chapter  3
Cosmological Halakha
Maimonides’s ethico-theology
WithEhud Benor
Pages 34

This chapter argues that Hilkhot De’ot [Laws Concerning the Passions] is a sophisticated gem of ethical monotheism. It shows that Maimonides considered virtue a matter of refined judgment, not a mere matter of behavioral conditioning. The extremism attributed to the pious is shown to be a form of folly and ignorance. Maimonides is shown to have restored the primacy of moral judgment that was displaced by rabbinic moral psychology. Alleged contradictions in the work are resolved by identifying a basic feature of Maimonides’s religious ethics – that some passions are involved both in moral and in intellectual virtue. This is key to understanding the rejection of moderation in pride and anger. A moderate standard of virtue for humility and anger in the moral sphere is overridden by the requirements of the intellectual sphere. Maimonides held that the ultimate end of human choice and action is the intellectual love of God. To that end, all else is subordinate. Individuals who exemplify the excellence of the human species are metaphysically oriented intellectuals, whose contemplation of the perfection of God causes them to imitate God and become perfect humans. The science of human perfection is ethics. Ethics holds the key to human imitation of God. Pride and anger are cognitive vices that must be overcome completely, because they prevent us from grasping our true place in the universe. According to this account, Torah and Halakha are political expressions of our place in a neo-Aristotelian medieval cosmos.