Review Of "Maimonides And Spinoza: Their Conflicting Views Of Human Nature" By J. Parens

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In this insightful new study, Parens (Univ. of Dallas) challenges the now dominant view of Maimonides as a protomodern forerunner of Spinoza. Parens's careful comparison of Maimonides's The Guide of the Perplexed with Spinoza's Ethics reveals striking differences in their accounts of human nature. For example, the conatus doctrine, which is at the core of Spinoza's teaching on human nature, has no counterpart in Maimonides. Part of the reason Maimonides does not see the need for a principle like conatus to unify the passions is that he does not view the sciences as so radically unified as does Spinoza. Other topics given extensive treatment are reflected in this volume's chapter titles: "Veneration vs. Equality," "Forms vs. Laws of Nature," "Freedom vs. Determinism," "Teleology vs. Imagined Ideal," and "Prudence vs. Imagination." Maimonides and Spinoza calls for a dramatic revision of one's understanding of both philosophers. Parens is also the author of An Islamic Philosophy of Virtuous Religions (2006), and coeditor of the second edition of Medieval Political Philosophy: A Sourcebook (CH, Jan'12, 49-2597). Summing Up: Highly recommended. Graduate students and faculty/researchers.


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