Volume 68, Issue 3, March 2015
Gadi Charles Weber
Maimonides and the Epicurean Position on Providence
In a sense Maimonides identifies his views on the subject of divine providence with those of Epicurus. He does so by implying an analogy between this Greek philosopher’s atheistic opinions and those put forth by Elihu in the Book of Job. Despite the fact that commentators have discussed Maimonides’ views on providence for eight hundred years the only one to refer to the connection between Elihu and Epicurus was Joseph Ibn Kaspi in the fourteenth century. One of the consequences of this analogy is a modification of our understanding of Maimonides’ concept of “providence according to the intellect.” Whereas Moshe Narboni and other commentators have understood Maimonides’ concept of providence to involve a unification of the human intellect with the Active Intellect, the association with Epicurus suggests an emphasis on the human individual’s material faculties such as the imagination. Indeed, it is possible that, following Al-Fārābī, Maimonides rejected the possibility of conjunction with the Active Intellect altogether, and that “providence according to the intellect” consists of nothing more than the activity of the human individual’s material faculties.