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Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Maimonides’ Statement on Political Science

Bas Relief of Maimonides
Leo Strauss has commented extensively on the work of the 13th-century philosopher, Moses Maimonides. He found great inspiration in Maimonides’ book The Guide for the Perplexed.

I recently read Strauss’ 1953 essay, “Maimonides’ Statement on Political Science” (Chapter 6; What is Political Philosophy? by Leo Strauss). In this essay, Strauss is primarily looking at the work in which Maimonides has discussed the subject matter as well as the function of political science, the Treatise on the Art of Logic.

Strauss notes three difficulties in the study of Maimonides’ Treatise: “Maimonides rejects the books of the philosophers on politics proper as useless for “us” “in these times.” Also, he divides politics proper in an unusual manner. And finally, while assigning the study of the virtues to ethics, he assigns the understanding of happiness, not to ethics, the first part of practical philosophy, but to politics proper, the last part of the practical philosophy.”

The important points that Strauss notes in the Treatise are: “Maimonides directs our attention first to the difference between political societies in regard to size. He then directs our attention to the their differences in regard to religion. He finally directs our attention to their differences in regard to the presence or absence of laws. He thus forces us to consider the effects produced upon the character of laws by the change from paganism to revealed religion.”

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