Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Sigmund Freud - The Interpretation of Dreams

The Interpretation of Dreams notes (Joyce Crick translation - it is alot less bulky than the Strachey translation)

I. The Scientific Literature on the Problem of Dreams

The short: a brief survey of the basic scientific literature available at the time on the problem of dreams. Punchline: scientists believe dreams are mental froth. They be hella wrong.

The long: although Freud is mostly recapitulating the opinions of others in this chapter, he does offer some hints of what is to come. He writes that "the human mind's endeavor to see everything in coherent connection such that it involuntarily makes good the flaws in its coherence" (41); he is thus already offering up a theory of mind, something that makes coherent, or brings into unity. He also notes the "dream's command of childhood material" (16), how it holds on to "trivialities" (17), how it is difficult to reduce the dream to somatic sources (though many do) (20), that "we should have the greatest reservation about denying our responsibility for sings and crimes committed in dreams" (58), the importance of "involuntary ideas (images)" (60), that, following Robert, "dreams are the excretion of undeveloped thoughts, thoughts nipped in the bud" (66), and finally that there is probably some relation between dreams and mental illnesses. All of this stuff can be skipped over (Freud himself found writing this section to be irritating), as it is basically him trying to be a good scholar/scientist. Nonetheless, the way in which he structures this literature review foreshadows much of what is to come.

II. The Method of Interpreting Dreams

The short: Dream-interpretation en detail, not en masse. Foundational dream of Irma's injection.

The long: there are two ways of interpreting a dream: 1) take the dream content as a whole and replace the symbols to make sense (symbolic interpretation), or else 2) start with the symbols and try to translate them to make a coherent text (decoding interpretation). Freud basically opts for the latter, interpretation en detail, not en masse, with the caveat that there is no "fixed key" for decoding (83).

In this chapter he gives a pretty clear description of his technique: "I want [the patient] to do two things: to pay attention to his psychical perceptions more intently, and to switch off the critical faculty he normally uses to sift the thoughts arising in him" (81). This is free-association in a nutshell. He says you can always tell if someone is trying to hard by a "tense expression" (81). He wants his patients to get in that "right-before-bed" mood.

He then launches in to the famous dream of Irma's injection. The basic plot: Freud dreams that he examines his patient Irma with his rival Otto, Otto's rival Leopold, and their superior Dr. M. He realizes that something organic has been overlooked (which Dr. M confirms), and that this has resulted from an injection that Otto had given her. Freud's interpretation is that the dream's content is a wish-fulfillment in that it blames Irma's illness on Otto. "I am not to blame for Irma but Otto is" (94).

Note: Freud introduces the "broken kettle" joke on page 96.

III. The Dream is a Wish-Fulfillment

Everyone knows that you can't do everything you want to do. Dreams replace these unexpressed actions (99). What does a good dream of? Corn (105). Plain and simple.

Freud has some interesting comments on children in this chapter: "Child psychology is in my opinion destined to perform a service for the psychology of adults," (102) but then on pg. 105 shows just how far off he is from Three Essays: "If we consider childhood a happy time because it does not yet know sexual desire...." He does talk about "children being aroused by food," however, a precursor to the oral stage.

IV. Dream-Distortion

Here Freud distinguishes between the manifest dream-content and the latent dream-thought as separated by the dream-work (107). The tendency of the dream-content to require interpretation (that is, the revelation of the dream-thought) is called dream-distortion (107). Freud posits two psychical forces to explain this distortion: one which forms the wish (Ucs), and one which censors it (Pcs) (113). The stricter the censorship, the more far-reaching the disguise (113).

In this chapter Freud has the dream of a long, yellow face, a composite of his uncle Josef and two of his colleagues, R and N. In real life, Freud likes both R and N quite a bit, but thinks of his uncle as a numbskull and a criminal. His interpretation of the dream is that he wants to associate R and N with a numbskull/criminal because they are both Jews up for the same "Professor Extraordinarus" position that Freud is up for, and he wants a way to put some distance between himself and his colleagues, as if to say, "I am not like them and I can get this position."

Another important dream in this chapter is the lady who dreams of bring frustrated by not being able to have a dinner party because she has nothing but salmon in the house. She knows that if she had a dinner party, a friend of hers would come who is attractive to her husband, and Freud interprets her dream to mean that she would rather not have a dinner party than offer up occasion for her friend to interact with her husband. But on a second level, the woman is also identifying with her friend, as her friend's favorite dish is smoked salmon. At yet a third level, this lady had wanted to prove Freud's wish-fulfillment theory wrong, and her dream was a wish-fulfillment in that sense as well!

There is finally the dream of the woman who dreams of her son Karl in a coffin in a similar manner to her son Otto, who had actually died. Freud takes it that the woman is not wishing that Karl and not Otto had died (the seemingly obvious interpretation), but that she could again see a man who was at Otto's funeral. Dubious!

Freud ends the chapter with a concise formulation: The dream is the (disguised) fulfillment of a (suppressed, repressed) wish (124).

V. The Material and Sources of Dreams

(a) Recent and Insignificant Material in Dreams: the dream always contains material from the day just past, the day's residue. In probably the most elaborate explanation in the book, Freud provides evidence of this with his "botanical monograph" dream (p. 129), which is an amazing exercise in association. Why do we include seemingly trivial material from the day just past in our dreams? By attaching themselves on to innocuous ideas, repressed affects can get by the censoring agency and find expression. Nothing is actually innocuous: we do not let mere trifles disrupt our sleep (140).

Freud also introduces here the idea that the dream "obeys a compulsion to form a unity out of [two or more experiences]" (137). In other words, there is something about the psychic apparatus that both merges/condenses together and displaces the psychically valuable for the trivial.

(b) Material from Infancy as a Source of Dreams: Freud says that we always "find the active involvement of childhood experiences in dreams whose content would in no way lead us to suspect it" (146). "We find the child, with its impulses, living on in the dream" (147). Freud talks about his own childhood ambitions and longings (for Rome, in particular). As in all interpretation, one must uncover the scene of infancy, which "is represented in the manifest dream-content only by an allusion" (152).

(c) The Somatic Sources of Dreams: Do dreams come from the stomach? Yes, they have somatic factors, but "the motivation for dreaming" lies "outside the somatic sources of stimulus" (173). He takes as an example his dream of riding a grey horse. At the time, he had an apple-sized abscess on his perinium (177). Yes. Apple-sized. At first glance, this dream is somatic in origin, for if he is able to ride a horse, he no longer has the abscess. But following the details of the dream back, he finds his childhood competitions with his nephews. The dream does have one important somatic function though: "the dream is the guardian of sleep, not its disturber" (180). When the dream incorporates a light shined into one's bedroom into the dream, it is to keep the sleeper from waking up.

(d) Typical Dreams:

Freud examines a few typical dreams, including exhibition-dreams, those of nakedness, where the wish is expressed by changing the "real" affect associated with it into its opposite: so instead of being excited by it, one is embarrassed. Instead of revealing oneself to one's family, one is usually naked in front of strangers.

He then talks about death dreams. He makes it clear that when we dream of someone's death, we do not really wish for that person to be dead (a dubious claim). We should trace the affect back to the latent thought and not the manifest content, after all. Nonetheless, he does believe that although we wouldn't wish ill will on them today, many of us still carry childhood wishes to hurt our family, our siblings in particular.

But he understands that he's on shaky ground now, and turns to mythology and tragedy to justify his discussion. Look at the Greek Gods: what violence! He then introduces the Oedipus myth on pg. 198: "the girl's first affection is for her father, and the boy's first infant desire is for his mother. Thus the father becomes an intrusive rival for the boy, as the mother does for the girl, and we have already explained in the case of siblings how little the child needs for this feeling to lead to a death-wish" (198). (Freud had explained that children easily wish death upon others because they do not understand the gravity of its consequences, the forever-ness of it.)

In an important footnote on pg. 204, Freud explains Hamlet in terms of the Oedipus complex: Hamlet is paralyzed in action because "he cannot take revenge on the man who removed his father and took the latter's place beside his mother" because this man, his uncle, "shows him his own repressed infant wishes realized" (204).

Freud ends by noting the self-centered-ness of dreams (an expression of the influence of childhood) (205). In a footnote on pg. 206, also, "the sheer size, the excessive abundance, scale, and exaggeration of dreams, could be an infantile characteristic" (206).

VI. The Dream-Work

The dream-work is why the dream requires interpretation. "The dream is a picture-puzzle of this kind, and our predecessors in the field of dream-interpretation made the mistake of judging the rebus as if it were a pictorial composition" (212). How exactly does the dream-work work?

(a) The Work of Condensation: Every element in a dream is overdetermined (which is why we always think there is more to our dreams that we can't remember) (214). We can think of condensation as roughly akin to metaphor.

(b) The Work of Displacement: Low-value elements are charged with intensity taken from high-value elements (235). Let's call this metonymy.

(c) The Means of Representation in Dreams: how do dreams represent logical relations? First, in terms of simultaneity, one thing coming after another (239). Causal relations are often represented by minor dream, main dream = sub-clause, main clause (240). There are no either-or relations in dreams: whenever the patient says either-or, he means to be represented a concatenation of two things into one (241). Contradictions in dreams are simply disregarded, as "to the dream, 'No' does not seem to exist" (243). Relations of similarity are expressed in terms of unity (244). Identification is one of the ways this unity can be expressed (244); composite formation is another. Motor inhibition in dreams usually means "a conflict of wills" (254).

(d) Regard for Representability: Dreams like to turn everything into symbols, visual symbols, a feature they share with "psychoneuroses, legends, and popular customs" (259).

(e) Examples: Calculating and Speaking in Dreams: Numerals and calculations often symbolize something else (an idea he probably picked up under the influence of Wilhelm Fliess).

