Skepticism, Interpretation, and Spiritual Exercises in Maimonides' The Guide for the Perplexed

Monday ,29 January, 2018 , 19:00 to 21:30

A literary evening

on the occasion of the publication of Josef Stern’s book:

The Matter and Form of Maimonides’ Guide

According to the traditional reading of Maimonides’ The Guide for the Perplexed, it is an attempt to bring into harmony human reason and divine revelation, philosophy and religion. A different, newer interpretive approach is that it is impossible to resolve the contradiction between philosophy and religion and therefore concludes that the Guide for the Perplexed assigns religion to the masses and philosophy to the select few. Josef Stern goes one step further, beyond these familiar disputes, and argues that the perplexity in the title of this work, which is famous for its cryptic nature, does not derive from the conflict between Athens and Jerusalem but rather from the tension between human matter and human form, between the body and reason.

The philosophical tradition to which Maimonides belongs believes that the perfect life is the intellectual one: observation that is pure and full of all truths, from physics and cosmology to metaphysics and God. However, according to the Guide, this ideal is not attainable by humankind. Through a precise examination of the arguments in the Guide, and through the original use of the fable as a medium for philosophical writing, Stern reveals Maimonides’ skepticism regarding humankind’s ability to know metaphysics and his innovative interpretation of the fables in the Hebrew Bible and in the oral literature. By focusing on the philosophical concepts of matter and form and the interplay between the literary form of the Guide and its subject matter, Stern succeeds in developing a uniform and innovative interpretation of the book.

The book will be sold at a discount at the evening discussion.