ANALYSIS OF THE GUIDE FOR THE PERPLEXED
IT is the object of this work "to afford a guide for the perplexed," i.e. "to thinkers whose studies have brought them into collision with religion" p. 9), "who have studied philosophy and have acquired sound knowledge, and who, while firm in religions matters, are perplexed and bewildered on account of she ambiguous and figurative expressions employed in the holy writings (p. 5). Joseph, the son of Jehudah Ibn Aknio, a disciple of Maimonides, is addressed by his teacher as an example of this kind of students. It was "for him and for those like him" that the treatise was composed, and to him this work is inscribed in the dedicatory letter with which the Introduction begins. Maimonides, having discovered that his disciple was sufficiently advanced for an exposition of the esoteric ideas in the books of the Prophets, commenced to give him such expositions "by way of hints." His disciple then begged him to give him further explanations, to treat of metaphysical themes, and to expound the system and the method of the Kalam, or Mohammedan Theology.1 In compliance with this request, Maimonides composed the Guide of the Perplexed. The reader has, therefore, to expect that the subjects mentioned in the disciple's request indicate the design and arrangement of the present work, and that the Guide consists of the following parts:-- 1. An exposition of the esoteric ideas (sodot) in the books of the Prophets. 2. A treatment of certain metaphysical problems. 3. An examination of the system and method of the Kalam. This, in fact, is a correct account of the contents of the book; but in the second part of the Introduction, in which the theme of this work is defined, the author mentions only the first-named subject. He observes "My primary object is to explain certain terms occurring in the prophetic book. Of these some are homonymous, some figurative, and some hybrid terms." "This work has also a second object. It is designed to explain certain obscure figures which occur in the Prophets, and are not distinctly characterised as being figures" (p. 2). Yet from this observation it must not be inferred that Maimonides abandoned his original purpose; for he examines the Kalam in the last chapters of the First Part (ch. lxx.--lxxvi.), and treats of certain metaphysical themes in the beginning of the Second Part (Introd. and ch. i.--xxv.). But in the passage quoted above he confines himself to a delineation of the maie object of this treatise, and advisedly leaves unmentioned the other two subjects, which, however important they may be, are here of subordinate interest. Nor did he consider it necessary to expatiate on these subjects; he only wrote for the student, for whom a mere reference to works on philosophy and science was sufficient. We therefore meet now and then with such phrases as the following "This is folly discussed in works on metaphysics." By references of this kind the authur may have intended so create a taste for the study of philosophical works. But our observation only holds good with regard to the Aristotelian philosophy.
1 See infra, page 4., note i.