect were a power in body and had a special form, it
could not receive that form, just as for example if the eye were
colored, it could not perceive colors.

3. If the intellect were a corporeal power, it would be affected by its
object and injured by a powerful stimulus, as is the case in the senses
of sight and hearing. A dazzling light injures the eye, a deafening
noise injures the ear, so that thereafter neither sense can perform its
normal function properly. This is not true with the intellect. An
unusually difficult subject of thought does not injure the intellect.

4. If the intellect were similar in its activity to sense perception, it
would not be self-conscious, as the sense faculties cannot perceive

5. The intellect, if it were like sense, would not be able to comprehend
a thing and its opposite at the same time, or it would do so in a
confused manner, as is the case in the powers of sense.

6. The intellect perceives universals; the sense, particulars.

This being the case, there is a difference of opinion as to the nature
of the material intellect. Some say that it has no definite nature in
itself except that of possibility and capacity, though it is different
from other possibilities in this respect that it is not resident in, and
dependent upon a material subject like the others. That is why Aristotle
says that the material intellect is not anything before it intellects;
that it is in its essence potential with reference to the
_intelligibilia_, and becomes actual when it understands them actually.

Themistius says it is not any of the existents actually, but a potential
essence receiving material forms. Its nature is analogous to that of
prime matter; hence it is called _material_ intellect. It is best to
call it possible intellect. Being a potential existent it is not subject
to generation and dissolution any more than prime matter.

Alexander of Aphrodisias thinks the material intellect is only a
capacity, _i. e._, a power in the soul, and appears when the soul enters
the body, hence is not eternal _a parte ante_.

Averroes holds that the possible intellect is a separate substance, and
that the capacity is something it has by virtue of its being connected
with the body as its subject. Hence this capacity is neither entirely
distinct from it nor is it identical with it. According to him the
possible intellect is not a part of the soul.

Which of these views is correct, says Hillel, requires discussion, but
it is clear that whichever of these we adopt there is no reason opposing
the conjunction of the possible intellect with the Active. For if it is
an eternal substance, potential in its nature, like primary matter,
then it becomes actual when it understands the intelligible objects. The
same is true if it is a capacity residing in the soul.

Hillel is thus of the opinion in this other question debated in those
days, whether the intellect of man is capable of conjunction during life
with the angelic Active Intellect, that it is. The Active Intellect, he
says, in actualizing the material intellect influences it not in the
manner of one body acting upon another, _i. e._, in the manner of an
efficient or material cause, but rather as its formal or final cause,
leading it to perfection. It is like the influence which the separate
Intelligences receive from one another, the influence of emanation, and
not a material influence comparable to generation. This reception of
influence from the Active Intellect on the part of the potential is
itself conjunction. It means that the agent and the thing acted upon
become one, and the same substance and species. The material intellect
becomes a separate substance when it can understand itself.[326]

Before taking up the more theological problem of reward and punishment,
he devotes the last section of the theoretical part of his book to a
discussion of the relation of the possible or material intellect to the
rest of the human soul. This problem also arose from Averroes's
interpretation of the Aristotelian psychology, and is closely related to
the other one of the unity of the human intellect. It is needless for us
to enter into the technical details which are a weariness to the flesh
of the modern student, but it is worth while to state briefly the
motives underlying the opposing views. Averroes, who had no theological
scruples, interpreted Aristotle to mean that the part of the soul which
was intimately associated with the body as its form, constituting an
indissoluble organism in conjunction with it, embraced its lower
faculties of sense, imagination and the more concrete types of judgment.
These are so intimately bound up with the life of the body that they die
with its death. The reason on the other hand, which has to do with
immaterial ideas, or intelligibles as they called them, is eternal and
is not the form of the body. It is a unitary immaterial substance and is
not affected by the life or death of the body. To be sure it comes in
contact with the human soul during the life of the body, thus bringing
into existence an individualized human reason as a passing episode. But
this individualized phase of the intellect's life is dependent upon the
body and ceases when the body dies, or is reabsorbed in the universal

The theological implications of this view were that if there is any
reward and punishment after death, it would either have to be
administered to the lower faculties of the soul, which would have to be
made immortal for the purpose, or if the rational soul is the subject of
retribution, this cannot affect the individual, as there is no
individual rational soul. Hence the Christian opponents of Averroes,
like Albertus Magnus and Thomas Aquinas (Hillel speaks of them here as
the "Religionists," or the "Sages who believe in religion"), endeavored
to vindicate for the Aristotelian definition of the soul as the form of
the body, also the rational part, thus maintaining the view that the
reason too has an individual existence both during life and after death.
Thomas Aquinas, as a truer interpreter of Aristotle, goes so far as to
maintain that the Active Intellect itself is also a part of the human
soul, and not one of the angelic separate Intelligences. Neither
Maimonides nor Hillel ben Samuel, nor any other Jewish philosopher was
able to depart so widely from their Arabian masters or to undertake an
independent study of Aristotle's text, as to come to a similar
conclusion. Hence the Active Intellect in Jewish Philosophy is
unanimously held to be the last of the Angelic substances, and the
proximate inspirer of the prophet. The discussion therefore in Hillel's
work concerns the possible intellect, and here he ventures to disagree
with Averroes and decides in favor of the possible intellect as a part
of the soul and the subject of reward and punishment.[327]

Concerning the nature of reward and punishment after death opinions are
divided. Some think that both reward and punishment are corporeal. Some
say reward is spiritual, punishment is corporeal; while a small number
are of the opinion that both are spiritual. Hillel naturally agrees with
the latter and gives reasons for his opinion. If the soul, as was shown
before, is incorporeal, immaterial and a _formal_ substance, it cannot
be influenced by corporeal treatment. For corporeal influence implies
motion on the part of agent and patient, and the pervasion of the
influence of the former through the parts of the latter; whereas a
spiritual substance has no parts. Besides, if reward and punishment are
corporeal, and Paradise is to be taken literally, then why separate the
soul from the body, why not reward the living person with eternal life
and give him the enjoyment of paradise while on earth? The effect would
be much greater upon the rest of mankind, who would see how the
righteous fare and the wicked. The objection that this would make people
mercenary does not hold, for they are mercenary in any case, since they
expect reward; whether in this life or in the next makes no difference.
Reward must therefore be spiritual, and so must punishment, since the
two go together.[328]

When God in his kindness favored the human race by giving them a soul,
which he united with the body, he also gave them the possibility of
attaining eternal happiness. For this purpose he arranged three grades
of ascent, _viz._, the three intellects spoken of above, the material or
possible intellect, the acquired intellect (this is the actual
functioning of the possible intellect and the result thereof) and the
active intellect. The second intellect is partly speculative or
theoretical and partly practical. The theoretical intellect studies and
contemplates all intelligible existents which are separate from matter.
There is nothing practical in this contemplation, it is just the
knowledge of existents and their causes. This is called the science of
truth, and is the most important part of philosophy.

The practical intellect is again divided into the _cogitative_ and the
_technological_. The former decides whether a thing should be done or
not, and discriminates between the proper and the improper in human
actions and qualities. It is important as a guide to the happiness of
the soul because it instructs the appetitive power in reference to those
things which are subject to the will, and directs it to aim at the good
and to reject the evil.

The technological intellect is that by which man learns arts and trades.
The practical intellect is also theoretical in the sense that it has to
think in order to discriminate between the proper and the improper, and
between the beneficial and injurious in all things pertaining to
practice. The difference between the speculative and practical
intellects is in the respective objects of their comprehension, and
hence is accidental and not essential. The objects of the theoretical
intellect are the true and the false; of the practical, the good and the
bad. The acquired intellect gives these intelligibles to the soul
through the possible intellect, and is intermediate between the latter
and the Active Intellect, which is one of the separate Intelligences
above soul. The Active Intellect watches over the rational animal that
he may attain to the happiness which his nature permits.

Men differ according to their temperamental composition and their human
conduct. This leads to differences in the power of understanding and in
the amount of influence received from the Active Intellect. Hillel
quotes Maimonides in support of his view that the prophetic stage is an
emanation of glory from God through the medium of the Active Intellect,
which exerts its influence upon the rational power and upon the
imagination, so that the prophet sees his vision objectified _extra
animam_. The three conditions requisite for prophecy are perfection in
theory, perfection in imagination and perfection in morals. The first
without the second and third produces a philosopher; the second without
the first and third gives rise to a statesman or magician.

It is important to know, he tells us, that the cultivation of the reason
and imagination alone is not sufficient. Practice of the commandments is
very important. Hence a man must guide properly the two powers of sense
perception and desire, which are instruments of the rational power. For,
as Maimonides says in his commentary on Aboth (_cf._ p. 282), all
observance and violation of the commandments, good and bad qualities
depend upon those two powers. Without a proper training of these the
influence of the active intellect upon the reason and imagination may
lead to evil.

Beginning with sense perception a man must train all his five senses to
attend only to what is good and to turn away from evil. When he
satisfies his sensuous desires, he must do this in order to preserve his
body that he may be enabled to serve God in the best possible way.

The same applies to the power of desire. This is the power which directs
one to pursue the agreeable and shun the disagreeable. From it proceed
also courage, confidence, anger, good will, joy, sorrow, humility,
pride. All these qualities must be used in the service of God. If a man
do this, he will attain the grade of an angelic being even during life,
and will be able to perform miracles like the prophets and the sages of
the Talmud.

After death the souls of such men reach even a higher degree than they
had before entering the body, as a reward for not allowing themselves
to be degraded by their corporeal desires, but on the contrary directing
these to higher aims.[329]

As for the nature of reward and punishment more particularly, we may say
that the soul of the wicked loses all the glory promised to her and
descends to a position lower than was hers originally. She is expelled
from the land of life and remains in darkness forever, without returning
to her original station. Knowing what she has lost, she will feel
continuous distress, sorrow and fear, for the power of imagination
remains with the soul after death. But there is no physical burning with
fire. On the other hand, the soul of the righteous will return to God.

The doctrine of the resurrection and the explanation for it are a
further proof that the soul after death is not punished corporeally. The
motive of the resurrection is that the soul and body may receive their
compensation together as in life. If then the retribution of the soul is
corporeal, there is no need of resurrection.[330]

Hillel then proceeds to show that the words of the Rabbis which seem to
speak for corporeal retribution are not to be taken literally. In this
connection it is worth while to reproduce his classification of the
contents of the Talmud and his attitude toward them. He enumerates six

1. Passages in the Talmudic and Midrashic literature which must be taken
literally. These are the discussions of the _Halaka_ (the legal and
ceremonial portions). To pervert these from their literal meaning, or to
maintain that the _intention_ of the law is the important thing and not
the practice of the ceremony, is heresy and infidelity; though it is
meritorious to seek for an explanation of every law, as the Rabbis
themselves do in many instances.

2. Passages which should be understood as parables and allegories with a
deeper meaning. These are the peculiar _Haggadahs_, or the strange
interpretations of Biblical verses where no ceremonial precept is

3. Statements similar to those of the Prophetical books of the Bible,
which were the result of the influence of the Active Intellect and came
to the sages in a dream or in the waking state, speaking of the future
in an allegorical manner. These are the extraordinary tales found in the
Talmud, which cannot be understood literally, as they involve a
violation of the order of nature; and no miracle must be believed unless
for a very important reason.

4. The homilies addressed to the people on the occasion of holidays for
the purpose of exhorting them to divine worship and observance of the
Law. Many of these are hyperbolical in their expression, especially in
the promises concerning the future blessings in store for the people.
These were in the nature of encouragement to the people to make their
burdens easier to bear. Here belong also unusual interpretations of
Biblical verses, explanations which do not give the original meaning of
the verse in question, but are suggested in order to interest the
people. We must add, too, stories of the good things that came to pious
people in return for their piety. These must be taken for the most part
literally, unless they are clearly improbable.

5. Jokes and jests by way of relief from the strain of study. Hyperboles
belong here.

6. Narratives of miracles done for pious people, such as reviving the
dead, punishing with death by means of a word, bringing down rain, and
so on. All these must be taken literally. To disbelieve is heresy. This
is true only where the alleged miracles were done for a high purpose,
otherwise we need not believe them.

The reason the Bible and the Talmud express themselves in corporeal
terms concerning reward and punishment is in order to frighten the
people and to impress them with the terrible punishment consequent upon
wrongdoing. The people do not understand any reward and punishment
unless it is physical and corporeal. In reality spiritual existence is
more real than physical.[331]



Among the men who devoted themselves to philosophical investigation in
the century and a half after Maimonides's death, the greatest and most
independent was without doubt Levi ben Gerson or Gersonides, as he is
also called. There were others who were active as commentators,
translators and original writers, and who achieved a certain fame, but
their work was too little original to merit more than very brief notice
in these pages. Isaac Albalag[331a] (second half of thirteenth century)
owes what reputation he enjoys to the boldness with which he enunciated
certain doctrines, such as the eternity of the world and particularly
the notion, well enough known among the Averroists of the University of
Paris at that time and condemned by the Church, but never before
announced or defended in Jewish philosophy--the so-called doctrine of
the twofold truth. This was an attitude assumed in self-defence,
sincerely or not as the case may be, by a number of scholastic writers,
who advanced philosophic views at variance with the dogma of the Church.
They maintained that a given thesis might be true and false at the same
time, true for philosophy and false for theology, or vice versa.[332]
Shem Tob Falaquera (1225-1290) is a more important man than Albalag. He
was a thorough student of the Aristotelian and other philosophy that was
accessible to him through his knowledge of Arabic. Munk's success in
identifying Avicebron with Gabirol (p. 63) was made possible by
Falaquera's translation into Hebrew of extracts from the "Fons Vitæ." Of
great importance also is Falaquera's commentary of Maimonides's "Guide,"
which, with that of Moses of Narbonne (d. after 1362), is based upon a
knowledge of Arabic and a thorough familiarity with the Aristotelian
philosophy of the Arabs, and is superior to the better known
commentaries of Shemtob, Ephodi, and Abarbanel. Falaquera also wrote
original works of an ethical and philosophical character.

