Rambam's Proof on the Existence of Perfect Knowledge

Aristotle on the Purpose of Knowledge

Aristotle believed that the purpose of knowledge was the pursuit of Truth. The purpose of Truth was to illuminate both man's true purpose in life and the path to it: to exercise the soul in accordance with Reason. This path to Perfection leads to one under which the Truth-seeking man may exult under the illumination of a sublime and radiant Reason.

Rambam's Mission: Prove There Exists Perfect Knowledge

This "Perfect Knowledge", leading man on his path towards Reason and Perfection, can not be assumed to exist naively.

In this chapter (VII), Rambam will use his characteristic homonymic analysis to demonstrate that the Bible proves this knowledge does, in fact, exist.

Word of the Day: To Bear

In chapter VII, Rambam constructs a new metaphor for the transmission of wisdom: he begins by analysing the verb yalad, which was first used with the denotation, "to bear[children]".

Yalad evolves and later adopts figurative connotations, such as creating objects or formations observed in Nature:

"before the mountains were created"... "to produce," in reference to that which the causes to come forth as if by birth.

yalad Gets an Upgrade: Abstraction!

Rambam wants to construct a clear path for the yalad evolution in the Bible, which means changing the denotation, not just the connotation, of the word.

First step to changing the actual denotation: Rambam must sever the Naturalistic tether to the meaning of yeled:

To sunder yeled from a strictly naturalistic meaning and endow it with an abstract quality, Rambam cites the following citation: "... changes in the process of time, as though they were things which were born, e.g., 'for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth'(yeled)."

With this citation, Rambam can maintain that yalad denotes the outcome of a general process, not just a strictly natural phenomenon.

Final Homonymic Evolution: From Bearing Children to Bearing Thoughts

Having proven that yeled has an abstract denotation, Rambam now has the flexibilty for the next step of his proof: using yeled to connect the transmission of ideas from one generation or group of men to another:

Another figurative use of the word[yeled] is its application to the formation of thoughts and ideas, or of opinions resulting from them: ... "and brought forth(ve-yalad) falsehood"... also, "and they please themselves in the children(yalde) of strangers"... i.e. "they delight in the opinions of strangers." Jonathan the son of Uzziel paraphrases this passage, "they walk in the customs of other nations."

We now have the necessary tools to finish the proof of the Existence of Perfect knowledge: we just need to identify an episode when such a knowledge existed and then show, using our work above, that the transmission of that knowledge is in concert with the Bible.

Adam: the Perfect Man from Which Perfection Issues

Using Adam as the model of our Perfect Man because of his Perfect Knowledge, we can then understand Rambam's concluding portion of the proof:

Those sons of Adam who were born before that time[of Perfect Knowledge] were not human in the true sense of the word, they had not "the form of man." With reference to Seth who had been instructed, enlightened, and brought to human perfection, it could rightly be said, "he (Adam) begat a son in his likeness, in his form[perfect]."

Rambam finishes by contrasting those who have the Perfect form and likeness of Adam, such as Seth, as those who do not, namely, those who lack this Perfect Knowledge and Path to Perfection under an illuminating Reason:

...Such was the condition[wicked, evil, and hopeless] of those sons of Adam who preceded Seth... i.e. demons; when, however, he was again restored to divine favour "he begat in his likeness, in his form."

The sons of Adam which preceeded Seth lacked this divine knowledge. We know those sons as the tragic brothers, Cain and Abel. Abel would later be killed by Cain, and Cain's descendents would be wiped out in the Flood.

Only the progeny of the Blessed Seth would prosper. It was only by dint of Adam's transmission of the Perfect Knowledge that Seth's line survived and flourished, which means Seth's actions, namely, his pursuit and also his own transmission of Perfect Knowledge to his kin and descendents, propitiated God and preserved his place on God's Earth.