The 18th World Congress of Jewish Studies

Maimonides and Averroes on Legal Reasoning and Juristic Debate

Maimonides and Averroes, two contemporaneous jurist-philosophers from Cordoba, produced systematic accounts of legal reasoning and juristic debate that have rarely been considered in tandem. While these two figures wrote in overlapping and divergent genres, an evaluation of their perspectives reveals both to have been profoundly informed by eleventh-century Mālikī legal thought and, to a lesser extent, by the first stages of the Almohad revolution. This paper focuses on the interrelated questions of how jurists reasoned in the absence of prophecy and why they came to divergent conclusions. It turns out that these two Cordovans presented similar views about the necessity of legal reasoning, its mechanics, and the causes for disagreement among earlier jurists. By reading Maimonides’s Perush ha-Mishnah alongside Averroes’s Bidāyat al-mujtahid, it becomes evident that both figures engaged a long tradition of earlier Andalusian Mālikī legal theory and cautiously refrained from the more extreme views of Almohad theologians.