(f) Absurd Dreams. Intellectual Performance in Dreams: Dreams are often absurd because they have to don the fool's cap to speak the truth and get by the censor (285). We should neither take too seriously intellectual thinking in dreams: "everything in our dreams that ostensibly looks like the activity of the function of judgement is not to be understood as, say, an act of thinking on the part of the dream-work; rather, it belongs to the material of the dream-thoughts and has passed from there as a ready-made structure into the manifest dream-content" (286).

(g) Affects in Dreams: "Analysis teaches us that the imagined ideas in the dream-content have undergone displacements and substitutions, while the affects have remained in place unaltered" (299). "Inhibition of affect would be the second achievement of the dream-censorship, as dream-distortion was its first" (306). In other words, dream-censorship succeeds when it a) mixes up our ideas, and b) suppresses affects and/or transforms an affect into its opposite (308). Although affect is suppressed and/or transformed in the dream-work, it is also the productive energy of the dream, what inspires the dream to form in the first place (311).

(h) Secondary Revision: "A function of the psyche indistinguishable from our waking thoughts can make some contribution to the dream-content" (319). Secondary revision is the tendency to make intelligible, to make whole; by doing so, it wants to make something like a daydream out of the dream's material, the expression of a fantasy (a key term which he introduces but does not fully develop here, like much in the Dreambook) (321). Then Freud introduces the "Gotcha" moment: "It is probably, then, that the agency requiring the dream-content to be intelligible is none other than our normal thinking" (327).

So in conclusion, the four factors involved in the dream-work are: 1) condensation, 2) displacement, 3) regard for representability, 4) secondary revision
. And "the work of the psyche in the formation of dreams can be broken down into two tasks: it generates the dream-thoughts, and it transforms them into the dream-content" (328).

VII. The Psychology of Dream-Processes

Freud here introduces his "topographic" model of mind, a model which would dominate his thinking until the introduction of the "structural" model (id, ego, superego) in 1923. I have scanned a model of the topographic model made by Dr. Christopher Allegra here. It is somewhat helpful in thinking about this last, more philosophical chapter. Much of what we find here is adapted from his abandoned "Project for a Scientific Psychology," so Chapter VII is kinduva strange addition to the book, but crucial nonetheless.

(a) Forgetting in Dreams: We forget because we resist. "Whatever disturbs the continuation of the work of analysis is a resistance" (336). In other words, we forget purposefully. But we can't remember everything: "the best-interpreted dreams often have a passage that has to be left in the dark...this is the dream's navel, and the place beneath which lies the Unknown" (341).

(b) Regression: Recap: Dreams are fully paid-up psychical acts. The driving force behind them is wish-fulfillment which tries to escape psychical censorship (347).

Freud here introduces his "picket fence" model of the mind. On one side we have Perception, on the other, Motor Activity, both in a way, systems of consciousness (Cs). In between we have a series of "memory traces," and a store of repressed memory traces called the unconscious. Between motor activity and the unconscious (Ucs) stands the preconscious (Pcs). The Ucs "has no access to consciousness except by way of the Preconscious" (353). If we think of the chain perception -> memory -> motor action, we have progressive activity. Dreams are regressive in that they work from the Ucs back toward recent memories and then make hallucinations for the perception system. This chain could also be represented 1. wish from infancy/sexual wish -> 2. days residue -> 3. dream.

(c) On Wish-Fulfillment: Why wishes? Because there is the Unconscious. "I imagine that the conscious wish becomes the initiator of a dream only if it succeeds in wakening an unconscious wish consonant with it, and drawing reinforcement from this" (362). "The wish represented in the dream has to be an infantile one" (363). So there are really two sources for the dream, one repressed in the unconscious, one merely suppressed in the preconscious. Freud compares the two to an entrepreneur and a capitalist: "the daytime thought might possibly play the part of entrepreneur for the dream; but the entrepreneur who has the idea, as we say, and the will to translate it into action, still cannot do anything without capital; he needs a capitalist to take on the expenses,....a wish from the Unconscious" (365). He describes this linkage of the two wishes as transference (to be distinguished from what he later theorizes as patient-analyst transference, though certainly related) (367).

Why does the censor allow us to dream? Precisely because our motor activity has been shut down and it's not dangerous for anyone to have our suppressed/repressed wishes expressed. If we regressed when we were awake, we would be psychotic (some theorists believe that, for this reason, psychotics do not dream).

This opens the way for connecting psychoneurotic symptoms to dreams: "I can say that a hysterical symptom only comes into being when two opposing wish-fulfillments, each with its source in a different psychical system, are in a position to coincide in one expression" (372).

(d) Arousal by Dreams. The Function of Dreams. Anxiety-Dreams: in Ucs, there is no past, nothing is forgotten, nothing brought to an end (378). Under these circumstances, it needs release every once in awhile: the dream is where Pcs acts as a safety-valve for Ucs (379). It allows wishes out insofar as they are compatible with each other. Every once in awhile though, it lets out conflicting wishes, and these result in anxiety dreams (380). Anxiety dreams can also be caused by the expression of wishes that have been down in Ucs for so long that they have turned from pleasurable to unpleasurable, from wine into vinegar, as the model goes. Strangulated libido turned into anxiety. Anxiety is also often associated with witnessing parental coitus at a young age (383).

(e) Primary and Secondary Process. Repression: "The most complicated feats of thinking are possible without the participation of consciousness" (389). When a train of thought is not given adequate expression in consciousness and lingers in Pcs for awhile, it is then "drawn into the Unconscious" (391). This fact leads us to thinking of two different psychical process that play a part in forming dreams: "the one creates perfectly rational dream-thoughts, just as valid as normal thinking; the other treats these in a most disconcerting, irrational manner" (393). The first psy system is "directed towards the free discharge of quantities of excitation; and the second system inhibits this discharge by emitting its own energy-charges, transforming the charge into a quiescent one and probably raising its level" (395). All the first system can do is wish (396). The primary process "aims to discharge excitation in order to set up a perceptual identity; the secondary process has abandoned this intention and taken up another in its place - to set up a thought-identity. All thinking is only a roundabout way..." (397). Primary process is there from the beginning, while secondary process only evolves later in life (398).

When the fulfillment of wishes no longer produce an affect of pleasure but one of unpleasure, those wishes are said to be repressed. The transformation of affect is what is called repression (399).

(f) The Unconscious and Consciousness. Reality: "The Unconscious is the true reality of the psyche, its inner nature just as unknown to us as the reality of the external world, and just as imperfectly revealed by the data of consciousness as the external world is by the information received from our sensory organs" (405). The Pcs is the "partition screen" between Ucs and Cs (407).

And what of reality? "Whether we should ascribe reality to unconscious wishes, I cannot say" (411).

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Paul Ricoeur, Freud and Philosophy

This initial post about "Freud and Philosophy" is going to be short for two reasons: 1) This book is a beast, and I'd prefer to purposefully leave things out and keep it short than try to cover everything. It clocks in at 550 pages, and there is not much filler (or the whole thing is filler, I can't decide). 2) It was written (or given, really, because it's a collection of lectures) as a follow-up piece to "Symbolism of Evil," and a proper treatment of it should be written with that work, which I have not yet read, fresh in mind.

The Book is split up into three sections: 1) Problematic (wherein Ricoeur lays out Freud's challenge to his own project of developing a hermeneutics of symbols) , 2) Analytic (wherein he reads publicly just about everything Freud ever wrote), 3) Dialectic (wherein he brings philosophy to bear on Freud and answers some questions he raises in the Problematic).

In Part I, the Problematic, Ricoeur introduces points he covered in "Symbolism of Evil:" he defines a symbol as "a double-meaning linguistic expression that requires interpretation," and interpretation as "a work of understanding that aims at deciphering symbols" (9). "Symbolism of Evil," I gathered, explores symbols and interpretation from the side of religion, in terms of the restoration of meaning that we work through when confronted with a kerygma (proclamation) or message. In this kind of "phenomenology of the sacred," we are essentially interested in the religious "truth" of symbols. When we hear "deciphering" and "double-meaning," however, we should also think of its exact opposite, the "hermeneutics of suspicion" that goes along with the "demystification of illusions" one finds in the works of Marx, Nietzsche and Freud, the "masters of suspicion." He takes all hermeneutics to be an unwieldy combination of the two, opposing projects, of "a willingness to suspect and a willingness to listen" (27).

I'm not going to talk about Part II, the Analytic, because it's way too long and basically just an explanation of Freud. Philosophical development/work happens in this part, but I feel pretty comfortable saying that Ricoeur was probably just "reading in public," working through alot of Freud's stuff for the first time and preparing himself for a full encounter.

In Chapter 1 of Part III, the Dialectic, Ricoeur distinguishes psy-A from scientifc psychology on the one hand, and phenomenology on the other. Despite "operational reformulations" of psy-A (attempts to make it more scientifc), it will never be so, because the reality that it aims at is interpreted, not observed. The compare and contrast with phenomenology is a bit more interesting. He compares them on 4 points: 1) phenomenology is a reflexive discipline, and psychoanalysis is not (dubious), 2) phenomenology has no real Cs/Pcs/Ucs distinction, only a much less weighty conscious v. "unconscious" distinction, 3) there are infra- and supralinguistic phenomena in psy-A (primal repression, for instance) which do not exist in phenomenology, 4) intersubjectivity in psy-A is defined around the work of transference, a concept absent from phenomenology.

In Chapter 2, "Reflection: An Archaeology of the Subject," Ricoeur says "the philosophical place of analytic discourse is defined by the concept of an archaeology of the subject" (419). This is his first attempt to place psy-A in relation to philosophy. The primary philosophical lesson that psy-A has to offer us is that "the ego is not the master of his own house;" psy-A thus "wounds" and "humiliates" us in uncovering instinctual drives behind supposedly rational processes.

Before developing the consequences of psy-A's reduction to instinct for philosophy, he takes a few moments to confront a philosophical challenge to the theory of instincts, which is that if they are unknowable, how can we say they are at the root of everything? He proposes that we understand that instincts in terms of Kant's divide between empirical realism and transcendental idealism: we can be empirical realists about the knowable instinct representatives and transcendental idealists about the unknowable instincts themselves. He takes it that this "solves" the problem of how we know the instincts.

