The names Maimonides and Spinoza conjure up all sorts of images befitting their stature as world class philosophers. Maimonides is considered by most as the defender of Judaism while Spinoza was looked upon as one of its opponents.
For the average non-specialist, the arguments over whether Maimonides or Spinoza was the first modern philosopher or pre-modern philosopher or if Spinoza was still a medievalist may not be exciting, but among philosophers it is quite significant. Marc Angel’s book Maimonides, Spinoza, and Us (2009), a popular work on these two great Jewish philosophers, was reviewed in JBW. The current volume is written by a professor of philosophy primarily for other philosophers.
The writings of influential scholars such as Wolfson, Pines, Harvey, and Strauss are challenged by Parens based on Kennington and others. The extent that Spinoza was influenced by Maimonides as opposed to other writers is examined closely. Parens focuses on Spinoza’s Ethics. By studying his theory of human nature and contrasting it to Maimonides’ Guide,Parens demonstrates that neither Spinoza nor Maimonides should be considered a pre-modern or modern.
This study enhances our understanding of both philosophers and challenges the way of thinking about them that has been accepted for the past century.