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Shlomo Pines on Maimonides, Spinoza, and Kant

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Abstract In his “Spinoza’s TTP, Maimonides, and Kant” (1968), Pines compared Spinoza’s dogmas of universal faith (TTP, 14) with Kant’s postulates of practical reason (Critique of Practical Reason, part 1). According to him, Spinoza’s dogmas, like Maimonides’ “necessary beliefs” (Guide 3:28), are postulates necessary for political welfare, and do not fall under the jurisdiction of theoretical reason. They define the faith of the common person, not that of the philosopher. Kant, in his remarks about Spinoza as an “upright skeptic,” mistakenly thought his dogmas were true beliefs, not necessary ones; and his notion of postulates of practical reason seems to have been in part influenced by his mistaken view of Spinoza’s dogmas. The transformation of Maimonides’ “necessary beliefs” into Kant’s “postulates of practical reason,” as narrated by Pines, recalls the similar transformation of “Averroism” into “Christian Averroism” in the thirteenth century. In essays written from the late 1970s until his death in 1990, Pines returned to the theme of Maimonides and Kant, and argued convincingly that Maimonides’ epistemology was “critical” in the Kantian sense. However, his related argument that Maimonides’ religious sensibility was similar to Kant’s is less convincing. Unlike Kant, Maimonides did not think that critical epistemology made room for faith, but held that it caused one to tremble in awe. Like Spinoza, he identified true faith with intellectual knowledge, not something beyond it. His distinctiveness as a philosopher is that he was a God-intoxicated Knower like Spinoza, but a critical epistemologist like Kant.

Affiliations: 1: Hebrew University of Jerusalem harvey@mscc.huji.ac.il

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