Monday, July 28, 2008

Moreh Nevuchim 1: 31

I hope that this will be the first of many chapter summaries of The Guide and thereafter more works of the rishonim. I am starting with chapter 31 as this is where I am up to. It is interesting to note that in this chapter the Rambam takes a break from his interpretation of words and phrases, which has been the content of the majority of the previous chapters.

This chapter begins by discussing the confines of the human mind in general.
  • Some things are open to perception and understanding and others are entirely closed. It is possible to understand part of something and not the rest of it. Different people also have different capacities of understanding. Certain things, people generally do not have any desire to know, such as the amount of stars in the sky. However there are subjects where there is a universal desire to know them and they have engaged thinkers throughout time, yet there is disagreement on the conclusion of these truths.

What prevents one from discovering the exact truth?
Alexander of Aphrodisius lists three things:

  1. Dominance and love of strife
  2. Subtlety, depth and difficulty of any subject which is being examined
  3. Ignorance and the inability to comprehend that which is possible to comprehend

Rambam lists a fourth:

  • Habit and training. We naturally are inclined towards that which we are accustomed to.

These obstacles prevent one from dismissing “vulgar notions with respect to the corporeality of God and many other metaphysical questions.”

The Rambam concludes that this chapter is to serve as an introduction to the next!

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