Stood as a salient element in the Renaissance conceptualization of the human being, the universe, and the former’s place in regard to the latter



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תאריך הגשת התכנית: 03-03-2003

(Brian Ogren) שם התלמיד: ברוך אוגרן



שם המדריך: פרופסור משה אידל

(Metempsychosis in Italian Renaissance Kabbalah: 1466-1520) גלגול נשמות בקבלה הרנסנסית באיטליה: 1466-1520


Metempsychosis -- the doctrine centering around the posthumous endurance of the individual soul and its ensuing migration into a new body or substance, commonly known by the Hebrew locution gilgul neshamot -- stood as a salient element in the Renaissance conceptualization of the human being, the universe, and the former’s place in regard to the latter. Formerly relegated to the arcane regions of Jewish esoteric thought and restricted to Gnostic, and specifically Manichean, elements of Christianity, metempsychosis reared itself during the Renaissance as a concept with which to be reckoned. Appreciably infused into the discourse of mainstream Jewish philosophers such as Elia Delmedigo and Isaac Abravanel and treated by prominent Christian thinkers like Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola, the doctrine of metempsychosis owes its Renaissance diffusion to two main factors. The first involves a newly anthropocentric conception of philosophical psychology, the systematically reflective study of the soul and of the human’s place within creation; the second comprises a prevalent analytical method known as prisca theologia (ancient theology), which accompanied the novel humanistic psychology.

From the Catholic Church to the Platonic Academy in Florence to the Aristotelian Scholastic tradition of Padua, ideas concerning the soul of the individual and its place in the totality of creation burst forth onto the scene of deliberation in early modern Italy like never before in the history of Western thought. This phenomenon correlates to the progressive shift in the early modern polity from feudal agriculture to an increasingly urban market society, which brought with it a widening shift of consciousness concerning individual autonomy and consequently, a new orientation of faith based on the subjective and more fluid positioning of the human being within the paradigm of cognition.1 As individuals were gradually forced to make their own way in life, prior notions of a “given” ontological order came to be challenged. Man began to gain more control over his fate and, in so doing, began to enter into a state of tension with previously accepted notions of nature, community and redemption.

The state of tension caused by the disparity between concepts hitherto held to be authoritative and between the greater sense of individual autonomy due to political and social processes led to independent critical inquiry, which in turn led thinkers to seek answers to medieval problems by recovering ancient sources and reforming these sources in order to fit their contemporary needs. Known as prisca theologia, this new syncretistic system of thought sought to unify the most diverse scientific, philosophic and religious doctrines by turning to varied antique sources in order to achieve a universal knowledge. Although they were Christians and therefore attempted to consolidate the new prisca theologia under a specifically Christian rubric, those who pioneered the novel endeavor, such as the priests Marsilio Ficino and Egidio da Viterbo, attempted to spread their nets wide by expanding their boundaries beyond the Christian canon. At the crux of this attempt stood an interest in both Plato and his ilk, which called for a vigorous campaign of renovated translation and commentary,2 and in the Jewish Kabbalah, which prompted both an unprecedented development of affable intercourse between members of the Jewish and Christian elites and an exotericization of this fundamentally esoteric lore.3 Since both Plato and the kabbalists earnestly espoused separate doctrines of metempsychosis as integral parts of their respective psychological systems and since philosophical psychology stood as a quintessential concern to Renaissance thinkers, the new method of using ancient sources in order to understand the individual and the cosmos virulently pushed the doctrine of metempsychosis out of its enigmatic shadows and onto the world stage of thought.