Joseph Ibn Caspi (1297-1340) is likewise a meritorious figure as a
commentator of Maimonides and as a philosophical exegete of Scripture.
But none of these men stands out as an independent thinker with a strong
individuality, carrying forward in any important and authoritative
degree the work of the great Maimonides. Great Talmudic knowledge, which
was a necessary qualification for national recognition, these men seem
not to have had; and on the other hand none of them felt called upon or
able to make a systematic synthesis of philosophy and Judaism in a large

Levi ben Gerson (1288-1344) was the first after Maimonides who can at
all be compared with the great sage of Fostat. He was a great
mathematician and astronomer; he wrote supercommentaries on the
Aristotelian commentaries of Averroes, who in his day had become the
source of philosophical knowledge for the Hebrew student; he was
thoroughly versed in the Talmud as his commentary on the Pentateuch
shows; and he is one of the recognized Biblical exegetes of the middle
ages. Finally in his philosophical masterpiece "Milhamot Adonai" (The
Wars of the Lord),[333] he undertakes to solve in a thoroughly
scholastic manner those problems in philosophy and theology which
Maimonides had either not treated adequately or had not solved to
Gersonides's satisfaction. That despite the technical character and
style of the "Milhamot," Gersonides achieved such great reputation shows
in what esteem his learning and critical power were held by his
contemporaries. His works were all written in Hebrew, and if he had any
knowledge of Arabic and Latin it was very limited, too limited to enable
him to make use of the important works written in those languages.[334]
His fame extended beyond the limits of Jewish thought, as is shown by
the fact that his scientific treatise dealing with the astronomical
instrument he had discovered was translated into Latin in 1377 by order
of Pope Clement VI, and his supercommentaries on the early books of the
Aristotelian logic were incorporated, in Latin translation, in the Latin
editions of Aristotle and Averroes of the 16th century.[335]

Levi ben Gerson's general attitude to philosophical study and its
relation to the content of Scripture is the same as had become common
property through Maimonides and his predecessors. The happiness and
perfection of man are the purpose of religion and knowledge. This
perfection of man, or which is the same thing, the perfection of the
human soul, is brought about through perfection in morals and in
theoretical speculation, as will appear more clearly when we discuss the
nature of the human intellect and its immortality. Hence the purpose of
the Bible is to lead man to perfect himself in these two
elements--morals and science. For this reason the Law consists of three
parts. The first is the legal portion of the Law containing the 613
commandments, mandatory and prohibitive, concerning belief and practice.
This is preparatory to the second and third divisions of the Pentateuch,
which deal respectively with social and ethical conduct, and the science
of existence. As far as ethics is concerned it was not practicable to
lay down definite commandments and prohibitions because it is so
extremely difficult to reach perfection in this aspect of life. Thus if
the Torah gave definite prescriptions for exercising and controlling our
anger, our joy, our courage, and so on, the results would be very
discouraging, for the majority of men would be constantly disobeying
them. And this would lead to the neglect of the other commandments
likewise. Hence the principles of social and ethical conduct are
inculcated indirectly by means of narratives exemplifying certain types
of character in action and the consequences flowing from their conduct.
The third division, as was said before, contains certain teachings of a
metaphysical character respecting the nature of existence. This is the
most important of all, and hence forms the beginning of the Pentateuch.
The account of creation is a study in the principles of philosophical

As to the relations of reason and belief or authority, Levi ben Gerson
shares in the optimism of the Maimonidean school and the philosophic
middle age generally, that there is no opposition between them. The
priority should be given to reason where its demands are unequivocal,
for the meaning of the Scriptures is not always clear and is subject to
interpretation.[337] On the other hand, after having devoted an entire
book of his "Milhamot" to a minute investigation of the nature of the
human intellect and the conditions of its immortality, he disarms in
advance all possible criticism of his position from the religious point
of view by saying that he is ready to abandon his doctrine if it is
shown that it is in disagreement with religious dogma. He developed his
views, he tells us, because he believes that they are in agreement with
the words of the Torah.[338] This apparent contradiction is to be
explained by making a distinction between the abstract statement of the
principle and the concrete application thereof. In general Levi ben
Gerson is so convinced of man's prerogative as a rational being that he
cannot believe the Bible meant to force upon him the belief in things
which are opposed to reason. Hence, since the Bible is subject to
interpretation, the demands of the reason are paramount where they do
not admit of doubt. On the other hand, where the traditional dogma of
Judaism is clear and outspoken, it is incumbent upon man to be modest
and not to claim the infallibility of direct revelation for the limited
powers of logical inference and deduction.

We must now give a brief account of the questions discussed in the
"Milhamot Adonai." And first a word about Gersonides's style and method.
One is reminded, in reading the Milhamot, of Aristotle as well as Thomas
Aquinas. There is no rhetoric and there are no superfluous words. All is
precise and technical, and the vocabulary is small. One is surprised to
see how in a brief century or so the Hebrew language has become so
flexible an instrument in the expression of Aristotelian ideas. Levi ben
Gerson does not labor in the expression of his thought. His linguistic
instrument is quite adequate and yields naturally to the manipulation of
the author. Gersonides, the minute logician and analyst, has no use for
rhetorical flourishes and figures of speech. The subject, he says, is
difficult enough as it is, without being made more so by rhetorical
obscuration, unless one intends to hide the confusion of one's thought
under the mask of fine writing.[339] Like Aristotle and Thomas Aquinas,
he gives a history of the opinions of others in the topic under
discussion, and enumerates long lists of arguments _pro_ and _con_ with
rigorous logical precision. The effect upon the reader is monotonous and
wearisome. Aristotle escapes this by the fact that he is groping his way
before us. He has not all his ideas formulated in proper order and form
ready to deliver. He is primarily the investigator, not the pedagogue,
and the brevity and obscurity of his style pique the ambitious reader
and spur him on to puzzle out the meaning. Not so Thomas Aquinas and the
scholastics generally. As the term scholastic indicates, they developed
their method in the schools. They were expositors of what was ready
made, rather than searchers for the new. Hence the question of form was
an important one and was determined by the purpose of presenting one's
ideas as clearly as may be to the student. Add to this that the logic of
Aristotle and the syllogism was the universal method of presentation and
the monotony and wearisomeness becomes evident. Levi ben Gerson is in
this respect like Aquinas rather than like Aristotle. And he is the
first of his kind in Jewish literature. Since the larger views and
problems were already common property, the efforts of Gersonides were
directed to a more minute discussion of the more technical details of
such problems as the human intellect, prophecy, Providence, creation,
and so on. For this reason, too, it will not be necessary for us to do
more than give a brief résumé of the results of Gersonides's
lucubrations without entering into the really bewildering and
hair-splitting arguments and distinctions which make the book so hard on
the reader.

We have already had occasion in the Introduction (p. xxxvi) to refer
briefly to Aristotle's theory of the intellect and the distinction
between the passive and the active intellects in man. The ideas of the
Arabs were also referred to in our treatment of Judah Halevi, Ibn Daud
and Maimonides (pp. 180 f., 213 f., 282). Hillel ben Samuel, as we saw
(p. 317 ff.), was the first among the Jews who undertook to discuss in
greater detail the essence of the three kinds of intellect, material,
acquired and active, as taught by the Mohammedan and Christian
Scholastics, and devoted some space to the question of the unity of the
material intellect. Levi ben Gerson takes up the same question of the
nature of the material intellect and discusses the various views with
more rigor and minuteness than any of his Jewish predecessors. His chief
source was Averroes. The principal views concerning the nature of the
possible or material intellect in man were those attributed to Alexander
of Aphrodisias, the most important Greek commentator of Aristotle (lived
about 200 of the Christian Era), Themistius, another Aristotelian Greek
commentator who lived in the time of Emperor Julian, and Averroes, the
famous Arabian philosopher and contemporary of Maimonides. All these
three writers pretended to expound Aristotle's views of the passive
intellect rather than propound their own. And Levi ben Gerson discusses
their ideas before giving his own.

Alexander's idea of the passive intellect in man is that it is simply a
capacity residing in the soul for receiving the universal forms of
material things. It has no substantiality of its own, and hence does not
survive the lower functions of the soul, namely, sensation and
imagination, which die with the body. This passive intellect is
actualized through the Active Intellect, which is not a part of man at
all, but is identified by Alexander with God. The Active Intellect is
thus pure form and actuality, and enables the material or possible
intellect in man, originally a mere potentiality, to acquire general
ideas, and thus to become an intellect with a content. This is called
the actual or acquired intellect, which though at first dependent on the
data of sense, may succeed later in continuing its activity unaided by
sense perception. And in so far as the acquired intellect thinks of the
purely immaterial ideas and things which make up the content of the
divine intellect (the Active Intellect), it becomes identified with the
latter and is immortal. The reason for supposing that the material
intellect in man is a mere capacity residing in the soul and not an
independent substance is because as having the capacity to receive all
kinds of forms it must itself not be of any form. Thus in order that the
sense of sight may receive all colors as they are, it must itself be
free from color. If the sight had a color of its own, this would prevent
it from receiving other colors. Applying this principle to the intellect
we make the same inference that it must in itself be neutral, not
identified with any one idea or form, else this would color all else
knocking for admission, and the mind would not know things as they are.
Now a faculty which has no form of its own, but is a mere mirror so to
speak of all that may be reflected in it, cannot be a substance, and
must be simply a power inherent in a substance and subject to the same
fate as that in which it inheres. This explains the motive of
Alexander's view and is at the same time a criticism of the doctrine of

This commentator is of the opinion that the passive intellect of which
Aristotle speaks is not a mere capacity inherent in something else, but
a real spiritual entity or substance independent of the lower parts of
the soul, though associated with them during the life of the body, and
hence is not subject to generation and destruction, but is eternal. In
support of this view may be urged that if the passive intellect were
merely a capacity of the lower parts of the soul, we should expect it to
grow weaker as the person grows older and his sensitive and imaginative
powers are beginning to decline; whereas the contrary is the case. The
older the person the keener is his intellect. The difficulty, however,
remains that if the human intellect is a real substance independent of
the rest of the soul, why is it that at its first appearance in the
human being it is extremely poor in content, being all but empty, and
grows as the rest of the body and the soul is developed?

To obviate these difficulties, Averroes in his commentary on the _De
Anima_ of Aristotle practically identifies (according to Levi ben
Gerson's view of Averroes) the material intellect with the Active
Intellect. The Active Intellect according to him is neither identical
with the divine, as Alexander maintains, nor is it a part of man, as
Themistius and others think, but is the last of the separate
Intelligences, next to the spiritual mover of the lunar sphere. It is a
pure actuality, absolutely free from matter, and hence eternal. This
Active Intellect in some mysterious manner becomes associated with man,
and this association results in a temporary phase represented by the
material intellect. As a result of the sense perceptions, images of the
external objects remain in the imagination, and the Active Intellect
takes hold of these images, which are potentially universal ideas, and
by its illumination produces out of them actual ideas and an intellect
in which they reside, the material intellect. The material intellect is
therefore the result of the combination of the Active Intellect with the
memory images, known as _phantasmata_ (φαντάσματα), in the human faculty
of imagination. So long as this association exists, the material
intellect receives the intelligible forms as derived from the
_phantasmata_, and these forms are represented by such ideas as "all
animal is sensitive," "all man is rational," _i. e._, ideas concerning
the objects of this world. This phase of man's mind ceases when the body
dies, and the Active Intellect alone remains, whose content is free from
material forms. The Active Intellect contemplates itself, a pure
intelligence. At the same time it is possible for man to identify
himself with the Active Intellect as he acquires knowledge in the
material intellect, for the Active Intellect is like light which makes
the eye see. In seeing, the eye not merely perceives the form of the
external object, but indirectly also receives the light which made the
object visible. In the same way the human soul in acquiring knowledge as
implicit in its _phantasmata_, at the same time gets a glimpse of the
spiritual light which converted the _phantasma_ into an explicit idea
(_cf._ above, p. 320). When the soul in man perfects itself with all the
knowledge of this world it becomes identified with the Active Intellect,
which may be likened to the intellect or soul of the corporeal world.

In this combination of the views of Alexander and Themistius Averroes
succeeds in obviating the criticisms levelled at the two former. That
the power of the material intellect grows keener with age though the
corporeal organs are weaker, supports Averroes's doctrine as against
Alexander, to whom it is a mere capacity dependent upon the mixture of
the elements in the human body. But neither is he subject to the
objection applying to Themistius's view, that a real independent entity
could scarcely be void of all forms and a mere receptacle. For the
material intellect as it really is in itself when not in combination
with the human body is not a mere receptacle or empty potentiality. It
is the Active Intellect, which combines in itself all immaterial forms
and thinks them as it thinks itself. It is only in its individualized
aspect that it becomes a potential intellect ready to receive all
material forms.

But what Averroes gains here he loses elsewhere. There are certain
considerations which are fatal to his doctrine. Thus it would follow
that theoretical studies which have no practical aim are useless. But
this is impossible. Nature has put in us the ability as well as the
desire to speculate without reference to practical results. The pleasure
we derive from theoretical studies is much greater than that afforded by
the practical arts and trades. And nature does nothing in vain.
Theoretical studies must therefore have some value. But in Averroes's
theory of the material intellect they have none. For all values may be
divided into those which promote the life of the body and those which
lead to the final happiness of man. The former is clearly not served by
those theoretical speculations which have no practical aim. On the
contrary, they hinder it. Deep students of the theoretical sciences
forego all bodily pleasures, and often do without necessities. But
neither can there be any advantage in theoretical speculation for
ultimate human happiness. For human happiness according to Averroes (and
he is in a sense right, as we shall see later) consists in union with
the Active Intellect. But this union takes place as a matter of course
according to his theory at the time of death, whether a man be wise or a
fool. For the Active Intellect then absorbs the material.

Another objection to Averroes's theory is the following. If the material
intellect is in essence the same as the Active Intellect, it is a
separate, immaterial substance, and hence is, like the Active Intellect,
one. For only that which has matter as its substratum can be
_quantitatively_ differentiated. Thus A is numerically different from B,
though A and B are both men (_i. e._, _qualitatively_ the same), because
they are corporeal beings. Forms as such can be differentiated
qualitatively only. Horse is different from ass in quality. Horse as
such and horse as such are the same. It follows from this that the
material intellect, being like the Active Intellect an immaterial form,
cannot be numerically multiplied, and therefore is one only. But if so,
no end of absurdities follows. For it means that all men have the same
intellect, hence the latter is wise and ignorant at the same time in
reference to the same thing, in so far as A knows a given thing and B
does not know it. It would also follow that A can make use of B's sense
experience and build his knowledge upon it. All these inferences are
absurd, and they all follow from the assumption that the material
intellect is in essence the same as the Active Intellect. Hence
Averroes's position is untenable.[340]

Gersonides then gives his own view of the material intellect, which is
similar to that of Alexander. The material intellect is a capacity, and
the prime matter is the ultimate subject in which it inheres. But there
are other powers or forms inhering in matter prior to the material
intellect. Prime matter as such is not endowed with intellect, or all
things would have human reason. Prime matter when it reaches the stage
of development of the imaginative faculty is then ready to receive the
material intellect. We may say then that the sensitive soul, of which
the imaginative faculty is a part, is the subject in which the material
intellect inheres. The criticism directed against Alexander, which
applies here also, may be answered as follows. The material intellect is
dependent upon its subject, the sensitive soul, for its existence only,
not for the manner of receiving its knowledge. Hence the weakening or
strengthening of its subject cannot affect it directly at all.
Indirectly there is a relation between the two, and it works in the
reverse direction. When the sensitive powers are weakened and their
activities diminish, there is more opportunity for the intellect to
monopolize the one soul for itself and increase its own activity, which
the other powers have a tendency to hinder, since the soul is one for
all these contending powers. It follows of course that the material
intellect in man is not immortal. As a capacity of the sensitive soul,
it dies with the latter. What part of the human soul it is that enjoys
immortality and on what conditions we shall see later. But before we do
this, we must try to understand the nature of the Active Intellect.[341]

We know now that the function of the Active Intellect is to actualize
the material intellect, _i. e._, to develop the capacity which the
latter has of extracting general ideas from the particular memory images
(phantasmata) in the faculty of imagination, so that this capacity,
originally empty of any content, receives the ideas thus produced, and
is thus constituted into an _actual_ intellect. From this it follows
that the Active Intellect, which enables the material intellect to form
ideas, must itself have the ideas it induces in the latter, though not
necessarily in the same form. Thus an artisan, who imposes the form of
chair upon a piece of wood, must have the form of chair in his mind,
though not the same sort as he realizes in the wood. Now as all the
ideas acquired by the material intellect constitute one single activity
so far as the end and purpose is concerned (for it all leads to the
perfection of the person), the agent which is the cause of it all must
also be one. Hence there are not many Active Intellects, each
responsible for certain ideas, but one Intellect is the cause of all the
ideas realized in the material intellect. Moreover, as this Active
Intellect gives the material intellect not merely a knowledge of
separate ideas, but also an understanding of their relations to each
other, in other words of the systematic unity connecting all ideas into
one whole, it follows that the Active Intellect has a knowledge of the
ideas from their unitary aspect. In other words, the unity of purpose
and aim which is evident in the development of nature from the prime
matter through the forms of the elements, the plant soul, the animal
soul and up to the human reason, where the lower is for the sake of the
higher, must reside as a unitary conception in the Active Intellect.

