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Beyond Human Perception: From "The Guide for the Perplexed" by Maimonides (vegetarian), Part 2 of 2

2021-07-03
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Let us now continue with excerpts from Part 1, Chapters 31 and 32, in Rabbi Moses ben Maimon’s book “The Guide for the Perplexed,” where the philosopher shares further insights about human perception and reason.

“The same is the case with those opinions of man to which he has been accustomed from his youth; he likes them, defends them, and shuns the opposite views. This is likewise one of the causes which prevent men from finding truth, and which make them cling to their habitual opinions. Such is, for example, the case with the vulgar notions with respect to the corporeality of God, and many other metaphysical questions. It is the result of long familiarity with passages of the Bible, which they are accustomed to respect and to receive as true, and the literal sense of which implies the corporeality of God and other false notions; in truth, however, these words were employed as figures and metaphors.”

“In comparing knowledge to food, the author of Proverbs mentions the sweetest food, which has the further property of irritating the stomach, and of causing sickness. He thus fully describes the nature of knowledge. Though great, excellent, noble and perfect, it is injurious if not kept within bounds or not guarded properly; it is like the sweetest food which gives nourishment and is pleasant, when eaten in moderation, but is totally thrown away when eaten immoderately.”

“It was not the object of the Prophets and our Sages in these utterances to close the gate of investigation entirely, and to prevent the mind from comprehending what is within its reach, as is imagined by idle people, whom it suits better to put forth their ignorance and incapacity as wisdom and perfection, and to regard the distinction and wisdom of others as irreligion and imperfection, thus taking darkness for light and light for darkness. The whole object of the Prophets and the Sages was to declare that a limit is set to human reason where it must halt. Do not criticize the words used in this chapter and in others in reference to the mind, for we only intended to give some idea of the subject in view, not to describe the essence of the intellect….”

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