I will research the variety of Jewish positions of participation in the actualization of heightened Renaissance cognition concerning the once arcane doctrine of metempsychosis, and the concurrent complexity of responses to this widening of cognizance. Starting with the consequential debate that transpired in the year 1466 in the community of Candia and extending my research into the first decade of the sixteenth century with an exploration into the concepts of thinkers such as Rabbi Elia Hayyim ben Binyamin of Genazzano and Rabbi Yohanan Alemanno, I will contextualize the doctrine of metempsychosis, both within the large-scale Renaissance picture of philosophical psychology and within the wider panorama of the history of the idea of metempsychosis. Italy during the period under examination, including Candia, which was then under Venetian rule, acted as a nexus point for the Levantine, Sephardic, Ashkenazic and native Italian Jewish communities due to its location as a major hub of migration patterns. Such a position led to an influx and a more fluid exchange of various ideas as developed in disparate cultural landscapes. This influx, coupled with heightened exchanges between the Jewish and Christian elites and the related, uniquely philosophical form of Kabbalah as developed in Italy, makes Italy an important point of examination in the turning point from older, more esoteric notions of metempsychosis as developed by thinkers like Rabbi Moshe ben Nahman to more popular, individualistic conceptions of this psychological doctrine.

I will begin with the 1466 debate in Candia due to its unprecedented nature as an open exchange of reproach and rejoinder between two coexistent Rabbis from very different backgrounds, and as based upon philosophic as well as kabbalistic speculation. The debate in Candia stood as a liminal point from which the speculative analysis of metempsychosis was able to break forth onto the scene of thought and to confront other conceptual notions of individuality. I will then extend my research into the first few decades of the sixteenth century for two reasons. First, this will allow me to gauge the possible historical and philosophical implications of the debate in Candia. Second, by giving voice to and analyzing the thoughts of prominent Italian Jewish thinkers who were attuned to and involved in wider cultural developments prior to the fall of the Medici, the expulsion from most of southern Italy by the Spanish, and the establishment of the Venetian Ghetto, it will allow me to fill out the picture of Italian Jewish views on metempsychosis during a short period of relative affability and the role of these views within Jewish-Christian, as well as internal Jewish dialogue concerning the individual soul. Such an analysis will allow me to gain greater insight into Jewish responses to novel questions regarding the individual soul and these responses’ subsequent influence upon Jewish ideas concerning the nature of the individual human being.

My research project will necessitate a methodology of philosophical as well as historical analysis in order to arrive at a clearer understanding of the place of metempsychosis within the changing relationships between Kabbalah and Philosophy, between the Jewish and the non-Jewish worlds, and between the individual and the cosmos. In order to carry out such a project, I will resort to philosophical and historical literature as well as to original manuscript sources.4 The pertinent philosophical and historical literature extant in print can be found in the Gershom Scholem Library, located within the Jewish National Library, as well as in the general stacks of both the Jewish National and University Library and the Bloomfield Library for the Humanities of the Hebrew University. The appropriate manuscript sources for my research are accessible through the Institute of Microfilmed Manuscripts, also housed in the Jewish National and University library. I will utilize these institutions for my research, and will employ the aid of scholars from abroad, such as Professors Fabrizio Lelli and Stephane Toussaint, in order to locate and analyze the relevant Latin sources.

Previous scholarship has extensively probed developments in philosophical psychology as related to the dominant cultural trends of the Renaissance,5 thereby laying the groundwork for a more thorough investigation of contemporaneous attitudes concerning metempsychosis. The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy devotes to the topic an entire section, which is composed of three chapters, one on the concept of psychology and its importance to Renaissance thought, one on the organic soul, i.e., the principle responsible for those life functions inextricably tied to the bodies of living beings and dependent on their organs, and finally one on the intellective soul, the cognitive faculty within the individual.6 Within this section, as within its antecedent works on Renaissance psychology, the authors emphasize the importance that questions regarding the continuity of the individual soul held in the transformation from medieval to renaissance notions of man. Formerly, individual continuity had not played a major role within systematic philosophy. As Paul Oskar Kristeller has pointed out, Thomas Aquinas defended the incorruptibility and future beatitude of the rational soul, but did not attach any individual importance to the subject and avoided the term “immortality” altogether in regard to the individual human being.7 Accordingly, Duns Scotus explicitly declared the traditional arguments for any form of postmortem continuity of the individual soul to be feeble and inconclusive, and added the postulate that belief in resurrection and eternal life should be based on faith alone.8 Only Averroes and his followers elevated a concept of eternality to a position of supreme philosophical importance, yet theirs was a formulation that accounted for the immortality of the universal intellect and thereby removed all bases for any type of individual continuity.9 It was precisely this impersonal, undifferentiated philosophy of salvation, as well as the indifference of Aquinas and the extreme fideism of Scotus, to which the philosophers of the Italian Renaissance, such as Pomponazzi10 and Ficino11, were reacting and responding with their divergent yet symetrically subjective and individualized views. Correspondingly, it was precisely within this new atmosphere bent on a subjective sense of individual continuity that the doctrine of metempsychosis was able to rear its head and to push its way to the philosophical fore.

