The Return to Philosophy
The chapter discusses the reception of Maimonidean philosophy by Neo-Kantian Jewish philosophers such as David Neumark, Benzion Kellermann and first and foremost Hermann Cohen, claiming that the importance of Maimonides for Cohen’s modern Jewish theology cannot be overestimated. The Guide’s exclusive pursuit of philosophical truth, for which Maimonides declares himself to be ready to sacrifice all religious dogma, is an ideal point of reference for Cohen, especially because Maimonides clearly seems to agree with him that this truth can be derived from the literary sources of Judaism.
Only in this last phase of the modern rediscovery of the Guide, ending with the First World War, was Maimonides’ philosophical contribution to Jewish theology fully appreciated. It is now that an essential shift of focus from the legal aspects of Judaism not only to metaphysics, but primarily to ethics in the study of the Guide takes place. With the establishment of religious philosophy as an independent and prolific discipline within Wissenschaft des Judentums, the Guide was now read as a valuable document confirming the newly established theory that the Judaism of the Biblical prophets was a universal and humanistic religion of reason, with ethics as its main component. Maimonides’ radical concept of God, philosophically expressed in his teaching about the divine attributes, became a main contribution to the development of what would be called the theology of ethical monotheism.