Maimonides’ appropriation of Aristotle's ethics

Kenneth Seeskin*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter

3 Scopus citations


The best place to begin is with what is uncontroversial. Except for the Politics, the entire Aristotelian corpus was available in Arabic in the ninth century and formed part of the intellectual heritage of Moses ben Maimon (1138–1204), known to English-speaking audiences as Maimonides. In a letter written in Arabic to Samuel ibn Tibbon, his Hebrew translator, Maimonides claims that with the exception of those gifted with prophetic inspiration, Aristotle's intellectual achievement represents the extreme of the human intellect. This sentiment is repeated in the Guide of the Perplexed (henceforth: Guide), when he refers to Aristotle, albeit obliquely, as “chief of the philosophers” (1.5.29). But when it comes to the Nicomachean Ethics in particular, Maimonides’ familiarity with Aristotle is open to question. It is now generally agreed that the inspiration for “Eight Chapters,” a section taken from his Commentary on the Mishnah and often published as a free-standing essay, is not Aristotle but Alfarabi's Aphorisms of the Statesman. Although there are several references to the N.E. in the Guide, two are incorrect and three deal with Aristotle on the sense of touch.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Reception of Aristotle's Ethics
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages18
ISBN (Electronic)9780511979873
ISBN (Print)9780521513883
StatePublished - Jan 1 2009

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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