The Wars of the Lord - Vol. 3

The Wars of the Lord - Vol. 3

The Wars of the Lord - Vol. 3

The Wars of the Lord - Vol. 3

Synopsis

Here is a comprehensive summary of Gersonides's life and work and the translation of his major work, faithful to his philosophical intentions - the third and final volume, including the index.

Excerpt

This third volume of The Wars of the Lord completes this translation of Gersonides' Milhamot Hashem. It comprises the two longest books of the treatise: Books 5 and 6, each of which is multi-partite. Virtually all the extant manuscripts omit Book 5, part 1 which is a long treatise in mathematical astronomy and trigonometry. Book 5, parts 2 and 3 are philosophical, although they contain much scientific material. In Book 5 the focus is clearly celestial: even when Gersonides discusses earthly matters, such as biological reproduction, he is primarily concerned with the influences of the heavenly domain upon terrestrial phenomena. Indeed, in Book 5, part 3 he investigates the domain of the separate intelligences, those incorporeal substances, some of which are called "angels" in the popular religious literature. The two most important of these substances are the Agent Intellect, which played such an important role for Gersonides in Books 1 and 2, and God. Most of Book 5, part 3 is devoted to an analysis of the functions and attributes of these two incorporeal substances. It is in chapter 12 of part 3 that one finds Gersonides' most systematic discussion of the nature of God.

Book 6, comprising two parts, is chiefly concerned with one of the most controversial questions in medieval philosophy: creation of the universe. In part 1 Gersonides canvasses and criticizes the many arguments for the various cosmological positions presented in the ancient and medieval literature. More importantly, he develops his own theory of creation, which departs significantly from those of most of his predecessors in the Jewish philosophical literature. Contrary to Saadia Gaon and Maimonides, who defend the traditional theory of creation ex nihilo, and in opposition to Aristotle and the Muslim Falasifa (e.g., Averroes), who advocate the eternity of the universe, Gersonides holds a modified version of Plato's theory of creation out of formless matter. He believes that both the creation ex nihilo and the eternity of universe doctrines are absurd. In addition, he maintains that the universe is indestructible, albeit created. Finally, he defends the relatively conservative Aristotelian thesis of the unicity of the universe. In the course of his many arguments Gersonides also makes some very interesting comments about the nature of time and of the infinite.

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