Essay, Research Paper
The Search for God in Eight Chapters
In Eight Chapters by Maimonides, there seems to be a lot of confusion when dealing with the existence of God and man’s perception of him. Maimonides was trying to provide a strong basis for the belief that God was above man, but instead he only succeeds in stating obvious facts that fail to show a complete understanding of the subject.
Maimonides does admit to the fact that metaphysics has yet to correctly identify exactly what God is. Are God and knowledge one? Maimonides espouses that metaphysics has already explained the fact that God, “does not know by means of knowledge nor is he alive by means of life, such that he and knowledge are two different things, like man and his knowledge”(Ethical Writings of Maimonides,94). This means humans are the only ones to discover and learn through knowledge, and exist in a certain life. God does neither of these things. Maimonides continues to say that if God were known through knowledge, “there would necessarily be multiplicity and the eternal things would be multiple-God, the knowledge by which He knows, the life by which He is alive, the power by which he is powerful, and likewise with all of his attributes”(94). One cannot even try to imagine a God so great that he is incomprehensible, and it seems to me that this would not, or should not be the God embraced and praised in Christianity. Why would it be that we were created in God’s image, and yet were are so below him that nothing about him is comprehensible to us? In all his supreme power, why would he create us with such meager minds and bodies? It seems that this supreme being that Maimonides has envisioned in order to support the fact that God is beyond comprehension is more than just mysterious. Maimonides fails to address any type of these arguments, and merely says that this proof is sufficient for the “common people”.
Another important aspect of Maimonides arguments, was his view on the existence of God, or more accurately, our ability to perceive him. Once again Maimonides weakly defends his position by explaining that this “is due to the perfection of His existence and the deficiency of our intellects”(95). It would seem top me that a God so great would have the ability to more effectively influence society or people, with or without making his presence known. It can be argued that God influences people every day through decisions they make, but this statement is wrong according to Maimonides. This follows from his logic that the soul and God are two different things. He never mentions God being inside a person. Therefore God does not influence a person’s actions. Even science fiction writers have thought up aliens that have influenced people without making the person aware of it! So, why can’t there be a god this powerful? If He is as powerful as Maimonides would lead us to believe, then what would hold Him back from presenting himself to us? Why would he communicate through a person such as Moses instead of communicating directly with us. Maimonides provides a weak supporting example that compares God with the sun. He likens the human inability to stare directly at the sun with our inability to fully comprehend God. He declares that the sun is not weak, but it is merely our eyes that are weak. This is an unfair comparison because, while our eyes are incapable of clearly viewing the sun, our minds have allowed us to discover and comprehend the complexities of the heavenly body. Even the “secret” source of the suns energy has been discovered, studied and reproduced. Maimonides underestimates the power of every human mind because, he himself is unsure why God is impercieveable to man.
Another paradox that has presented itself before me was the fact that God has given us minds to think and expand, and yet Maimonides states that this knowledge that is God can never be attained. “To perceive Him perfectly would be to perceive[Him] as He is in His existence with respect to knowledge, power, volition, life, and His other noble attributes”(94). For what reason then did God give us this mind? Is it really here to be restricted , or were we meant to explore subjects such as who created us? Must man really stay content with the knowledge that he can never truly know his God? Again it seems that Maimonides is perplexed on the subject. He fails to realize how vital thought is to human life, and how he himself came to all of these conclusions of God.
So what is the real problem with Maimonides’s arguments? I really don’t believe that the problem lies in the arguments themselves, but in their incompleteness. He fails to view the problems that are presented before him from all sides, and when questioned, merely states that this is above our understanding. Does the answer to the questions we all seek really lie in our soul, or in death, the release of the soul. It seems to me that there is much more in life than just remaining along the median, and never exploring the vast possibilities that life has to offer. Humans are unique in the universe, we have the ability to think. With this mind, even the most penitent man will stray, as Maimonides would agree. No man can truly stay unquestioning. It seems to me though, that this is not a sin. Life must be here for a reason, as must our minds, and possibly our souls, if they even exist. So, while some of us may remain content with silence and obedience, I contend that life is here for exploration, both out into the universe, and into the soul.