Monday, May 11, 2009

RaMBaM (Maimonides) and Middle Knowledge: A Puzzle in the Lehem Mishneh

Here is the abstract of an article I just had published in Bar Ilan University's Jewish Studies journal, BBD. The whole article can be found in RTF format at:
http://wgalil.academia.edu/documents/0014/8432/A_puzzle_in_the_Lehem_Mishneh_final_revision.rtf

RaMBaM and Middle Knowledge:

A Puzzle in the Lehem Mishneh

Abstract

RaMBaM’s Hilkhot Teshuva 2:2 requires that a penitent call upon “Him who knows all secrets to witness that he will never return to this sin again.” R. Abraham Di Boton’s commentary Lehem Mishneh on that passage seems to be based on the idea that RaMBaM would be afraid of attributing knowledge of the future to God, because that would contradict human freewill. This is odd, since in Teshuva 5:5 RaMBaM explicitly rejects the notion that divine foreknowledge contradicts human freewill. Surely the author of Lehem Mishneh must have been aware of that passage! There is reason to believe that Di Boton thought that RaMBaM's solution to the foreknowledge/freewill problem is based upon the notion that God exists in a permanent present beyond the dimension of time as experienced by human beings. It may further be suggested that Di Boton's comments on Teshuva 2:2 are not motivated by worries about a contradiction between human freewill and divine foreknowledge, but rather by worries about a contradiction between human freewill and divine middle knowledge (knowledge of how someone would act in any possible situation, whether or not those situations ever actually come about in reality). Since the idea of God existing beyond time does not obviously solve the contradiction between freewill and middle knowledge, Di Boton had to take this new problem of freewill into account, despite what the RaMBaM wrote in Teshuva 5:5.

Berel Dov Lerner

Kibbutz Sheluhot

D.N. Beit Shean 10910

Western Galilee College


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