Avicebron (Ibn Gabirol, Solomon Ben Judah)

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Jewish philosopher and poet; b. Malaga, Spain, c. 1021; d. Valencia, Spain, c. 1058. Avicebron has two distinct careers in history. As Ibn Gabirol (Shĕlōmōh ben Yĕhūdāh) he stood in the first rank of medieval Hebrew poets; as Avicebron (Avicembron, Avicenbrol, Avencebrol) he was an Arabian philosopher whose work was translated into Latin c. 1150 by dominic gundisalvi and john of spain under the title of Fons Vitae (Fountain of Life) and became a subject of scholastic controversy. Not until 1846 was the identification of the philosopher with the poet effected. Avicebron's philosophical work evoked little interest in medieval Spain; severely criticized by one of the earliest of the Spanish Aristotelians, Abraham ibn Daoud (Avendauth, c. 111080), it was ignored by Moses maimonides and thus dismissed from the tradition. The true philosophical home of Avicebron is in the zohar and in the speculative sections of the cabala.

Avicebron's universe displays the usual Neoplatonic "chain of being." At the summit is God, a being in pure act. Through His agent, Willa being that is identified with God and that plays a role analogous to that of the Logos of philo judaeusGod confers His gift of being through the descending ranks of His creation: spiritual essences, the celestial bodies, the corporeal sublunary world. Although this is similar to Plotinus's emanationism, the crucial and, for the theologians of the University of Paris, disturbing point was that Avicebron taught that the entire created universe was composed of matter and formeverything but the Will itself. Since, for him, all forms are modified and not limitless, the limiting principle (matter) extends into the realm of simple substances. When there is substance there must be composition, he argued, because form demands the support of matter.

The scholastic opposition to, and defense of, Avicebron took place in a context larger than that of the controversy over the Fons Vitae. The Spanish Jew's position actually echoed one held by the Franciscan adherents of St. augustine at Paris, such as alexander of hales and St. bonaventure. The attack against it by St. thomas aquinas, answered by duns scotus and others, thus involved issues at question among contemporary theologians: the nature of spiritual substances, the existence of "spiritual matter," and, indeed, the nature of matter itself.

The other works of Ibn Gabirol circulated solely in Jewish circles in Spain. The Improvement of Moral Qualities, an ethical treatise written in Arabic and later translated into Hebrew, ultimately derives from the peripatetic ethical tradition, but bears a distinctly Jewish character. Similarly, the Choice of Pearls, which is probably Ibn Gabirol's, addresses to the common reader a selection of moral aphorisms. Ibn Gabirol continues to be read and studied as the author of the Kingly Crown, a collection of religious poems in Hebrew that has gone through frequent editions and translations and still forms part of the Sephardic ritual for Yom Kippūr.

See Also: neoplatonism; scholasticism; forms, unicity and plurality of.

Bibliography: Works. Fons Vitae, Latin tr. c. baeumker, Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie und Theologie des Mittelalters (Münster 1891) 1.24 (189295); Heb. paraphrase, ed. and tr. s. munk, Mélanges de philosophie juive et arabe, (new ed. Paris 1955), Heb. text in appendix; Eng. Fountain of Life, tr. a. b. jacob (Philadelphia 1954); tr. h. e. wedick (New York 1962), from Baeumker's Latin text; The Improvement of Moral Qualities, tr. s. s. wise (Columbia U. Oriental Studies 1; New York 1902); Solomon Ibn Gabirol's Choice of Pearls, tr. a. cohen (New York 1925); Selected Religious Poems of Ibn Gabirol, tr. i. zangwill (Philadelphia 1923), Eng. and Heb.; Kether Malkuth, ed. j. seidman (Jerusalem 1950); Eng. Solomon Ibn Gabirol: The Kingly Crown, tr. b. lewis (London 1961). Studies. Bibliog. in j. schirmann and j. klausner, Encyclopaedia Judaica: Das Judentum in Geschichte und Gegenwart (Berlin 192834) 7:1011, 2324. Also

in g. vajda, Jüdische Philosophie (Bern 1950) 1416; Introduction à la pensée juive du moyen âge (Paris 1947) 7583. s. munk, op. cit. 151306. i. husik, A History of Medieval Jewish Philosophy (2d ed. New York 1959) 5979. É. h. gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York 1955). m. wittmann, "Die Stellung des Hl. Thomas von Aquin zu Avencebrol," Beiträge zur Geschichte der Philosophie und Theologie des Mittelalters (Münster 1891) 3.3 (1900). j. goheen, The Problem of Matter and Form in the 'De Ente et Essentia' of Thomas Aquinas (Cambridge, Mass. 1940).

[f. e. peters]

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Avicebron (Ibn Gabirol, Solomon Ben Judah)

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