Although written originally as an introduction to the commentary on the Pirḳe Abot, for the purpose of explaining in advance problems that Maimonides brings up in the course of his commentary, the Peraḳim form in themselves a complete system of psychology and ethics, so much so that Rosin, in writing on this phase of Maimonides’ activity, uses them as a basis of his discussion in the first half of his Ethik, in which he takes up Maimonides’ general ethics. They do not, however, form an exhaustive treatment of this subject, as Maimonides
The date of composition of the Peraḳim cannot be accurately determined. All that can be said is that it was written sometime between 1158 and 1165, along with the rest of the commentary on the Mishnah, which was made public in 1168. As to the translation, the only source of information regarding its date is the manuscript Parma R. 438⁶, which in a note states that the Commentary on Abot was translated by Samuel ibn Tibbon in Tebet 963, which is the year 1202.
- According to a postscript to the Commentary on the Mishnah written by Maimonides, he began to work on it at the age of twenty-three (1158), and finished it at the age of thirty, in the year 1479 of the Seleucidian era, which is the year 1168, when, however, Maimonides was thirty-three years of age and not thirty. Maimonides could not have made a mistake in his own age. Geiger explains the difficulty by stating that Maimonides must have written the postscript while he was in the Maghreb in 1165, when the Commentary was practically finished. The words and were, however, added three years later after a revision had been made. The words through an oversight were allowed to remain. See Geiger, Nachgelassene Schriften, III, p. 87, end of note 41; and Grätz, VI³, p. 273, n. 3. Rosin, Ethik, p. 30, n. 3, says the postscript should read . Cf. Jaraczewski, ZPhKr., XLVI, p. 23, n. 3.
- See page 28 for description of the manuscript and the note referred to. Jaraczewski (Ibid., p. 22) states that I. T. translated after the death of M.
- Scheyer, Psychol. Syst. d. Maim., p. 9, n. 1, says, “Diese Schrift des M. ist eine ethisch-psychologische Abhandlung.” Steinschneider describes the Peraḳim as “the celebrated eight chapters on psychology” (Jew. Lit., p. 102). Friedländer, Guide (1904), Introd., p. xx, styles them “a separate psychological treatise.” The Dutch translation, 1845 (see infra, p. 32), has a sub-title, Maimonides Psychologie. See also Yellin and Abrahams, Maimonides, p. 77.
- Rosin, Ethik, p. 33, describes the Peraḳim in general as an “Abriss der allgemeinen Ethik,” and Chapters I and II as “die psychologische Grundlage der Ethik im Allgemeinen und Besonderen.” Wolff, Acht Capitel, Introd., p. xii, calls them a “System der Ethik.”