For the Active Intellect has another function besides developing the
rational capacity in man. We can arrive at this insight by a
consideration undertaken from a different point of view. If we consider
the wonderful and mysterious development of a seed, which is only a
piece of matter, in a purposive manner, passing through various stages
and producing a highly complicated organism with psychic powers, we must
come to the conclusion, as Aristotle does, that there is an intellect
operating in this development. As all sublunar nature shows a unity of
purpose, this intellect must be one. And as it cannot be like one of its
products, it must be eternal and not subject to generation and decay.
But these are the attributes which, on grounds taken from the
consideration of the intellectual activity in man, we ascribed to the
Active Intellect. Hence it _is_ the Active Intellect. And we have thus
shown that it has two functions. One is to endow sublunar nature with
the intelligence and purpose visible in its processes and evolutions;
the other is to enable the rational power in man to rise from a _tabula
rasa_ to an actual intellect with a content. From both these activities
it is evident that the Active Intellect has a knowledge of sublunar
creation as a systematic unity.

This conception of the Active Intellect, Levi ben Gerson says, will also
answer all the difficulties by which other philosophers are troubled
concerning the possibility of knowledge and the nature of definition.
The problems are briefly these. Knowledge concerns itself with the
permanent and universal. There can be no real knowledge of the
particular, for the particular is never the same, it is constantly
changing and in the end disappears altogether. On the other hand, the
universal has no real existence outside of the mind, for the objectively
real is the particular thing. The only really existing man is A or B or
C; man in general, man that is not a particular individual man, has no
objective extra-mental existence. Here is a dilemma. The only thing we
can really know is the thing that is not real, and the only real thing
is that which we cannot know. The Platonists solve this difficulty by
boldly declaring that the universal ideas or forms are the real
existents and the models of the things of sense. This is absurd.
Aristotle's solution in the Metaphysics is likewise unsatisfactory. Our
conception, however, of the Active Intellect enables us to solve this
problem satisfactorily. The object of knowledge is not the particular
thing which is constantly changing; nor yet the logical abstraction
which is only in the mind. It is the real unity of sublunar nature as it
exists in the Active Intellect.

The problem of the definition is closely related to that of knowledge.
The definition denotes the essence of every individual of a given
species. As the individuals of a given species have all the same
definition, and hence the same essence, they are all one. For what is
not in the definition is not real. Our answer is that the definition
represents that unitary aspect of the sublunar individuals which is in
the Active Intellect. This aspect is also in a certain sense present in
every one of the individual objects of nature, but not in the same
manner as in the Active Intellect.[342]

We are now ready to take up the question of human immortality. The
material intellect as a capacity for acquiring knowledge is not
immortal. Being inherent in the sensitive soul and dependent for its
acquisition of knowledge upon the memory images (phantasmata) which
appear in the imagination, the power to acquire knowledge ceases with
the cessation of sense and imagination. But the knowledge already
acquired, which, we have shown above, is identical with the conceptions
of sublunar nature in the Active Intellect, is indestructible. For these
conceptions are absolutely immaterial; they are really the Active
Intellect in a sense, and only the material is subject to destruction.
The sum of acquisition of immaterial ideas constitutes the _acquired_ or
_actual intellect_, and this is the immortal part of man.

Further than this man cannot go. The idea adopted by some that the human
intellect may become identified completely with the Active Intellect,
Levi ben Gerson rejects. In order to accomplish this, he says, it would
be necessary to have a complete and perfect knowledge of all nature, and
that too a completely unified and wholly immaterial knowledge just as it
is in the Active Intellect. This is clearly impossible. But it is true
that a man's happiness after death is dependent upon the amount and
perfection of his knowledge. For even in this life the pleasure we
derive from intellectual contemplation is greater the more nearly we
succeed in completely concentrating our mind on the subject of study.
Now after death there will be no disturbing factors such as are supplied
in this world by the sensitive and emotional powers. To be sure this
lack will also prevent the acquisition of new knowledge, as was said
before, but the amount acquired will be there in the soul's power all
at once and all the time. The more knowledge one has succeeded in
obtaining during life, the more nearly he will resemble the Active
Intellect and the greater will be his happiness.[343]

The next topic Levi ben Gerson takes up is that of prognostication.
There are three ways in which certain persons come to know the future,
_dreams_, _divination_ and _prophecy_. What we wish to do is to
determine the kind of future events that may be thus known beforehand,
the agency which produces in us this power, and the bearing this
phenomenon has on the nature of events generally, and particularly as
concerns the question of chance and free will.

That there is such knowledge of future events is a fact and not a
theory. Experience testifies to the fact that there are certain people
who are able to foretell the future, not as a matter of accident or
through a chance coincidence, but as a regular thing. Diviners these are
called, or fortune tellers. This power is even better authenticated in
prophecy, which no one denies. We can also cite many instances of
dreams, in which a person sees a future event with all its particulars,
and the dream comes true. All these cases are too common to be credited
to chance. Now what does this show as to the nature of the events thus
foreseen? Clearly it indicates that they cannot be chance happenings,
for what is by chance cannot be foreseen. The only conclusion then to be
drawn is that these events are determined by the order of nature. But
there is another implication in man's ability to foretell the future,
namely, that what is thus known to man is first known to a higher
intellect which communicates it to us.

The first of these two consequences leads us into difficulties. For if
we examine the data of prognostication, whether it be of dream,
divination or prophecy, we find that they concern almost exclusively
such particular human events as would be classed in the category of the
contingent rather than in that of the necessary. Fortune tellers
regularly tell people about the kind of children they will have, the
sort of things they will do, and so on. In prophecy similarly Sarah was
told she would have a son (Gen. 18, 10). We also have examples of
prognostication respecting the outcome of a battle, announcement of
coming rain,--events due to definite causes--as well as the prediction
of events which are the result of free choice or pure accident, as when
Samuel tells Elisha that he will meet three men on the way, who will
give him two loaves of bread, which he will accept; or when the prophet
in Samariah tells the prophet in Bethel that he will be killed by a
lion. The question now is, if these contingent things can be known in
advance, they are not contingent; and if these are not, none are. For
the uniform events in nature are surely not contingent. If then those
events usually classed as contingent and voluntary are not such, there
is no such thing as chance and free will at all, which is impossible.

Our answer is that as a matter of fact those contingent happenings we
call luck and ill luck do often come frequently to certain persons, whom
we call lucky or unlucky, which shows that they are not the result of
pure chance, and that there is some sort of order determining them.
Moreover, we know that the higher in the scale of being a thing is, the
more nature takes care to guard it. Hence as man is the highest being
here below, it stands to reason that the heavenly bodies order his
existence and his fortune. And so the science of astrology, with all its
mistakes on account of the imperfect state of our knowledge, does say a
great many things which are true. This, however, does not destroy
freedom and chance. For the horoscope represents only one side of the
question. Man was also endowed with reason and purpose, which enable him
whenever he chooses to counteract the order of the heavenly bodies. In
the main the heavenly bodies by their positions and motions and the
consequent predominance of certain elemental qualities in the sublunar
world over others affect the temperaments of man in a manner tending to
his welfare. The social order with its differentiation of labor and
occupation is worked out wonderfully well--better than the system of
Plato's Republic--by the positions and motions of the heavenly bodies.
If not for this, all men would choose the more honorable trades and
professions, there would be no one to do the menial work, and society
would be impossible. At the same time there are certain incidental evils
inherent in the rigid system which would tend to destroy certain
individuals. To counteract these unintended defects, God endowed man
with reason and choice enabling him to avoid the dangers threatening him
in the world of nature.

The solution of our problem then is this. These human events have a
twofold aspect. They are determined so far as they follow from the order
of the heavenly bodies; and in so far they can be foretold. They are
undetermined so far as they are the result of individual choice, and in
so far they cannot be known beforehand. There are also pure chance
events in inanimate nature, bearing no relation to human fortune. These
cannot be foretold.[344]

We said above that there must be an intellect which knows these
contingent events predicted in dreams, divination and prophecy and
imparts a knowledge of them to these men. This can be no other than the
Active Intellect, whose nature we discussed above. For the Active
Intellect knows the order of sublunar things, and gives us a knowledge
of them in the ideas of the material intellect. Moreover, he is the
agent producing them through the instrumentality of the heavenly bodies.
Hence the heavenly bodies are also his instrument in ordering those
contingent events which are predicted in dreams and prophetic visions.

The purpose of this information is to protect man against the evil
destined for him in the order of the heavenly bodies, or in order that
he may avail himself of the good in store for him if he knows of it.

There is a difference in kind between prophecy on the one hand and
divination and dream on the other. Prophecy comes from the Active
Intellect directly acting on the material intellect. Hence only
intelligent men can be prophets. Divination and dream come from the
Active Intellect indirectly. They are caused by the heavenly bodies, and
the action is on the imagination. The imagination is more easily
isolated from the other parts of the soul in young people and
simpletons. Hence we find examples of dreams and divination among

In discussing the problem of God's knowledge, Gersonides takes direct
issue with Maimonides. The reader will recall that the question turns
upon the knowledge of particulars. Some philosophers go so far as to
deny to God any knowledge of things other than his own essence; for the
known is in a sense identified with the knower, and to bring in a
multiplicity of ideas in God's knowledge would endanger his unity.
Others, however, fell short of this extreme opinion and admitted God's
knowledge of things other than himself, but maintained that God cannot
know particulars for various reasons. The particular is perceived by
sense, a material faculty, whereas God is immaterial. Particulars are
infinite and cannot be measured or embraced, whereas knowledge is a kind
of measuring or embracing. The particulars are not always existing, and
are subject to change. Hence God's knowledge would be subject to change
and disappearance, which is impossible. If God knows particulars how is
it that there is often a violation of right and justice in the destinies
of individual men? This would argue in God either inability or
indifference, both of which are impossible.

Maimonides insists on God's knowledge of all things of which he is the
creator, including particulars. And he answers the arguments of the
philosophers by saying that their objections are valid only if we assume
that God's knowledge is similar to ours, and since with us it is
impossible to know the material except through a material organ, it is
not possible in God. As we cannot comprehend the infinite; as we cannot
know the non-existent, nor the changing without a change in our
knowledge, God cannot do so. But it is wrong to assume this. God's
knowledge is identical with his essence, which these same philosophers
insist is unlike anything else, and unknowable. Surely it follows that
his knowledge is also without the least resemblance to our knowledge and
the name alone is what they have in common. Hence all the objections of
the philosophers fall away at one stroke. _We_ cannot in one act of
knowing embrace a number of things differing in species; God can,
because his knowledge is one. _We_ cannot know the non-existent, for our
knowledge depends upon the thing known. God can. _We_ cannot know the
infinite, for the infinite cannot be embraced; God can. _We_ cannot know
the outcome of a future event unless the event is necessary and
determined. If the event is contingent and undetermined we can only have
opinion concerning it, which may or may not be true; we are uncertain
and may be mistaken. God can know the outcome of a contingent event, and
yet the event is not determined, and may happen one way or the other.
Our knowledge of a given thing changes as the thing itself undergoes a
change, for if our knowledge should remain the same while the object
changes, it would not be knowledge but error. In God the two are
compatible. He knows in advance how a given thing will change, and his
knowledge never changes, even though that which was at one moment
potential and implicit becomes later actual and explicit.

At this point Gersonides steps in in defence of human logic and sanity.
He accuses Maimonides of not being quite honest with himself.
Maimonides, he intimates, did not choose this position of his own free
will--a position scientifically quite untenable--he was forced to it by
theological exigencies.[346] He felt that he must vindicate, by fair
means or foul, God's knowledge of particulars. And so Gersonides
proceeds to demolish Maimonides's position by reducing it _ad absurdum_.

What does Maimonides mean by saying that God knows the contingent? If he
means that God knows that the contingent may as contingent happen
otherwise than as he knows it will happen, we do not call this in us
knowledge, but opinion. If he means that God knows it will happen in a
certain way, and yet it may turn out that the reverse will actually take
place, then we call this in our case error, not knowledge. And if he
means that God merely knows that it may happen one way or the other
without knowing definitely which will happen, then we call this in our
experience uncertainty and perplexity, not knowledge. By insisting that
all this is in God knowledge because, forsooth, God's knowledge is not
like our knowledge, is tantamount to saying that what is in us opinion,
uncertainty, error, is in God knowledge--a solution far from
complimentary to God's knowledge.

Besides, the entire principle of Maimonides that there is no relation of
resemblance between God's attributes and ours, that the terms wise,
just, and so on, are pure homonyms, is fundamentally wrong. We attribute
knowledge to God because we know in our own case that an intellect is
perfected by knowledge. And since we have come to the conclusion on
other grounds that God is a perfect intellect, we say he must have
knowledge. Now if this knowledge that we ascribe to God has no
resemblance whatsoever to what we understand by knowledge in our own
case, the ground is removed from our feet. We might as well argue that
man is rational because solid is continuous. If the word knowledge means
a totally different thing in God from what it means in us, how do we
know that it is to be found in God? If we have absolutely no idea what
the term means when applied to God, what reason have we for preferring
knowledge as a divine attribute to its opposite or negative? If
knowledge does not mean knowledge, ignorance does not mean ignorance,
and it is just the same whether we ascribe to God the one or the other.

The truth is that the attributes we ascribe to God do have a resemblance
to the same attributes in ourselves; only they are primary in God,
secondary in ourselves, _i. e._, they exist in God in a more perfect
manner than in us. Hence it is absurd to say that what would be in us
error or uncertainty is in God knowledge. Our problem must be solved
more candidly and differently. There are arguments in favor of God's
knowing particulars (Maimonides gives some), and there are the arguments
of the philosophers against the thesis. The truth must be between the
two, that God knows them from one aspect and does not know them from
another. Having shown above that human events are in part ordered and
determined by the heavenly bodies, and in part undetermined and
dependent upon the individual's choice, we can now make use of this
distinction for the solution of our problem. God knows particulars in so
far as they are ordered, he does not know them in so far as they are
contingent. He knows that they are contingent, and hence it follows that
he does not know which of the two possibilities will happen, else they
would not be contingent. This is no defect in God's nature, for to know
a thing as it is is no imperfection. In general God does not know
particulars as particulars but as ordered by the universal laws of
nature. He knows the universal order, and he knows the particulars in so
far as they are united in the universal order.

This theory meets all objections, and moreover it is in agreement with
the views of the Bible. It is the only one by which we can harmonize the
apparent contradictions in the Scriptures. Thus on the one hand we are
told that God sends Prophets and commands people to do and forbear. This
implies that a person has freedom to choose, and that the contingent is
a real category. On the other hand, we find that God foretells the
coming of future events respecting human destiny, which signifies
determination. And yet again we find that God repents, and that he does
not repent. All these apparent contradictions can be harmonized on our
theory. God foretells the coming of events in so far as they are
determined in the universal order of nature. But man's freedom may
succeed in counteracting this order, and the events predicted may not
come. This is signified by the expression that God repents.[347]

Levi ben Gerson's solution, whatever we may think of its scientific or
philosophic value, is surely very bold as theology, we might almost say
it is a theological monstrosity. It practically removes from God the
definite knowledge of the outcome of a given event so far as that
outcome is contingent. Gersonides will not give up the contingent, for
that would destroy freedom. He therefore accepts free will with its
consequences, at the risk of limiting God's knowledge to events which
are determined by the laws of nature. Maimonides was less consistent,
but had the truer theological sense, namely, he kept to both horns of
the dilemma. God is omniscient and man is free. He gave up the solution
by seeking refuge in the mysteriousness of God's knowledge. This is the
true religious attitude.

