Method and Metaphysics in Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed

Hardback
Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed is one of the most discussed books in Jewish history. Over 800 years after the author's death it remains disputed with readers seeking secret philosophical messages behind its explicit teaching, a quest fueled partly by Maimonides' own statement that certain parts of the Guide are based upon ideas that conflict with other parts. Many who adhere to an 'esoteric' reading of the Guide profess to find these contradictions in Maimonides' metaphysical beliefs. Through close readings of the Guide, this book addresses the major debates surrounding its secret doctrine. It argues that perceived contradictions in Maimonides' accounts of creation and divine attributes can be squared by paying attention to the various ways in which he presented his arguments. Furthermore, it shows how a coherent theological view can emerge from the many layers of the Guide. But Maimonides' clear declaration that certain matters must be hidden from the masses cannot be ignored and the kind of inconsistency that is peculiar to the Guide requires another explanation. It is found in the purpose Maimonides assigns to the Guide: scriptural exegesis. Ezekiel's Account of the Chariot, treated in one of the most laconic sections of the Guide, is the subject of the final chapters. They offer a detailed exposition of Maimonides' interpretation, the deepest secret of the Torah, which, in Maimonides' works, shares its name with metaphysics. By connecting the vision with currents in the wider Islamic world, the chapters show how Maimonides devised a new method of presentation in order to imitate scripture's multi-layered manner of communication. He updated what he took to be the correct interpretation of scripture by writing it in a work appropriate for his own time and to do so he had to keep the Torah's most hidden secrets.