Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

2011 Edition
| Editors: Henrik Lagerlund

Philosophy, Jewish

  • Aaron W. Hughes
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9729-4_400


Although “medieval Jewish philosophy” as a concept and field of study was not coined until the modern period, the term nonetheless denotes a series of features and concerns shared by a number of individuals between the tenth and sixteenth centuries. The tendency however has been to draw a fairly circumscribed line defining the “canon” of medieval Jewish philosophy that is perceived to stretch from Saadia Gaon (882–942) to Isaac Abravanel (1437–1508). In between these two bookends exist a handful of “Neoplatonists” (e.g., Solomon ibn Gabirol, Abraham ibn Ezra), their critics (e.g., Judah Halevi), the towering Aristotelian synthesis of Maimonides (1138–1204), followed by a series of epigonic thinkers (e.g., Samuel ibn Tibbon, Joseph Kaspi), and several more original thinkers (e.g., Gersonides and Hasdai Crescas).

Such is the master narrative of medieval Jewish philosophy. In what follows I subscribe, for the sake of convenience, to this narrative; however, it is important to be aware that too strict an adherence to it potentially prevents us from including individuals traditionally left out of this canon (e.g., Judah al-Harizi, Isaac Polleqar), movements (e.g., rabbinic thought, kabbalah), or issues (e.g., animals, literature, genres). With this in mind, what follows presents the general contours of medieval Jewish philosophy and, even though it mentions specific individuals, this entry works on the assumption that more details concerning many of these thinkers will be dealt with more exhaustively in cognate entries.

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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Aaron W. Hughes
    • 1
  1. 1.Institute of Jewish Thought and Heritage, SUNY,BuffaloUSA