The question of Providence is closely related to that of God's
knowledge. For it is clear that one cannot provide for those things of
which he does not know. Gersonides's view in this problem is very
similar to that of Maimonides, and like him he sees in the discussions
between Job and his friends the representative opinions held by
philosophers in this important problem.

There are three views, he says, concerning the nature of Providence. One
is that God's providence extends only to species and not to individuals.
The second opinion is that God provides for every individual of the
human race. The third view is that some individuals are specially
provided for, but not all. Job held the first view, which is that of
Aristotle. The arguments in favor of this opinion are that God does not
know particulars, hence cannot provide for them. Besides, there would be
more justice in the distribution of goods and evils in the world if God
concerned himself about every individual. Then again man is too
insignificant for God's special care.

The second view is that of the majority of our people. They argue that
as God is the author of all, he surely provides for them. And as a
matter of fact experience shows it; else there would be much more
violence and bloodshed than there is. The wicked are actually punished
and the good rewarded. This class is divided into two parts. Some think
that while God provides for all men, not all that happens to a man is
due to God; there are also other causes. The others think that every
happening is due to God. This second class may again be divided
according to the manner in which they account for those facts in
experience which seem to militate against their view. Maintaining that
every incident is due to God, they have to explain the apparent
deviation from justice in the prosperity of the wicked and the adversity
of the righteous. One party explains the phenomenon by saying that the
prosperity and the adversity in these cases are only seeming and not
real; that they in fact are the opposite of what they seem, or at least
lead to the opposite. The second party answers the objection on the
ground that those we think good may not really be such, and similarly
those we think bad may not really be bad. For the way to judge a
person's character is not merely by his deeds alone, but by his deeds as
related to his temperament and disposition, which God alone knows.
Eliphaz the Temanite belonged to those who think that not all which
happens is due to God; that folly is responsible for a man's misfortune.
Bildad the Shuchite believed that all things are from God, but not all
that seems good and evil is really so. Zophar the Naamathite thought we
do not always judge character correctly; that temperament and
disposition must be taken into account.

Of these various opinions the first one, that of Aristotle, cannot be
true. Dreams, divination, and especially prophecy contradict it flatly.
All these are given to the individual for his protection (_cf._ above,
p. 342). The second opinion, namely, that God's providence extends to
every individual, is likewise disproved by reason, by experience and by
the Bible. We have already proved (p. 345) that God's knowledge does not
extend to particulars as such. He only knows things as ordered by the
heavenly bodies; and knows at the same time that they may fail to happen
because of man's free will. Now if God punishes and rewards every man
according to his deeds, one of two things necessarily follows. Either he
rewards and punishes according to those deeds which the individual is
determined to do by the order of the heavenly bodies, or according to
the deeds the individual actually does. In the first case there would be
often injustice, for the person might not have acted as the order of the
heavenly bodies indicated he would act, for he is free to act as he
will. The second case is impossible, for it would mean that God knows
particulars as particulars--a thesis we have already disproved. Besides,
evil does not come from God directly, since he is pure form and evil
comes only from matter. Hence it cannot be said that he punishes the
evil doer for his sin.

Experience also testifies against this view, for we see the just suffer
and the wicked prosper. The manner in which Eliphaz, Bildad and Zophar
wish to defend God's justice will not hold water. Man's own folly will
account perhaps for some evils befalling the righteous and some good
coming to the wicked. But it will not account for the failure of the
good man to get the reward he deserves, and of the wicked to receive the
punishment which is his due. The righteous man often has troubles all
his life no matter how careful he is to avoid them, and correspondingly
the same is true of the wicked, that he is prosperous, despite his lack
of caution and good sense. To avoid these objections as Eliphaz does by
saying that if the wicked man himself is not punished, his children will
be, is to go from the frying pan into the fire. For it is not just
either to omit to punish the one deserving it, or to punish another
innocent man for him. Nor is Zophar's defence any better. For the same
man, with the same temperament and disposition, often suffers more when
he is inclined to do good, and is prosperous when he is not so
scrupulous. Bildad is no more successful than the other two. The evils
coming to the righteous are often real and permanent. But neither does
the Bible compel us to believe that God looks out for all individuals.
This is especially true in reference to punishment, as can be gathered
from such expressions as "I will hide my face from them, and they shall
be given to be devoured" (Deut. 31, 17), or "As thou hast forgotten the
law of thy God, so will I myself also forget thy children" (Hosea 4, 6).
These expressions indicate that God does not punish the individuals
directly, but that he leaves them to the fate that is destined for them
by the order of the heavenly bodies. True there are other passages in
Scripture speaking of direct punishment, but they may be interpreted so
as not to conflict with our conclusions.

Having seen that neither of the two extreme views is correct, it remains
to adopt the middle course, namely, that some individuals are provided
for specially, and others not. The nearer a person is to the Active
Intellect, the more he receives divine providence and care. Those people
who do not improve their capabilities, which they possess as members of
the species, are provided for only as members of the species. The
matter may be put in another way also. God knows all ideas. Man is
potentially capable of receiving them in a certain manner. God, who is
actual, leads man from his potentiality to actuality. When a man's
potentialities are thus realized, he becomes similar to God, because
when ideas are actualized the agent and the thing acted upon are one.
Hence the person enjoys divine providence at that time. The way in which
God provides for such men is by giving them knowledge through dream,
divination or prophecy or intuition or in some other unconscious manner
on the individual's part, which knowledge protects him from harm. This
view is not in conflict with the truth that God does not know
particulars as such. For it is not to the individual person as such that
providence extends as a conscious act of God. The individualization is
due to the recipient and not to the dispenser. One may object that after
all since it is possible that bad men may have goods as ordered by the
heavenly bodies, and good men may have misfortune as thus ordered, when
their attachment to God is loosened somewhat, there is _injustice_ in
God if he could have arranged the heavenly spheres differently and did
not, or _incapacity_ if he could not. The answer is briefly that the
order of the spheres does a great deal of good in maintaining the
existence of things. And if some little evil comes also incidentally,
this does not condemn the whole arrangement. In fact the evils come from
the very agencies which are the authors of good. The view of providence
here adopted is that of Elihu the son of Barachel the Buzite in the book
of Job (ch. 32), and it agrees also with the opinion of Maimonides in
the "Guide of the Perplexed" (_cf._ above, p. 292).[348]

Instead of placing his cosmology at the beginning of his system and
proceeding from that as a basis to the other parts of his work, the
psychology and the ethics, Levi ben Gerson, whose "Milhamot Hashem" is
not so much a systematic work as an aggregation of discussions, reversed
the process. He begins as we have seen with a purely psychological
analysis concerning the nature of the human reason and its relation to
the Active Intellect. He follows up this discussion with a treatment of
prognostication as exhibiting some of the effects of the Active
Intellect upon the reason and imagination of man. This is again followed
by a discussion of God's knowledge and providence. And not until all
these psychological (and in part ethical) questions have been decided,
does Levi ben Gerson undertake to give us his views of the constitution
of the universe and the nature and attributes of God. In this discussion
he takes occasion to express his dissatisfaction with Aristotle's proofs
of the existence of the spheral movers and of the unmoved mover or God,
as inadequate to bear the structure which it is intended to erect upon
them. It will be remembered that the innovation of Abraham Ibn Daud and
Maimonides in making Jewish philosophy more strictly Aristotelian than
it had been consisted in a great measure in just this introduction of
the Aristotelian proof of the existence of God as derived from the
motions of the heavenly bodies. Levi ben Gerson's proofs are
teleological rather than mechanical. Aristotle said a moving body must
have a mover outside of it, which if it is again a body is itself in
motion and must have a mover in turn. And as this process cannot go on
_ad infinitum_, there must be at the end of the series an unmoved mover.
As unmoved this mover cannot be body; and as producing motion eternally,
it cannot be a power residing in a body, a physical or material power,
for no such power can be infinite. Gersonides is not satisfied with this
proof. He argues that so far as the motions of the heavenly bodies are
concerned there is no reason why a physical power cannot keep on moving
them eternally. The reason that motions caused by finite forces in our
world come to a stop is because the thing moved is subject to change,
which alters its relation to its mover; and secondly because the force
endeavors to move the object in opposition to its own tendency, in
opposition to gravity. In the case of the heavenly bodies neither of
these conditions is present. The relation of the mover to the moved is
always the same, since the heavenly bodies are not subject to change;
and as they are not made of the four terrestrial elements they have no
inherent tendency to move in any direction, hence they offer no
opposition to the force exerted upon them by the mover. A finite power
might therefore quite conceivably cause eternal motion. Similarly an
unmoved mover cannot be body, to be sure, but it may be a physical power
like a soul, which in moving the body is not itself moved by that
motion. Aristotle's proofs therefore are not sufficient to produce the
conviction that the movers of the spheres and God himself are separate

Gersonides accordingly follows a different method. He argues that if a
system of things and events exhibits perfection not here and there and
at rare intervals but regularly, the inference is justified that there
is an intelligent agent who had a definite purpose and design in
establishing the system. The world below is such a system. Hence it has
an intelligent agent as its author. This agent may be a separate and
immaterial intelligence, or a corporeal power like a soul. He then shows
that it cannot be a corporeal power, for it would have to reside in the
animal sperm which exhibits such wonderful and purposive development, or
in the parent animal from which the sperm came, both of which, he
argues, are impossible. It remains then that the cause of the
teleological life of the sublunar world is an immaterial power, a
separate intellect. This intellect, he argues further, acts upon matter
and endows it with forms, the only mediating power being the natural
heat which is found in the seed and sperm of plants and animals.
Moreover, it is aware of the order of what it produces. It is the Active
Intellect of which we spoke above (p. 337). The forms of terrestrial
things come from it directly, the heat residing in the seed comes from
the motions of the spheres. This shows that the permanent motions of the
heavenly bodies are also intelligent motions, for they tend to produce
perfection in the terrestrial world and never come to a standstill,
which would be the case if the motions were "natural" like those of the
elements, or induced against their nature like that of a stone moving
upward. We are justified in saying then that the heavenly bodies are
endowed with intellects and have no material soul. Hence their movers
are pure Intelligences, and there are as many of them as there are
spheres, _i. e._, forty-eight, or fifty-eight or sixty-four according to
one's opinion on the astronomical question of the number of spheres.

Now as the Active Intellect knows the order of sublunar existence in its
unity, and the movers of the respective spheres know the order of their
effects through the motions of the heavenly bodies, it follows that as
all things in heaven above and on the earth beneath are related in a
unitary system, there is a highest agent who is the cause of all
existence absolutely and has a knowledge of all existence as a unitary

The divine attributes are derived by us from his actions, and hence they
are not pure homonyms (_cf._, p. 240). God has a knowledge of the
complete order of sublunar things, of which the several movers have only
a part. He _knows_ it as _one_, and knows it eternally without change.
His _joy_ and _gladness_ are beyond conception, for our joy also is very
great in understanding. His is also the perfect _Life_, for
understanding is life. He is the most real _Substance_ and _Existent_,
and he is _One_. God is also the most real _Agent_, as making the other
movers do their work, and producing a complete and perfect whole out of
their parts. He is also properly called _Bestower_, _Beneficent_,
_Gracious_, _Strong_, _Mighty_, _Upright_, _Just_, _Eternal_,
_Permanent_. All these attributes, however, do not denote

From God we now pass again to his creation, and take up the problem
which caused Maimonides so much trouble, namely, the question of the
origin of the world. It will be remembered that dissatisfied with the
proofs for the existence of God advanced by the Mutakallimun,
Maimonides, in order to have a firm foundation for the central idea of
religion, tentatively adopted the Aristotelian notion of the eternity of
motion and the world. But no sooner does Maimonides establish his proof
of the existence, unity and incorporeality of God than he returns to the
attack of the Aristotelian view and points out that the problem is
insoluble in a strictly scientific manner; that Aristotle himself never
intended his arguments in favor of eternity to be regarded as
philosophically demonstrated, and that they all labor under the fatal
fallacy that because certain laws hold of the world's phenomena once it
is in existence, these same laws must have governed the establishment of
the world itself in its origin. Besides, the assumption of the world's
eternity with its corollary of the necessity and immutability of its
phenomena saps the foundation of all religion, makes miracles
impossible, and reduces the world to a machine. Gersonides is on the
whole agreed with Maimonides. He admits that Aristotle's arguments are
the best yet advanced in the problem, but that they are not convincing.
He also agrees with Maimonides in his general stricture on Aristotle's
method, only modifying and restricting its generality and sweeping
nature. With all this, however, he finds it necessary to take up the
entire question anew and treats it in his characteristic manner, with
detail and rigor, and finally comes to a conclusion different from that
of Maimonides, namely, that the world had an origin in time, to be sure,
but that it came not _ex nihilo_ in the absolute sense of the word
_nihil_, but developed from an eternal formless matter, which God
endowed with form. This is the so-called Platonic view.

We cannot enter into all his details which are technical and fatiguing
in the extreme, but we must give a general idea of his procedure in the
investigation of this important topic.

The problem of the origin of the world, he says, is very difficult.
First, because in order to learn from the nature of existing things
whether they were created out of a state of non-existence or not, we
must know the essence of existing things, which is not easy. Secondly,
we must know the nature of God in order to determine whether he could
have existed first without the world and then have created it, or
whether he had to have the world with him from eternity. The fact of the
great difference of opinion on this question among thinkers, and the
testimony of Maimonides that Aristotle himself had no valid proof in
this matter are additional indications of the great difficulty of the

Some think the world was made and destroyed an infinite number of times.
Others say it was made once. Of these some maintain it was made out of
something (Plato); others, that it was made out of absolute nothing
(Philoponus, the Mutakallimun, Maimonides and many of our Jewish
writers). Some on the other hand, namely, Aristotle and his followers,
hold the world to be eternal. They all have their defenders, and there
is no need to refute the others since Aristotle has already done this.
His arguments are the best so far, and deserve investigation. The
fundamental fallacy in all his proofs is that he argues from the laws of
genesis and decay in the parts of the world to the laws of these
processes in the world as a whole. This might seem to be the same
criticism which Maimonides advances, but it is not really quite the
same, Maimonides's assertion being more general and sweeping. Maimonides
says that the origin of the world as a whole need not be in any respect
like the processes going on within its parts; whereas Gersonides bases
his argument on the observed difference in the world between wholes and
parts, admitting that the two may be alike in many respects.

