Question from Sammy:
Maimonides was the greatest philosopher ever, his influence has spanned centuries and cultures, and he believed in God.
I am sure he was aware of atheistic theories, and still he believed. Isn’t that something to count on? Is it possible to be smarter than the smartest?!
I would appreciate some clarity, tnx!!!
Answer by SmartLX:
The claim that Maimonides was the greatest philosopher ever is highly subjective, especially given the competition from the rest of history. Just for starters, he’s up against Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, Confucius, Lao Tze and Buddha; from a quick online search, Maimonides rarely seems to make the top ten.
While most of the men on this impromptu list believed in some kind of divine presence they were completely at odds as to its nature, and therefore could not all have been right. So you can stack your Maimonides, Thomas Aquinas and Blaise Pascal up against my Epicurus, Jean-Paul Sartre and Bertrand Russell and it won’t mean much in the end, because it is demonstrably possible and in fact very common for even the world’s greatest thinkers to be dead wrong. Sometimes we don’t know which ones are wrong, but when they’re diametrically opposed at least one position has to be.
For Maimonides to actually affect the debate over the existence of gods (let alone his God) we have to look at what he actually contributed to that area of theology. According to the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, his attempts to prove God all boiled down to variants of the cosmological argument, which I’ve covered. If you think one of his versions is beyond what I addressed in my earlier piece or the follow-up, put it in a comment and we’ll discuss it. Otherwise there’s nothing new or convincing to be had.
Importantly, Maimonides’ intelligence and his arguments for God are most likely not why he believed in the first place. From what we know of his life, he grew up in Spain during what’s known as its golden age of Jewish culture, when Muslim Moors ruled but Jews were accepted and their culture prospered. Just about everything he would have read or heard from either Islamic or Jewish sources simply assumed the existence of God, and used it as a premise to argue for other things. Chances are he did that himself in his youth, so when he eventually began to argue for God he was just looking for ways to confirm what he already “knew” and please his audience. That’s the thing about religious apologetic: in the end its actual use is usually not to convert unbelievers but to reassure believers.
Agreeing With Philosophers
Question from Sammy: