No merely logical argument, is his idea, can give us absolute certainty even in so fundamental a doctrine as the unity of God. Like Judah Halevi, Crescas took his inspiration from Algazali, whose point of view appealed to him more than that of Maimonides and Gersonides, who may be classed with Alfarabi, Avicenna and Averroes.
All these inferences are absurd, and they all follow from the assumption that the material intellect is in essence the same as the Active Intellect. Hence Averroes's position is untenable. Gersonides then gives his own view of the material intellect, which is similar to that of Alexander. The material intellect is a capacity, and the prime matter is the ultimate subject in which it inheres.
If it were a natural phenomenon dependent upon the intellectual power of the individual and his faculty of imagination, as the philosophers and some Jewish theologians think, there should have been prophets among the philosophers. Here again we see Albo adopt the view of Halevi and Crescas against the intellectualism of Maimonides and Gersonides.
Maimonides endeavors to reconcile the dilemma by throwing the blame upon our limited understanding. In God's knowledge which is toto cœlo different from ours, and of which we have no conception, all oppositions and contradictions find their ultimate harmony. Crescas, as we might naturally expect, agrees with Maimonides in this matter rather than with Gersonides.
This conception of prophecy, which in its essentials, we shall see, was adopted by Abraham ibn Daud, Maimonides and Gersonides, naturally would not appeal to Judah Halevi. Prophecy is the prerogative of Israel and of Palestine. The philosophers have nothing to do with it. And yet, if their explanation is correct, their ranks should abound in them.
Maimonides and Gersonides were the great peaks that stood out above the rest; but there was any number of lesser lights, some who wrote books and still more who did not write, taking the great men as their models and looking at Jewish literature and belief through Aristotelian spectacles. Intellectualism is the term that best describes this attitude.
We cannot afford to reproduce them here as the discussions are technical, lengthy and intricate. Having given his philosophical cosmology, Gersonides then undertakes to show in detail that the Biblical story of creation teaches the same doctrine. Nay, he goes so far as to say that it was the Biblical account that suggested to him his philosophical theory.
These have nothing to do with the will, and are determined if anything is, i. e., the person having them is constrained to believe as he does by the arguments, over which he has no control. This matter offers no difficulty to those who, like Maimonides and Gersonides, regard intelligence as the essence of the soul, and make immortality dependent upon intellectual ideas.
To follow the procedure of Maimonides would have the tendency of making people believe that the world may be eternal after all, as happened in fact in the case of Gersonides. Aaron ben Elijah will not leave a way open to such a heresy.
And so Gersonides proceeds to demolish Maimonides's position by reducing it ad absurdum. What does Maimonides mean by saying that God knows the contingent? If he means that God knows that the contingent may as contingent happen otherwise than as he knows it will happen, we do not call this in us knowledge, but opinion.