Type of document Essay
Number of pages/words 1 Page Double Spaced (approx 275 words per page)
Subject area Philosophy
Academic Level Undergraduate
Number of sources/references 3
In the middle ages, in the West, there were three dominant religions and religiously orientated types of philosophers: Jewish (Maimonides et al), Islamic (Al Kindi, Avicenna (Ibn Sina), Averroes (Ibn Rushd)), and Christian (Albert the Great, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas, Duns Scotus, William of Ockham); all of these traditions were influenced by the work of Aristotle, particularly his works on the soul (De Anima), his works on logic (called Organon i.e. Posterior Analytics, De Interpretatione etc) and his works on Metaphysics and natural philosophy.
Controversially, Aristotle’s Metaphysics gives three different definitions of the subject matter of metaphysics: one metaphysics as concerning (wisdom and the ultimate causes A.1),one as concerning being qua being ( to on he on( Book Gamma. 1); and, finally, one as being a theology (book Epsilon 1). Thus the medievals of the various religious traditions had to figure out how to resolve the so-called ontological view of metaphysics with the theological view. Arguably the greatest minds on this issue were Avicenna (a Persian philosopher from the area of roughly modern Afghanistan) and Thomas Aquinas (Italian; from around Naples); their views are complex and involved but in our context the question of interest is in comparing and contrasting the views of Thomas Aquinas and Maimonides (Rambam) on the issue of the divine names; in particular when we ascribe a quality such as goodness to God what exactly are we saying. Thomas famously says in the Summa Theologiae (Summa of Theology) that we can’t know what God is (that is we can’t know his essence but we can know that he is)(ST I.2.1)
From your readings of Thomas and Maimonides how do their views differ on what we can say about God?
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