Nuanced scholars evade simple typologies. Even if they can be broadly described by an intellectual trend, their specific positions sometimes fall outside the expected outcome. This is not a fault of the scholar but of the description, which is often too general to fit any single person. Inconsistency is only a problem if the intellectual structure that demands consistency is artificially imposed by later hobgoblins.
A prime example can be found in the debate among medieval Jewish rationalists regarding astrology. Philosophically and scientifically inclined people of the time widely accepted Aristotelian cosmology, in which the planets and constellations were living beings that affected the happenings in the world. However, many did not take the next step to astrology — believing that people can predict the future by interpreting the locations of the heavenly luminaries. This additional belief hardly seems rational to us yet respected rationalists like R. Avraham Ibn Ezra adopted it. He even wrote a number of books on the subject. And in response, other respected rationalists like Rambam denounced it as foolishness.
In his Iggeres Teiman (ch. 3, p. 42 in the Kafach edition), Rambam states that he infers a belief in astrology from his correspondent’s words. Rambam instructs him to wipe such ideas from his mind because they are demonstrably false:
I note that you are inclined to believe in astrology and the influence of the past and future conjunctions of the planets upon human affairs. Dismiss such notions from your mind. Cleanse your mind of them as one cleanses dirty clothes. Accomplished gentile and certainly Jewish scholars refuse to believe in the truth of this science. Its postulates can be refuted by real proofs on rational grounds, but this is not the place to enter into a discussion of them. (Halkin translation, p. 116)
Note Rambam’s appeal to both truth and expert opinion. Prof. Abraham Halkin, in a note to his translation (p. 142, n. 178), implicitly reduces the effect of Rambam’s appeal to authority: “Maimonides was one of the few in the Middle Ages, Jews or non-Jews, who rejected astrology, and he tried hard to disprove it.” Rambam would surely have responded that the few true scholars deny astrology and those who do not, are not. (Rambam also wrote an entire letter devoted to rejecting astrology. See R. Yitzchak Sheilat ed., Iggeros Ha-Rambam, vol. 2 p. 474ff.)
In a powerful and revealing footnote (n. 54), R. Yosef Kafach — himself a rationalist — discusses his personal struggle with astrology. When he was young, he studied books on the subject and even wrote a commentary to a medieval rabbinic treatise on astrology. On the one hand, like Ibn Ezra, he desired to understand the hidden secrets of the world. On the other, like Rambam, he was unimpressed with the discipline’s intellectual foundation. I would like to think that he overcame his Ibn Ezra-like attraction and adopted a Maimonidean rejection, but I recognize that no one — not even Rambam nor his intellectual descendants — fits nicely into preconceived categories.