In order to determine whether the world is created or not, it is best to
investigate first those things in the world which have the appearance
of being eternal, such as the heavenly bodies, time, motion, the form of
the earth, and so on. If these are proven to be eternal, the world is
eternal; if not, it is not. A general principle to help us distinguish a
thing having an origin from one that has not is the following: A thing
which came into being in time has a purpose. An eternal thing has no
purpose. Applying this principle to the heavens we find that all about
them is with a purpose to ordering the sublunar world in the best way
possible. Their motions, their distances, their positions, their
numbers, and so on are all for this purpose. Hence they had a beginning.
Aristotle's attempts to explain these conditions from the nature of the
heavens themselves are not successful, and he knew it. Again, as the
heavenly bodies are all made of the same fifth element (the Aristotelian
ether), the many varieties in their forms and motions require special
explanation. The only satisfactory explanation is that the origin of the
heavenly bodies is not due to nature and necessity, which would favor
eternity, but to will and freedom, and the many varieties are for a
definite purpose. Hence they are not eternal.[352]

Gersonides then analyzes time and motion and proves that Aristotle to
the contrary notwithstanding, they are both finite and not infinite.
Time belongs to the category of quantity, and there is no infinite
quantity. As time is dependent on motion, motion too is finite, hence
neither is eternal. Another argument for creation in time is that if the
world is eternal and governed altogether by necessity, the earth should
be surrounded on all sides by water according to the nature of the
lighter element to be above the heavier. Hence the appearance of parts
of the earth's surface above the water is an indication of a break of
natural law for a special purpose, namely, in order to produce the
various mineral, plant and animal species. Hence once more purpose
argues design and origin in time.

Finally if the world were eternal, the state of the sciences would be
more advanced than it is. A similar argument may be drawn from language.
Language is conventional; which means that the people existed before the
language they agreed to speak. But man being a social animal they could
not have existed an infinite time without language. Hence mankind is not

We have just proved that the world came into being, but it does not
necessarily follow that it will be destroyed. Nay, there are reasons to
show that it will not be destroyed. For there is no destruction except
through matter and the predominance of the passive powers over the
active. Hence the being that is subject to destruction must consist of
opposites. But the heavenly bodies have no opposites, not being
composite; hence they cannot be destroyed. And if so, neither can the
sublunar order be destroyed, which is the work of the heavenly bodies.
There is of course the abstract possibility of their being destroyed by
their maker, not naturally, but by his will, as they were made; but we
can find no reason in God for wishing to destroy them, all reasons
existing in man for destroying things being inapplicable to God.[354]

That the world began in time is now established. The question still
remains, was the world made out of something or out of nothing? Both are
impossible. The first is impossible, for that something out of which the
world was made must have had some form, for matter never is without
form, and if so, it must have had some motion, and we have a kind of
world already, albeit an imperfect one. The second supposition is also
impossible; for while form may come out of nothing, body cannot come
from not-body. We never see the matter of any object arise out of
nothing, though the form may. Nature as well as art produces one
corporeal thing out of another. Hence the generally accepted principle,
"_ex nihilo nihil fit_." Besides it would follow on this supposition
that before the world came into existence there was a vacuum in its
place, whereas it is proved in the Physics that a vacuum is impossible.
The only thing remaining therefore is to say that the world was made
partly out of something, partly out of nothing, _i. e._, out of an
absolutely formless matter.

It may be objected that to assume the existence of a second eternal
thing beside God is equivalent to a belief in dualism, in two gods. But
this objection may be easily answered. Eternity as such does not
constitute divinity. If all the world were eternal, God would still be
God because he controls everything and is the author of the order
obtaining in the world. In general it is the qualitative essence that
makes the divine character of God, his wisdom and power as the source of
goodness and right order in nature. The eternal matter of which we are
speaking is the opposite of all this. As God is the extreme of
perfection so is matter the extreme of imperfection and defect. As God
is the source of good, so is matter the source of evil. How then can
anyone suppose for a moment that an eternal formless matter can in any
way be identified with a divine being?

Another objection that may be offered to our theory is that it is an
established fact that matter cannot exist at all without any form,
whereas our view assumes that an absolutely formless matter existed an
infinite length of time before the world was made from it. This may be
answered by saying that the impossibility of matter existing without
form applies only to the actual objects of nature. God put in sublunar
matter the nature and capacity of receiving all forms in a certain
order. The primary qualities, the hot and the cold and the wet and the
dry, as the forms of the elements, enable this matter to receive other
higher forms. The very capacity of receiving a given form argues a
certain form on the part of the matter having this capacity; for if it
had no form there would be no reason why it should receive one form
rather than another; whereas we find that the reception of forms is not
at random, but that a given form comes from a definite other form. Man
comes only from man. But this does not apply to the prime matter of
which we are speaking. It may have been without form. Nay, it is
reasonable to suppose that as we find matter and form combined, and we
also find pure forms without matter, _viz._, in the separate
Intelligences,--it is reasonable to suppose that there is also matter
without form.

Finally one may ask if the world has not existed from eternity, what
determined the author to will its existence at the time he did and not
at another? We cannot say that he acquired new knowledge which he had
not before, or that he needed the world then and not before, or that
there was some obstacle which was removed. The answer to this would be
that the sole cause of the creation was the will of God to benefit his
creatures. Their existence is therefore due to the divine causality,
which never changes. Their origin in time is due to the nature of a
material object as such. A material object as being caused by an
external agent is incompatible with eternity. It must have a beginning,
and there is no sense in asking why at this time and not before or
after, for the same question would apply to any other time. Gersonides
cites other objections which he answers, and then he takes up one by
one the Aristotelian arguments in favor of eternity and refutes them in
detail. We cannot afford to reproduce them here as the discussions are
technical, lengthy and intricate.[355]

Having given his philosophical cosmology, Gersonides then undertakes to
show in detail that the Biblical story of creation teaches the same
doctrine. Nay, he goes so far as to say that it was the Biblical account
that suggested to him his philosophical theory. It would be truer to say
that having approached the Bible with Aristotelian spectacles, and
having no suspicion that the two attitudes are as far apart as the
poles, he did not scruple to twist the expressions in Genesis out of all
semblance to their natural meaning. The Biblical text had been twisted
and turned ever since the days of Philo, and of the Mishna and Talmud
and Midrash, in the interest of various schools and sects. Motives
speculative, religious, theological, legal and ethical were at the basis
of Biblical interpretation throughout its long history of two millennia
and more--the end is not yet--and Gersonides was swimming with the
current. The Bible is not a law, he says, which forces us to believe
absurdities and to practice useless things, as some people think. On the
contrary it is a law which leads us to our perfection. Hence what is
proved by reason must be found in the Law, by interpretation if
necessary. This is why Maimonides took pains to interpret all Biblical
passages in which God is spoken of as if he were corporeal. Hence also
his statement that if the eternity of the world were strictly
demonstrated, it would not be difficult to interpret the Bible so as to
agree. But in the matter of the origin of the world, Gersonides
continues, it was not necessary for me to force the Biblical account.
Quite the contrary, the expressions in the Bible guided me to my

Accordingly he finds support for his doctrine that the world was not
created _ex nihilo_, in the fact that there is not one miracle in the
Bible in which anything comes out of nothing. They are all instances of
something out of a pre-existent something. The miracle of the oil in the
case of Elisha is no exception. The air changed into oil as it entered
the partly depleted vessel. The six days of creation must not be taken
literally. God's creation is timeless, and the six days indicate the
natural order and rank in existing things proceeding from the cause to
the effect and from the lower to the higher. Thus the movers of the
heavenly bodies come before the spheres which they move as their causes.
The spheres come before the terrestrial elements for the same reason.
The elements are followed by the things composed of them. And among
these too there is a certain order. Plants come before animals, aquatic
animals before aerial, aerial before terrestrial, and the last of all is
man, as the most perfect of sublunar creatures. All this he reads into
the account of creation in Genesis. Thus the _light_ spoken of in the
first day represents the angels or separate Intelligences or movers of
the spheres, and they are distinguished from the _darkness_ there, which
stands for the heavenly bodies as the matters of their movers, though at
the same time they are grouped together as one day, because the form and
its matter constitute a unit. The _water_, which was divided by the
firmament, denotes the prime formless matter, part of which was changed
into the matter of the heavenly bodies, and part into the four
terrestrial elements. Form and matter are also designated by the terms
"Tohu" and "Bohu" in the second verse in Genesis, rendered in the
Revised Version by "without form" and "void." And so Gersonides
continues throughout the story of creation, into the details of which we
need not follow him.[357]

The concluding discussion in the Milhamot is devoted to the problem of
miracles and its relation to prophecy. Maimonides had said that one
reason for opposing the Aristotelian theory of the eternity of the world
is that miracles would be an impossibility on that assumption. Hence
Maimonides insists on creation _ex nihilo_, though he admits that the
Platonic view of a pre-existent matter may be reconciled with the Torah.
Gersonides, who adopted the doctrine of an eternal matter, finds it
necessary to say by way of introduction to his treatment of miracles
that they do not prove creation _ex nihilo_. For as was said before all
miracles exhibit a production of something out of something and not out
of nothing.

To explain the nature of miracles, he says, and their authors, it is
necessary to know what miracles are. For this we must take the Biblical
records as our data, just as we take the data of our senses in
determining other matters. On examining the miracles of the Bible we
find that they may be classified into those which involve a change of
substance and those in which the substance remains the same and the
change is one of quality or quantity. An example of the former is the
change of Moses's rod into a serpent and of the water of Egypt into
blood; of the latter, Moses's hand becoming leprous, and the withering
of the hand of Jeroboam. We may further divide the miracles into those
in which the prophet was told in advance, as Moses was of the ten
plagues, and those in which he was not, as for example the reviving of
the dead by Elijah and many other cases. Our examination also shows us
that all miracles are performed by prophets or in relation to them. Also
that they are done with some good and useful purpose, namely, to
inculcate belief or to save from evil.

These data will help us to decide who is the author of miracles.
Miracles cannot be accidental, as they are performed with a purpose; and
as they involve a knowledge of the sublunar order, they must have as
their author one who has this knowledge, hence either God or the Active
Intellect or man, _i. e._, the prophet himself. Now it is not reasonable
to suppose that God is the author of miracles, for miracles come only
rarely and are of no value in themselves but only as a means to a
special end, as we said before. The laws of nature, however, which
control all regular events all the time, are essentially good and
permanent. Hence it is not reasonable to suppose that the Active
Intellect who, as we know, orders the sublunar world, has more important
work to do than God. Besides if God were the author of miracles, the
prophet would not know about them, for prophetic inspiration, as we know
(p. 342), is due to the Active Intellect and not directly to God.

Nor do we need waste words in proving that man cannot be the author of
miracles, for in that case the knowledge of them would not come to him
through prophetic inspiration, since they are due to his own will.
Besides man, as we have seen, cannot have a complete knowledge of the
sublunar order, and hence it is not likely that he can control its laws
to the extent of changing them.

There is therefore only one alternative left, namely, that the author of
miracles is the same as the inspirer of the prophets, the controlling
spirit of the sublunar world, whose intellect has as its content the
unified system of sublunar creation as an immaterial idea, namely, the
Active Intellect, of whom we have spoken so often. The prophet knows of
the miracles because the Active Intellect, who is the author of them, is
also the cause of the prophetic inspiration. This will account too for
the fact that all miracles have to do with events in the sublunar world
and are not found in the relations and motions of the heavenly bodies.
The case of Joshua causing the sun and moon to stand still is no
exception. There was no standing still of the sun and moon in that case.
What is meant by the expressions in Joshua 10 is that the Israelites
conquered the enemy in the short time that the sun occupied the zenith,
while its motion was not noticeable for about an hour, as is usually the
case about noon. In the case of Isaiah moving the sun ten degrees back
for Hezekiah (Isai. 38, 8), there was likewise no change in the motion
of the sun, but only in that of the cloud causing the shadow.

Miracles cannot be of regular occurrence, for if natural phenomena and
laws were changed by miracle as a regular thing, it would signify a
defect in the original order. Miracles cannot take place to violate the
principle of contradiction, hence there can be no miracles in reference
to mathematical truths, nor in matters relating to the past. Thus a
miracle cannot make a thing black and white at the same time; nor a
plane triangle whose angles are less than two right angles; nor is it
possible by miracle now to make it not to have rained in Jerusalem
yesterday, when as a matter of fact it did rain. For all these involve a
denial of the logical law of contradiction that a thing cannot be and
not be at the same time.[358]

A prophet is tested (1) by being able to foretell miracles before they
come, and (2) by the realization of his prophetic messages. The question
is raised concerning the statement of Jeremiah that one may be a true
prophet and yet an evil prophecy may remain unfulfilled if the people
repent. Does this mean that a good prophecy must always come true? In
that case a good deal of what comes within the category of the possible
and contingent becomes determined and necessary! The answer is that a
good prophecy too sometimes fails of realization, as is illustrated in
Jacob's fear of Esau after he was promised protection by God. But this
happens more rarely on account of the fact that a man endeavors
naturally to see a good prophecy realized, whereas he does his best to
counteract an evil prophecy.[359]

Gersonides's entire discussion of miracles shows a deep seated motive to
minimize their extent and influence. The study of science and philosophy
had the effect of planting in the minds of the mediæval philosophers a
great respect for reason on the one hand and natural law on the other. A
study of history, archæology and literary criticism has developed in
modern times a spirit of scepticism regarding written records of
antiquity. This was foreign to mediæval theologians generally. No one
doubted for a moment the accuracy of the Biblical records as well as
their inspiration in every detail. Hence prophecy and miracles had to be
explained or explained away. Interpretation held the place of



