- Gersonides on the Dis-/order of the Sublunar World and on Providence
- ALEPH : Historical Studies in Science and Judaism
- Volume | Issue number
- 12 | 2
- Pages (from-to)
- Document type
- Faculty of Humanities (FGw)
- Amsterdam Institute for Humanities Research (AIHR)
Gersonides believed that the material world, which he took to have been created by a voluntary act by the deity, is the best possible one. One aspect of the excellence of the world is the providence the deity exerts over all living beings, perfecting each so as to preserve its existence for the longest possible time. On the most basic level, that of matter, any living being would indeed disintegrate were it not sustained by a power external to matter itself. Gersonides follows a very long tradition, codified notably in Meteorologica 4, holding that all composite substances necessarily decay and corrupt, as a result of the "strife" between their opposing components (elements and qualities). He goes out of his way to emphasize this inherent tendency of composite substances to decay, drawing on Meteorologica 4 much more frequently than most writers. This line of argument is consistent with (or even derives from) his view of the primeval quasi-matter "without form," which is sheer privation and deficiency, out of which the deity formed the material world. Fortunately, providence counterbalances this built-in tendency of sublunar substances to disintegrate through the influences (programmed at creation) reaching them from the stars. A brief comparison with views of Samuel Ibn Tibbon leads to the argument that Gersonides underscored the theory of matter of Meteorologica 4 in order to aggrandize the role of providence.
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