He then moves on to demonstrating the philosophical benefits of viewing everything in terms of the regressive nature of the instincts: for instance, psy-A demonstrates that the foundation of morality (the victory over the Oedipus complex) bears the archaic marks of fear and thus has the function of both preparing the way for autonomy and blocking it off at an archaic stage (449). In the field of language, psy-A demonstrates the potency of desire in speech. For Ricoeur, the philosophical upshot of the unconscious is to impose a limit on any linguistic transcription that would claim to be without remainder (454). In this sense, Ricoeur disagrees with Lacan: the unconscious is not language but the drive to language, the drive behind expression.

In Chapter 3, "Dialectic: Archaeology and Teleology," Ricoeur wants to show that a full philosophy can be gathered from psy-A, because every arche implies a telos (459). Freud himself, however, always warned that psy-A is not to be completed by a psycho-synthesis (460). Ricoeur nonetheless believes there is an implicit and unthematized teleology in psy-A (461), and to demonstrate this, he goes to the master of teleology: Hegel. He takes it that the phenomenology of spirit and psy-A could not be more opposed on certain things, but nonetheless uses Hegel's categories to draw out the implicit teleology of Freudianism: 1) analyst and analysand are like master and slave: the point of analysis is a rising of sick consciousness to the level of healthy consciousness, and inasmuch as this is the case, analysis has a goal (something that probably could have been said without Hegel), 2) identification: I'm not sure whether Ricoeur brings in identification (the union of "desire to be like and desire to have" (479)) to say that getting beyond its regressive tendencies constitutes a telos or whether identification itself, in that it allows for the subject's maturation, is itself an end. 3) sublimation, an obvious choice when defining a Freudian telos. Ultimately, Ricoeur says, everything comes down to Freud's basic formula in the Introductory Lectures, "Wo es war, soll Ich werden." The slow conquering of the id is the telos of psy-A.

Chapter 4 of Part III, the last chapter of the book, "Hermeneutics: The Approaches to Symbol," is supposed to be the philosophical payoff of this book, but it reflects the winding and comprehensive nature of the book itself (in other words, know that the following summary is my attempt to tie together something that might not be itself completely tied together).

The domain of symbols is marked by two horizons, one of regression, one of progression, one where faith degenerates into idolatry (object worship), one where the mytho-poetic function renews symbols and keeps culture from being a huge artifact. The work of creation in the symbolic is a work of culture, of sublimation, of the categories of Kantian anthropology (having, power, worth (507)) mixing intersubjectively and producing new relationships to self, other and world (thus new symbols (508)). But in order for that creation to take place, one needs to take out the garbage that is piling up on the other end of the symbolic: this involves a critique (demystification) of idols and illusions. The hermeneutics of suspicion is thus necessary for the health of religious life: "idols must die so that symbols may live."

(Side note: the interpretation of symbols recognizes a wholly other because it takes seriously evil, an impossibility in absolute knowledge. Hermeneutics thus forces us back from Hegel to Kant. I don't know what this means precisely, but Liane, you might be interested in this section (527)).

In this light one can reread and soften Freud's critique of religion: analysis does shed light on the birth of idols, but it has no way of deciding whether idolatry/illusion is all that faith is (533). "Analysis can reveal to religious man his caricature, but it leaves him the task of meditating on the possibility of not resembling his distorted double" (533). All of Freud's figures can be read in two lights: is the founding act of the social the fraternal conciliation or the perpetual repetition of parricide (535)? Is the father figure himself only important insofar as he returns as repressed or can we see him in his creative function, as a name-giver (542)? Is religion just a product of fear or of consolation as well (548)? Is reality (in Freud's sense, not just an observable field but the world of men and thing as they appear as objects of desire) something that one has to resign oneself to (i.e., give up one's pleasure for), or is it also something one can wholly love (550)?

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Concept of the Political

Carl Schmitt, 1932
Translation George Schwab. The University of Chicago Press, Expanded Edition.

Main Thesis: “The concept of the state presupposes the category of the political” (19). “The specific political distinction to which political actions and motives can be reduced is that between friend and enemy” (26). OR: The political is defined by the friend-enemy distinction, which is neither metaphorical nor allegorical, but, rather, a fundamental antithesis, like that of good and evil, that invariably divides concrete people in two by creating the possibility of war. Though the political distinction doesn’t invariably lead to war, the enemy is the Other who always presents the possibility of conflict. The state is the political entity, which is to say, the state is the sovereign entity that has the power to declare an enemy. The friend-enemy distinction can never be escaped and constitutes the political as such.

Schmitt begins by interrogating traditional definitions of the state, which usually make reference to a geographically isolated group of people. The footnote suggests - and this seems logical - that Schmitt has in mind here the relatively modern nation states, and not the Greek polis or the feudal states. The political, he claims, is a word we tend not to define clearly in itself. Typically, we use it for polemical purposes, as part of some sort of binary (the political and economy, the political and morality, etc). While such usage may clarify the matter at hand, it does little to explain what the political is in and of itself. Indeed, if we do push a little farther in that direction, the closest we come is to the idea that the political is something that pertains to the state, why the state is something political. Needless to say, Schmitt finds this a useless tautology. (Is a ‘useless tautology’ a tautology?) Similarly, most juridic literature eschews defining the political, conceiving it as an adjective that functions within the stable framework of a state.

The instant that the state and society begin to commingle, so that previously neutral regions of culture, such as religion, become affairs of the state, and the affairs of the state become integrated into culture, the naive equation of politics to the state becomes hopelessly useless and deceptive. Schmitt is thinking particularly here of the ‘total ‘(i.e. Totalitarian) state (22).

Here Schmitt in the Expanded Edition inserts a helpful note. His analysis, it turns out, takes as its backdrop a progression from the absolute state of the 18th century, to the noninterventionist (bourgeois) state of the 19th, to the total state of the 20th. Political theory for him in the 19th century is a gradual process of collapsing the state into culture, which had originally been held distinct. This book, I think, ought to be read as Schmitt’s polemic against the classical liberalism of the preceding era, specifically with its privileging of the bourgeois/private sphere. The desire to be a ‘private citizen,’ to shield oneself from political decisions and the reality that the political consists necessarily of the friend-enemy distinction, which is to say, the possibility of war against a concrete set of individuals, is for him deplorable naivete.

At its base, the political depends on the friend-enemy distinction. As it can’t be reduced any further or traced back to other distinctions, it holds the same status as other couple, such as good-evil, beautiful-ugly. That is to say, the enemy doesn’t need to be defined in any of these other categories as ugly or evil or so on, though he frequently is, of course. The category of the enemy is autonomous. He has his own ontological status. He is, “the other, the stranger; and it is sufficient for his nature that he is, in a specially intense way, existentially something different and alien, so that in the extreme case conflicts with him are possible” (27).

The possibility or necessity of conflict with an enemy can never be decided by a neutral, third-party observer, or by some external norm. Only the participants can decide if the enemy intends to negate his way of life and, whether or not, as a consequence, the enemy must be attacked.

Schmitt goes on to stress the concrete, existential meaning of the friend-enemy distinction. It is not an allegory or a metaphor, he’s disinterested in moral or normative evaluations of the concept, and refuses to engage with the utopian hope that such a distinction might disappear. He’s interested in the pragmatic, and this pragmatic truth is that the enemy is only ever public. The enemy is hostis, not inimicus. (I have a sense that this is an important distinction when reading Schmitt scholarship). Thus, in Latin, “love your enemy” is “diligite inimicos vestros,” not “diligite hostes vestos” (29). Loving your enemies only makes sense in a private sphere, when talking about a relatively circumscribed notion of the enemy. The Bible, Schmitt claims, never suggested that we should love our political enemies.

“The political is the most intense and extreme antagonism, and every concrete antagonism becomes that much more political the closer it approaches the most extreme point, that of the friend-enemy grouping” (29). The state, then, is the entity that decides on the friend-enemy distinction. Party politics are political insofar as they weaken the unity and identification with the state.

Inherent in the notion of the enemy is the possibility of combat. “War follows from enmity. War is the existential negation of the enemy” (33). That is not to say, Schmitt argues, that the political can be reduced to war, or the existence of an enemy demands his annihilation. No particular policy necessarily follows from the friend-enemy distinction; neither pacifism, nor imperialism, nor militarism. War is not “the continuation of politics by other means,” but war does always presuppose that the decision has been made about who counts as the enemy.

Enemies don’t have to be eternal; alliances may shift, bringing together different combinations of tensions. A world without the possibility of war would be a world without the friend-enemy distinction and, hence, a world without the political. That’s not to say that there might not be other tensions, but only the friend-enemy antithesis has the meaning and power that requires men to kill and be killed.

Other antitheses - religious, moral, economic, ethical, and so on - may become political if it’s a sufficiently strong distinction that allows the grouping of humans according to the friend-enemy distinction. Thus, religious persecution is no longer simply religious; it’s political. All other antitheses are always subordinate to the friend-enemy distinction of politics. The political distinction, by its nature, is always the most extreme distinction. If a political entity exists at all, it is always the “decisive entity.” It is “sovereign in the sense that the decision about the critical situation, even if it is the exception, must always necessarily reside there” (38).

Schmitt concedes that the theory of the omnipotence of the state is transparently a secularization of theological concepts about the sovereignty of God, but goes on to argue that none of that matters - genealogy, in effect, has no use for critique. The question is always this: is there a group capable of deciding who is the enemy and, by extension, if we are to go to war with him? If so, that is the political entity, and all other distinctions are subordinate to it. Pluralism or federalism, in effect, is a way of eliding the reality of the sovereignty of the political entity. This political entity is, typically, the state. The state, then, is the one with the power to declare war.

