There are two prominent English translations of Maimonides classic book on philosophy. Friedlander, the earlier translator, called the book “Guide for the Perplexed.” Pines, the more recent translator, called it “Guide of the Perplexed.” Some people enjoy the first translation better than the second because it is more readable, but scholars prefer the second claiming that it is more precise. I have written previously about the Guide itself. Here I will note that Leo Straus wrote an important introduction placed in this volume that people should know.
He points out, what many readers of Maimonides fail to grasp, that Maimonides did not express his true views openly. Like most ancient philosophers, including Plato who called this the “noble lie,” he wrote for two audiences. He felt that the general public would see their own false notions in his writing, while the more intellectual readers would be able to mine the surface of his writings and discover his true views. He didn’t do this to hide these secrets from his fellow Jews, nor out of fear of reprisals. But exposing the general population to these truths could only lead to perplexity in the best of circumstances or to falling away from observance in the worst of circumstances, neither of which Maimonides had any interest in promoting.
Thus, for example, while Maimonides wrote “thirteen principles of Judaism” for the general population, he expected that his more astute readers would realize that only the first five, which deal with God, should be accepted as Maimonides’ true opinions. For instance, while he wrote in the remaining eight that “the dead will live again,” as item thirteen, he did believe in resurrection as most people thought, but that human intelligence will survive the body’s death, as he writes in his work called Chelek.