Chapter I is psychological in character. It deals with moral life, the sources of which reside in the soul (נפש) and its powers (כחות). The soul is a unit having various activities (פעולות) called powers (כחות), and at times parts (חלקים). Medical authors speak, however, of many souls, as, for instance, Hippocrates, who says there are three souls,—the physical (טבעית), the vital (חיונית), and the psychical (נפשית). The improvement of morals (תקון המדות) is the cure of the soul and its powers. Therefore, just as the physician must know about the body as a whole as well as its individual parts, so must the moral physician know of the soul and all its powers
himself states, but with a reference here and there to some other of his works may be easily made to do so. The Mishnah Commentary as a whole was written for those who were unable or not disposed to study the Talmud, and for those who were, to facilitate its study. Its philosophical and psychological parts were intended for those who, though they had a knowledge of the Talmud, were unacquainted with philosophical problems, or were unable to harmonize them with Jewish thought. The Peraḳim, consequently, being intended for readers not necessarily versed in philosophy, and some not being deep students of the Talmud, avoid all intricate philosophical and Talmudical discussions. For students versed both in the Talmud and in philosophy, Maimonides wrote his Moreh Nebukim, the object of which was to bring into harmony Talmudical Judaism and peripatetic philosophy as developed among the Arabs. Thus, the Mishnah Commentary, in which the rabbinical and the philosophical elements are successfully harmonized and blended, leads the way to Maimonides’ masterpiece, the Moreh. The Peraḳim, then, may be looked upon as an introduction to Maimonidean philosophy, and may be profitably studied by the student before he attacks the problems contained in the Moreh. They may be briefly described as a treatise on the soul, its characteristics and powers, and their employment towards the goal of moral perfection.
- See infra, Chapter I, p. 45; Chapter V, p. 74; Chapter VII, p. 83; Chapter VIII, p. 100.
- See Grätz, VI³, p. 275.