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Maimonides’ "Guide of the Perplexed"

A Philosophical Guide

A classic of medieval Jewish philosophy, Maimonides’s Guide of the Perplexed is as influential as it is difficult and demanding. Not only does the work contain contrary—even contradictory—statements, but Maimonides deliberately wrote in a guarded and dissembling manner in order to convey different meanings to different readers, with the knowledge that many would resist his bold reformulations of God and his relation to mankind. As a result, for all the acclaim the Guide has received, comprehension of it has been unattainable to all but a few in every generation.

Drawing on a lifetime of study, Alfred L. Ivry has written the definitive guide to the Guide—one that makes it comprehensible and exciting to even those relatively unacquainted with Maimonides’ thought, while also offering an original and provocative interpretation that will command the interest of scholars. Ivry offers a chapter-by-chapter exposition of the widely accepted Shlomo Pines translation of the text along with a clear paraphrase that clarifies the key terms and concepts. Corresponding analyses take readers more deeply into the text, exploring the philosophical issues it raises, many dealing with metaphysics in both its ontological and epistemic aspects.


“This is an authoritative guided tour through the labyrinth of Maimonides’ Guide, led by one of its foremost scholars. The ingenious structure of the book effectively introduces the readers to the Guide itself, as well as to the way it was read through the ages. A tribute to Maimonides’ ‘brave and conflicted figure,’ Ivry’s unambiguous yet sensitive exposition of Maimonides’ philosophy will be appreciated by beginners and specialists alike.”

Sarah Stroumsa, Hebrew University of Jerusalem

“A major contribution. Ivry has given us the first complete commentary of Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed since the Middle Ages. His exposition masterfully situates the Guide in its proper historical context and his philosophical analysis critically addresses the issues that it provokes. Readers of the commentary will profit from his close examination of the text and will be stimulated by the philosophical questions that he puts to Maimonides. It is truly a guide to the Guide of the Perplexed.”

Seymour Feldman, Rutgers University

“Ivry has acquired a deep understanding of the cultural contexts and inner logic of the Guide, and there is nothing like this book in dealing exclusively with the most important work of the most significant Jewish philosopher. It is a clear, well-argued, and comprehensive guide.”

Oliver Leaman, University of Kentucky

"Extremely valuable and profoundly scholarly . . . Maimonides' 'Guide of the Perplexed' is not just one more book on Maimonides’ Guide, but, whether one agrees or not with its basic option, a substantial and innovative study on one of the leading works in the history of mankind."

Tijdschrift voor Filosofie

Table of Contents

1 A Concise Biography
2 The Mishneh Torah
3 Maimonides’ Graeco-Islamic Philosophical Heritage
The Guide of the Perplexed: Paraphrases and Analyses
4 Wrestling with Language (Guide I, Introduction and Chapters 1–68)
5 Kalām Claims and Counterclaims (Guide I, Chapters 69–76)
6 Philosophy Affirmed and Qualified; Creation (Guide II, Introduction and Chapters 1–31)
7 Prophecy (Guide II, Chapters 32–48)
8 The Metaphysics of the Chariot (Guide III, Introduction and Chapters 1–7)
9 Providence and (Apparent) Evil (Guide III, Chapters 8–25)
10 Rationalizing the Law (Guide III, Chapters 26–50)
11 True Knowledge and Perfection (Guide III, Chapters 51–54)
Additional Recommended Readings

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