Medieval Jewish political thought

Menachem Lorberbaum*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Politics is the art (techne) of human government. Political science, in its classical sense, is the body of knowledge informing the practice of this art. According to Maimonides, in his Treatise on the Art of Logic, political science “falls into four parts: first, the individual's governance of himself; second, the governance of the household; third, the governance of the city; and fourth, the governance of the large nation or of the nations.” Governance of the city has traditionally been the axial political activity. It is from the city, the polis, that the art receives its name: politics. Indeed, “governance of the city is a science that imparts to its citizens knowledge of true happiness and imparts to them the [way of] striving to achieve it.” The science of the governance of the city furthermore prescribes for the citizens “the rules of justice that order their associations properly.” The comprehensive quality of the city determines the specific shape of individual ethics and household management. The government of an empire is an amplification of the basic comprehensive unit, the city. Maimonides’ definition of political science raises important questions. Medieval Jews did not have a city (or state) of their own, and although the Jews are a nation, they were dispersed among many nations; they lacked sovereignty and a specific territory of their own.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge Companion to Medieval Jewish Philosophy
EditorsDaniel H. Frank, Oliver Leaman
Place of PublicationCambridge
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages25
ISBN (Electronic)9781139000055
ISBN (Print)9780521652070
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2003

RAMBI Publications

  • rambi
  • Jewish philosophy -- Middle Ages, 500-1500
  • Political science -- Philosophy


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