Tradition, Rationality, and Moral Life: Medieval Judaism's Insight

Jonathan Jacobs

in Judaic Sources and Western Thought

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199583157
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728952 | DOI:
Tradition, Rationality, and Moral Life: Medieval Judaism's Insight

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This chapter explicates a rationalist conception of tradition, the main elements of which are attributed to Saadia, Bahya, and Maimonides. It is a conception in which fulfilment of the requirements of tradition enables the agent to attain understanding of the rational justification of those requirements. Practice and understanding form a spiral of mutual reinforcement. The epistemology of ‘the reasons of the commandments’ is a central component of the view. It has important points of contact with practical wisdom conceptions of ethics and some natural law conceptions. However, the view of these medieval Jewish thinkers differs from both of those approaches and it provides resources for a sophisticated account of the non-evident rationality of many practical requirements. Moreover, it shows how the practices and commitments of a particular tradition can be the basis for understanding objective, universal values and ideals.

Keywords: Aristotle; MacIntyre; Maimonides; natural law; perfection; practical wisdom; rationality; reasons of the commandments; Saadia; tradition

Chapter.  10119 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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