The tensions found between Reason and Revelation, between the traditions of the Bible and Greek thought, were central to pre-modern philosophy and in a sense remain so today. We live in an age beholden to both the religious and the secular as ways of understanding the ourselves and the world around us. Todays interview seeks to uncover when, and how this began.
In his ambitious new book, Philo’s Heirs: Moses Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas
(Academic Studies Press, 2017), Luis Cortest finds in Philo Judaeus, a Hellenistic philosopher who lived in first century Alexandria, the origins of a philosophic curriculum and method that would frame many of the concerns of medieval philosophy. Though a long millennium separates them, after opening with Philo, the heart of the book is dedicated to a comparison of Thomas Aquinas and Moses Maimonides in which Cortest uncovers a subtle genealogy that begins with Philo: how to read the Bible allegorically and do so through the lenses of Plato and Aristotle. All three thinkers ask: what is the role of religion in the establishment of politics and law, was the world created, what is God and does he shape world events? Rather than retrace the obvious, Philo’s Heirs
encourages us to tease out the subterranean influences that animate the big questions of the western philosophic tradition and to think broadly, across large time periods and geographies, to answer these questions in our own day.
Professor Luis Cortest
is Professor of Medieval Spanish Literature at the University of Oklahoma.
Moses Lapin is a graduate student in the departments of History and Philosophy at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem. He can’t recall whether “the crisis” is in the humanities or with humanity.