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Maimonides, Moses

  1. James A. Diamond

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee398

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Diamond, J. A. 2013. Maimonides, Moses. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

Abstract

Moses Maimonides (1138–1204), or Rambam the Great Eagle, the acronym and sobriquet he has been revered by in the traditional Jewish academy since his lifetime, is arguably the most seminal thinker to have emerged throughout the course of Jewish intellectual history. Virtually every current of Jewish thought intersects in his written legacy, be it philosophy, theology, biblical exegesis, rabbinics, or jurisprudence. He was born in Cordoba, Spain, and, after frenetic peregrinations caused by Almohadic Islamic extremism, ended in old Cairo (Fustat) Egypt, a somewhat more tolerant environment, where he led an active and exhausting career as community head, physician, rabbinic decisor, and writer of much of his literary corpus that remains with us today. That corpus embraces a wide spectrum of Jewish thought and, although there is no tract dedicated exclusively to ethics and ethical theory, it was a subject that preoccupied him, as evidenced by its treatment in practically every genre of thought he engaged. Living within the Islamic orbit all his life, and exposed to its rich rapport with Greek science and philosophy by such Islamic thinkers as Al-Farabi (see Al-Farabi), of course influenced his formulations in all areas, ethics being no exception (see Islamic Ethics). However, of paramount importance to understanding, or reconstructing, his ethical theory is his own religious faith and tradition. While a prominent exponent of medieval Jewish rationalism, struggling with the reconciliation of reason and divinely revealed scripture, he was also a devout rabbinic Jew, thoroughly committed to Judaism's combined foundational canon of the Old Testament and classical rabbinic literature, primarily represented by the Talmuds of both Palestine and Babylonia. Any account of his ethical theory then must take into consideration his dedication to Jewish law as refracted through the rabbinic lens, and cannot be divorced from his conceptions of God and revelation as the sources of the normative Jewish apparatus to which he remained dedicated (see Rabbinic Ethics).

Keywords:

  • twelfth century;
  • Aristotle;
  • Judaism;
  • law;
  • metaphysics;
  • Middle and Near East;
  • normative ethics;
  • politics;
  • faith;
  • theology