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Abravanel, Judah ben Isaac (c.1460/5–c.1520/5)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-J029-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved November 28, 2023, from

Article Summary

Judah ben Isaac Abravanel was born in Lisbon. After the expulsion of the Jews from Spain in 1492, Leone, as he was known, and his family migrated to Naples, but fled two years later following the French invasion. After brief residences in various Italian cities, Leone returned to Naples where he served as court physician to the Spanish Viceroy. Well-versed in the sciences of his day, including physics, medicine and philosophy, whether Jewish, Islamic or Christian, he composed his major work, Dialoghi d’amore (Dialogues of Love), in 1501–2. Although the work influenced such important thinkers as Montaigne, Bruno and Spinoza, its main influence was in literature rather than philosophy. Its style resembles that of other Renaissance works in the ambit of Ficino’s commentary on Plato’s Symposium but, unlike these works, it is neither philosophical commentary nor courtly literature. Adopting the idiom of courtly love and drawing on Platonic and Neoplatonic sources, it complements them with mythological, biblical and Aristotelian sources to produce a novel synthesis of Plato and Aristotle with ideas drawn from the pagan and the revealed traditions, aiming to demonstrate that love is the animating principle of the universe and the cause of all existence, divine as well as material.

The three dialogues between Philo, the poetic lover, and his beloved Sophia address the relations between love and desire, the universality of love and the origin of love. Each discussion pivots on an apparent opposition between Philo’s Aristotelian and Sophia’s Platonic views. The discussion of the relations between love and desire raises fundamental questions about the relations of soul and body.

Citing this article:
Dobbs-Weinstein, Idit. Abravanel, Judah ben Isaac (c.1460/5–c.1520/5), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-J029-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2023 Routledge.

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