The chronological treatment of Jewish philosophy which we have followed
makes it necessary at this point to take up a Karaite work of the
fourteenth century that is closely modelled upon the "Guide of the
Perplexed." In doing this we necessarily take a step backward as far as
the philosophical development is concerned. For while it is true that
the early Rabbanite thinkers like Saadia, Bahya, Ibn Zaddik and others
moved in the circle of ideas of the Mohammedan Mutakallimun, that period
had long since been passed. Judah Halevi criticized the Kalam, Ibn Daud
is a thorough Aristotelian, and Maimonides gave the Kalam in Jewish
literature its deathblow. No Rabbanite after Maimonides would think of
going back to the old arguments made popular by the Mutakallimun--the
theory of atoms, of substance and accident in the Kalamistic sense of
accident as a quality which needs continuous creation to exist any
length of time, the denial of law and natural causation, the arguments
in favor of creation and the existence of God based upon creation, the
doctrine of the divine will as eternal or created, residing in a subject
or existing without a subject, the world as due to God's will or to his
wisdom, the nature of right and wrong as determined by the character and
purpose of the act or solely by the arbitrary will of God--these and
other topics, which formed the main ground of discussion between the
Muʿtazilites and the Ashariya, and were taken over by the Karaites and
to a less extent by the early Rabbanites in the tenth and eleventh
centuries, had long lost their significance and their interest among the
Rabbanite followers of Maimonides. Aristotelianism, introduced by
Alfarabi, Avicenna and Averroes among the Arabs, and Ibn Daud and
Maimonides among the Jews, dominated all speculative thought, and the
old Kalam was obsolete and forgotten. Gersonides no longer regards the
Kalamistic point of view as a living issue. He ignores it entirely. His
problems as we have seen are those raised by the Averroistic system. In
this respect then a reading of Aaron ben Elijah's "Ez Hayim" (Tree of
Life)[360] affects us like a breath from a foreign clime, like the odor
of a thing long buried. And yet Aaron ben Elijah was a contemporary of
Levi ben Gerson. He was born about 1300, and died in 1369. He lived in
Nicomedia, Cairo, Constantinople. The reason for the antiquated
appearance of his work lies in the fact that he was a Karaite, and the
Karaites never got beyond the Muʿtazilite point of view. Karaism was
only a sect and never showed after the days of Saadia anything like the
life and enthusiastic activity of the great body of Rabbanite Judaism,
which formed the great majority of the Jewish people. The Karaites had
their important men in Halaka as well as in religious philosophy and
Biblical exegesis. Solomon ben Yeroham, Joseph Ha-Maor (Al-Kirkisani),
Joseph Al Basir (p. 48 ff.), Jeshua ben Judah (p. 55 ff.), Yefet
Ha-Levi, Judah Hadassi, Aaron ben Joseph--all these were prominent in
Karaitic literature. But they cannot be compared to the great men among
the Rabbanites. There was no Maimonides among them. And Aaron ben Elijah
cherished the ambition of being to the Karaites what Maimonides was to
the Rabbanites. Accordingly he undertook to compose three works
representing the three great divisions of Karaitic Judaism--a book of
Laws, a work on Biblical exegesis and a treatise on religious
philosophy. The last was written first, having been composed in 1346.
The "Sefer Ha-Mizvot," on the religious commandments, was written in
1354, and his exegetical work, known as "Keter Torah" (The Crown of the
Law) was published in 1362. It is the first that interests us, the "Ez
Hayim." As was said before, this book is closely modelled upon the "More
Nebukim," though the arrangement is different, being more logical than
that of the "Guide." Instead of beginning, as Maimonides does, with
interpreting the anthropomorphic expressions in the Bible, which is
followed by a treatment of the divine attributes, long before the
existence of God has been proved or even the fundamental principles laid
down upon which are based the proofs of the existence of God, Aaron ben
Elijah more naturally begins with the basal doctrines of physics and
metaphysics, which he then utilizes in discussing the existence of God.
As Maimonides brought to a focus all the speculation on philosophy and
religion as it was handed down to him by Arab and Jew, and gave it a
harmonious and systematic form in his masterpiece; so did Aaron ben
Elijah endeavor to sum up all Karaitic discussion in his work, and in
addition declare his attitude to Maimonides. The success with which he
carried out this plan is not equal. As a source of information on
schools and opinions of Arabs and Karaites, the "Ez Hayim" is of great
importance and interest. But it cannot in the least compare with the
"Guide" as a constructive work of religious philosophy. It has not the
same originality or any degree remotely approaching it. The greater part
of the Aristotelian material seems bodily taken from Maimonides, and so
is the part dealing with the anthropomorphic expressions in the Bible.
There is a different point of view in his exposition of the Muʿtazilite
physics, which he presents in a more systematic and favorable light than
Maimonides, defending it against the strictures of the latter. But
everywhere Aaron ben Elijah lacks the positiveness and commanding
mastery of Maimonides. He is not clear what side of a question to
espouse. For the most part he places side by side the opposed points of
view and only barely intimates his own attitude or preference. Under
these circumstances it will not be necessary for us to reproduce his
ideas _in extenso_. It will be sufficient if we indicate his relation to
Maimonides in the problems common to both, adding a brief statement of
those topics which Aaron ben Elijah owes to his Karaite predecessors,
and which Maimonides omits.

His general attitude on the relation of religion or revelation to reason
and philosophy is somewhat inconsistent. For while he endeavors to
rationalize Jewish dogma and Scriptural teaching like Maimonides, and in
doing so utilizes Aristotelian terminology in matters physical,
metaphysical, psychological, ethical and logical, he nevertheless in the
beginning of his work condemns philosophy as well as philosophers,
meaning of course the Aristotelians.[361] He nowhere expressly indicates
the manner of reconciling this apparent contradiction. But it would seem
as if he intended to distinguish between the philosophical method and
the actual teachings of the Aristotelians. Their method he approves,
their results he condemns. The Aristotelians taught the eternity of the
world, the immutability of natural law, God's ignorance of particulars
and the absence of special Providence. These doctrines must be
condemned. Maimonides too rejects these extreme teachings while
praising Aristotle and maintaining that philosophy was originally a
possession of the Israelitish people, which they lost in the exile.
Aaron ben Elijah is not willing to follow the philosophers as far as
Maimonides. He admits positive attributes in God, which Maimonides
rejects; he admits an absolute will in God and not merely a relative
like Maimonides; he extends God's providence to all individuals
including irrational creatures, whereas Maimonides limits special
providence to the individuals of the human species, and so on. And so he
condemns the philosophers, though he cannot help using their method and
even their fundamental doctrines, so far as they are purely theoretical
and scientific. He is willing to go the full length of the Aristotelians
only in the unity and incorporeality of God, though here too he
vindicates sense perception to God, _i. e._, the knowledge of that which
we get through our sense organs. He too like the philosophers insists on
the importance of the reason as the instrument of truth and knowledge.
Abraham was the first, he tells us, who proved the existence of God with
his intellect. Then came the law of Moses, which strengthened the same
idea. The Gentiles hated and envied Israel for their superiority and
their true opinions; hence they endeavored to refute their ideas and
establish others in their stead. This was the work of the ancient Greek
philosophers, who are called enemies in the Bible (Psalms 139, 21). At
the time of the second Temple, seeing that the Jewish religion and its
teachings were true, they took advantage of the advent of Jesus to adopt
his false teachings, thus showing their hatred and envy of Israel. At
the same time, however, they were obliged to borrow some views and
methods of proof from Israel, for religion as such is opposed to
philosophy. Still the true nature of God was unknown to them. Then came
the Arabs, who imitated the Christians in adopting a belief different
from Judaism, at the same time borrowing views from the Bible. These are
the _Muʿtazila_ and the _Ashariya_. Later when on account of the exile
differences arose among the Jews, there were formed the two parties of
the Karaites and the Rabbanites. The Karaites followed the Muʿtazila,
and so did some of the Rabbanites, because their views coincided with
those of the Bible, from which they were borrowed. The views of the
philosophers as being opposed to the Bible they naturally rejected.
Nevertheless some Rabbanites adopted the views of the philosophers,
though believing in the Bible. This is a mistake, for even the
Christians rejected the views of the philosophers.[362]

Here we see clearly the difference in general attitude between Aaron ben
Elijah and Maimonides. The latter has no use whatsoever for the
Muʿtazila. He realizes the immeasurable superiority of the Aristotelians
(this is the meaning of the word philosophers in mediæval Jewish and
Arabic literature). His task is therefore to harmonize the Bible with
Aristotelian doctrine wherever possible. Aaron ben Elijah is still, in
the fourteenth century, a follower of the Kalam, and believes the
Muʿtazila are closer to Scripture than Aristotle. He is two centuries
behind Maimonides philosophically, and yet he has the truer insight
because less debauched by Aristotelian learning.

As was said before, Aaron ben Elijah follows a more logical arrangement
in the disposition of his work than Maimonides. In reality it is the old
arrangement of the Kalamistic works (_cf._ p. 24). The purpose of all
Jewish investigators, he says, is the same, namely, to prove the
existence and nature of God, but there is a difference among them in the
method of proving God's existence. Some base their proofs on the
assumption of the creation of the world, others on that of the world's
eternity. The Mutakallimun follow the former method, the philosophers,
the latter. Their respective views of the origin of the world are
determined by their opinions concerning the principles of existence and
the existent, that is, the fundamental principles of physics and
metaphysics. Accordingly Aaron ben Elijah finds it necessary to give a
preliminary account of the Kalamistic as well as the philosophic
theories, as Maimonides did before him (p. 249 ff.). It is not necessary
for us to reproduce here his sketch of the philosophical views, as we
know them sufficiently from our studies of Ibn Daud and Maimonides. But
it will be of value to refer to his account of the Kalamistic
principles, though we have already discussed them in the introduction
(p. xxi) and in our study of Maimonides (p. 249 ff.). This is due
principally to the fact that Aaron ben Elijah endeavors to defend the
Mutakallimun against Maimonides's charge that they were influenced by
preconceived notions and allowed their religious views to dictate to
them their interpretation of nature, instead of letting the latter speak
for itself. Thus Maimonides specifically accuses them of having adopted
the atomic theory of the pre-Aristotelian philosophers not because they
were really and independently convinced of its scientific truth--how
could that be since Aristotle proved it impossible?--but because on this
theory they could prove the creation of the world, which they must at
all hazards maintain as a religious dogma fundamental in its nature,
since upon it is based the proof of the existence of God.

Aaron ben Elijah denies this charge, maintaining the philosophical
honesty of the Mutakallimun. Epicurus too, he says, believed in the
atomic theory, though he regarded the world as eternal. Hence there is
no necessary connection between atoms and creation.[363] The atomic
theory is defensible on its own merits, and the motives of the
Mutakallimun in adopting it are purely scientific, as follows: According
to the Mutakallimun there are only body or substance and its accidents
or qualities. This is the constitution of material objects. There are,
however, two kinds of qualities or attributes, _viz._, "characters," and
accidents. Characters are such attributes as are essential to body and
without which it cannot exist. Accidents may disappear, while body
continues. Since, then, body may exist with or without accidents, there
must be a cause which is responsible for the attachment of accidents to
body when they are so attached. This cause we call "union." When a body
is "united" with accidents it owes this to the existence of a certain
something, a certain property, let us say, in it which we have called
"union." Hence when the body is "separated" from accidents, when it is
without accidents, it is because there is no "union." Further, every
body possessed of magnitude or extension is divisible, hence it must
have "union" to hold its parts together. But this "union" is not
essential to all existents; for we have seen that its function is to
unite accidents with body. And as accidents are separable while body may
continue to exist without them, "union" disappears together with the
accidents. Bodies without "union" are therefore possible and real. But
we have just seen that all bodies possessing magnitude have "union." It
follows therefore that if there are "union"-less bodies, they are
without magnitude, and hence atoms. This is the proof of the atomic
theory and it has nothing to do with the matter of the origin of the
world.[364] As a matter of fact the Mutakallimun believe that the atoms
were created _ex nihilo_. But the creation of the world can be proved
whichever view we adopt concerning the nature of the existent, whether
it be the atomic theory of the Mutakallimun or the principles of matter
and form of the Aristotelians. The important principle at the basis of
this proof is the well-known Kalamistic one that if an object cannot do
without an attribute originating in time, the object itself has its
origin in time. Now on either view of the constitution of the existent,
body must have form or accidents respectively, and as the latter are
constantly changing, body or matter has its origin in time, hence the
world is not eternal.

Besides, not to speak of the inconclusive character of the philosophical
arguments in favor of eternity and the positive arguments for creation
(all or most of which we have already met in our previous studies, and
need not therefore reproduce Aaron ben Elijah's version of them), the
philosophers themselves without knowing it are led to contradict
themselves in their very arguments from the assumption of eternity. The
doctrine of creation follows as a consequence from their own
presuppositions. Thus on the basis of eternity of motion they prove that
the heavenly spheres are endowed with soul and intellect, and their
motions are voluntary and due to conceptions which they endeavor to
realize (_cf._ p. 267). This makes the sphere a composite object,
containing the elements, _sphericity_, _soul_, _intellect_. Everything
composite is a _possible_ existent, because its existence depends upon
the existence of its parts. What is a possible existent may also not
exist. Moreover, that which is possible must at some time become actual.
Hence the sphere must at some time have been non-existent, and it
required an agent to bring it into being. We are thus led to contradict
our hypothesis of eternity from which we started.[365]

Creation is thus established, and this is the best way to prove the
existence, unity and incorporeality of God. Maimonides attempts to prove
creation from the peculiarities of the heavenly motions, which cannot be
well accounted for on the theory of natural causes. Adopting the latter
in the main, he makes an exception in the case of the spherical motions
because the philosophers cannot adequately explain them, and jumps to
the conclusion that here the philosophical appeal to mechanical
causation breaks down and we are dealing with teleology, with
intelligent design and purpose on the part of an intelligent agent.
This leads to belief in creation. But this argument of Maimonides is
very weak and inconclusive. Ignorance of causes in a special case, due
to the limitations of our reason, proves nothing. Mechanical causes may
be the sole determinants of the heavenly motions even though the
philosophers have not yet discovered what they are (_cf._ above, p. 270

Nor is Maimonides to be imitated, who bases his proof of the existence
of God on the theory of eternity. The Bible is opposed to it. The Bible
begins with creation as an indication that this is the basis of our
knowledge of God's existence, revelation and providence. This is the
method Abraham followed and this is what he meant when he swore by the
"most high God, the creator of heaven and earth" (Gen. 14, 22). Abraham
arrived at this belief through ratiocination and endeavored to convince
others. The same thing is evident in the words of Isaiah (40, 26), "Lift
up your eyes on high and see who created these." He was arguing with the
people who believed in eternity, and proved to them the existence of God
by showing that the world is created. All these indications in the Bible
show that the doctrine of creation is capable of apodeictic proof.[367]

The reader will see that all this is directed against Maimonides, though
he is not mentioned by name. Maimonides claimed against the Mutakallimun
that it is not safe to base the existence of God upon the theory of
creation, because the latter cannot be strictly demonstrated. And while
he believed in it himself and gave reasons to show why it is more
plausible than eternity, he admitted that others might think
differently; and hence based his proofs of God's existence on the
Aristotelian theory of eternity in order to be on the safe side. It is
never too late to prove God's existence if the world is created. We must
be sure of his existence, no matter what the fate of our cosmological
theories might be. This did not appeal to the Karaite and Mutakallim,
Aaron ben Elijah. His idea is that we must never for a moment doubt the
creation of the world. To follow the procedure of Maimonides would have
the tendency of making people believe that the world may be eternal
after all, as happened in fact in the case of Gersonides. Aaron ben
Elijah will not leave a way open to such a heresy.

In the doctrine of attributes Aaron ben Elijah likewise maintains the
views of the Muʿtazilite Karaites against the philosophers, and
especially against Maimonides. The general problem is sufficiently
familiar to us by this time, and we need only present the salient points
in the controversy. The question is whether there are any positive
attributes which may be applied to God as actually denoting his
essence--hence _positive essential_ attributes. Maimonides denied it,
the Karaites affirmed it. The arguments for Maimonides's denial we saw
before (p. 262 f.). And his conclusion is that the only attributes that
may be applied to God are the negative, and those positive ones which do
not denote any definite thing corresponding to them in God's essence,
but are derived from the effects of God's unitary and simple being on
the life of man and nature. He is the author of these effects, and we
characterize him in the way in which we would characterize a human being
who would do similar things; but this must not be done.

Aaron ben Elijah insists that there are positive essential attributes,
which are the following five: Omnipotent, Omniscient, Acting with Will,
Living, Existent. He agrees with Maimonides that these essential
attributes must be understood in a manner not to interfere with God's
simplicity and unity, but is satisfied that this can be done. For we
must not conceive of them as additions to God's essence, nor as so many
distinct elements composing God's essence, but as representing the
multiplicity of powers issuing from him without detriment to his unity.
We call them essential attributes, meaning that they are the essence of
God, but not that they are different from each other and each makes up
part of God's essence. We do not know God's essence, and these terms are
simply transferred from our human experience, and do not indicate that
God's activity can be compared to ours in any sense.

The five attributes above named are all identical with God's simple
essence. "Living" denotes ability to perceive, hence is identical with
"Omniscient." "Acting with will" likewise denotes just and proper
action, which in turn involves true insight. Hence identity of will and
knowledge. "Omnipotent" also in the case of an intellectual being
denotes the act of the intellect _par excellence_, which is knowledge.
And surely God's existence is not distinct from his essence, else his
existence would be caused, and he would not be the necessary existent
all agree him to be. It follows then that God is one, and his essence is
nevertheless all these five attributes.

There are all the reasons in the world why we should apply attributes to
God. The same reason as we have for applying names to anything else
exists for giving names to God. In fact it would be correct to say that
we should have more names for God than for anything else, since in other
things we can avoid naming them by pointing to them, as they can be
perceived by the senses. Not so God. We are forced to use words in
talking about him. God has given himself names in the Bible, hence we
may do the same.

