Friday, December 16, 2011

Interpretations of Maimonides: The Visual Guide

(This was helpfully contributed by a reader. If you can't see the picture, visit www.rationalistjudaism.com. Yes, I know that this chart is an over-simplification. That's what charts are.)

27 comments:

  1. I don't know about Jose Faur, but I've known many people from YBT and have heard shiurim from Rav Chait so I feel I can say that your depiction of YBT is almost spot on. I would add that they hold the Rambam to be a 100% accurate reflection of Judaism and that everybody else is wrong.

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  2. under the lunar sphere the rambam holds Aristotle is totally correct but above that he disagrees. he spends a lot of time an effort to support creation from nothing as opposed to Aristotle and also he considers one of the refuted views in job to be of Aristotle. So while in major metaphysical principles he agrees with Aristotle but you cant say in all thing that he does. I mean after all he makes creation ex nihilo the center piece of the guide!~!

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  3. And the real answer is that the Rambam was very similar to Aristotle, not very similar to traditional Judaism, and "theologically correct" has no usable definition. Not everything its about shittos; there is such a thing as metzius.

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  4. I'm with SQ on this one...I think parts of this chart are useful, but I know that charts mostly gloss over often significant details and distinctions in favor of creating broad sweeping categories.

    The category "theologically correct" just seems way too expansive and problematic. Do those in the "no" camp actually say a clear "no" with respect to all of Rambam's positions 100 percent of the time? Do they agree with him on some smaller points to some/most extent? Do they hedge their answers?

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  5. As when you posted it last time, I feel obligated to mention its similarities to Islam

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  6. I really don't get why a modern academic would think Rambam follows Aristotle instead of the Muslims of his day who mostly followed Aristotle, but didn't in small areas, which Rambam does not follow.

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  7. Shavua Tov. This is great!

    However, the chart is incomplete without mention of Chabad and Yeshayahu Leibowitz. As per Menachem Kellner's already classic joke:

    "Two great Jewish thinkers of the previous generation each saw himself as representing the Rambam: The Rebbe of Lubavitch and the Rebbe of Leibowitz."

    :-)

    Leibowitz might fit in with "Orthodox hyper-rationalist" (and if he does then he should be mentioned), but I'm not entirely sure. Anyone have thoughts on this?

    The Lubavitcher rebbe zt"l would seem to fit a kabbalistic reading of the Rambam, which doesn't appear at all on this chart even though it has been popular ever since the middle ages (see Ravitzky's classic article on different ways of reading the Rambam). In this reading the Rambam is 100% theologically correct and 100% an accurate reflection of traditional Judaism. I don't know enough to say how Aristotelian he is in this reading, but it is clear that whatever Aristotelian science he does accept is correct.

    Also: What is "Traditional non-Orthodox"? Is that a typo?

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  8. I think the "Traditionalist Ultra-Orthodox - Haredim" response to Aristotle should be: "Who's Aristotle?"

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  9. Who is that in the picture of the Orthodox hyper-rationalist?

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  10. " he spends a lot of time an effort to support creation from nothing as opposed to Aristotle"

    And neither had any evidence whatsoever for their argument. Georges Lemaître and Fred Hoyle, however did have evidence, and the former lived just long enough to learn of the discovery of the cosmic microwave background radiation by Arno Penzias and Robert Wilson, which proved the "big bang" theory (ironically named by its opponent Hoyle).

    (Unfortunately for the biblical literalists who want to use the conclusive proof in favor of the Big Bang as evidence for their version of cosmology, the cosmic microwave background radiation also gives a good estimate of the age of the universe: almost 14 billion years. Georges Lemaître was in fact a Catholic priest but the Catholic church is not literalist.)

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  11. The Gra as "non orthodox" ? What is meant by that?

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  12. "He could say it but we can't." So true in its frustrating way.

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  13. "Orthodox" here clearly does NOT mean shomer Torah u'mitzvos. See my essay, The Novelty of Orthodoxy.

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  14. "The Gra as "non orthodox"? What is meant by that?"

    "Orthodox" here clearly does NOT mean shomer Torah u'mitzvos. See my essay, The Novelty of Orthodoxy."

    Well OK, but then you shouldn't have Hirsch in there (who accepted the Orthodox label). You need a better term.

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  15. "Well OK, but then you shouldn't have Hirsch in there (who accepted the Orthodox label). You need a better term."

    Yeah, I was confused by the Non-Orthodox label as well, and quickly translated it in my mind as Pre-Orthodox.

    But then why is it "Traditional Non-Orthodox" and not just "Traditional"?

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  16. I was struggling for the right label. Non-Charedi? Pre-Orthodox? The point is that nobody today would dare blast Rambam in the way that the Gra and Rav Hirsch did. They even edit Rav Hirsch's criticisms out of his book!

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  17. Does the Rav Hirsch (Ben Uziel) of the 19 Letters refer to himself or his thought as Orthodox? I don't have the 19 Letters with me just now, and will have to check.

    It would be amusing, were it not so sad to see R. Joseph Elias' twistings and turnings re Rav Hirsch's criticisms of the Rambam.

    Lawrence Kaplan

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  18. The biggest problem with all versions of Rambam interpretation is that the Rambam himself, as Prof. Kellner shows in his book Maimonides And The Decline Of The Generations, did not believe in this sort of exaggerated respect for sages of earlier times. So to be consistent, we should all say, "Who cares what the Rambam thought?" and just figure things out for ourselves.

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  19. "I was struggling for the right label. Non-Charedi? Pre-Orthodox? "

    Well what do you mean exactly?

    Are you talking about a temporal time before the reform movement?

    Are you talking about a philisophical difference with "Chadash asur min hatorah?" What exactly?

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  20. How can you call Rav Hirsch non-Orthodox? He was one of the inventors of Orthodoxy!

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  21. I'd say that the derekh of YBT is much closer to that of Benzion Buchman/David Guttmann than it is to the Faurians.

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  22. It also does not make sense to peg Rambam as "similar to Islam" because he trashes some views of islam and islamic sects throughout the work.

    To fsy- merely intepreting the texts of Rambam to discern his sytem of thought is not some form of exaggerated respect. Also what you say would be easy if everyone was infinitely smarter and had all these answers. But I think its quite obvious that part and parcel of our "trying to figure it out for ourselves" is analyzing what rambam thought about it... since he was pretty smart... and he wrote out lots of ideas

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  23. I think Ritva would fall under the category of Traditionalist Ultra- Orthodox, Haredi, as he states in Sefer Hazikaron that Rambam only wrote reasons of mitzvos to answer kofrim.

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  24. "It also does not make sense to peg Rambam as "similar to Islam" because he trashes some views of islam and islamic sects throughout the work."

    He also trashes views of Aristotle throughout his work...

    But the real influence on Rambam, was not Aristotle, but the Islamic scholars that he agreed with (which themselves took from Aristotle)

    You can see this clearly when you compare their works (especially in Arabic) as well as when he says things like even single women have to cover their hair.

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  25. merely intepreting the texts of Rambam to discern his sytem of thought is not some form of exaggerated respect.


    Tables like this are much more (and less) than 'interpretation'. When one finds it so necessary to be able to sum up the thought of one person in a few words (or diagrams) it shows exactly the kind of slavish obsession with the opinion of an authority which the Rambam opposed.

    Of course, study the Rambam's words and try to understand them; but trying to figure out "who he would side with today" is a waste of time and especially incongruous with the Rambam's own approach to things.

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  26. Who is trying to figure out who he would side with today? Not me, that's for sure.

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  27. The question is who sides with the Rambam, not whom the Rambam sides with.

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