Parallel to the advances made in understanding the subjectively individualized nature of philosophical psychology as developed within the Italian Renaissance, scholars have made vigorous attempts to treat the complex historical phenomenon of the doctrine of metempsychosis within the Judaism.12 Researchers have been able to trace the doctrine back to the twelfth century enigmatic text, Sefer ha-Bahir,13 within the Jewish mystical tradition, and back to the early tenth century remonstrance of the idea by Rabbi Saadia Gaon14 within the philosophical tradition. The rabbinic world-view, as expressed in the Talmud and midrash, knew absolutely nothing of the doctrine, and no explicit reference is made to it within biblical literature. This, however, did not prevent later commentators from arcanizing the earlier textual tradition by reading the enigmatic doctrine of metempsychosis back into the classical canon of Judaism. Indeed, Nahmanides perceived the key to the entire book of Job to be this doctrine as implied, according to him, in Elihu’s utterances to Job,15 while others such as Rabbi Menahem Recanati used the doctrine to interpret the institution of levirate marriage as laid down in the book of Deuteronomy.16 This exegetical method of applying metempsychosis as the inherent, concealed decoder of seemingly cryptic sacred texts not only lent the principally anthropocentric doctrine of metempsychosis greater canonical authority, it also antiquated the doctrine. Both of these factors paved the way for metempsychosis’s greater significance within Renaissance humanist culture as based upon the system of prisca theologia.

Although considerable progress has been made in academia concerning Italian Renaissance notions of philosophical psychology and concerning the fundamentally psychological doctrine of metempsychosis as developed within the Jewish tradition, little effort has been made to examine heightened Italian Renaissance discussions of the latter, especially in terms of the former. Indeed, in his writings on the subject of metempsychosis, Gershom Scholem jumps from the Spanish Kabbalah of the twelfth through the fourteenth centuries to the late sixteenth century Kabbalah of Safed, thereby omitting the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century Italian developments. It has become commonplace in Jewish historiography since Scholem to locate an outburst of popular interest in metempsychosis within mid to late sixteenth century Jewish culture, linking it to the Spanish expulsion as an expression of exile and restoration.17 This thinking holds that as the soul migrates from one body to another in an attempt to correct itself and to raise itself to a higher plane, so too does the nation of Israel in its exile and migration from land to land. This outlook, though not completely without foundation, views the popular development of metempsychosis as an internal process that arose out of the particular national tribulation of Jewish life, ignoring the larger social and cultural contexts in which Jews lived. By examining the doctrine of metempsychosis within the late fifteenth and early sixteenth century Italian milieu of relatively amiable interfaith dialogue, my research will add a new perspective to the current state of scholarly understanding.

