Moses ben Joseph Ha-Levi

views updated


MOSES BEN JOSEPH HA-LEVI (13th century), philosopher. Nothing is known about Moses' life; the suggestion that he was a member of the famous Abulafia family has not been proven. He was highly regarded by Joseph b. Abraham *Ibn Wakar, and is quoted by Crescas, Albo, and Isaac Abrabanel. His major work Ma'amar Elohi ("Metaphysical Treatise"), as well as fragments from two of his minor works (all written in Arabic), were discovered and incorporated in Ibn Wakar's Treatise on the Harmony between Philosophy and the Revealed Law (c. 1340). Two manuscripts of the Hebrew versions of the Ma'amar are extant (Bodleian and Leningrad), while a third, previously in the library of the cathedral of Pamplona, Spain, can no longer be traced. The Ma'amar Elohi seeks to establish the existence of the First Cause (God); to refute erroneous views concerning this subject and concerning the attributes of God; and to investigate the emanation of beings from the First Cause. Moses, disagreeing with Aristotle, Alexander of Aphrodisias, and Averroes, holds with Themistius, al-Fārābī, and Avicenna, that the "First Intellect," which emanated directly from God without an intermediary, is the Prime Mover of the celestial spheres. His doctrine of Divine attributes seeks to avoid plurality in God and therefore denies all attributes superadded to His essence. He admits, however, not only negative attributes but also attributes of essence, such as knowledge, will, and power, as well as attributes denoting action as "Creator." (Moses makes no reference whatever to Maimonides' thorough treatment of this theme.) Divine Providence, according to him, does not involve God's knowledge of individuals, but only the universal rule of God, employing the human intellect as an agent of the Active *Intellect. Of the two other fragments, one deals with the problem of Divine Providence and the other with al-Ghazālī's doctrine of the "Word" (Kalima). Approving of Ghazālī's doctrine, Moses establishes a metaphysical entity above the "First Intellect," the Prime Mover, and immediately below God, the First Cause.

[Alexander Altmann]

Moses also wrote, assuming that Steinschneider's identification is correct, a work on musical harmonies, a short section of which is quoted by Shemtov Shaprut b. Isaac of Tudela in his Hebrew commentary on Avicenna's Canon (Munich, Ms. Hebr. 8, fol. 330b). Moses describes the mathematical relations of musical intervals as well as some arithmetical operations carried out with them. The rather elementary contents of this text comply with Arabic musical theory. Its musical terminology is basically identical with that used in a Hebrew version of the musical chapter in Umayya ibn abī al-Ṣalt's encyclopedia (Paris, Cod. Hebr. 10371); thus Moses' treatise may originally have been in Hebrew.

[Hanoch Avenary]

About this article

Moses ben Joseph Ha-Levi

Updated About content Print Article