In the first gate, chapter 5

He says

כי כבר נתברר שכל מה שאין לו תחילה אין לו תכלה, מפני שאי אפשר להגיע בדבר שאין לו תחילה אל גבול שיעמוד האדם אצלו. 


since it was already explained that everything that does not have an end does not have a beginning ....

Where was it already explained?

Or what am I getting wrong

  • It is old philosophy, you can read a lot about this kind of proofs in The Critic of the pure Reason. to go up to the end is a proof tha that is a finite number of steps. If the begining is infinitely distant, you can not go to here. I suppose you learn in school mathematics that are after the remotion of this principles, infinites etc. The world of the chovot Halevavot kwnew an other philosophy. You are born after, so you need an introduction to understand HL and an introduction to know why it seems not obvious for you. You too are in a world and you must to know story of knowledge
    – kouty
    Apr 18 '16 at 14:28
  • @kouty I did learn a little math, I only see a problem at a first look, but when I look closer I understand that in Math there is a beginning "0". - are you saying that "already explained" means by the philosophy in his time?
    – hazoriz
    Apr 18 '16 at 14:42
  • שאין לו תחילה אין לו תכלה means that whatever does not have a beginning does not have "ability to affect" ? I think that your English is reversed in meaning. Apr 18 '16 at 14:46
  • @sabbahillel I am asking about כבר נתברר but see mrapa lnefesh here (if my English is correct) hebrewbooks.org/pdfpager.aspx?req=41644&st=&pgnum=51
    – hazoriz
    Apr 18 '16 at 14:50
  • I see the reference and I would translate it (very roughly) Anything that suffers change has a beginning, as was already explained anything that has not beginning (starting point?) does not change (or degrade). The English in your question reverses beginning and end or changeability Note that as @kouty said, this assumes knowledge of other philosophy books. Apr 18 '16 at 15:15

He is referring to Saadia Gaon's Beliefs and Opinions. In fact, the first part of the first gate is a summery of the arguments for G-d in this work, and R. Bahya ibn Paquda recommends reading the whole version. As do I for that matter.

Specifically, he's referring to two arguments found in Beliefs and Opinions Treatises I chapter I

it is certain that heaven and earth are both finite, because the earth is the center of the universe and the heaven revolves around it. It therefore follows, of necessity, that the force inhering in then be finite, since it is impossible for an infinite force to reside in a finite body, for such a possibility is rejected by all that is known. (A reference to Aristotle's physics.) Now since the force that maintains these two is finite, it follows necessarily that they must have a beginning and an end.

This is not about time, but it comes to the same conclusion as the argument from time. Specifically, finite things require both a beginning and an end.

I know that there are three [distinct] periods of time: past, present, and future. Now even though the present is shorter than any moment of time, I assumed for the same of argument, that this present moment is a point, and said to myself, "Let it be supposed that a person should desire mentally to advance in time above this point. He would be unable to do it for the reason that time is infinite, and what is infinite cannot be completely traversed mentally in a fashion ascending [backward to the beginning]."

Now this same reason makes it impossible for existence to have traversed infinity in descending fashion so as to reach us. But if existence had not reached us, we would not have come into being. The necessary conclusion from this premise would, then, have been that we, the company of those that are, are not, and that those that exist do not exist. Since, however, I find that I do exist, I know that existence has traversed the whole length of time until it reached me and that, if it were not for the fact that time is finite, existence could not have traversed it.

  • How can I find "Saadia Gaon's Beliefs and Opinions"? Is it available online?
    – hazoriz
    Apr 18 '16 at 16:07
  • 1
    @hazoriz only the Hebrew unfortunately. But buy the book and go down the old sephard philosophy rabbit hole. I recommend the Yale translation. It's available on Amazon.
    – ShamanSTK
    Apr 18 '16 at 16:09
  • Please help me understand "He would be unable to do it for the reason that time is infinite, and what is infinite cannot be completely traversed mentally in a fashion ascending [backward to the beginning]."
    – hazoriz
    Apr 18 '16 at 16:09
  • 1
    @hazoriz if time is infinite, you would not be able to count from now until the end of time as you can always count longer. You could not place a point in time after an infinite time as passed and count backwards from that time to this time.
    – ShamanSTK
    Apr 18 '16 at 16:16
  • 1
    @hazoriz it's a common trope to refer to things explained in other works in Arabic. The rambam uses it extensively when referring to proofs in Aristotle and other philosophers. It does not necessarily refer to something in the same work.
    – ShamanSTK
    Apr 18 '16 at 16:29

Chovos halevovos in English seems to explain this in detail. The question has been asked for as long as philosophy has failed to answer the question.

This is the "old" paradox that can be expressed as "turtles all the way down". All the myths of the goyim basically try to explain how the "gods" created the Earth, but always then point to how the "gods" were created and then how that which came before was created until they just stop without answering the question.

Modern scientists treat this in the same way with hand waving about what happened "before" the Big Bang (or what came before the two universes collided to cause the Big Bang).

The explanation from Tov Halevanon points to Rav Saadia Gaon and the Rambam as among those who have already expressed this philosophy.

There are three premises which lead to the inference that this world has a Creator who created it from nothing:
1) A thing cannot make itself.
2) Beginnings (causes) are limited in number; therefore, they must have a First Beginning (First cause) which had no beginning (cause) before it.
3) Anything composite must have been brought into existence (cannot be eternal, i.e. without beginning).

When these three premises are established, the inference will be, for one who understands how to use them and combine them - that the world has a Creator who created it from nothing, as we will demonstrate with G-d's help.

(Tov Halevanon commentary: Understand, that to clarify the roots of religion, there are many different ways, but the central pillar which everything depends on is the logical demonstration of the "chidush haolam" (this world was brought into existence from nothing). When this has been clarified, then automatically, it will be demonstrated the existence of G-d who created it. Many of our Sages already endeavored in this route such as Rabeinu Saadia Gaon, and Rambam (Maimonides). Behold, Rambam in part 1 chapter 73 of the Moray Nevuchim started to show the logical demonstration of the existence of G-d and that He is the absolute Unity and not physical, but he brought the proofs from the words of the philosophers, and he spoke at length denigrating their views and all of their proofs. He then returned at the beginning of part 2, after mentioning the words of Aristotle who believed in the existence of G-d while also believing in the eternal existence of the world, and along the same line of reasoning which Aristotle brought for the existence of G-d and that He is one and not physical. The Rambam rose to argue with him and refute his proofs on the eternity of the world, and to demonstrate that Aristotle has no proof on this, until just the opposite - one can prove the creation. However, the author here, of blessed memory, sifted the truth from the words of the philosophers, and added strength and pure hands to revive the proofs for creation and to mend their breaches, and automatically the existence of G-d will be demonstrated.


the commentaries there explain:

Manoach Halevavos: "bamuskal rishon".

Marpe Lenefesh "davar ze hu barur u'muskal"

Pas Lechem: "bemuskal rishon kemo shemevaer"

Hence, the consensus seems to be that it is "muskal rishon" - self-evident. According to that the correct translation should be "it is already clear" or "it is self-evident" rather than "it was already explained".


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