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Idolatry & Tradition: The Philosophy of Maimonides & Crescas - PHI00128H

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  • Department: Philosophy
  • Module co-ordinator: Dr. Owen Hulatt
  • Credit value: 20 credits
  • Credit level: H
  • Academic year of delivery: 2021-22

Module summary

Maimonides and Crescas were two Jewish philosophers who made important and lasting contributions to the philosophy of free will, of infinity, of religion and of ethics. In examining the relationship between their work we gain insight into the unique assumptions and preoccupations of the Jewish philosophical tradition, which often defined itself through opposition to the Greek roots which have helped frame Western philosophy. We will acquire familiarity with a non-Western tradition of thought, and explore the abiding interest of Jewish philosophy; comprehension of the radical difference between humans and an infinite God, and the eradication of idolatry.


Module will run

Occurrence Teaching period
A Autumn Term 2021-22

Module aims

The aim of this module is to familiarize students with a non-Western school of Philosophical thought, and develop their ability to engage and debate with it. In particular, students will become acquainted with Jewish Philosophy and halachic philosophy, as well as their relationship to questions of free will, ethics, and philosophy of religion.

Module learning outcomes

By the end of this module students should be able to understand a range of texts from the Jewish philosophical tradition. They should be able to critically adjudicate its relationship to perennial issues in ethical philosophy and philosophy of religion. They should be able to engage with a different philosophical tradition and put it into conversation with their own philosophical training.

Module content

Week 2; Introduction to ‘Jewish philosophy’. Potted history from Torah, to Hellenistic period, to Spinoza.

Week 3 – Onkelos and Maimonides on analogical and equivocal predication applied to God

Week 4 – Crescas contra Maimonides – argument for univocity of predicates applied to God

Week 5 – Maimonides and Crescas on free will

Week 6 – Creation, Emanation, and Evil

Week 7 – Maimonides and Crescas on Infinity

Week 8 – Maimonides vs Crescas on the Good

Week 9 – Iconoclasm, Monism, and Atheism

Week 10 - Tutorials



Task Length % of module mark
Essay (4000 words)
N/A 100

Special assessment rules


Additional assessment information

The 1,000-word formative essay will be submitted in Week 7, Autumn Term.

The 4,000-word summative essay will be submitted on Monday, Week 2, Spring Term.


Task Length % of module mark
Essay (4000 words)
N/A 100

Module feedback

Formative assessment will take the form of tutorial feedback.

Summative assessment will be returned within four weeks of submission.

Indicative reading

Maimonides Guide for the Perplexed (Moreh Nebukim)

Chasdai Crescas Light of the Lord (‘Or Hashem).

The information on this page is indicative of the module that is currently on offer. The University is constantly exploring ways to enhance and improve its degree programmes and therefore reserves the right to make variations to the content and method of delivery of modules, and to discontinue modules, if such action is reasonably considered to be necessary by the University. Where appropriate, the University will notify and consult with affected students in advance about any changes that are required in line with the University's policy on the Approval of Modifications to Existing Taught Programmes of Study.