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Medieval Philosophy and RenaissanceIslam, Judaism, And Classical Ethics

As in the Christian West, medieval Islamic and Jewish moral philosophy devoted considerable effort to reconciling scriptural precepts and values with those deriving from the classical ethics inherited from Greece. Muslim moral philosophers, rather than drawing a clear distinction between the imperfect happiness of the present life and the perfect beatitude of the hereafter in the manner of their Christian counterparts, emphasized the harmony between religion and philosophy (or falsafah from the Greek term philosophia) by pointing out that both were based on a proper understanding of the universe and mankind's place within it. Ethics was linked to theoretical knowledge, acquired by rational means, which led individuals toward the ultimate goal of attaining happiness in this life or the next. The Spanish Muslim philosopher Ibn Rushd (1126–1198), who produced comprehensive commentaries on the Aristotelian corpus that circulated widely in the West under his Latinized name Averroës, held that the path to happiness was an intellectual ascent to the contemplation of ever higher beings, culminating in the contemplation of the first cause and temporary union with the source of intellectual understanding. This account of happiness, which had no need for divine revelation or life after death, apparently gained adherents among Latin Averroists at the University of Paris in the late thirteenth century, since the doctrine "that happiness is to be had in this life and not in another" was among the 219 propositions condemned by the bishop of Paris in 1277.

Jewish moral philosophy was also concerned with establishing the proper relationship between religious and philosophical ethics. Moses Maimonides (1135–1204), the most influential of medieval Jewish philosophers, held that faith and reason were not in conflict and therefore, attempted to ground the basic principles of Aristotelian ethics in Jewish tradition, modifying them according to its needs. Maimonides, like Islamic moral philosophers, had a highly intellectualist conception of ethical perfection, in relation to which moral perfection played a merely subsidiary and preparatory role. A different trend in ethics, however, arose in conjunction with Kabbalah, a form of Jewish mysticism. Kabbalists such as Moses ben Jacob Cordovero (1522–1570) regarded moral perfection as the road to mystical union with aspects of the deity and believed that the moral behavior of individuals had an impact on the cosmic struggle between good and evil.

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Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Philosophy of Mind - Early Ideas to Planck lengthMoral - Medieval Philosophy and Renaissance - Christianity And Classical Ethics In The Medieval West, Islam, Judaism, And Classical Ethics, The Renaissance Recovery Of Ancient Moral Philosophy