Senior Fellow: January–February 2019
Research Project: Between Fideistic Scepticism and Aristotelian Philosophy: The Role of Ethics and the Commandments in Hasdai Crescas's approach to Human Perfection
Hasdai Crescas is famous for his philosophical critique of Aristotelian philosophy, mainly as posed by Averroes. Crescas demolishes the foundation of Aristotelian philosophy, the proofs for the existence of God, by negating many of the premises upon which these proofs are based. His motivation is to defend traditional Judaism by showing that the Aristotelian philosophy does not pass the test of reason. His scepticism of Aristotelianism then is the philosophic scepticism of the religious believer, or "fideistic scepticism."
The rejection of Aristotelian philosophy followed by the subsequent acceptance of many of its ideas is nicely exemplified by his approach to the human being's final goal, as well as the final goal of existence in its entirety. While for the Aristotelian philosophers intellection characterizes the final goal, for Crescas love characterizes it. He attempts to show how ethics and the commandments lead to this state. Yet at the same time Crescas ascribes a crucial role to intellection in attaining this goal.
A careful study of Crescas's approach to ethics and law will show the subtlety of his thought and the place scepticism has in it, at the same time that it remains heavily influenced by the very philosophy it seeks to negate. Crecas's approach to this topic will be contrasted to that of his Jewish predecessors, particularly the approach of Judah Halevi, Maimonides, and Gersonides.
Haim Kreisel holds the Miriam Martha Hubert Chair in Jewish Thought an the Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva.