METAPHYSICS, the philosophic discipline that deals with ontology and cosmology. The Jews through the end of the medieval period did little original work in metaphysics, drawing mainly on other, primarily secular, authorities. The major systems employed were platonism , kalam , neoplatonism , and aristotelianism , which appear in Jewish works largely in mixed form, containing elements borrowed from one another as well as from other philosophies, such as stoicism .   Moreover, the Kalam only constitutes a metaphysics in the broadest sense. While there was no one period in which any one of these metaphysical systems was exclusively subscribed to by the Jews, the periods of dominance for each were: Platonism, the first centuries before and after the Common Era; Kalam, the tenth century; Neoplatonism, the 11th and 12th centuries; and Aristotelianism, the 12th century through the end of medieval times. The foremost representatives respectively among the Jews employing these systems were philo , saadiah , solomon ibn gabirol , and maimonides . The Jewish philosophers were primarily interested in meeting the challenges that various metaphysics presented to their Judaism and their understanding of revelation. Metaphysics, pursued scientifically through reason, produced ostensibly different conclusions about God, the universe, and salvation from those conveyed by the literal meaning of Scriptures. The religious thinker who valued human reason and did not wish to repudiate what was considered its profoundest activity met the challenge by reconciling and synthesizing metaphysics with Scripture. This was usually accomplished by partially limiting the validity of metaphysics, and partially by interpreting the literal meaning of Scriptures. Philo, in his great works of metaphysical and scriptural synthesis, formulated the basic methods for reconciling reason and revelation, which were employed throughout medieval philosophy not only by the Jews, but by the Muslims and Christians as well. It may be noted that not all Jews acquainted with metaphysics found its claims to truth convincing. Thinkers such as judah halevi and hasdai crescas met the challenge of metaphysics, not by reconciliation, but with trenchant critiques of its conclusions. As the validity of metaphysical knowledge in post-Cartesian thought came increasingly under attack from within philosophy itself, which concentrated primarily on the problems of epistemology, there existed little need for Jewish thinkers to meet speculative claims in the grand medieval style. However, in modern thought new challenges arose from rationalism and idealism, the scientific and empirical philosophies, and from existentialism which required the continued involvement of Jewish thinkers in philosophic thought. -BIBLIOGRAPHY: Guttmann, Philosophies; Husik, Philosophy; H.A. Wolfson, Philo, Foundations of Religious Philosophy…, 2 vols. (1947). (Alvin J. Reines)

Encyclopedia Judaica. 1971.

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