Volume 5, 2009
God’s Knowledge of Particulars
Avicenna, Maimonides, and Gersonides
This article offers a comparative study of three thinkers from almost as many intellectual and cultural traditions: Avicenna, Maimonides, and Gersonides, and discusses the extent of the knowledge of particulars which each one ascribed to God. Avicenna de-reified Aristotle’s abstract and isolated Prime Mover and argued that God can know particulars but limited these to universals. Maimonides disanalogized divine from human knowledge, arguing that the epistemic mode predicated of mankind cannot be equally predicated of God, and that God knows particulars qua particulars even as his Knowing encompasses all of eternity in a single act of knowledge. Attempting an intermediate path between the former’s highly discursive reasoning and the latter’s more scriptural approach, Gersonides postulated that God can know particulars qua particulars—as is befitting a Perfect Being—but this He does ‘mediately’ as it were, via the emanative ordering comprising the separate intelligences and culminating in the Active Intellect.