This introductory chapter provides an overview of Moses Maimonides’ discourse. Was the ideal of human perfection theoretical or practical? For Maimonides, it appears, the ultimate vision vouchsafed man is not a union with the active intellect, nor with the spiritual forms; it is contemplation of God’s governance in the world, of the orderly structure of the universe. True human perfection, then, is achieving, according to one’s capacity, apprehension of God and knowledge of his providence as expressed in creation and in his governance of the world. Having attained this apprehension, the way of life of this person will be assimilation to divine actions, and this comes about by always pursuing loving-kindness, righteousness, and judgement. Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed ends on this motif of assimilation to divine actions. Representing contrasting viewpoints and interpretations, this book discusses the contrast between Maimonides’ ideal of human perfection as intellectual fulfilment achieved in solitude and his extolling a virtuous life pursued within society.
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