Moreover, the state has the capability to declare an internal enemy, and every state, in addition to naming an external enemy must declare an internal enemy during times of crisis in order to survive. Think of this as the capacity of the state to charge someone with treason or, in cases of civil war, to combat internal dissidents. Families can also declare enemies, but in a narrower sense, not that of hostis. Such internal feuds, though, like that of warring clans, must be subordinate to the political conflict in times of war.

War can only ever be justified by the claim that it is being fought against an enemy. As Schmitt argues, “To demand seriously of human beings that they kill others and be prepared to die themselves so that trade and industry may flourish for the survivors or that the purchasing power of grandchildren may grow is sinister and crazy. It is manifest fraud to condemn war as homicide and then demand of men that they wage war, kill and be killed, so there will never again be war. War, the readiness of combatants to die, the physical killing of human beings who belong on the side of the enemy - all this has no normative meaning, but an existential meaning only, particularly in a real combat situation with a real enemy” (49).

Any treaty that claims to make war illegal always implicitly contains exceptions regarding the eventuality of being attacked. These exceptions are what give the treaty meaning. It’s impossible for private citizens to ever disown the state’s declaration of the friend-enemy distinction. To claim that one has no enemies does not dissolve the distinction; rather, it simply places the private citizen outside of the state, as an enemy.

It would be “ludicrous,” Schmitt thinks, to believe that a defenseless people somehow has only friends. If a people lacks the strength or will to defend itself, it cannot count on its enemies disappearing or somehow being touched. Nor can a people hope to bring about a utopia by evading the political decision. Politics will never vanish; “only a weak people will disappear” (53). (A disturbing paragraph).

The political entity always presupposes other political entities. Humanity can’t have a political enemy, because it includes the totality of all men. To declare a group an “enemy of humanity,” then, is a rhetorical move, designed to declare the enemy a universal outlaw and to deprive him the possibility of being a human.

Schmitt is also skeptical of the League of Nations, thinking that it, in practice, simply transfer the right to declare war from a state to an alliance. He also argues that all political theory presupposes an anthropology that designates man as evil and dangerous. Because the political always starts form the possibility of the enemy - i.e., the possibility of war with a dangerous Other - it would be nonsensical to believe that any theory of the political could start from an anthropological optimism. In this, Schmitt sees a connection to theology. A man, he thinks, ceases to be a theologian the instant he stops thinking of man in need of redemption.

Concepts such as justice and freedom, Schmitt argues, are mainly forms of propaganda, used to legitimate one’s position vis a vis the enemy. The canny observer of politics will, however, always be able to recognize the true friend-enemy distinction beneath any such rhetoric, and, in turn, realize that when combatants reproach him for cynicism for saying as much, that those combatants are merely employing their rhetoric and reproaches as one of the tools of the political.

The end of a people is always presaged by the unwillingness or inability to recognize the enemy. Thus, the aristocrats in the French revolution, right up until the end, propounded a sentimental view of the peasant as “by nature good.”

Schmitt basically ends with a critique of liberalism - which wants to depoliticize the political - by reemphasizing his major point: “State and politics cannot be exterminated” (78). He claims to be living in a time when liberal rhetoric, that terms the enemy a “disturber of the peace,” has come to dominate. We no longer want to name the enemy as such. Nonetheless, as always, groupings - economic and otherwise - continually emerge that have the possibility of becoming friend-enemy groupings. There will always be an enemy and nothing can escape the logic of the political.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, Part 2 (90-230)

A. Consciousness

1. Sense-Certainty: or the "This" and "Meaning" (Meinen)

We begin with sense-certainty, which "immediately appears as the richest kind of knowledge" (91). Hegel began with sense-certainty partly to counter philosophers of intuition: immediacy is not where we end but where we begin. Sense-certainty knows "This," "Here," "Now," but soon becomes aware of the fact that what it takes to be real (a Now, for instance) is fleeting (into the past). Similarly, any "This" is not known only according to the "This" but also according to a "That." The only common element here is the I that perceives them

2. Perception (wahrnehmen = to take as true): or the Thing and Deception

First, a simple definition of aufheben: "Supersession exhibits its true twofold meaning which we have seen in the negative: it is at once a negating and a preserving" (113).

To continue: what does the I perceive? Attributes: the Thing is x, y, z, etc. But how is it that one thing is made from this possibly infinite list of attributes? Or in Hegel's language, how is it that this singular "One" is in fact a "One" based on the infinity of "Also's" through which it is known? Answer: the thing is one in itself, and many for another. Seeing these two aspects "being-for-self" and "being-for-another" in a single unity allows for "unconditioned absolute universality" (129). Unconditioned/concrete here does not mean simply "free from conditions" but rather that the universality is relational.

3. Force and the Understanding: Appearance and the Supersensible World

The "Force" section is what I took to be Hegel's way of dealing with physics. He defines Force as the movement wherein "the 'matters' posited as independent directly pass over into their unity, and their unity directly unfolds its diversity, and this once again reduces itself to unity" (136). Force in the singular is thus always a plural "play of Forces," similar to the way the Thing is always known by a plurality of attributes. The notion of Force disrupts the unconditioned universal by again introducing a plurality. But this plurality of Forces (gravity, electricity, etc.) qua plurality is really only appearance; we know that they in fact operate by a supersensible Law. Thus what Force really is (and thus what the Thing is too) is Law. Law shows the essence (gewesen, that which has become) of appearance. The Law is consciousness' mirror: in the law, consciousness becomes self-consciousness. I'm thinking of Kant's self-legislating law.

B. Self-consciousness

4. The Truth of Self-Certainty

First, a simple definition of Notion: "If we give the name of Notion to the movement of knowing, and the name object to knowing as a passive unity, or as the 'I', then we see that not only for us, but for knowing itself, the object corresponds to the Notion" (166).

To continue: with self-consciousness, desire emerges: desire is born from the doubling of the object for consciousness: "one is the immediate object, that of sense-certainty and perception, which however for self-consciousness has the character of a negative; and the second, viz. itself, which is the true essence, and is present in the first instance only as opposed to the first object" (167). It is in this gap that the striving-toward-unity that desire is emerges. In fact, "self-consciousness is Desire" (174): it now seeks only to completely destroy the independent object "and thereby give itself the certainty of itself as a true certainty" (174). But this certainty is fleeting; when the object is destroyed, so too is the ground of self-consciousness' true certainty. Self-consciousness then realizes that it "achieves its satisfaction only in another self-consciousness" (175); it is only as reflected in another that self-consciousness can truly gain the recognition that affirms itself. It is at this moment that intersubjectivity is born: "I that is We and We that is I" (177).

A. Independence and Dependence of Self-consciousness: Lordship and Bondage

"Self-consciousness exists in and for itself when, and by the fact that, it so exists for another; that is, it exists only in being acknowledged" (178). But immediately this recognition is only deemed real when carried to the extreme, when life itself is on the line; one self-consciousness has to prove to another that it is willing to risk death for recognition. But in that battle, the death of the other is no good, for then one eliminates the ground of recognition: the other must be preserved as bondsman. At first, the lord is "the pure, essential action in this relationship, while the action of the bondsman is impure and unessential" (191). But the lord soon realizes that he is at an impasse, for he is dependent on what he considers a lesser being for recognition; it is never enough. The bondsman, on the other hand, through his fear of the lord and with his work realizes he is in fact independent, that he possesses no dependence on another and the ability to transform the objects of his labor into his own self-image.

Freedom of Self-consciousness:

B. Stoicism, Scepticism, and the Unhappy consciousness

The bondsman, while still in bondage, retreats into the freedom of thought: "its principle is that consciousness is a being that thinks, and that consciousness holds something to be essentially important, or true and good only in so far as it thinks it to be such" (197). But the Stoic's freedom is too abstract; in reality, stoicism leads to scepticism, to the recognition that all is an endless flux of experience. "Consciousness is itself the absolute dialectical unrest, this medley of sensuous and intellectual representations whose differences coincide, and whose identity is equally again dissolved" (205).

Scepticism then devolves into Unhappy consciousness, which posits the Unchangeable in distinction from the changeable I and laments the gap. "But what it does not know is that its object, the Unchangeable, which it knows essentially in the form of individuality, is its own self, is itself the individuality of consciousness" (216). Then some stuff about the "grave of life" (217) and the "return of the feeling heart into itself" (218). And then self-surrender to the Unchangeable (222), where work and enjoyment lose all significance (225). And then Reason. Breaking down to build back up again.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Hegel, Phenomenology of Spirit, Part 1

Preface: On Scientific Cognition (numbers are paragraphs)

Hegel begins with a few notes about the superfluity of a philosophical preface, how "contextualizing" one's argument only "drags in an extraneous concern" (2). Such prefaces set the work up to either be affirmed or rejected; Hegel, by contrast, wants to "comprehend the diversity of philosophical systems as the progressive unfolding of truth" (2).

His task in the Phenomenology is to "help bring philosophy closer to the form of Science, to the goal where it can lay aside the title 'love of knowing' and be actual knowing" (5). We need his Science of mediation to counteract the spiritual loss brought up by philosophies of immediacy, intuition and mysticism. We must "tear men away from their preoccupation with the sensuous, from their ordinary, private affairs, and direct their gaze to the star" (7).

This Science, "the crown of a world of Spirit" (12), is only in its beginnings. At present, it is pervaded by a rigid formalism where "in the Absolute everything is the same," the "Absolute as the night in which, as the saying goes, all cows are black" (16 - a stab at Schelling).

To get beyond Schelling's formal Absolute, "everything turns on grasping and expressing the True, not only as Substance [which Spinoza did], but equally as Subject" (17). "The Substance is, as Subject, pure, simple negativity" (18). In other words, Substance is a moment in the movement of Subject, and "the True is the whole" (20), or the incessant Substance/Subject movement. Some reject this view with horror, claiming that that which is mediated is false; but, Hegel claims, so long as we understand the work of Reason as mediating with "purposive activity" (22), it is not nightmarish at all. One must grasp the work of the negative from the point of view of system or Science (24); "the True is actual only as system" and it "is expressed in the representation of the Absolute as Spirit - the most sublime Notion and the one which belongs to the modern age and its religion" (25).