My study will involve a total of seven chapters treating the doctrine of metempsychosis as related to the Italian Renaissance environment. The first chapter will be a survey of the history of the doctrine and will be broken down into two sections. The first section will regard the history of metempsychosis in respect to the Greek, and specifically the Platonic tradition. I will explore its inception within the Orphic arena, its adoption by Pythagoras, and its subsequent suffusion through the writings of Plato. Finally, I will investigate the doctrine of metempsychosis as it takes form in the writings of Plato’s primary followers, Proclus and Plotinus. As cornerstones to Renaissance Neoplatonism, an understanding of this array of Greek thinkers’ ideas on metempsychosis is indispensable. The second section of chapter one will treat the history of metempsychosis within Jewish thought prior to the Italian Renaissance. I will start with an examination of Rabbi Saadia Gaon’s and Rabbi Abraham Ibn Daud’s refutations of the doctrine and will proceed onto an analysis of the relevant passages of Sefer ha-Bahir. I will then explore metempsychosis within the Spanish Kabbalistic school, specifically as it takes form within the applicable writings of Nahmanides and his students, and in the pertinent passages of Zoharic literature. Finally, I will analyze the appropriate passages in the works of the thirteenth century Rabbi Menahem Recanati, who had an important impact upon Renaissance thought, and the rebuke of the doctrine by the fourteenth century Rabbi Hasdai Crescas, whose impress upon the Renaissance was no less than that of the Recanati.

Chapter two of my dissertation will focus on a momentous debate that occurred in 1466 in the town of Candia in Crete, then under the control of the Republic of Venice, between Rabbi Moshe ha-Cohen Ashkenazi and Rabbi Michael Balbo. The former, relatively new to the community and, according to Aviezer Ravitzky, a “young upstart of a scholar,”18 initiated the debate with an attack on the doctrine of metempsychosis from an Aristotelian platform. The latter, a scholarly seasoned, senior spiritual guide of the community from a long family line of Candian leaders, stood in defense of the doctrine upon a platform of philosophic and kabbalistic compatibility. Both scholars invoked precedent philosophical as well as kabbalistic literature concerning metempsychosis in order to make their respective cases, bringing the tradition of censure and defense to its peak in an open, dynamic disputation. This in turn opened the gates for further speculative inquiry into the doctrine, commencing a whole new stage in the history of Jewish thought concerning the soul. The core of the debate exists in two extant tracts, MS. Vatican 254 and Ms. Vatican 105, written by Ashkenazi and Balbo respectively. I will explore these two tracts as well as other relevant materials, such as Ms. Paris 800,19 in order to better understand and locate the growing importance of metempsychosis with respect to the incipient Renaissance discussions, both Jewish and non-Jewish, concerning philosophical psychology.

Chapter three of my dissertation will examine the thought of the native Candian, Rabbi Elia Delmedigo, who published his seminal book Behinat ha-Dat in Candia some thirty years after the momentous debate between Rabbi Ashkenazi and Rabbi Balbo. Both Ephraim Gottlieb and Yaakov Ross have noted that Delmedigo’s book was written within the social and cultural framework created by the Candia debate,20 and it is reasonable, based on temporal, spatial, and theoretical proximity, to assume that Delmedigo was acquainted with the proceedings of the debate. An ardent Averroist, Delmedigo traveled to the Italian peninsula for medical training, and there taught his Averroistic postulates to several figures, including both Domenico Grimani, who later became the Cardinal of San Marco in Venice, and the Florentine count Pico della Mirandola, with whom he set up a patronage and thereby brought his teachings to the Italian Renaissance intellectual fore. Delmedigo’s writings take a predominantly Averroistic approach to philosophical psychology. Nevertheless, at least two of his works, the Hebrew version of his Treatise on the Intellect and Conjunction, composed originally in Latin in 1482 at the behest of Pico, and the Hebrew version of his Commentary to Averroes’s De Substantia Orbis, composed originally in Latin in 1485 for Pico, treat the kabbalistic view of the soul and its Neoplatonic foundations.21 Included within this treatment is the inseparably Kabbalistic and Neoplatonic doctrine of metempsychosis. I will examine these documents in regard to Delmedigo’s overall Averroistic understanding of the soul as outlined in his other writings and will compare them to the extant Latin versions in order to arrive at a better understanding of his take on metempsychosis and this take’s subsequent influence and impact.

