For Judaism, it is practice over theology. The most important aspect of one’s faith is not philosophical reflection on God, but the rules and actions of the faithful. After all, according to Maimonides – arguably the most significant philosopher in the history of Jewish thought – we can never know God’s nature, and, therefore, there is more to be gained from what we do than trying to know what God is like. For Maimonides, ‘We are only able to apprehend that He is.’ This raises a problem, however, for if we cannot learn about, come to build a relationship, or increase our knowledge of God, then what is the point of religious observance?
In this episode, we’ll be discussing Judaism, knowledge, understanding and the rationality of theism with Professor Silvia Jonas of the University of Bamberg and the Munich Center for Mathematical Philosophy. According to Jonas, Maimonides’s insights are valuable; yet he misses a crucial piece of the puzzle – a distinction between knowledge and understanding.
Beyond understanding the ineffable, Jonas argues that theism shouldn’t try to compete with modern science. That doesn’t mean, however, that questions of God aren’t important. For Jonas, God is a worthy object of philosophical investigation, not because God completes our grand ‘theory of everything’, but because God shapes people’s everyday lives.
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