Introduction to Jewish Philosophy (PHL 412)
January 8, 2012
Evil, Suffering, and the Human Condition according to the Philosophies of Rambam and Rabbi Artson.
It is impossible to look at the world and not see tremendous suffering, evil, and injustice. The existence of despotic rulers depriving millions of life and liberty, massive acts of natural destruction, untimely deaths, debilitating and deadly diseases, and more, must beg the religious person to question how this can be in a world created and ruled by a just and loving God. This study will investigate the philosophies of two great Jewish thinkers; Rabbi Moshe ben Maimon (Rambam) of the 12th century, and the modern process theologist, Rabbi Bradley Shavit Artson, comparing and contrasting their attempts to reconcile the suffering that seems to be inextricably part of the world in which we live, and their respective understandings and beliefs in God. We will begin with Rambam and his views on the nature of evil itself. Rambam views creation as only the production of something positive. Accordingly, his treatment of evil follows the neo-Platonic tradition seeing evil not as something that is created, but rather as a lack or privation.1 Creation is
constructive, not destructive. “The action of an agent cannot be directly connected with a thing that does not exist; only indirectly is non-existence described as the result of the action of an agent.”2 So when
God created light, at that moment, it replaced previous darkness. Darkness is the absence of light and did not need to be created. If I blow out a candle, I have not created darkness, but rather, I have destroyed the light. The same holds true for good and evil. As Rambam states: “…it cannot be said of God that He directly creates evil, or He has the direct intention to produce evil; that is impossible. His works are all perfectly good. He only produces existence, and all existence is good; whilst evils are of a negative... [continues]
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