Ẓaddik, Joseph ben Jacob ibn

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ẒADDIK, JOSEPH BEN JACOB IBN (d. 1149), philosopher and poet. Little is known of his life. From 1138 ibn Ẓaddik held the position of dayyan in Cordoba. He exchanged verses with*Judah Halevi and was in contact with Moses *Ibn Ezra, his contemporaries, and wrote liturgical poetry which won praise from Judah *Al-Ḥarizi. His treatise on logic has been lost. His main philosophical work is preserved in a rather clumsy Hebrew translation replete with arabisms, under the title Sefer ha-Olam ha-Katan ("Book of the Microcosm") whose translation M. Steinschneider attributes to Nahum ha-Ma'aravi. The Hebrew text has been edited by A. Jellinek (1854) and by S. Horovitz (1903). Maimonides speaks highly of the author, whom he remembers from his early days in Cordoba, and describes his book as one of great significance, although he acknowledges that he had not seen it. Other medieval writers who quote it include David *Kimḥi, *Jedaiah ha-Penini, and Meir *Aldabi.

The Microcosm is purported to have been written in answer to a disciple's question as to what constitutes the "everlasting good and the state of perfection" to be pursued by man according to the teachings of the philosophers. The author is motivated to reply to this question by his desire to offer guidance to his generation, which he sees sunk in "the deep sleep of lethargy" and "drunk with the passions of this world," and which "retains of Judaism but the name and of humanity but the corporeal form." Like the Islamic "*Sincere Brethren" and ibn *Gabirol, he declares the "knowing of God and the doing of His will" to be the twin roads leading to man's ultimate felicity. As for a knowledge of God, it is best obtained by way of self-knowledge, seeing that man is but a microcosmic replica of both the corporeal and spiritual worlds. Thus, by self-inspection "man may climb the ascending stages of knowledge until he reaches the divine knowledge… for by arriving at a knowledge of his intelligent soul, he will achieve the knowledge of its Creator." The title of the book thus indicates its central theme. In treating it, the author shows himself to be steeped in the neoplatonic tradition.

The work is divided into four "discourses." The first deals with epistemology, ontology, and the nature of the corporeal world as well as of the human body. The second elaborates the microcosm theme and describes the nature of the vegetative and animal souls, life and death, sleep and the waking state, the rational soul, the intellect, and the spiritual world. In these two discourses the neoplatonic outlook is predominant. The remaining two discourses follow the pattern of *Kalām theology in that the third deals with the principles of theology, especially the unity and attributes of God; the fourth deals with "serving and disobeying God" and "reward and punishment." The work as a whole thus reflects the two then prevailing trends, *neoplatonism and Kalām.

In his theory of knowledge ibn Ẓaddik says of the senses that they perceive only the accidental qualities (the "shells") of things, whereas the intellect knows the genera and species, i.e., true nature of things which lies in their "spiritual being." There are two kinds of knowledge: self-evident and demonstrative. Like *Saadiah Gaon, he admits that tradition is also a source of true knowledge. Following Plotinus, he speaks of the rational soul as a "stranger in this corporeal world… wherefore men can make themselves understood to one another only through the medium of speech," whereas the souls in the celestial spheres do not require such a medium. In his ontology he follows Isaac *Israeli and ibn Gabirol in assuming that (spiritual) matter and form are constituent elements of the spiritual world. Consequently, the duality of matter and form applies to both corporeal and spiritual beings. All beings, furthermore, are composed of substance and accidents. Matter is potential substance which becomes actual substance only when clothed with form. All natural bodies are composed of the elements, and are therefore subject to generation and corruption. The human body participates in the nature of minerals, plants, and animals. Hence in men are found the courage of the lion, the timidity of the hare, the meekness of the lamb, and the cunning of the fox. His description of man's superiority over the animals (the "balance" of the four elements, upright stature, etc.) closely resembles Israeli's treatment of the subject in his Treatise on the Elements. Man is a "celestial plant," hence his head, which is his "root," is directed heavenward.

While the analogy between the human body and the corporeal world is manifest to everybody, the analogy between the soul and the spiritual world can be discerned only when the "veil of (spiritual) blindness" is removed. The rational soul is not corporeal. Ibn Ẓaddik's four proofs in support of this argument are derived, for the most part, from Plotinus. The rational soul is a spiritual substance. The body is not its place, but it is the "place" of the body. God created it from nothing in order that "it may proclaim His works and indicate His existence." He interprets Aristotle's definition of the soul in a neoplatonic sense (as did Isaac Israeli before him): The soul is a substance (not an accident) giving perfection to a natural body which is an instrument (of the function of the soul) possessing life potentially; this substance is the cause of perfection in man by virtue of the fact that it is the cause of life in the hereafter. The rational soul, which is "like a king" and which is destined to lead man to his eternal bliss, receives its "light" from the Intellect, the "matter" of which is the "perfect light and clear splendor" which "emanates from the power of the Creator, without an intermediary." This is a literal quotation from Israeli's metaphysical doctrine, which is itself derived from a pseudo-Aristotelian neoplatonic treatise describing the coming-into-being of the Intellect. His dependence on Israeli is pronounced in this as well as in other matters.

In his Divine attributes he takes issue with the Kalām version, and following largely *Baḥya ibn Paquda's view of the unity of God and the exclusively negative sense of all qualities predicated of the Divine essence, he admits only "attributes of action," and holds that God's essence is "incomparable and unknowable." "The eternal will of God" created the world, and the notion of time is inapplicable to this act. Creation is to be attributed "to God's abundant goodness and mercy and to nothing else." Non-recognition of God's goodness is tantamount to the denial of God. Gratitude is the first duty which religion prescribes. From Saadiah, ibn Ẓaddik adopts the distinction between the commandments of reason and those of revelation. But even the latter contain some profound, secret, and subtle meaning, as e.g., the commandment of the Sabbath, which teaches "that the world came into being by an act of Creation"; moreover, the Sabbath symbolizes the future world: for example, just as man will have nothing to eat on the Sabbath unless he has prepared the Sabbath meal during the week days, so he will have no share in the future world unless he prepares himself in this world with good deeds.


Vajda, in: Archives d'histoire doctrinale et littéraire du moyen âge, 24 (1949), 93–181; A. Altmann and S.M. Stern, Isaac Israeli (Eng., 1958), index; Guttmann, Philosophies, 144–8; Husik, Philosophy, 125–49; Schirmann, Sefarad, 1 (1954), 544f.; 2 (1956), 686; Wolfson, in: jqr, 55 (1964/65), 277–98. For some older literature see bibliography in: je, 7 (1904), 265, and jl, 3 (1929), 336.

[Alexander Altmann]