Thursday, 15 July 2010

Man is not the Purpose of the Universe According to the Rambam

I was reading the Moreh Nevuchim and I got to this chapter(Part III Chapter 25) where the Rambam explains that it is silly to say that God had no purpose in creation and surely God had something in mind even if we're not actually sure what it is.

Then he says something interesting:
Know that the difficulties which lead to confusion in the question what is the purpose of the Universe or of any of its parts, arise from two causes: firstly, man has an erroneous idea of himself, and believes that the whole world exists only for his sake; secondly, he is ignorant both about the nature of the sublunary world, and about the Creator's intention to give existence to all beings whose existence is possible, because existence is undoubtedly good.
Wow I always was taught that Judaism believes that the world was created for man. Does the Rambam disagree?

Basically the Rambam ends off with a תיקו and says God is wise, so the universe must have a purpose, but we don't really know what it is.


The Rambam discusses this in more detail in Part III Chapter 13

But of those who accept our theory that the whole Universe has been created from nothing, some hold that the inquiry after the purpose of the Creation is necessary, and assume that the Universe was only created for the sake of man's existence, that he might serve God. Everything that is done they believe is done for man's sake; even the spheres move only for his benefit, in order that his wants might be supplied . . .

. . .on examining this opinion as intelligent persons ought to examine all different opinions, we shall discover the errors it includes. Those who hold this view, namely, that the existence of man is the object of the whole creation, may be asked whether God could have created man without those previous creations, or whether man could only have come into existence after the creation of all other things. If they answer in the affirmative, that man could have been created even if, e.g., the heavens did not exist, they will be asked what is the object of all these things, since they do not exist for their own sake but for the sake of something that could exist without them?

[SH: Think about the modern question of why did God waste so much time making everything evolve slowly if man is the ultimate purpose of the universe]

I consider therefore the following opinion as most correct according to the teaching of the Bible, and best in accordance with the results of philosophy; namely, that the Universe does not exist for man's sake, but that each being exists for its own sake, and not because of some other thing. Thus we believe in the Creation, and yet need not inquire what purpose is served by each species of the existing things, because we assume that God created all parts of the Universe by His will; some for their own sake, and some for the sake of other beings, that include their own purpose in themselves. In the same manner as it was the will of God that man should exist, so it was His will that the heavens with their stars should exist, that there should be angels, and each of these beings is itself the purpose of its own existence. . .

. . .You must not be mistaken and think that the spheres and the angels were created for our sake. Our position has already been pointed out to us, "Behold, the nations are as a drop of a bucket" (Isa. xl. 15). Now compare your own essence with that of the spheres, the stars, and the Intelligences, and you will comprehend the truth, and understand that man is superior to everything formed of earthly matter, but not to other beings; he is found exceedingly inferior when his existence is compared with that of the spheres, and a fortiori when compared with that of the Intelligences.


E-Man said...

This opinion of the Rambam also leads to a disagreement between the Rambam, Ramban and Maharal on the reasons for mitzvos that can be found summed up in the Maharal's tiferes Yisroel chapters 6-8

Abe Silberstein said...

How can man be the purpose of the universe? The universe continues to expand, and is accelerating at that until we reach absolute zero, and that is if Big Crunch Theory is wrong. But man won't even make it till then, we will evolve into something savage probably. We are extremely lucky to have the cognitive ability we have, but it is absurd to say we will always have it.

Shilton HaSechel said...


Agreed which is why I find this Rambam extremely appealing while I find the prevailing ideology in Orthodox circles i.e. that the universe's sole purpose is for man, silly and naive.

Puzzled said...

Like the Torah, and basically all of the foundational texts of OJ, the Rambam is heretical and dangerous to OJ. Thus they say not to read the Guide.

Shilton HaSechel said...

Lol well said

Anonymous said...

Rav Kook expounds on this;

as did R. Lamm in his "faith and doubt" in two or three chapters, one on extraterrestrial life.

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