Sociology of Knowledge and Jewish Studies
How was Sa‘adia Ga’on’s Theory of Knowledge reframed?
Pages 139 - 150
Sa‘adia ben Yosef Ga’on was one of the most outstanding figures of the Geonic period, the leading character of the 10th century’s Judaism. Besides his extensive writings in almost every field of Jewish knowledge, one of Sa‘adia’s most innovative contributions was his philosophical treatise, Kitāb al-amānāt wa-l-i‘tiqādāt, the first important philosophic book written in the Mu‘tazila school. In the 20th century, the most prominent researchers in Jewish philosophy have tried to trace the sources of Sa‘adia Ga’on’s ideas and identify the grounds of his system of thought. This article deals with the conflicting interpretations of what has come to be called his ‘theory of knowledge’, notably by Israel Efros, Harry Austryn Wolfson, Abraham Joshua Heschel, and Georges Vajda. It concludes that just as these interpretations took up a theme which was debated in academia in their times, Sa‘adia turned the current notion of ta’wÍl into a ‘perfect tool’ for his intellectual purposes.