A Sound Mind

by Mordecai Plaut

(Page 2)

From the book "At the Center of the Universe".

These principles are about origins on many levels. In the most obvious way, they are the answers to the questions about the source of the rational in human nature and, incidentally, the origin of the rest of the human being. Yet there is a more subtle, but more important, way in which they talk to the problem of Whence.

As the world that is large must and does have a definite source and origin, so the thought world that each human creates within does and must have its own point of origin. This would explain the widespread concern with supplying some answer to the problem of origin. These thirteen were formulated by Rambam as principles of (intellectual) action: They are what is correct and proper to use for the thought would that is in each of us. These are the concepts which are to serve as the ultimate bedrock on which our individual edifices are erected.

This is not a temporal prescription. It is not essential that these principles be the first in time in a given person's consciousness. Since the priority recommended is of a logical kind, it is possible for the principles to be temporally posterior. An existing structure can be undermined and rebuilt with these foundations. This is, of course, a tricky and difficult process and might conceivably require design changes at later stages.

G'd is the origin of the world. He is the place of the world; the world is not his place.(11) He is in all senses prior to the world at large. As He is related to the macrocosms, so He is to be related to the microcosmos within us. The thirteen principles are the blueprint for a truly sound mind.


  1. Babylonian Talmud, Brachos 12b; Mishnah Tamid chapter 3:1.

  2. Commentary on Mishnah, Sanhedrin, Introduction to Chapter XI.

  3. By Rabbi Joseph Albo.

  4. Sapir, Edward, Culture, Language, and Personality (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964), e.g., p. 69.

  5. Quine, W. V., Ontological Relativity and Other Essays (New York: Columbia University Press, 1968). Especially the title essay, and “Epistemology Naturalized.”

  6. Ibid., p. 46.

  7. Steiner, George, After Babel (London: Oxford University Press, 1975), p. 87.

  8. Pirkei Avos, Chapter 1:14.

  9. Luzzato, Harav Moshe Chaim, Mesilas Yeshorim.

  10. Bereshis II, 7. With Targum Onkelos.

  11. Bereshis Rabbah, 68:10.

Previous page . . .

To Contact Me

Back to main page

Related essay: How to Succeed in Knowing Without Really Seeing