Spirit has to be worked for: "least of all will it be like the rapturous enthusiasm which, like a shot from a pistol, begins straight away with absolute knowledge" (27). This work is accomplished by the "tremendous power of the negative; it is the energy of thought, of the pure 'I'" (32). "Spirit is this power only by looking the negative in the face, and tarrying with it. This tarrying with the negative is the magical power that converts it into being" (32). In turn, in order for the negative, the I, to attain to Spirit, the I must give "up the fixity of its self-positing" (33) and see itself in an "organic whole" (34).

In 39-47, Hegel examines various conceptions of truth: "truth is not a minted coin that can be given and pocketed ready-made" (39). For dogmatism, the True "consists in a proposition which is a fixed result, or which is immediately known" (40). There are also historical truths and mathematical truths, neither of which is internal "to the thing" (43); "Philosophy, on the other hand, has to do, not with unessential determinations, but with a determination in so far as it is essential; its element and content is not the abstract or nonactual, but the actual, that which posits itself and it alive within itself - existence within its own Notion" (47). "The True is thus the Bacchanalian revel in which no member is not drunk; yet because each member collapses as soon as he drops out, the revel is just as much transparent and simple repose" (47). Hegel claims later, at the end of the preface, "we must hold to the conviction that it is the nature of truth to prevail when its time has come" (71).


Through what instrument are we to "get hold of the Absolute"? (73) The usual notion of an instrument carries the presupposition that "the Absolute is supposed merely to be brought nearer to us through this instrument, without anything in it being altered" (73). This obviously is no good for Hegel.

The road that he will take is a "pathway of doubt, or more precisely,...the way of despair" (78). "This path is the conscious insight into the untruth of phenomenal knowledge, for which the supreme reality is what is in truth only the unrealized Notion" (78). Along this path, consciousness is educated (impt. of "Bildungsroman") and progress is "unhalting" (80); consciousness, when on this path, is essentially "something that goes beyond itself" (80).

Hegel ends the Introduction with a brief explanation of the logic of in-and-for-itself: "being-in-itself," he tells us, "is called truth" (82). Yet this in-itself of the thing only exists for us, and we come to think, like Kant, that "consciousness cannot, as it were get behind the object as it exists for consciousness so as to examine what the object is in itself" (85). "So consciousness now has two objects: one is the first in-itself, the second is the being-for-consciousness of this in-itself" (86). The True here ends up being the relation between the two, "the being-for-consciousness of this in-itself" (86), or perhaps, the co-emergence of appearance and essence.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

How to begin to Study the Guide of the Perplexed - Leo Strauss

Leo Strauss begins his discussion of the Guide by giving an outline of its contents. This outline is very useful as the principles governing the structure of the Guide is difficult to ascertain.

Strauss asserts early on that the first premise of the Guide is that being a Jew and being a philosopher are two incompatible things, which he claims is an old Jewish adage, where this adage appears, however, is far from clear.

Strauss explains that the purpose of the Guide is to explain the true science of the law, in particular to give the proper explanations of the Account of the Beginning and the Account of the Chariot. However, he notes that to give such explanations publically violates the Law. Therefore, he believes that Maimonides took pains to write esoterically.

However, Strauss stresses not all of the Guide is devoted to secret, non-public teachings. In fact, the teachings of the Guide are partly public and partly private. In any event, Strauss stresses that what Maimonides could mean by identifying the Account of the Beginning with physics and the Account of the Chariot with metaphysics is the secret par excellence of the Guide.

Strauss then, without addressing that secret, moves to a consideration of who the intended audience of the Guide could be. He concludes that "the addressee of the Guide is a man regarding whom it is still undecided whether he will be a genuine man of speculation or whether he will remain a follower of authority, if of Maimonides' authority. He stands at the point of the road where speculation branches off from acceptance of authority." The point on which this decision stands is, according to Strauss, the study of Natural Science because natural science upsets habit and traditional authority.

Strauss describes how in the Guide the exegesis of Biblical text stands in the place of the knowledge of the natural sciences that the addressee lacks. It provides the foundation from which to ascend to a consideration of the divine sciences, with the advantage, however, of not upsetting habit and tradition. It establishes what could be established through natural science, that God exists and that he is one. However, it seems to conflict with what is taught in natural sciences when it seems to attribute to God corporeality. Thus, Maimonides must show that, in fact, it does not indicate God's corporeality.

Strauss then discusses how Maimonides begins with incorporeality because he wants to rule out worship of other Gods. However, he maintains that Maimonides designs the Guide in order to obscure the different cognitive status between belief in God's unity and incorporeality on the one hand and belied in purposive creation on the other. The former is demonstrable, the later must be taken on authority. However, only the later can really forbid worship of other entities besides God.

Strauss also discusses how Maimonides introduces Reason in the guise of authority by interpreting the corporeal statements about God in the Bible metaphorically. Maimonides know that this must be so based on reason, but his typical addressee only accepts this based on authority.

In addition to the intended addressee of the Guide, there is also an atypical addressee. This addressee knows the philosophic issues involved in demonstrating God's incorporeality. He will also look more critically at Maimonides's interpretation of Biblical passages as well as notice contradictions in the Guide. Strauss then makes all sort of hints as to what to look for in Maimonides discussions of Biblical terms.

Strauss now begins to discuss particular subsections of the Guide:

First Subsection: Strauss claims that it is devoted to explanation of the two most important passages in the Bible that seem to imply incorporeality. While Strauss does this however he throws out tantalizing claims about how a corporeal view of God is connected to seeing God as Will instead of Intellect; additionally, that embedded in Maimonides exegesis is of the Bible are indications that he believes that Bible is implicated in Sabianism (idolatrous beliefs).

Second Subsection: Strauss believes that this subsection is riven with tensions between Maimonides interpretations so as to remove changability from God and his claims that God does act providentially for Israel's sake. Strauss then embarks on all sorts of textual and numerological speculations.
Strauss also claims that in the second sub-section Maimonides draws us to the differences between Biblical and post-Biblical teaching. Additionally, according to Strauss, Maimonides is indicating that Isaiah reached a higher intellectual level of knowledge of God than Maimonides. Progress is possible beyond Moses' prophecy, according to Strauss, because Moses' achievement reflects the limitations of Law as opposed to philosophical speculation. It is also possible to progress beyond Moses because Moses' teachings was given during the period of Sabianism. Consequently, it contains a political response to the need to eradicate Sabian worship, even while making allowances for Israel's inner Sabianism.

Maimonides also discusses the problems with Maimonides' claims that Moses' prophecy was entirely intellectual, that it was devoid of any hint of the imagination. The most important problem with this is that there are parables in the Torah, which are supposedly the result of the imagination. Metaphorical interpretation, then, presumes imagination. The absence of imagination entails literalism, which Maimonides obviously does not espouse.

Strauss then hints that all of these issues are wrapped up in the proper relationship between the Account of the Creation on the one hand, which is Mosaic, and the Account of the Chariot on the other, which is from Isaiah. Involved also in this relationship is the issue for free purposive creation and all that that entails.

This consideration also allows for the possibility of post-Biblical progression, through the Talmud to Maimonides himself. Through this progress there is a diminution of corporealism and an increase in asceticism. This progress is possible because of the spread of Monotheism in Christianity and Islam and of philosophy from Greece and Rome. However, the threat of internal Sabianism remains and Maimonides attempts to vanquish it through the Guide. He does this through allegorical interpretation and by subtly indicating the progress that occurs throughout the Bible.

After all of this Strauss returns to discuss the different divisions in the second sub-section.

He now turns to the third subsection. It deals with a number of issues. Chief among them is the relationship of forbidden knowledge to forbidden worship. Maimonides stresses the danger of overstepping the limitations of proper knowledge.

The fourth subsection: this serves as a transition from a consideration of God's incorporeality to his unity, which had been presupposed.

Fifth subsection: the first purely speculative or philosophic subsection. This subsection also assumes that God is one, however, based off of this assumption it draws many implications, including eliminating the predication of attributes to him. Strauss believes that Maimonides is trying to secretly indicate how radically different the philosophic notion of God's oneness is from the Biblical idea that God is One. It is only the idea of God as perfect, according to Strauss, that saves Maimonides from being entirely subversive. Many would think that this is Strauss being Straussian.

Sixth subsection: Maimonides discusses the divine names, which moves him into speculation again, or philosophy proper in the seventh subsection. According to Strauss, this subsection is meant to finish the task of this entire first part which is to move the reader from the creaky and insecure foundations of authority to a search for demonstrative knowledge, which will be the theme of the second part of the guide. This transition is indicated by Maimonides' movement from consideration of the views of the Islamic Kalam thinkers to those of Aristotle, from those that deny natural science to those that begin with natural science.

In the second part the ambiguity which will dominant Maimonides writings are whether God's will can be said to be identical with his intellect or whether will and intellect are exclusive possibilities. This issue will come to a head over the issue of the creation or eternality of the world. However, Maimonides does not explicitly decide between them, rather he vacillates between the two possibilities throughout. The biggest problem though is that the eternality of the world entails the rejection of the law. This motivates Maimonides to argue that Aristotle's view has not been demonstrated and is not even probable. Maimonides is less clear, however, about the acceptability and implications of Plato's view.

Strauss then discusses that Maimonides seem at the end to reduce all knowledge to that of natural science, foreclosing the possibility of the knowledge that we wanted most. Finally, Strauss himself closes with enigmatic phrases about perplexities and how they freeing.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Guide of the Perplexed - Maimonides (Rabbi Moses the son of Maimon)

Mention should be made at the outset that many have claimed that the Biblical 'quotes' at the heading of each part have much significance. I am going to try to keep this summary as pure exposition, so I will not discuss them. Additionally, as you might expect this text has been the subject of much commentary, like many of the texts, but more so because of its explicitly esoteric character. I am not going to go into all of that, I will try summarize the text as straightforwardly as possible and leave the rest to Strauss.

