It is widely known that Rambam was greatly influenced by Aristotle, and his Guide and Hilchot Yesodey Hatorah practically repeat Aristotle's view and adopt them into Judaism (see also WIKI):

Moses Maimonides adopted Aristotelianism from the Islamic scholars and based his Guide for the Perplexed on it and that became the basis of Jewish scholastic philosophy.

EDIT: I forgot to mention the background of the Talmudic prohibition of studying Greek wisdom/philosophy:

"שלא ילמד אדם את בנו חכמה יוונית" (Sotah 9.14)

"ארור אדם, שילמד לבנו חכמה יוונית" (Sotah 49b)

Did Rambam himself explain this fact - how he got to study Greek philosophers so thoroughly, and how he got influenced by that?

  • I assume because he lived during the Golden Age of Spain, where it was quite popular to study Greek philosophy
    – robev
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 12:03
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    -1. You ask how it came to be that he studied "Greek philosophers" but refer to only one and even cite a source that he was influenced by Islamic followers of that philosopher rather than by the philosopher himself.
    – msh210
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 12:16
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    Because he thought Aristotle was right? That's the usual reason to accept other people's ideas.
    – Heshy
    Commented Oct 25, 2019 at 13:00
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    Since the Rambam's Arisotilianism has strong elements of Neo-Platonism, it seems clear his exposure to Aristo was via al-Kindi. Because al-Kindi's (or his students', unknown) translation of Aristo included something alleging to be Aristo's "Theology", but was really a summary of books 4-6 of Plotinus's enneads. In fact, Yesodei haTorah 2 is from Theology, and is neo-Platonic. (And I think that common neo-Platonism is how the Leshem found common ground between Qabbalah and Yesodei haTorah, aval ein kan hamaqom leha'arikh.) Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 13:51
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    I think the simple answer is that in the Rambam's time and locality, an Aristotelean worldview was considered to be scientific fact, and much like modern scholars today who fit current scientific theory into their explanation of Torah ideas, Rambam did the same.
    – ezra
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 9:16

2 Answers 2


Although the Rambam was clearly well versed in the ideas of Aristotle, and he even quotes him by name sometimes, he surely wouldn't have "adopted them into Judaism" if he didn't think it was muchrach that they were values that the Torah proclaimed. And he didn't begin to learn these chachmos (chochmas yevanis) until he had already learned and mastered kol haTorah kula, as the Rivash writes in teshuva 45:

ואין להביא ראי' מהרמב"ם ז"ל כי הוא למד קודם לכן כל התורה כולה בשלמות הלכות ואגדות תוספת' ספרא וספרי וכולי' תלמודא בבלי וירושלמי

It would be worth your while to read the whole teshuva, because he talks about this topic (the study of chochmas yevanis, lit. Greek Wisdom, and the Rambam's relationship with it) and what some of the Rishonim held about the study of it (as well as what it is exactly, ע"ש).

The only time that anyone knocks the Rambam (so far as I'm aware) for truly "messing up" a Torah idea is in Yoreh De'ah siman 179 sif 6 where the Gr"a goes to town on him.

  • 1
    See my answer here for some critiques of Rambam. Also, does the Rivash have any special credibility when discussing the historical fact of when Rambam began studying philosophy?
    – Alex
    Commented Aug 5, 2022 at 0:10
  • More info on the Gra in Yoreh De'ah? That sounds interesting
    – ezra
    Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 9:14
  • @ezra The Shulchan Aruch there says that if a snake or scorpion bit/stung you on shabbos, it is mutar to do spells on the wound (the hebrew word is ללחוש), not because it will do anything, rather to ease the mind of the guy who got bitten. The Gra says that this comes from the Rambam, but everyone who came afterwards argued on him, because we see many times in the gemara that such spells do actually do things, so why is the Rambam saying it's only to ease his mind. The Gra says that Rambam said this because he was influenced by philosophy. Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 10:27
  • @Alex I'm not sure, that's an interesting question. Apparently it was enough for the Rama (יו"ד סי' רמו סע' ד) and the Shach (שם ס"ק ו) to say that the same applies to everyone l'halacha, and no one can/should study this stuff until they've mastered the Torah first. Commented Aug 8, 2022 at 10:30

No record exists as to explain how Maimonides learned all that he knew about medicine in general and Aristotle in particular. He might not even have had a formal medical education. All that we can know from him is from his own statements, where we learn he was an avid reader. He notes that whenever he studied a subject, he would delve into it and learn all there is to know about the topic. Perhaps this method of learning and Aristotle's teaching drove him to stress the need to acquire knowledge. We know that at a very young age, he learned the rudiments of Judaism under the care of his father where he studied extensively. In addition, he taught himself many secular subjects, even those from non-Jews. Maimon ben Joseph was a student to Joseph ibn Migash (1077–1141) but as far as we know, Maimonides was only taught by his father.[1]

UCLA Professor Herbert A. Davidson analyzed Rambam's work and concluded that Maimonides did not incorporate the work of his favorite philosopher Aristotle until much later. He represents various periods of his life, reflecting his view that Rambam's opinion changed over time. In addition, Rabbi Goodman said in an interview that Rambam wrote the articles of faith in his twenties and the Moreh Nevukhim in his fifties, implying that the Rambam may have not adhered to all of his principles. This is because Rambam implemented the use of "Necessary beliefs," Aristotle's method, but no official consensus has been reached.

[1] Some claimed Maimonides was also a student of Migash, thereby claiming him to be a part of the long distinguished legacy but this would be impossible since Maimonides was about three years old when Migash died.

  • Let me know if my answer would need more edits. I'm happy to hear them.
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Oct 26, 2019 at 17:01
  • The Chidah says he was seven years old while learning with the R"Y Migash. Commented Aug 4, 2022 at 18:58
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    Very informative, thank you.
    – Al Berko
    Commented Aug 21, 2022 at 18:44
  • @AlBerko Your welcome. I'm glad you liked it.
    – Turk Hill
    Commented Aug 22, 2022 at 21:38
  • Some say Rambam later recanted his earlier rationalism in favor of mysticism, or that he was a secret kabbalist. archive.ph/YwEoi Commented Sep 8, 2022 at 19:07

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