Maimonides and his school endeavor to obviate the criticisms of the
philosophers, who are opposed to all attributes, by excluding all but
negative terms. But this does not help the matter in the least. A
negative attribute is in reality no different from a positive, and in
the end leads to a positive. Thus if we say "not mineral," "not plant,"
we clearly say "animal." The advocates of negative attributes answer
this criticism by saying that they understand pure negation without any
positive implications, just as when we say a stone is "not seeing," we
do not imply that it is blind. But this cannot be, for when they say God
is "not ignorant," they do not mean that he is not "knowing" either, for
they insist that he is power and knowledge and life, and so on. This
being the case, it is much more proper to use positive attributes,
seeing that the Prophets do so. When they say that the Prophets meant
only to exclude the negative; that by saying, "Able," "Knowing," they
meant to exclude "weak" "ignorant," they _ipso facto_ admit that by
excluding the latter we posit the former.

The arguments against positive essential attributes we can easily
answer. By saying that certain attributes are essential we do not claim
to know God's essence. All we know is God's existence, which we learn
from his effects, and according to these same effects we characterize
God's existence by means of attributes of which also we know only the
existence, not the essence. For we do not mean to indicate that these
terms denote the same thing in God as they denote in us. They are
homonyms, since in God they denote essence, whereas in us they are
accidents. The plurality of attributes does not argue plurality in God,
for one essence may perform a great many acts, and hence we may
characterize the essence in accordance with those acts. The error of
composition arises only if we suppose that the various acts point to
various elements in their author. Of the various kinds of terms those
only are applicable to God which denote pure essence or substance like
knowledge, power; and those denoting activity like creating, doing, and
so on.[368]

In reference to the will of God Aaron ben Elijah refuses to agree with
the peculiar view of the Mutakallimun; but unlike Maimonides, who can
afford to ignore their discussions entirely and dismiss their fanciful
notion with a word ("Guide," I. 75, proof 3), Aaron ben Elijah takes up
the discussion seriously. The Mutakallimun (or the Ashariya, according
to Aaron ben Elijah) were in dread of anything that might lend some
semblance to eternity of the world. Hence they argued, If the will of
God is identical with his essence like the other essential attributes,
it follows that as his essence is eternal and unchangeable so is his
will. And if we grant this, then the objects of his will too must be
eternal and unchangeable, and we have the much abhorred doctrine of the
eternity of the world. To avoid this objectionable conclusion they
conceived of God's voluntary acts as due to an external will. But this
external will also offered difficulties. It cannot be a power or quality
residing in God as its subject, for God is not a material substance
bearing accidents. It cannot be a quality inherent in another subject,
for then it would not be God's will at all; it would be the will of this
other being, and God's acts would be determined by someone else. They
were thus forced to assume a subject-less will newly created with every
act of God. This notion Aaron ben Elijah rejects on the ground that a
subject-less will is an impossibility. An accident must have a subject,
and will implies life as its subject. Besides, the relation between God
and this subject-less accident, will, would be the cause of much logical
difficulty. Aaron ben Elijah therefore accepts the ordinary sane view
that the will of God is identical with his essence; that God wills
through his own essence. And he does not fear that this will lead to
eternity of the world. He identifies God's will with his wisdom, and
God's wisdom with right action. As we do not know the essence of God's
wisdom, so we do not know how it is that it prompts him to realize his
will at one time and not at another, though his will is always the

Aaron ben Elijah also follows his party in attributing to God sense
perception, not, to be sure, the same kind of perception as we have,
acquired by means of corporeal organs; for this is impossible in God for
many reasons. God is not corporeal, and he cannot be affected or changed
by a corporeal stimulus. But it is clear beyond a doubt that nothing can
be more absurd than to suppose that the creator of the sense organs does
not understand the purpose which they serve and the objects which they
perceive. What we mean then is that the objects which we perceive with
our senses God also perceives, though in an incorporeal manner. Hence it
does not follow that there is any change in God due to the external
object he perceives, nor that the multiplicity of objects involves
plurality in God; for even our power of perception is one, though it
perceives many things and opposite. We conclude then that God has
perception as well as intelligence, but they are not two distinct powers
in him. It is the object perceived that determines the power percipient.
Hence one and the same power may be called perception when we are
dealing with a sensible object, and intelligence when it has an
intelligible as its object.[370]

In his discussion of the nature of evil we once more are brought in
contact with Kalamistic views recalling the old Karaite works of the
eleventh century (_cf._ pp. 52, 57). Thus the notion that good and bad
are adjectives applied to acts not in view of their inherent character,
which is _per se_ neither good nor bad, but solely to indicate that they
have been commanded or forbidden; the idea that only the dependent
subject can do wrong, but not the master, since his will is the source
of all right and wrong--these views are frequently discussed in the
Muʿtazilite works of Arabs and Karaites. The Rabbanites scarcely ever
mention them. Aaron ben Elijah enumerates six views on the nature of
evil, with all of which except the last he disagrees. The opinion named
above that an act is made good or bad by being commanded or prohibited,
he refutes as follows: Such a view removes the very foundation of good
and bad. For if the person in authority chooses to reverse his order,
the good becomes bad, and the bad good, and the same thing is then good
and bad, which is absurd. Besides, if there are two authorities giving
opposite orders, the same act is good and bad at the same time. To say
that God's command alone determines the character of an act is
incorrect, because as long as commanding and prohibiting as such
determine the goodness or badness of an act, the person issuing the
command is immaterial. We do say quite generally that an act which God
commands is good, and one which he prohibits is bad; but we mean by this
merely that the command or prohibition is an indication to us, who are
ignorant of the true nature of acts.

Again, on this theory of the value of acts, what will you do with such
an act as the investigation of the existence and nature of God? Surely
such an important matter cannot be indifferent. It must be good or bad.
And yet we cannot apply to it the above test of command and prohibition,
for this test implies the existence of God, which the act endeavors to
prove. It follows therefore that the value of an act is inherent in it
and not determined and created by command and prohibition.

Aaron ben Elijah is similarly dissatisfied with another view, which
regards evil as a negation. We have heard this opinion before and we
know that Maimonides adopted it (p. 288). Its motive as we know is to
remove from God the responsibility for evil. If evil is nothing positive
it is not caused by the activity of an agent. All essential activity is
good, and all the acts of God are good. Evil consists in the absence of
good; it is due to matter, and does not come from God. Aaron ben Elijah
objects properly that as good is a positive act, a doing of something
positive, so is evil, even on the theory of its negative character, a
removal of something positive, hence a positive act. Besides, granting
all that the opponent claims, the argument should work both ways, and if
God is not held responsible for the evil in the world because it is mere
privation, why should man be held responsible for doing evil, _i. e._,
for removing the positive? He clinches his argument by quoting Isaiah
(5, 20), "Woe unto those who say of evil it is good, and of good it is
evil ... that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter." Good and evil
are placed parallel with sweet and bitter, which are both positive.
Hence the Bible is opposed to the negative conception of evil.

His own view is that good and evil are qualities pertaining to an act by
reason of its own nature, but these are not absolute conceptions like
true and false. The good and the bad are conventional constructs, and
the value of an act is relative to the end or purpose it serves. The
purpose of human convention in regarding certain acts as good and
others as bad is the protection of the human race. An act which conduces
to human welfare is good, one that militates against it is bad. Still
there are instances in which an act generally regarded as bad may assume
a different character when in the given instance it serves a good
purpose, as for example when pain is inflicted to obviate more serious
danger. The surgeon, who amputates a leg to save the patient's life,
does good, not evil. The judge, who punishes the criminal with
imprisonment or death for the protection of society and to realize
justice, does good, not evil. In this way we must explain the evil which
God brings upon man. God cannot be the cause of evil. For evil in man is
due to want or ignorance. Neither is found in God, hence he has no
motive to do wrong. All the evil of which we complain is only apparent.
In reality it is good, because it is either brought upon us to prevent
still greater evils, or it is in the nature of just punishment for
wrongdoing. In either case it is a good.[371]

Aaron ben Elijah's discussion of Providence follows closely the plan of
the corresponding arguments in Maimonides. The problem is treated by
both in connection with God's knowledge, and both maintain that the real
motive of those who denied God's knowledge of particulars is their
observation of apparent injustice in the happenings of this world (_cf._
above, p. 289). Both again preface their own views of the question of
Providence by a preliminary statement of the various opinions held by
other sects. Here too the two accounts are in the main similar, except
that Aaron ben Elijah is somewhat more detailed and names a few sects
not mentioned by Maimonides, among them being the Manicheans and the
followers of the Syrian Gnostic Bardesanes. In their own views, however,
Aaron ben Elijah and Maimonides differ; the latter approaching the view
of Aristotle, the former that of the Muʿtazila.

Maimonides as we know (p. 292) denies special providence for the
individuals of the sublunar world with the exception of man. In the case
of the lower animals, the species alone are protected by divine
providence, hence they will continue forever, whereas the individual
animals are subject to chance. Man, as a rational animal, is an
exception. He is a free and responsible agent, hence he is under divine
guidance and is rewarded and punished for his conduct. The extent of
the divine care depends upon the degree to which the individual develops
his reason, actualizing his potential intellect.

Aaron ben Elijah argues that this view is erroneous, for it is not
proper to make a distinction between God's knowledge and his providence.
If it would argue imperfection in God not to _know_ certain things, the
same objection applies to limiting his providence, and the two should be
coextensive. To say that God's providence extends to superior and
important things and ignores the inferior is to make God guilty of
injustice. Aaron ben Elijah believes therefore that Providence extends
to all individuals, including animals. And he quotes the Bible in his
support, "The Lord is good to all, and his mercies are over all his
works," (Ps. 145, 9), and, "Thou shalt not plough with an ox and an ass
together" (Deut. 22, 10). Maimonides, he says, was led to his opinion by
his idea that death and suffering always involve sin; and not being able
to apply this dictum to the suffering of animals that are slaughtered,
he removed Providence from their individuals entirely. When the Bible
orders us to consider the feelings of the animal, he says the object is
to train our own faculties in mercy, and prevent the formation of habits
of cruelty, not for the sake of the animal. But he cannot remove all
difficulties in this way. What will he do with the case of a person born
crippled, and the sufferings of little children? The idea that death and
suffering in all cases involve sin must be given up. Maimonides is also
wrong when he says that reward is purely intellectual and is dependent
upon the development of the "acquired intellect." It would follow from
this that right conduct as such is not rewarded; that it serves merely
as a help to realizing the acquired intellect. All this is opposed to
Biblical teaching.[372]

The prosperity of the wicked and the adversity of the righteous Aaron
ben Elijah endeavors to explain as follows. The prosperity of the wicked
may be due to former good deeds; or by way of punishment, that he may
continue in his evil deeds and be punished more severely. It may be in
order that he may use the good fortune he has in whatever way he
pleases, for good or ill. Finally his good fortune may be given him as a
matter of grace, like his creation. Correspondingly we may explain the
adversity of the righteous in a similar manner. It may be due to former
sins. If he has no sins, his sufferings may be intended to test him in
order to add to his reward. If he dies without having enjoyed life, he
will be rewarded in the next world. The pleasures of this world must not
be considered. For since they are given as a matter of grace, they may
come or not without involving any injustice. When a man has both good
deeds and sins, he may be rewarded for his good deeds and punished for
his bad, or he may be paid according to the element which predominates.
Those who are born crippled and the sufferings of children will be
rewarded later. In reference to the slaughter of animals, Aaron ben
Elijah does not agree with the Muʿtazila that the animals will be
recompensed for their undeserved sufferings. There is no immortal part
in animals, hence no reward after death. He can assign no reason for
their sufferings except that men need them for food, but he sees nothing
wrong in taking an animal's life for food, for as the life of animals
was given to them as a matter of grace, there is no wrong in taking it
away. However, to inflict pain in a way different from the manner
permitted by God is wrong.[373]

Aaron ben Elijah lays great stress upon what he considers an important
difference of opinion between the Rabbanites and the Karaites concerning
the nature and purpose of divine punishment. The Rabbanites according to
him insist that "there is no death without sin, nor suffering without
guilt," whereas the Karaites admit that some of the sufferings of the
righteous are not in the nature of punishment at all, but are what are
known as "chastisements of love." Their purpose is to increase the man's
reward later in the future world, and at the same time they have a
pedagogical value in themselves in strengthening the person spiritually.
Accordingly Aaron ben Elijah, who in the main follows the opinions of
the Karaites, differs with the Rabbanites and particularly Maimonides in
the interpretation of the "trials" of Adam, Abraham, Job.

So far as Job is concerned, we know the opinions of Maimonides on the
subject. In his "Guide of the Perplexed" he interprets the book of Job
in connection with his discussion of Providence (_cf._ above, p. 304).
In the general nature of suffering the idea of "chastisement of love" is
quite familiar to the Rabbis, though Maimonides does not care to insist
on it, claiming that there is no support for it in the Bible. The idea
of "trial" according to him is neither that God may know what he did not
know before; nor is it to make a man suffer that he may be rewarded
later. The purpose of trial is that mankind may know whatever it is
desired to teach them in a given case. In the trial of Abraham when he
was told to sacrifice Isaac, there was a two-fold reason; first, that
all may know to what extent the love of God may go in a pious man; and
second to show that a prophet is convinced of the reality of his visions
as an ordinary person is of the data of his senses.[374]

The book of Job is to Maimonides a treatise on Providence, and the five
characters in the drama represent the various opinions on the nature of
Providence as they were held by different schools of philosophy and
theology in Maimonides's day. Job has the Aristotelian view that God
cares nothing for man. Eliphaz represents the correct Jewish view that
everything is reward or punishment for merit and demerit. Bildad
maintains the Muʿtazilite opinion that many misfortunes are for the
purpose of increasing reward in the world to come. Zophar stands for the
view of the Ashariya that all is to be explained by reference to the
will of God, and no questions should be asked. Elihu finally insists
that the individual man is the object of the divine care, but that we
must not compare God's providence with our own interest in, and care for
things; that there is no relation at all between them except in name
(_cf._ above, p. 304). The Rabbis, who do not make of Job a philosopher,
naturally do not understand the matter as Maimonides does, but they
nevertheless agree with him that Job deserved the punishment he
received. The Karaites on the other hand classed Job's sufferings with
"chastisements of love," which would mean that Job was a perfect man and
did not deserve any punishment. The sole motive for inflicting pain and
tribulation upon him was to reward him the more later.

Aaron ben Elijah agrees in the main with his Karaite predecessors that
Job was not punished for any fault he had committed. He does not see in
the arguments of Job's friends any difference of opinion on the general
question of Providence, and Job was not an Aristotelian. Unlike
Aristotle, he did believe in God's care for man, as is evident from such
statements as (Job 10, 10), "Behold like milk didst thou pour me out,
and like cheese didst thou curdle me." The Karaites, he holds, are
correct in their main contention that Job's sufferings were not in the
nature of punishment for previous guilt and wrongdoing, but they are
mistaken in supposing that Job was altogether right in his conception of
the meaning and reason of his sufferings; that they had no other purpose
except to increase his reward in the future. Aaron ben Elijah then
explains his own view of "trial."

