Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Faith and Intellect

R. Shaul Yisraeli, Perakim Be-Machasheves Yisrael (6th ed.), pp. 85-86 (notes at the end of chapter 7):

The boundary line between faith and intellect is also the distinguishing line between two camps of views among the great Jewish thinkers. Is there a place for human intellect in questions about the source and purpose of the world? And is there an obligation in relation to these isses place upon the intellect? These are the questions, and the answers are conflicting.

The Intellectual Camp, whose main representatives are R. Sa'adia Gaon, Rabbenu Bachya and Rambam, answer: yes. "Know the God of your fathers and worship Him" -- the command of the Torah is to base the foundations of belief in intellectual proofs. However, even according to these views, there remains a tradition and an inherited quality of faith. The Rambam warns that, because of intellectual limitations and emotions, there will remain doubts... The conclusion to which we strive through intellect is known, and we are confident from the beginning of its correctness...

The contrary approach is described aptly by R. Yosef Albo (Ikkarim) and its foundations were already laid in the Kuzari. Its essence is: "Faith is above intellectual apprehension." The human intellect clings to the Divine spirit specificall through faith (R. Yosef Albo; compare with Kuzari 1:4, 13; 4:16-18). These views prefer in this issue feelings of faith and family traditions over intellectual considerations... However, even though these views do not prefer the intellect, only do so because they consider this field beyond the boundaries of the human intellect. But they still do not believe that it is possible to be obligated to believe something that contradicts the intellect: "God forbid that something in the Torah should contradict a proof or demonstration" (Kuzari 1:67)...

It is not up to us to decide between this debate among greats, and we will not come to rule on issues of belief on matters of eternal importance. We will suffice with just pointing to the lines of thought of different approaches, from which emerge great differences in each approach to Jewish thought.

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