Volume 14, Issue 4, October 1997
Philosophy of Religion and Jewish Religious Thought
Freedom, Repentance and Hardening of the Hearts
Albo vs. Maimonides
The doctrine that God hardens some agents’ hearts generates philosophical perplexities. Why would God deprive someone of free will and the opportunity to repent? Or is God’s interference compatible with the agent’s free will and his having an opportunity to repent? In this paper, I examine how two Jewish philosophers, Moses Maimonides and Joseph Albo, handled these questions. I analyze six approaches growing out of their writings and argue that a naturalistic interpretation of hardening --- as irreversible habituation --- has advantages over alternative approaches. This account of hardening, however, fits best with the thesis that God does sometimes intervene to improve an agent’s will.