Epistle Dedicatory
The Guide is structured as a letter from Maimonides to one of his students who learnt with him in the past but is currently not with him. Maimonides recaps how the student came to him with some intellectual skills and a desire to engage with speculative issues. The student succeeded in his preliminary studies with Maimonides, so Maimonides began to offer him hints and indications of divine matters. The student was in a state of perplexity and Maimonides cautioned him to approach philosophical issues in an orderly manner. The student had to leave Maimonides before his education was complete so Maimonides has composed this Treatise for him to further his studies
Most commentators assume that there is no particular student that the Guide was composed for, or if there was then it was not composed only for him. Many claim that that the description of the student is meant to indicate who the direct message of the Guide is addressed to, thus allowing other readers to unlock the indirect messages that are hidden away. (Key conspiracy music)

Introduction to the First Part
Maimonides claims that the first purpose of the Guide is to explain ambiguous words and expressions in the Bible, identifying which terms should be understood equivocally, which ones derivatively, and which ones are amphibolous. He describes this task as the true Science of Law as distinguished from the Halakhic, or legalistic, study of the law. Moreover, the purpose of the treatise is to help the perplexed individual, one who believes in the Law or Torah and has also studied philosophy. This individual may be divided between his allegiance to what he believes scripture demands and what he thinks philosophy teaches. Maimonides wants to guide this perplexed individual and show him how to reconcile the two, thus allowing him to accept what he believes to be true and retain his commitment to religion.

The second purpose of the work is to explain difficult parables in the Bible. Particularly, this will focus on the Account of the Creation and the Account of the Chariot. The first thing to realize is that these are parables. Maimonides then shows how they fit with Neoplatonic/Aristotelian physics and metaphysics, respectively.

Maimonides stresses the delicacy with which these subjects must be taught. That is why they were indicated by parables in the Bible. Additionally, he maintains that no one knows all the great secretes that lie behind the major parables in the Bible. He illustrates this with a parable of his own about the different levels of people and the extent of the light which they are able to see. Moreover, he argues that even for one who understands it is difficult to put down what he comprehends into writing.

Maimonides proceeds to discuss the nature of metaphors more broadly. One should note that he is inconsistent in his valuation of the external meanings of metaphors, sometimes he says that they too have value, while at other times he seems to claim that they are valueless.

Also, parables found throughout Scripture are not all the same, sometimes each word is important, other times only some words are important and the others are just props.

Instruction with Respect to this Treatise
Maimonides stresses the very careful reading that is necessary in order to unlock the meaning of his text. Additionally, he exhorts his reader not to explain to anyone else what he had understood from the Guide, especially in the cases in which Maimonides differs from those Rabbis that preceded him. Maimonides explains that different readers will get different things from the Guide. He also stresses that he would not have set down his ideas in writing if not for the crisis that the Jews find themselves in at this time. One should not that this is a trope in Rabbinic writings, starting with the composition/anthologization of the Mishna (ca. 200 CE). There is a principle that the Oral Law, the Law not part of the written Torah, should remain Oral. However, everyone breaks this principle, but always notes that they are breaking the principle because of the needs of the time.

Maimonides begins, again, by describing seven different causes that can account for contradictions in texts.
1) Because different opinions of different scholars are being cited
2) The author has rejected an opinion that he held earlier
3) Some non-literal interpretation is needed
4) One or both of the statements has been accepted only provisionally
5) Necessity of teaching
6) Errors by the author who did not realize that there was a concealed contradiction in two statements
7) Necessary concealment

Maimonides then describes which types of works include which causes of contradiction. He also claims that his work contains contradictions caused by the fifth and seventh reasons. (Key conspiracy music again)

Chapter 1
Maimonides begins his lexical task of explaining difficult words in scripture. It will become apparent that these are not arbitrary words. They are words which are used in the Bible to describe God as well as man's relationship to Him. Indeed, the first chapter explain the terms image and likeness, both used in the Bible to say that man is created in the image of God. In effect, Maimonides explains that they do not connate actual corporeal similarity. But rather, the fact that man has intellectual apprehension. Later Maimonides will, following Aristotle, equate God with thought thinking itself, thus drawing out the connection between Man and God. Despite say that God is though thinking itself, Maimonides will undercut this in many many other chapters in which he says that we cannot know what God is.

Chapter 2
Maimonides embarks on a seeming tangent in order to explain the Adam and Eve story. The reason why it is not a tangent is that in it he is responding to those who would claim that man only received the intellect because of his sin. The tree is, after all, the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil. Maimonides obviously rejects this as he believes that man's intellectual nature was there from the start when God created him in His image. This much is clear, what Maimonides believes the tree did give Adam and Eve is up for debate, opinions ranging from morality to aesthetic preference.

Chapter 3
Maimonides explains the meaning of the terms figure and shape. Shape means corporeality and therefore is never used to describe God. Figure on the other hand can mean a number of things from actual figure to the true notion of a think grasped by the intellect. It is this term that is used in reference to God.

Chapter 4
Maimonides now discusses various terms relating to seeing. This is closely connected to the prior chapter because it ended with a quote about Moses 'seeing' God. But what could that mean, if God does not have a physical form? According to Maimonides, all these terms can be read non-literally to mean intellectual apprehension.

Chapter 5
This chapter is a bit of a reintroduction, but using some of the grammatical work that has been done in the past four chapters. Maimonides holds up the of figures of Aristotle and Moses as the proper models for how one should go about inquiry. Both of them, according to him, proceeded cautiously not trying to overstep what they could properly apprehend. Maimonides refers back to a verse in the Bible were Moses holds back from 'seeing' God. Because Moses refrained from 'seeing' God he was later rewarded with knowledge of God. This is contrasted with the behavior of the nobles of the people who looked at God directly; because they overstepped, their knowledge of God was corrupted and they conceived of him as corporeal.

Chapter 26
In this chapter Maimonides presents his overarching hermeneutical principle - that the Torah speaks in the language of men. This means, according to him, that the Bible speaks to the level of understanding of the general populace. In particular, the Bible says many things about God that are not necessarily true, but are said so that the general populace should understand what is necessary for them to understand. Specifically, first they must be taught that God exists. This done through language that seems to imply corporeality, because the masses cannot understand non-corporeal existence. In truth, Maimonides claims God is incorporeal and that all the verses that seem to ascribe a body or movement to Him should be interpreted metaphorically.

Chapter 31
Maimonides reflects on human knowledge. He argues that there are some things that everyone can know, some things that no can know and different levels of intellectual apprehension among different people. There also things which man very much would like to know, but cannot know with certainty.
Maimonides then quotes Alexander on the causes of disagreement, including love of domination and strife, difficulty of certain subjects, and ignorance of the individual. He then adds to those the baleful effects of habit and upbringing.

Chapter 32
Maimonides cautions against trying to attain certain demonstration in areas of knowledge that do not allow it. However, he argues that in those domains in which knowledge is possible one must seek it. This is an important point, because as we will see, Maimonides believes that that which can be demonstrated must be accepted and Scripture must be understood to conform with it. That which is not demonstrated does not demand assent and the plain meaning of scripture can be upheld.

Chapter 33
Maimonides explains the dangers involved in the study of the divine science. He links this to the reason that the Torah is written in the language of man. It allows for the non-elite to read it and receive benefit without being exposed to danger. It also, however, has a metaphorical content that can be accessed by the elite.

Chapter 34
Maimonides now discusses the causes that prevent individuals from learning the divine science
1) Difficulty of the subject matter
2) Insufficiency of the minds of all men when they are young
3) Length of the course in order to get to divine science, one must go through the physical sciences in order to learn what God is not
4) Natural aptitudes
5) Men are occupied with necessities of physical existence

Chapter 35
After having indicated what comprises the divine science and how difficult it is, Maimonides returns to re-stress what is necessary for everyone to know, whether they can understand it or whether they accept it on authority. Everyone must know God's incorporeality and God's incommensurability. Other areas, such as God attributes, creation, governance, providence, and prophecy are matters that are reserved for the elite in the divine science.

Chapter 36
In this chapter Maimonides discusses idolatry, which is called false worship in Rabbinic Hebrew. Maimonides entirely re-centers this idea on belief as opposed to action. Maimonides believes that all idolatry is worship of intermediaries that stand between man and God. What is problematic in this case is merely that the idolater gives an intermediary the prerogative that is reserved for God - worship. How much worse, Maimonides claims, is one who believes God to be different than He actually is. According to Maimonides, foreign belief, theological error, is worse than foreign worship. The prime example of theological error for Maimonides is belief in God's corporeality and this is why even the masses must be instructed with authority against it.

Chapter 37
Maimonides explains the various meaning of the word face. This word is important because Moses is described as having spoken to God face to face. In that context, according to Maimonides, face means presence and in the verse means that God spoke to Moses without intermediary. This term will be important later when Maimonides explains Moses' request to see God's face.

Chapter 38
This chapter also discusses a term that will be important in that later explanation. When Moses requests to see God's face, he is denied and shown His back instead. But what does that mean if God is incorporeal? Back can mean actual back, after, or following an example. In the context of Moses seeing God's back it means that which follows from God's will or the natural world, physics.

Chapter 50
In this chapter Maimonides begins his discussion of God's attributes, or lack thereof. He starts by discussing what true knowledge is, as opposed to mere utterance with the mouth. In effect, true knowledge is realizing all the implications of what one is saying. Consequently, Maimonides argues that in order to truly understand that God is incorporeal and is one, or lacks all composition, one must realize that God does not possess any essential attributes at all.

Chapter 51
In this chapter Maimonides sets up his discussion of attributes that will continue in the forthcoming chapters. He argues that there are two general division of attributes,: essential attributes, which are either tautologies or explanation, and superadded, or accidental, attributes.

