Maimonides’ Demonstrations: Principles and Practice

Maimonides’ Demonstrations: Principles and Practice

Stern, Josef (The University of Chicago and Bar-Ilan University)

Medieval Philosophy and Theology 10 (2001)


It is well known that Maimonides rejects the Kalam argument for the existence of God because it assumes the temporal creation of the world, a premise for which he says there is no “cogent demonstration (burhan qat^i) except among those who do not know the difference between demonstration, dialectics, and sophistic argument.” By contrast, he claims to establish belief in the existence of God “through a demonstrative method as to which there is no disagreement in any respect” (I:71:182). Taken at his word, Maimonides’ proofs for the existence of the deity, like Aquinas’s five ways, have traditionally been read as models of medieval natural theology: of the power of human reason to independently establish revealed truth. In recent years, however, the same demonstrations have assumed a second kind of significance. For scholars, like myself, who argue that Maimonides holds severe views about the limitations of human knowledge of divine science and metaphysics, these demonstrations are the strongest conceivable counterevidence.

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