The Logic of Metaphysics in Hebrew Commentaries on Aristotle's Metaphysics

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Logic occupied a place of high accolade among medieval thinkers on the grounds that it provides the basis for scientific certainty and thereby the basis for a rational account of the universe. Metaphysics, too, gives the ontological ground for science, yet metaphysics was often opened to skepticism by medieval Jewish thinkers, including Maimonides. One source for this skepticism is that Aristotle himself opened up such basic questions as “what is being?” or “can there be a scientific study of being?” in the early books of the Metaphysics. In a similar vein, in the Long Commentary on Book Gamma of the Metaphysics, Averroes remarks that metaphysics has its own unique logic and suggests that this logic has a dialectical rather than demonstrative basis. That is, Averroes suggests that the unique logical foundations of metaphysics are not demonstrative, i.e., are not completely certain. This paper will examine three medieval and renaissance approaches to the question of whether Aristotle's Metaphysics succeeds in developing a logic that could be used as the basis for other sciences. The first approach, found in Averroes' Middle Commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics, suggests that this foundational problem is surmountable and that a reliable logical basis for science can be made in metaphysics. Averroes' Middle Commentary was widely circulated in Hebrew translation and was influential on medieval Jewish thought. A second approach, found in Abraham Bibago's 15th century commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics, is more skeptical, suggesting the unreliability of science, while still encouraging philosophical reflection. Bibago explains this position in detailed comments comparing Averroes' Middle Commentary on the Metaphysics with his Commentary on the Posterior Analytics. For Bibago, philosophical speculation is an unending task and the ideal human pursuit. The third approach is that of Judah Moscato, the 16th century Italian thinker, who did not write a commentary on the Metaphysics, but displays knowledge of the work in his Nefuṣot yehudah. Like Bibago, whom he read, Moscato treated the logic of metaphysics as not completely certain and questioned whether people could have any significant knowledge of it. Unlike Bibago, Moscato rejects Aristotelian metaphysical study as well as Aristotelian science. He replaces it, instead, with a Platonist-like way of reading Biblical passages as images of the divine. Moscato's rejection of Aristotelian logic and metaphysics leads to a mystical turn.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2014
Event“Jewish Philosophy” Section of the European Association for Jewish Studies - European Association for Jewish Studies, Paris, France
Duration: 21 Jul 201424 Jul 2014


Conference“Jewish Philosophy” Section of the European Association for Jewish Studies


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