The soul, when accustomed to superfluous things, acquires a strong habit of desiring things which are neither necessary for the preservation of the individual nor for that of the species. This desire is without limit, whilst those which are necessary are few in number and restricted within certain limits; but what is superfluous is without end...
The error of the ignorant goes so far as to say that God's power is insufficient, because he has given to this Universe the properties which they imagine cause these great evils, and which do not help all evil-disposed persons to obtain the evil which they seek, and to bring their evil souls to the aim of their desires, though these, as we have shown, are really without limit.
WHEN reading my present treatise, bear in mind that by "faith" we do not understand merely that which is uttered with the lips, but also that which is apprehended by the soul, the conviction that the object [of belief] is exactly as it is apprehended. If, as regards real or supposed truths, you content yourself with giving utterance to them in words, without apprehending them or believing in them, especially if you do not seek real truth, you have a very easy task as, in fact, you will find many ignorant people professing articles of faith without connecting any idea with them.
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The third class of evils comprise those which everyone causes to himself by his own action. This is the largest class, and is far more numerous than the second class. It is especially of these evils that all men complain, - only few men are found that do not sin against themselves by this kind of evil. ...This class of evil originates in man's vices, such as excessive desire for eating, drinking, and love; indulgence in these things in undue measure, or in improper manner, or partaking of bad food. This course brings diseases and afflictions upon the body and soul alike.
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Another fundamental principle taught by the Law of Moses is this: Wrong cannot be ascribed to God in any way whatever; all evils and afflictions as well as all kinds of happiness of man, whether they concern one individual or a community, are distributed according to justice; they are the result of strict judgement that admits no wrong whatever.
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The prophet [ Isaiah ]... points out what will be the cause of this change; for he says that hatred, quarrel, and fighting will come to an end, because men will have a true knowledge of God. "They shall not hurt nor destroy in all my holy mountain: for the earth shall be full of the knowledge of the Lord, as the waters which cover the sea" (Isa. xi. ver. 9) Note it.
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Know that the difficulties which lead to confusion in the question what is the purpose of the Universe or of any of its parts, arise from two causes: first, man has an erroneous idea of himself, and believes that the whole world exists only for his sake; secondly, he is ignorant both about the nature of the sublunary world, and about the Creator's intention to give existence to all beings whose existence is possible, because existence is undoubtedly good.
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This must be our belief when we have a correct knowledge of our own self, and comprehend the true nature of everything; we must be content, and not trouble our mind with seeking a certain final cause for things that have none, or have no other final cause but their own existence, which depends on the Will of God, or, if you prefer, on the Divine Wisdom.
When I have a difficult subject before me - when I find the road narrow, and can see no other way of teaching a well established truth except by pleasing one intelligent man and displeasing ten thousand fools - I prefer to address myself to the one man, and to take no notice whatever of the condemnation of the multitude; I prefer to extricate that intelligent man from his embarrassment and show him the cause of his perplexity, so that he may attain perfection and be at peace.
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The strange and wonderful Book of Job treats of the same subject as we are discussing; its contents are a fiction, conceived for the purpose of explaining the different opinions which people hold on Divine Providence. ...This fiction, however, is in so far different from other fictions that it includes profound ideas and great mysteries, removes great doubts, and reveals the most important truths. I will discuss it as fully as possible; and I will also tell you the words of our Sages that suggested to me the explanation of this great poem.
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Now I wonder what our knowledge has in common with God's knowledge according to those who treat God's knowledge... Is there anything else common to both besides the mere name? ...there is an essential distinction between His knowledge and ours, like the distinction between the substance of the heavens and that of the earth.
It is possible that the meaning of wisdom in Hebrew indicates aptitude for stratagems and the application of thought in such a way that the stratagems and ruses may be used in achieving either rational or moral virtues, or in achieving skill in a practical art, or in working evil and wickedness.
For the elements have the property of moving back to their place in a straight line, but they have no properties which would cause them to remain where they are, or to move other-wise than in a straight line, These rectilinear motions of these four elements when returning to their original place are are of two kinds, either centrifugal, vziz.>the motion of the air and the fire; or centripedal, viz.> the motion of the earth, and the water; and when the elements have reached their original place, they remain at rest.
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Every human being should regard himself as if he were exactly balanced between innocence and guilt. Simultaneously he should regard the world as being in the same case. It follows then that if he performs one good deed, he has weighted the scales in favour of both himself and of the whole world, and thus brought about salvation both for himself and for all the inhabitants of the world.
Galen , in the third section of his book, "The Use of the Limbs," says correctly that it would be in vain to expect to see living beings formed of the blood of menstruous women and the semen virile, who will not die, will never feel pain, or will move perpetually, or shine like the sun. This dictum of Galen is part of the following more general proposition: Whatever is formed of matter receives the most perfect form possible in that species of matter; in each individual case the defects are in accordance with that individual matter.
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Even when a person suffers pain in consequence of a thorn having entered into his hand, although it is at once drawn out, it is a punishment that has been inflicted on him, and the least pleasure he enjoys is a reward; all this is meted out by strict justice; as is said in the Scripture, "all His ways are judgement" (Deut. xxxii. 4); we are only ignorant of the working of that judgement.
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