Chapter 52
Maimonides expands on the two major divisions of attributes and shows why most of them cannot be applied to God and that those that due must be qualified. He identifies five categories of attributes and describes how appropriate they are in reference to God.
Essential Attributes are definitions. For example, man is a rational animal. According to Maimonides, these attributes cannot be predicated of God because there is nothing existent before God that he should be composed of a union of them.
Partial Essential Attributes are objectionable for the same reason as the first group, but additionally they point out that any articulated statement about God imputes composition in Him.
Accidental or Qualitative Attributes: these cannot be predicated of God because they too would imply composition in him. Maimonides claims that later he will demonstrate why God cannot be composite. This assumption is the background of this whole discussion.
Relational Attributes are more tricky than the previous attributes. They are not problematic because they imply multiplicity or change in the essence of the subject. At first Maimonides considers admitting them. However, he then argues that relationship is premised on some sort of equivalency between two subjects. But that is impossible between God and anything that exists in the world. Just as it is not possible to establish the equivalence between two created things like intellect and color, how much the more so is it impossible to establish an equivalence between a being that has necessary existence and those that have only possible existence. In the end though, Maimonides says that we can be lenient in regard to relationship, tolerating its predication of God despite the fact that it is not entirely correct.
Attributes of Action are attributes that one ascribes to God as result of his actions. These are acceptable as long as one is clear that these attributes are predicated solely because of the actions that God has performed and not because there actual exists in his essence multiplicity.

Chapter 53
Maimonides claims that those that came to believe that God possesses attributes were led to this conclusion for the same reason that those who believe that he is corporeal were, they followed the literal sense of scripture. In fact, in this case to Scripture was merely speaking in the language of man. It meant to assert perfections of God based on his actions, not to actually claim that God has attributes. Indeed, all of God's diverse actions proceed from one unified essence.

Chapter 54
Maimonides connects his foregoing account of God's attributes to the Biblical story of Moses' request to see God's face. This request is denied, but Moses is allowed to see God's back. What could this mean? According to Maimonides, Moses request to see God's face meant to understand God's essence. God denies this request because know one can know his essence. However, he allows Moses to know God's back or actions. That is why following his request God makes his thirteen attributes of mercy known to Moses. Maimonides stresses that it is not that God actually acts out of having these passions, rather it is just what we would label the motive for the actions if a man performed them. Additionally, Maimonides stresses that God made him aware of those divine actions that show proper governance.

Chapter 55
Maimonides returns to discuss why certain predicates must of necessity be negated in reference to God. Corporeality must be negated because it implies composition. Affections must be negated because they imply change. Privations must be negated of him because that would require predicating potentiality to him, which is connected to composition or worse yet matter. Commensurability must also be denied of him. Maimonides stresses that one must know natural science in order to fully understand these concepts and realize why they cannot be predicated of God.

Chapter 56
In this chapter Maimonides returns to the theme that in order for their to be any relation between two things there must be some sort of likeness posited between them. Since God is like no other thing, there can be no relation between him and other things. Additionally, Maimonides argues that even if one wants to acknowledge, wrongly, that God has essential attributes one must understand that these attributes are in no way like the similarly named attributes that are predicated of created beings.

Chapter 57
Maimonides, believing existence to be a predicate, argues that while other existents have existence superadded to their essence when they happen to exist, God's existence, because it is necessary, is part of his essence. The same holds true, according to Maimonides, to such descriptions as oneness. He then explains the difficulty of using language to discuss these issues. Language according to him often leads to errors.

Chapter 58
Maimonides now moves into a direct discussion of using negative attributes in reference to God. According to him, negative descriptions are more appropriate for God than positive descriptions. This is because positive attributes do not particularize objects, do not show it as entirely unique, rather they actually equate the object with other objects. This is important because, as we discussed earlier, God is not like anything else. Additionally, as we discussed earlier, positive attributes are bad because they imply some form of multiplicity.
Negative attributes are better because they conduct the mind towards what should be believed about God as well the limit of what can be known about God. According to Maimonides, many of the predications in the Bible are actually negative attributes. When the Bible says that God is a living God, it really means that he is not dead.
Thus, according to Maimonides the only attributes that should be ascribed to God are attributes of action and negative attributes.
Indeed, it is seriously possible that Maimonides does not think that we can have any knowledge of God whatsoever and that 'knowledge' of God consists of knowing that we do not know. He writes, "Glory then to Him who is such that when the intellects contemplate His essence, their apprehension turns to incapacity; and when they contemplate the proceedings of His actions from His will, their knowledge turns into ignorance; and when tongues aspire to magnify Him by means of attributive qualifications, all eloquence turns into weariness and incapacity!"

Chapter 59
Maimonides makes this more clear in this chapter when he discusses how individuals can have greater and lesser knowledge of God if we can only make negative statements about him. In effect, Maimonides claims that the more we negate of God the superior our knowledge of him is. This is paradoxical because negations express the fact that God is not like something we know. Thus the more that we know that we don't know, the more we know.

Chapter 60
In this Chapter Maimonides recaps much of what he has said regarding negative and positive attributes. Praising negative attributes because they tell us the only knowledge of God that we can have - what he is not like, and disparaging positive attributes because they ascribe humanly perfections to a Divine being. Towards the end, Maimonides seems to imply that even negative attributes are not really correct. They too have a hint of multiplicity in them, the multiplicity that is inherent in any act of predication.

Part II
Introduction to the Second Part
Maimonides begins the second part of the Guide by listing twenty-five premises that he has culled from the work of Aristotle and his followers that enable him to demonstrate that 1) God exists 2) that He does not have a body and 3) that He is one. He maintains that each of these premises can be demonstrated. He also grants one more premise that he believes is questionable but that he will provisionally accept for purposes of proving God existence - the eternity of the world. Maimonides sees granting this premise as making his job more difficult. If the world is not eternal, then it would have had to be created. If it was created then there must be a God. However, he wishes to demonstrate God's existence even if one were to maintain that the world is eternal.
The twenty-five premises, briefly, are as follows:
1) The existence of an infinite magnitude is impossible
2) The co-existence of an infinite number of finite magnitudes are impossible
3) The existence of an infinitely long series of causes and effects is impossible
4) There are four types of change a) generation and corruption of a substance b) growth and decay c) alteration d) local motion
5) Every change involves a transition for potentiality to actuality
6) Motion can be divided into two general categories, which each can be divided, in turn, into two more. Essential motion can be natural or violent. Accidental motion can be proper or as a part.
7) Everything changeable is divisible
8) All accidental motion must eventually cease
9) Any body that moves another body must itself be in motion when moving the other body
10) Anything that is said to be in a body must either a) subsists due to the body, like an accident, or b) cause the body to subsist, like a substantial form.
11) Some of the things that subsists due to the body are divisible as the body is divisible. Some of the things the cause a body to subsist are not divisible in any way.
12) Anything that is distributed through a body is finite because the body itself is finite
13) All motion save one type is discontinuous. Local motion, in particular circular motion, can be continuous.
14) All other forms of motion is based off of local motion
15) Time and Motion are correlative terms
16) Multiplicity can only exists among a) bodies, b) forces in bodies, or 3) causes and effects
17) Any motion must have an agent that caused the movement, this agent can be internal or external to the object moved
18) Everything that transitions from potentiality to actuality must have something besides itself that caused it to do so
19) Everything that has a cause possesses only possible existence - existence is not part of its essence
20) Necessary existence implies being uncaused
21) Any composite being is caused and thus only possesses potential existence
22) Every body is caused and possess accidents. Caused by matter and form and accompanied by the accidents of quantity, shape, and position
23) Everything that has potentiality, whose existence is only possible existence, will at some point not exist
24) Anything that has only potential existence must be necessarily endowed with matter
25) Compound substance is composed of matter and form. There must be an agent that caused the matter to be enformed with the form

The 26th premises that, as mentioned above, Is only admitted provisionally is that time and movement are eternal. Maimonides claims that Aristotle did not believe this premise to be demonstrated but only probable.

Chapter 1
In this chapter Maimonides runs through four major arguments for the existence, incorporeality, and unity of God. He then offers three follow-up arguments refuting God's corporeality and proving his unity.

The first argument is the argument for a first cause from the fact of motion. Maimonides ascends a chain of causes until he reaches the movement of the eternally moving outermost sphere. And then asks what the mover of that might be. He rules out a number of possibilities, including another body, an internal distributed force, and a internal indivisible force. He concludes that the mover of the outermost, eternally moving sphere must be a force not bounded by the sphere. He then concludes that this must be God who is incorporeal and one.

The second argument starts from the fact that one sees many objects which are both movers and moved as well as some objects which are only moved. Maimonides concludes from this that there must be an object which is only a mover.

The third argument centers on necessary and possible existence. Maimonides starts from the fact that things exists. Now there are three possibilities according to him. No existents have only possible existence. All existents have only possible existence. Some existents have possible existence and others have necessary existence.. The first possibility is ruled out because we see that existents do pass away, so at least some existents have possible existence. The second possibility is, according to Maimonides, impossible. Why this is so is hard to discern. It seems that what he is arguing is that if every existent had only possible existence then there would be something like a summative possibility for the entire universe to not exist. Since this is a possibility, it must at some point be an actuality. Maimonides believes that it in order for a possibility to be a possibility, it must given an infinite amount of time occur. Given that the world is eternal and that an infinite amount of time has passed, this summative possibility should have occurred. Once it would have occurred there would be nothing, and nothing in existence to make anything existed again. But we see that the universe does, in fact, exist. Therefore, the second possibility is impossible . Therefore, there must be some existents that have possible existence and some that have necessary existence. He then proceeds to show that that which has necessary existence cannot change, can have no multiplicity, cannot be a body, and thus must be one.

The fourth argument centers on the notions of actuality and potentiality. According to Maimonides, anything that moves from potentiality to actuality must have something else which is actual cause it to make that move. Thus, he sets out a chain of agents moving other agents from potentiality to actuality. At the end of this chain, since it cannot be infinite, lies a being that is always actual. Something that is always actual must posses necessary existence, be immaterial, and be one.

Maimonides then follows up with three less important arguments which refute that God is corporeal and prove his unity.

