Spinoza and Some of His Medieval Predecessors on the Summum Bonum

In Yehuda Halper (ed.), The Pursuit of Happiness in Medieval Jewish and Islamic Thought. pp. 377-392 (2021)
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In the current paper I rely on two outstanding studies. The one, by Warren Zev Harvey, draws a portrait of Spinoza as Maimonidean, stressing the continuity between Maimonides and Spinoza on the issue of morality and the highest good. The other is the magisterial study by Steven Shmuel Harvey of the reception of the Nicomachean Ethics in medieval Jewish philosophy, from its being subject to almost complete indifference in the period before Maimonides until it became “the best known and most cited work of Aristotle” in sixteenth-century Jewish philosophy. In the first part of this paper I will discuss some main junctions in the medieval Jewish reception of the notion of the highest good. This discussion will be cursory and will mostly focus on matters that will help us approach Spinoza’s views on the issue, views which will be examined closely in the second part of the paper.
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