Moses Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas on the Good Life
: From the Fall to Human Perfectibility

  • Corey Miller

Student thesis: Doctoral ThesisDoctor of Philosophy (awarded by OU/Aberdeen)


This thesis is a comparative exploration of the good life from the perspectives of Moses Maimonides and Thomas Aquinas.
By sketching a broadly characterized Aristotelian view of the good life and noting the common structure that their accounts share with their ancient philosophical forebear, we can identify certain important features lacking in Aristotle, but accounted for in either Maimonides or Aquinas or both and which do philosophical work throughout their respective projects. These features serve to distinctly illuminate and enhance the common Maimonidean and Thomistic accounts on the nature and extent of the good life.
The comparative approach reveals significant differences in each more sharply than if considered in isolation. Comparatively, Aristotle’s approach may be characterized as informational, Maimonides’ as instructional, and Aquinas’ as pneumatic-relational. Significantly, the role of faith as a virtue in both Maimonides and Aquinas makes a substantive difference over Aristotle’s in theoretical and practical ways, and can be used to exploit their accounts of the human Fall, moral perfection, and ultimate human perfection—the knowledge of God.
The medieval positions initially face similar problems marking Aristotle’s account, making the good life seem virtually elusive as both are challenged sometimes in more acute ways than is Aristotle’s account. The way in which each responds to similar problems helps to further elucidate their respective positions on faith, the knowledge of God, and the good life. However, we discover that Aquinas’ account displays certain advantages over Maimonides’ account which seems to suffer from a form of what we might call “spiritual autism” when compared to Aquinas’ model of spiritually formative moral epistemology. This helps to illuminate implications for future research in theology, virtue theory, philosophy, and social cognition.
Date of Award5 Jan 2015
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • University of Edinburgh
SupervisorInnes Visagie (Supervisor) & Paul Helm (Supervisor)

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