Monday, March 31, 2014

Colloquium (4/2): "Maimonides on Perfecting Perfection"

Roslyn Weiss, Clara H. Stewardson Professor of Philosophy at Lehigh University

Wednesday, April 2, 4:30 pm
Willard Smith Library (Vaughan Lit Bldg) 

Maimonides (or as he is sometimes known in the Jewish tradition, RaMBaM) is one of the towering figures of medieval philosophy, and indeed of the whole history of philosophy. The Guide of the Perplexed, a book designed to reconcile the apparently conflicting truths of faith and reason, is his magnum opus. This talk will examine some practical questions raised by Maimonides' book about the best possible human life. 

In the Guide, Maimonides argues that the perfection of the intellect is the highest perfection of which human beings are capable, and he admires Mosesalong with the three patriarchs of the Hebrew nation, Abraham, Isaac, and Jacobfor being so intellectually absorbed in the Deity as to engage in life’s activities “with their limbs only.” At the same time, Maimonides describes these four human exemplars as devoting their lives to creating a God-loving and God-fearing community on earth. This talk examines the life of acting “with one’s limbs only” as the perfection reached once perfection has been perfected by service. I consider as well other methods of “training” whose purpose, in Maimonides’ scheme, is to perfect those who have already attained perfection.  

Roslyn Weiss is the Clara H. Stewardson Professor of Philosophy at Lehigh University. She earned her Ph.D. in Philosophy at Columbia University in 1982, and a Master’s in Jewish Studies at Baltimore Hebrew University in 1992. She has published four books on Plato: Socrates Dissatisfied: An Analysis of Plato’s ‘Crito’ (Oxford, 1998); Virtue in the Cave: Moral Inquiry in Plato’s ‘Meno’ (Oxford, 2001); The Socratic Paradox and Its Enemies (Chicago, 2006); and Philosophers in the ‘Republic’: Plato’s Two Paradigms (Cornell, 2012), as well as many articles on Plato and Aristotle. She has also published articles in the field of Jewish philosophy, particularly on Maimonides.