Torah as Political Philosophy: Maimonides and Spinoza on Religious Law

Edward C. Halper

in Judaic Sources and Western Thought

Published in print June 2011 | ISBN: 9780199583157
Published online September 2011 | e-ISBN: 9780191728952 | DOI:
Torah as Political Philosophy: Maimonides and Spinoza on Religious Law

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Maimonides and Spinoza often discuss the Torah as a political programme, based on philosophical truths, that uses laws and institutions as ‘devices’ to secure political ends. This chapter argues that the ends are, first, character traits that allow people to live in communities and that limit those other faculties that interfere with intellectual development and, second, the proper performance of administrative positions in the community. Since character traits motivate action, Maimonides and Spinoza are each explaining how to motivate citizens and why it is necessary to do so. Each of them makes a case for using political devices by interpreting the Torah's account of Adam and Eve's expulsion from Eden as a philosophical argument. By exploring their reasoning, this chapter makes an indirect case for including motivation as an end of political philosophy and for constructing institutions so as to shape it.

Keywords: Maimonides; Spinoza; Garden of Eden; political devices; divine law; religious commandments; moral commandments; freedom; moral agency; motivation; habituation; ḥuqqim; mishpatim

Chapter.  10673 words. 

Subjects: Judaism and Jewish Studies

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