Maimonides' Political Thought

Studies in Ethics, Law, and the Human Ideal

By Howard Kreisel

Subjects: Jewish Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Jewish Philosophy
Paperback : 9780791441909, 360 pages, April 1999
Hardcover : 9780791441893, 360 pages, May 1999

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Table of contents


1. Maimonides' Political Thought: Introductory Essay

2. The Practical Intellect

3. The Concept "Good"

4. Imitatio Dei

5. The Problem of Contradictions in Mainonides' Approach to Ethics

6. Intellectual Perfection, Knowledge of God, and the Role of the Law

7. The Love and Fear of God

Appendix: Synopsis of the Book


Select Bibliography


Examines Maimonides' political thought in light of his medieval Aristotelian and Jewish sources.


This book presents a series of studies that cover a wide range of issues relating to Maimonides' political thought, including the basis for political and ethical knowledge; the notion of the "good"; imitatio Dei; apparent contradictions in his position on ethics; the conception of God that he attempts to inculcate to Jewish society at large; and his novel approach to the love and fear of God. Taking into account his medieval Aristotelian and Jewish sources, these explorations also deal with some of the opposing considerations that Maimonides had to balance in developing and presenting his positions on such subjects as the nature of divine law, the static vs. dynamic dimensions of Mosaic law, prophetic and rabbinic authority within Judaism, the reasons for the commandments, and martyrdom. A close reading of the manner in which he formulates his views, in light of their literary and intellectual-historical contexts, allows us a better glimpse of how profound and subtle Maimonides is as a thinker and an educator.

Howard Kreisel is Associate Professor in the Jewish Thought Program at Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.


"This is an excellent book, which deals with fundamental problems in Maimonides' moral, political, and legal philosophy. It is well written, based upon the most recent scholarship, and, most importantly, advances our understanding of the greatest of the medieval Jewish philosophers. " — Daniel Frank, author of Commandment and Community: New Essays in Jewish Legal and Political Philosophy

"This book makes a contribution of great value to Maimonides scholarship and to the study of religion by systematically presenting the evidence for a political interpretation of the life-work of one of the greatest Jewish theologians. This is an important corrective to the prevailing tendency to ignore the centrality of the practical intellect of Maimonides' anthropology, a tendency that leads to positing a false dichotomy between intellectual and practical conceptions of the best life for a human being. " — Ehud Benor, author of Worship of the Heart: A Study of Maimonides' Philosophy of Religion