Chapter 2
Maimonides stresses that the existence, incorporeality, and unity of God can be proved whether one assumes that the world is eternal or created.
Maimonides argues that his purpose is not to do physics or metaphysics. Rather, his main purpose is to explain scripture, in particular the accounts of creation and of the chariot. It happens to be though that one needs to know these subjects in order to understand the accounts.

Chapter 19
Maimonides sets out his differences with Aristotle. Aristotle believes that the universe proceeds from God as a result of a eternal necessity. Maimonides believes that the world is created by God's will and thus is a manifestation of God's purpose. Maimonides wants to show in this chapter, by virtue of arguments approaching demonstration, that his view is correct.
Maimonides pushes the principle of sufficient reason. For every fact there must be a reason why it is one way and not the other. In effect, Maimonides aims to show that there is no rational reason why the heavens are laid out the way that they are. Aristotle cannot account for the same matter being arranged in different ways. This is especially troublesome because, according to Aristotle, the heavens are supposed to be the most uniform and orderly domain of existence.

Chapter 20
Maimonides now argues that the universe does not exist due to chance. He maintains that Aristotle would also agree with this. He then clarifies Aristotle's view that the universe proceeds from the First Cause as perfect thought proceeding necessarily from a perfect thinker.

Chapter 21
Maimonides agues against those who would try to bridge the gap between him and Aristotle. They argues that the world came to be through some eternal creating, the world has existed from eternity but it was created through purpose. Maimonides cuts off this attempted bridge by focusing on necessity. Either the world proceeds from God by necessity or not. According to Aristotle it does, according to Maimonides it does not.

Chapter 22
Maimonides presses some difficulties with Aristotle's account. First, he argues that Aristotle has no way of accounting for the emergence of diversity from the One. How can the eventual effect that necessarily comes from the First Cause be so different than the First Cause? Second, Maimonides exploits then recent developments in astronomy that showed that the heavens were not uniformly distributed. This shows, for Maimonides, that the universe is based on Will and Particularization as opposed to Eternal Necessity. In summary, Maimonides claims that Aristotle is the supreme and definitive philosopher when it comes to sub-lunar physics. However, he believes that Aristotle has not demonstrated his opinions regarding the Eternity and Necessity of the universe. Consequently, the two views must be compared, Creation and Will vs. Eternality and Necessity to see which one has more doubts.

Chapter 23
Maimonides stresses that when weighing opinions against each other one should not be blinded by habit and custom. One must work to free oneself from these traps. However, he also mentions, contradicting himself, that because of the harm that comes to the Law as a result of relinquishing the opinion that the world was created, one should not give up on this view unless its contrary is demonstrated.

Chapter 24
Maimonides returns to the problems that has been gripping his age in rationalizing the movements of the heavens. Interestingly, this debate in effect is one between empiricist astronomers and deductive philosophers. In any event, these problems serve to undercut Aristotle's claim to show that the set-up of the universe derives necessarily from a First Cause.

Chapter 25
Maimonides stresses that he does not reject the notion of the eternality of the world because of any text in the creation story. Just as he eradicated the corporeality of God through figurative interpretation, he could have done so for creation as well. There are two reasons why he has treated corporeality and creation differently. First, the impossibility of God being corporeal has, according to Maimonides, been demonstrated, the eternality of the world has not. The second reason is that the incorporeality of God does not undermine the Law, removing the notion of Will from God entirely undermines Law by making miracles and reward and punishment impossible.
Maimonides then discusses the view that he attributes to Plato, that God through an act of will formed the world out pre-existing matter. He believes that this view is acceptable because it maintains God's Will.
The crucial issue is will vs. necessity, creation and eternality are just issues that result from this opposition. Interestingly, Maimonides claims that once we affirm will we no longer have to inquire into God's reasons for anything, an event occurred or something was commanded merely because God willed it. If however we were to recognize necessity as opposed to will we would have to ask all sorts of questions regarding providence and the reasons for the commandments.

Part II
Chapter 25
After spending a number of chapters analyzing providence, Maimonides moves to a discussion of the reasons for the commandments. (The Straussian reading should be obvious from the end of the last paragraph) This discussion starts with a consideration of different types of actions divided up according to there ends. Maimonides identifies futile actions, frivolous actions, vain actions, and good and excellent actions. He discusses each and rules out all except for good and excellent actions for attribution to God. Good and excellent actions are those that are accomplished aiming at a noble end. Next, Maimonides argues that, while we cannot know God's overall purpose in creating the world (it seems that this is a corollary of it being a result of God's will instead of necessity), we can know the purposes of God's actions and commands within the world.

Chapter 26
Now Maimonides moves to consider God's commandments more directly. He notes that there are those who shy from attributing any reason to God's commands. Maimonides rejects there view. Instead, he believes that reasons can be given for all the laws, taken in their generality. The particular specifics of each law, however, may be the result of just having to decide on one way of doing things.

Chapter 27
Maimonides takes a step back and considers the general purposes of the Law taken as a whole. He claims that there are two perfections for humans, one higher than the other. The first perfection ensures bodily and social stability, it is the prevention of wrongdoing and enhancement of moral character. The satisfaction of this first perfection allows for the possibility of the second and higher perfection - intellectual perfection. This consists in having correct opinions and beliefs. According to Maimonides, the laws of the Torah work to effect both of these perfections.

Chapter 28
Maimonides focuses in on the role that the laws of the Torah play in teaching correct opinions. According to him, the law teaches two types of beliefs: those that are true and could be shown to be true through demonstration, even though the Torah does not demonstrate them, and those that are not strictly speaking true but that are necessary in order to ensure political stability. An example of the former is God's unity, while an example of the later is God's anger at those that sin. It is evident even from these examples, however, that sometimes the later conflict with the former. As Maimonides has shown in earlier parts of the God believing that God is affected by passions conflicts with a belief in his unity. Thus, there is a tension between the first perfections and the second perfections. This can be resolved by positing two different groups that are being spoken to, the masses and the elect.

Chapters 29 and 30
In this chapter Maimonides gives a historical background of idolatry that underlies the account of the reasons for the commandments that he will set out in the chapters that follow. In effect, Maimonides will explain certain commandments of the Torah that have resisted previous explanations as a response to certain idolatrous practices that were prevalent during the time that he believes the Torah was given. By describing the worship of these Sabians Maimonides attempts to make sense of certain laws of the Torah that had been traditionally ascribed merely to God's will. He explains them as outlawing certain practices that the Sabians used to engage in. This serves two goals, first it rationalize all of the commandments; second, it shows that the major concern of the Torah is to establish proper conceptions and worship of God by stamping out any traces of idolatry. This obviously connects with Maimonides view that the most important thing is to have proper beliefs about God.

Chapter 31
Maimonides now responds to those who deny that the commandments might have any reason at all. He charges them with having a disrespectful view of God. They believe that men should act with a view towards ends, but that God must act unintelligibly. Maimonides returns and restresses that all of the commandments have the end of either teaching necessary or true opinions, inculcating moral qualities , or political civic actions.

Chapter 32
Maimonides begins to explain the intentions of the law. The primary intention of the law, according to him, is to educate the people with correct beliefs about God. In order to accomplish this, however, God must take an indirect route. The laws of the Torah make allowance for human nature and recognize that people cannot abruptly change from what they are used to. This accounts for the continuation by the law of many idolatrous practices. For example, it does not make sense strictly speaking to offer sacrifices to Maimonides's God, he has no use for them. However, the Children of Israel at the time that the Torah was given lived in a culture when that was the way one worshiped deities. They would not be able to accept a purely contemplative relationship to God. Therefore, God made allowance for their weakness and permitted them sacrifices as they had been accustomed to, but switched the object of these sacrifices from many gods to one God. In bears mention that this was a very radical idea, one that many observant Jews still find difficult to accept, coming, in particular, from a master of Jewish Law who codified all of the laws, including those of sacrifices.

Chapter 33
Maimonides moves on now to discuss a number of the Law's other intentions, including, restraint of unnecessary desires, inculcating gentleness and docility, teaching sexual purity and sanctity, ensuring physical cleanliness.

Chapter 34
Maimonides explains that the focus of the law is not the individual as such, but the universal or communal. Indeed, the individual might be ill-served by the law, but that is no matter. The object of the law is the community.

Chapter 35
Maimonides now divides up the laws into fourteen classes. He will go into each class in the chapters that follow explaining how each law achieves its purpose.
1) Fundamental Opinions that are correct and those that are useful for belief in the law
2 )Laws that are aimed at eradicating idolatry and thus allowing for correct opinions to develop
3) Commandments that improve the moral qualities
4) Commandments that have social utility
5) Laws that prohibit wrongdoing and aggression
6) Laws that mandate punishments
7) Laws that regulate economic transactions
8) Laws that stipulate days of rest and holidays. The purpose of these commandments are to aid in teaching certain true or necessary beliefs and giving the body rest
9) Practices of worship that teach correct opinions
10) Commandments concerned with the sanctuary. These are connected, as discussed above, with focusing previously idolatrous worship on the one God.
11) Commandments concerned with ritual offerings. These too are connected with redirecting idolatrous impulses towards God.
12) Commandments concerning ritual purity. The purpose of these commandments are to heighten one's respect for the sanctuary.
13) Commandment that mandate dietary restrictions. The purpose of these commandments are to curb one's desires.
14) Commandments that prohibit certain sexual unions. These are commanded in order to ensure that sex does not become an end in-of-itself.

Chapter 51
The main focus of this chapter is a parable that Maimonides has written which symbolizes the various levels that one can attain in closeness to God. He describes a palace with a ruler in a special room in the center. He then describes concentric circles around the ruler and populates it with different types of individuals. The upshot is a hierarchy with those with the most perfect beliefs about God at the top, or in the center with God. Importantly, Maimonides makes the one has proper beliefs about God well superior to one who (merely?) observes the law. Maimonides concludes this chapter with advice to the aspiring young philosopher.