Footnotes of Jewish Philosophy

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by R. Gil Student

Alfred North Whitehead famously wrote: “The safest general characterization of the European philosophical tradition is that it consists of a series of footnotes to Plato.” (Process and Reality: An Essay in Cosmology, 1929, part II, ch. 1 sec. 1)

However, prior to that, Isaac Husik wrote in his History of Medieval Jewish Philosophy (New York, 1916, p. 312):

In the post-Maimonidean age all philosophical thinking is in the nature of a commentary on Maimonides whether avowedly or not. The circle of speculation and reflection is complete. It is fixed by the Guide of the Perplexed, and the efforts of those who followed Maimonides are to elaborate in his spirit certain special topics which are treated in his masterpiece in a summary way. In the case of the more independent thinkers like Levi Ben Gerson we find further attempt to carry out more boldly the implications of the philosophical point of view, which, as the latter thought, Maimonides left implicit by reason of his predisposition in favor of tradition. Hasdai Crescas went still farther and entirely repudiated the authority of Aristotle substituting will and emotion for rationalism and logical inference… But even in his opposition Crescas leans on Maimonides’ principles, which he takes up one by one and refutes.

About Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

One comment

  1. I don’t think this is true after Kant, when Jewish Philosophy took on an entirely different project. Contrast the kinds of questions Pachad Yitzchaq or the Rav address to those of the rishonim named in the article.

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