Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages

Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages

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Raphael Jospe

Series: Emunot: Jewish Philosophy and Kabbalah
ISBN: 9781934843093 (hardcover) / 9781934843277 (paper)
Pages: 620 pp.
Publication Date: June 2009

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Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages presents an overview of the formative period of medieval Jewish philosophy, from its beginnings with Saadiah Gaon to its apex in Maimonides, when Jews living in Islamic countries and writing in Arabic were the first to develop a conscious and continuous tradition of philosophy. The book includes a dictionary of selected philosophic terms, and discusses the Greek and Arabic schools of thought that influenced the Jewish thinkers and to which they responded. The discussion covers: the nature of Jewish philosophy, Saadiah Gaon and the Kalam, Jewish Neo-Platonism, Bahya ibn Paqudah, Abraham ibn Ezra's philosophical Bible exegesis, Judah Ha-Levi's critique of philosophy, Abraham ibn Daud and the transition to Aristotelianism, Maimonides, and the controversy over Maimonides and philosophy.

Raphael Jospe teaches Jewish philosophy at Bar Ilan University and the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and served as the editor of the Jewish Philosophy Division of the Encyclopaedia Judaica (2nd edition). His publications include a three-volume Hebrew history, Jewish Philosophy In the Middle Ages, Torah and Sophia: The Life and Thought of Shem Tov ibn Falaquera, and a two-volume collection, Jewish Philosophy: Foundations and Extensions.

This volume is [a] great achievement. [Dr. Jospe’s] book can be used as both a textbook and reference book because of its clear and extensive index of names and topics. Yet the clarity of the book’s presentation and its readability make it a perfect introductory volume for a lay reader. His introductory chapter, “What is Jewish Philosophy,” alone is worth the price of the book because it surveys the wide variety of approaches of Jewish philosophy. There is, as Dr. Jospe makes very clear, no single, uniform Jewish philosophy. Thus, many Jews who understand this, become confused, throw up their hands and ask, ‘If so, what should I believe?’ Jospe’s excellent book helps people reach an answer.
— Israel Drazen, The Jewish Eye
Among the book’s many useful features are the general introduction and helpful didactic charts, diagrams, and tables. Included are comparative cross references, a good subject and name index, and two illuminating appendices. This book joins others in a group of excellent but very different scholarly treatments of Jewish philosophy, including Isaac Husik’s History of Medieval Jewish Philosophy (1916), Julius Guttmann’s Philosophies of Judaism (1964) and Colette Sirat’s History of Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages (1985). Jospe’s book complements these works and moves the philosophical discussion along. . . . Highly recommended.
— D.B. Levy, Touro College, in CHOICE: Current Reviews for Academic Libraries, April 2010
Raphael Jospe’s book was translated from a course produced for Israel’s Open University, and, therefore, is very much intended as a textbook, including copious citations from the works under discussion, frequent summaries of the material, and illustrations and tables. . . . Furthermore, Jospe does not restrict himself merely to his authors’ strictly philosophical works, for instance discussing Judah Halevi’s poetry and Maimonides’s dogmatics. Of note is the long section devoted to Abraham ibn Ezra. . . . In addition to his summary of the medieval views, and the production of texts which illustrate the points made, Jospe makes references to contemporary scholarship, presenting alternate interpretations of the works he discusses, often with his own response to these views.
— Daniel J. Lasker, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, European Judaism