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Israeli, Isaac ben Solomon (c.855–955)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-J003-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved November 28, 2023, from

Article Summary

A pioneering Jewish philosopher and a physician, Isaac Israeli was among the very first medieval Jewish writers to formulate a philosophy employing Greek sources. He based his metaphysics chiefly on the Neoplatonic theory of emanation. However, like many later Jewish philosophers, Israeli understood God as a voluntary agent who acted through power and will. He combined a commitment to the traditional doctrine of creation ex nihilo with the idea of emanation: the first level of the ontic hierarchy was formed by divine creation but lower levels emerged by emanation. This original synthesis was Israeli’s most prominent philosophical innovation.

Israeli’s anthropology was at base largely Neoplatonic, teaching that the soul can ascend the emanatory ladder back to God. The first Jew to give a psychological account of prophecy, Israeli, unlike later Jewish thinkers, did not discuss at length the relation between his philosophical ideas and traditional sources. His pioneering work did not have a decisive impact on later generations of Jewish thinkers; he was known in Latin Europe, but mainly for his medical writings.

Citing this article:
Lasker, Daniel J.. Israeli, Isaac ben Solomon (c.855–955), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-J003-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2023 Routledge.

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