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Legislating Truth: Maimonides, The Almohads, And The Thirteenth-Century Jewish Enlightenment

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Chapter Summary

In the thirteenth century Maimonideans in Southern France devoted themselves with religious zeal to teaching philosophy to the general public. At the same time they were committed to the esoteric character of philosophy, holding that access to it must be restricted to the select few. This chapter proposes a solution to this puzzle. Maimonides departure from the standard Platonic position is best understood as an Aristotelian adaptation of the political-theological program of the Almohad rulers of Muslim Spain and North Africa. The main difference between Maimonides and Samuel ibn Tibbon is that for the former intellectual habituation to true beliefs is a function of legislation whereas for the latter it is a function of the scientific culture of the non-Jewish environment. The chapter describes Platos distinction between philosophers and non-philosophers and its implications for the public teaching of philosophy and the pedagogical-political purpose of religion.

Keywords: Almohad rulers; Jewish enlightenment; maimonides; non-philosophers; Samuel ibn Tibbon



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