Man, he says, is composed of body and soul, and must therefore endeavor
to gain this world and the next. If he is punished for guilt or offence,
the punishment corresponds to the offence. Corporeal guilt is followed
by corporeal punishment, spiritual guilt by spiritual punishment. Adam
offended spiritually and was punished spiritually by being driven from
the Garden of Eden as will be explained later. Abraham endeavored to do
justice to both the constituent parts of his being; and hence God in his
kindness, wishing to strengthen Abraham spiritually, gave him the
opportunity in the trial of Isaac. At the same time the physical
suffering was compensated by the promise to Abraham of the continuity of
Isaac's descendants. Job's sufferings were of the same kind, except that
they came to him without his knowledge and without his being told their
purpose. And at first he thought they were in order to give him future
reward, but without any use in themselves. Later he discovered that they
benefited him directly by increasing his spiritual strength.[375]

Aaron ben Elijah differs also from Maimonides in reference to the
purpose of the world. Maimonides maintains that while there is sense in
inquiring for the purpose of the parts of the world, the question of the
ultimate purpose of the world as a whole is meaningless. The purpose of
a given event or law of nature lies in its relation to the other events
and laws, hence there is a relative purpose in particular things; thus,
given the existence of animals they must have food, sense perception,
and so on. But if we ask why the universe as a whole, the only answer
that can be given is God's wisdom, which we do not understand. In
particular Maimonides will not admit that the world is for the sake of
man, as this view clashes with experience and makes it impossible to
explain a great many phenomena in nature, which are distinctly of no
benefit to man and take no cognizance of his interests.[376] Aaron ben
Elijah agrees with Maimonides that God's wisdom rather than his
arbitrary will, as the Ashariya maintain, must be appealed to in
answering the question of the purpose of the world. But he is inclined
to regard man as the purpose of the lower world, admitting that we
cannot know the purpose of the higher worlds of the spheres and
Intelligences, as they transcend the powers of our comprehension.[377]

We can pass over Aaron ben Elijah's discussion of prophecy very briefly
because there is no new attitude or contribution in his views. Without
saying it, he reluctantly perhaps, leans upon Maimonides, and with
apparent variations in form really adopts the classification of the
"Guide" (p. 277). He gives no psychological explanation of prophecy
because he disagrees with the philosophers, to whom prophecy is a purely
natural gift which cannot fail to manifest itself when the requisite
conditions are there, namely, perfection in intellect and imagination.
In fact when he gives the different views on the nature of prophecy, he
refuses to identify what seems to stand in his book for the view of
Maimonides (the fourth view) with that of the followers of the Mosaic
law. Whereas Maimonides following the philosophers insists on the two
important elements in prophecy, namely, intellect and imagination,
adding thereto also moral perfection, Aaron ben Elijah in giving the
opinion of those who follow the law of Moses, says nothing of the
imagination. He insists only on perfection in intellect and in ethical
character. This difference is, however, only apparent; and further on he
refers to the imagination as an important element, which determines, in
its relation to the reason, the character of a man as a prophet or a
mere statesman or philosopher--all in the manner of Maimonides.

His idea of the purpose of prophecy he develops, as it seems, with an
eye to the criticism of the Brahmins of India, whom he quotes as denying
prophecy, though admitting Providence, on the ground that it can serve
no purpose. The reason alone, they say, is sufficient to decide what is
right and what is wrong. Accordingly Aaron ben Elijah meets their
objection as follows: It is true that man might have gotten along
without prophecy through the laws which his own reason established for
right and wrong, good and evil. Those who followed these rational laws
would have attained long life, and the others would have perished. But a
good man living in a bad environment would have been involved in the
downfall of the majority, which would not be just. Hence it was
necessary that God should warn the man, that he might save himself. This
is the first beginning of prophecy. Witness Noah and Lot. Abraham was a
great advance on his predecessors. He endeavored to follow God's will in
respect to both body and soul. Hence God saved him from the danger to
which he was exposed in Ur of the Chaldees, and wanted to benefit his
descendants also that they should perfect their bodies and their souls.
This is impossible for a whole nation without special laws to guide
them. This is particularly true of the "traditional" laws (ceremonial),
which are not in themselves good or bad, but are disciplinary in their

A prophet must have both intellectual and ethical perfection. For he
must understand the nature of God in order to communicate his will; and
this cannot be had without previous ethical perfection. Hence the
twofold requirement. This is the reason, he says, why we do not believe
in the religions of Jesus and Mohammed, because they were not possessed
of intellectual perfection. And besides they tend to the extinction of
the human species by reason of their monastic and celibate ideal. They
were misled by the asceticism of the prophets, who meant it merely as a
protest against the material self-indulgence of the time, and called
attention to the higher life. But those people in their endeavor to
imitate the prophets mistook the means for the end, with the result that
they missed both, perfection of soul as well as of body, and merely
mortified the flesh, thinking it the will of God. Hence, Aaron ben
Elijah continues, we shall never accept a religion which does not preach
the maintenance of this world as well as of the next. Not even miracles
can authenticate a religion which preaches monasticism and celibacy.

Moses was superior to the other prophets. All the others received their
messages in a vision or a dream, Moses had his inspiration while awake.
The others were inspired through the medium of an angel, _i. e._,
through the imagination, hence their language abounds in allegories and
parables. Moses did not use the imagination, hence the plain character
of his speech. The others were overcome by the vision and physically
exhausted, as we read in Daniel (10, 17), "There remained no strength in
me, and no breath was left in me." Moses was free from this
weakness--"And the Lord spoke unto Moses face to face, as a man speaketh
unto his neighbor" (Exod. 33, 11). The others required preparation,
Moses did not. Moses's testimony, too, was stronger than that of all the
rest. His authority in the end was made plain to all the people
directly and openly, so that there remained not a shred of a doubt. This
is why we accept his law and no other, because none is so well
authenticated. The Law cannot change without implying that the standard
of perfection has changed, or the world has changed, or God's knowledge
has changed. All this is impossible. The Law says besides, "Thou shalt
not add thereto, and thou shalt not diminish therefrom" (Deut. 13, 1).
Therefore, concludes Aaron ben Elijah the Karaite, we do not believe in
the oral or traditional law because of the additions to, and
subtractions from, the written law which it contains.[378]

Aaron ben Elijah agrees with Maimonides that all the commandments of the
Bible, including the ceremonial laws, have a purpose and are not due to
the arbitrary will of God. The ceremonial laws are for the sake of the
rational, serving a pedagogical and disciplinary purpose, and the Law as
a whole is for the purpose of teaching the truth and inculcating the
good. He goes further than Maimonides in vindicating the rational and
ethical purpose of all the details of the various laws, and not merely
of the several commandments as a whole (_cf._ above, p. 294).[379]

A problem that occupied the minds of the Mutakallimun, Arabs as well as
Karaites, but which Maimonides does not discuss, is the purpose of God's
giving commandments to those who he knew would remain unbelievers, and
refuse to obey. That God's knowledge and man's freedom co-exist and
neither destroys the other, has already been shown.[380] If then God
knows, as we must assume, that a given person will refuse to obey the
commandments, what is the use of giving them to him? And granting that
for some reason unknown to us they have been given, is it just to punish
him for disobedience when the latter might have been spared by not
giving the man in question any commandments?

Aaron ben Elijah answers these questions by citing the following
parallel. A man prepares a meal for two guests and one does not come.
The absence of the guest does not make the preparation improper, for the
character of the act does not depend upon the choice of the guest to do
or not to do the desire of the host. The invitation was proper because
the host meant the guest's benefit. To be sure, the case is not quite
parallel, and to make it so we must assume that the host expects that
the guest will not come. His intention being good, the invitation is
proper. In our problem knowledge takes the place of expectation. God
does not merely expect, he knows that the man will not obey. But as
God's desire is to benefit mankind and arouse them to higher things, the
command is proper, no matter what the person chooses to do.

To punish the man for disobedience is not unjust because God intended to
benefit him by the command. If he disobeyed, that is his lookout. If the
benefit could have been had without the command, then the punishment
would be unjust, but not otherwise.

If only good men were commanded and the rest ignored, the danger would
be that the former being thereby assured of reward, might be tempted to
do wrong; and the others in despair might be worse than they would be
under ordinary circumstances. God saw that man has evil tendencies, and
needs warning and guidance from without. And just as he gave men
understanding and ability to believe though he knew that a given person
would not avail himself thereof, so he gave all men commandments, though
he knew that some would not obey.[381]

The rest of the book is devoted to such questions as reward and
punishment after death, immortality of the soul, the problem of the
soul's pre-existence, the nature of the future life, repentance--questions
which Maimonides left untouched in the "Guide" on the ground that
whatever religion and tradition may say about them, they are not strictly
speaking scientific questions, and are not susceptible to philosophical

Aaron ben Elijah proves that there must be reward and punishment after
death. For as man is composed of body and soul, there must be reward for
each according as man endeavors to maintain and perfect them. Thus if a
man cares for his body alone, he will be rewarded in his body, _i. e._,
in this world. The other man who looks out for both body and soul must
have the same reward in this world as the other, since their physical
efforts were similar. At the same time he must have something over and
above the other in the nature of compensation for his soul, and this
must be in the next world.

The prosperity of the wicked and the misery of the righteous are also to
be explained in part, as we have seen (p. 376), by reference to their
respective destinies in the next world, where the inequalities of this
world will be adjusted.

Finally, material reward cannot be the consequence of intellectual and
spiritual merit; it would mean doing the greater for the sake of the
smaller. And besides the soul is not benefited by physical goods and
pleasures, and would remain without reward. Hence there must be another
kind of reward after death. In order to deserve such reward the soul
must become wise. At the same time the common people, who observe the
ceremonial commandments, are not excluded from a share in the world to
come, because the purpose of these laws is also intellectual and
spiritual, as we said before (p. 382), and hence their observance makes
the soul wise, and gives it immortality. This last comment is clearly
directed against the extreme intellectualism of Maimonides and
Gersonides, according to whom rational activity alone confers
immortality (p. 339).[382]

The considerations just adduced imply the immortality of the soul, to
which they lend indirect proof. But Aaron ben Elijah endeavors besides
to furnish direct proof of the soul's continuance after the death of the
body. And the first thing he does is to disarm the criticism of the
philosophers, who deny immortality on the ground that the soul being the
form of the body, it must like other material forms cease with the
dissolution of the things of which they are the forms. He answers
this by showing that the soul as the cause of knowledge and
wisdom--immaterial faculties--is itself immaterial. Being also the cause
of the body's motion, it is not itself subject to motion, hence not to
time, and therefore not destructible like a natural form. Besides the
composition of body and soul is different from that of matter and form
in the ordinary sense. For in the former case each of the constituent
parts is already a composite of matter and form. The body has both
matter and form, and the soul has likewise. For the acquired intellect
is the form of the soul, which is the matter. Other proofs are as
follows: The rational soul performs its functions without help from the
body, hence it is independent in its existence. The proof of the last
statement is that the power of the rational soul is not limited, and
does not become weary, as a corporeal power does. Hence it can exist
without the body. Again, as the corporeal powers grow stronger, the
intellectual powers grow weaker, and _vice versa_ as the corporeal
powers grow weaker in old age, the intellect grows stronger. Hence the
soul is independent of the body, and when the physical powers cease
entirely in death, the intellect is at its height.[383]

The question of the soul's pre-existence before coming in contact with
the body, Aaron ben Elijah answers in the affirmative, though his
arguments in favor of the opposite view are stronger. His sole argument
in favor of its pre-existence is that the soul, being a self-subsisting
substance and not an accident, is not dependent upon the body, and must
have existed before the body. The consequence which some have drawn from
this supposition combined with the soul's immortality, namely, that the
soul is eternal, he refuses to adopt. The soul existed before the body,
but like all things which are not God it was created in time.

Though we have thus seen that the soul existed before the body, it is
mistaken to suppose that it was completely developed. For though the
gradual progress in knowledge and understanding as the individual
matures proves nothing for the soul's original imperfection, as we may
account for this progress by the gradual adaptation of the physical
elements to the functions of the soul, there is a more valid objection.
If the soul was perfectly developed before entering the body, all souls
should be alike when they leave it, which is not the case. We come to
the conclusion therefore that the soul does acquire knowledge while in
contact with the body. The human soul is a unit, and from its connection
with the body arise the various powers, such as growth, life, reason.
When the soul is separated from the body, those powers which functioned
with the aid of the body perish; the others remain.[384]

In the matter of eschatology Aaron ben Elijah gives a number of views
without declaring himself definitely for any of them. The main
difference among the three points of view quoted concerns the
possibility of the resurrection of the body, and the meaning of the
terms "revival of the dead" ("Tehiyat ha-metim") and "the world to come"
("Olam ha-ba"). Aaron ben Elijah seems to incline to the first, in favor
of resurrection.

We must endeavor, he says, to get some notion of final reward and
punishment. For without any idea of its nature a man's hope or fear is
taken away from him, and he has no motive for right conduct. To be sure
it is not possible to get a clear understanding of the matter, but some
idea we must have. The first view which he seems to favor is that
_revival of the dead_ and _world to come_ are the same thing; that the
end of man is the resurrection of the body and its reunion with the
soul. This is the future life, and this is meant by reward and
punishment. There is Biblical support for this view in such expressions
as, "Thy dead shall live, thy dead bodies shall arise" (Isa. 26, 19).
"The Lord killeth, and maketh alive; he bringeth down to the grave and
bringeth up" (1 Sam. 2, 6). There is nothing to object in this, he says,
for the same God who made man of the dust can revive him after death.
Besides, there seems to be a logical propriety in bringing soul and body
together for reward and punishment just as they were during conduct in
life. When the soul is once reunited with the body in the resurrection,
it is never separated again. The expression "_garden_ of Eden" for
paradise is a figure of speech for eternal life free from pain.

The second opinion is expressed by those who do not believe in bodily
resurrection. The end of man according to these is the return of the
soul to the world of souls. This is the meaning of "world to come"; and
"revival of the dead" means the same thing. For it is not possible that
the soul should be reunited with the body, which is temporary in its
nature and subject to dissolution. Besides, the body has organs, such as
those of food and reproduction, which would be useless in the future
life. The advocates of this theory also believe in transmigration of
souls as a punishment. Aaron ben Elijah rejects metempsychosis on the
ground that there is some relation between a soul and its body, and not
every body can receive every soul.

Aaron ben Elijah also quotes without comment the classification, already
familiar to us (p. 119), of human souls into (1) dead, (2) alive, (3)
healthy, and (4) sick. Death denotes evil deeds; life, good deeds;
health, intellectual knowledge; disease, ignorance. This classification
is applied in determining the destiny of the soul after death. If one is
alive and healthy, _i. e._, has knowledge and good deeds, he has a share
in the world to come. If he is healthy and dead (knowledge + evil
deeds), the soul is kept in an intermediate world forever. If he is
alive and sick (good deeds + ignorance), the soul rises to the upper
air, whence it returns again and again to the body until it acquires
wisdom to be able to rise to the world of angels. If he is dead and sick
(evil deeds + ignorance), the soul dies like an animal.

Finally, the third opinion is a combination of resurrection and "future
world." Seeing that some of the functions of the soul are performed with
the help of the body, while others are not, the advocates of this view
maintain that the soul will be rewarded in both conditions--with the
body, in resurrection, without the body, in the world to come.

If a man has merits and demerits, his good and evil deeds are balanced
against each other, and the surplus determines his reward or punishment
according to its nature.[385]



The influence of Aristotle on Jewish thought, which began as early as
Saadia and grew in intensity as the Aristotelian writings became better
known, reached its high water mark in Ibn Daud, Maimonides and
Gersonides. To Maimonides Aristotle was the indisputable authority for
all matters pertaining to sublunar existence, but he reserved the right
to differ with the Stagirite when the question concerned the heavenly
spheres and the influences derived from them. Hence he denied the
eternity of motion and the fundamental principle at the basis of th