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Law, Reason, and Morality in Medieval Jewish PhilosophySadia Gaon, Bahya ibn Pakuda, and Moses Maimonides$
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Jonathan Jacobs

Print publication date: 2010

Print ISBN-13: 9780199542833

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2010

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199542833.001.0001

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‘The Reasons of the Commandments’ and Natural Law

‘The Reasons of the Commandments’ and Natural Law

Chapter:
(p.186) 7 ‘The Reasons of the Commandments’ and Natural Law
Source:
Law, Reason, and Morality in Medieval Jewish Philosophy
Author(s):

Jonathan Jacobs (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199542833.003.0008

This chapter presents the main considerations concerning whether Judaism should be interpreted as involving natural law elements. It is argued that medieval Jewish moral thought should not be interpreted as a version of natural law theorizing though it shares some features of natural law's concern with the rational, universal validity of moral requirements. The positions of Marvin Fox, J. David Bleich, and David Novak are discussed. Also, it is argued that the ways in which Jewish thought is distinguished from the practical wisdom and natural law approaches do not undermine the extent to which there are objective ‘reasons of the commandments’, a matter of central concern to the medievals. Jewish moral thought offers an approach that is distinct from practical wisdom and natural law approaches despite some likenesses to both. It supplies a distinct conception of the rationality, universality, and objectivity of moral considerations—one that can be constructively integrated into current debates in metaethics.

Keywords:   dialectical, ‘generally accepted’, Noahide commandments, objectivity, particularism, rational justification, ‘reasons of the commandments’, tradition, universality

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