Chapter four will deal with Delmedigo’s successor as the Jewish teacher of Pico and one of his major intellectual rivals, Rabbi Yohanan Alemanno. As a doctor, a kabbalist, and a beneficiary of the Humanist academy in Florence, Alemanno possessed a deep understanding of the latest intellectual currents within Aristotelian natural philosophy, Judaism and Neoplatonism; in addition, his position allowed him to witness syncretistic tendencies in Christianity while simultaneously employing them in his own manner within Judaism. Influenced by the tendencies of the era while concurrently influencing them, Alemanno displayed an obsession with notions of life-after-death throughout his writings, culminating in his voluminous psychological masterwork, appropriately titled Hay ha-‘Olamim (The Immortal).22 Begun in 1470 and concluded just one year before Alemanno’s death in 1504, Hay ha-‘Olamim attempts to show the hierarchical process of cognition, ranging from what Alemanno terms “the world of habit” (‘olam ha-minhag), which governs the individual at his conception and until his birth, to what he calls “the world of defined intellect” (‘olam sekel nivchan), which accompanies a state of immortality in the form of mystical union with the divine. I will read this mystical summa of philosophical psychology with an eye toward Alemanno’s impression of metempsychosis, and will compare the ideas therein to his other works that specifically encounter the topic, such as the untitled treatise in Ms. Paris 849. A radical Neoplatonic Kabbalist under the influence of Florentine Humanism and at the court of Pico della Mirandola, Alemanno provides the perfect counterweight to Delmedigo in an attempt to perceive the full spectrum of Italian Renaissance Jewish thought concerning metempsychosis.

Chapter five will concentrate upon the famous anti-rationalist statesman and contemporary of both Alemanno and Delmedigo, Rabbi Isaac Abravanel. Though born and raised on the Iberian Peninsula, most of Abravanel’s works were written in the last fifteen years of his life, between 1492 and 1507, and therefore belong to his Italian period. The only known professedly non-kabbalistic Jewish thinker to actively and openly support the idea of metempsychosis, Abravanel provides a crucial axis point from which to gauge the increased significance of the doctrine within the popular sphere of Italian Jewish thought. Abravanel’s stance on metempsychosis, laid out most ardently in his commentary on the laws of levirate marriage in Deuteronomy 25:5, cites Pythagoras, Plato, and the Kabbalists as support, and adopts a fundamentally Platonic concept of the soul in order to refute the essentially Aristotelian denials of the doctrine of metempsychosis. In line with the Renaissance conception of man, Abravanel holds that man’s soul, created together with the abstract intellegences, was hewn from beneath the Throne of Glory.23 Through the medium of metempsychosis, this eternal, Godly soul is given the opportunity to attain a lacking perfection, to enhance an already existing perfection, or to atone for past sins in order to lessen the punishment in store for it in the “world of souls.” I will examine Abravanel’s philosophical defense of metempsychosis as found in his commentary on Deuteronomy in light of his fundamentally humanistic conception of man as found in his various other writings. I will also compare the relevant portions of this commentary, completed on February 6, 1496 in Monopoli, to Ms. Harvard Heb. 108, recently identified by Benjamin Richler of the Jewish National Library as a commentary by Abravanel on Deuteronomy, completed in Portugal in the 1470s.24 This will shed light as to whether Abravanel’s stance on metempsychosis was influenced by his Italian milieu, or whether this stance was an import of older origin, which subsequently influenced his Italian contemporaries.

Chapter six will analyze the thought of Abravanel’s main kabbalistic critic, Elia ben Hayyim ben Binyamin of Genazzano. During the last decade of the fifteenth century, Genazzano wrote an epistle-treatise to a Florentine Jew named David ben Binyamin of Montalcino, in which he set up a lengthy theory of metempsychosis as based upon a specifically Jewish notion of prisca theologia. Within the epistle, Genazzano argues that Pythagoras and his sect, as well as other sources such as Zoraster, the Persians and the Chaldeans, received the ancient doctrine of metempsychosis from the biblical figure Abraham. As further proof for the ancient Jewish roots of metempsychosis, Genazzano refers to the book of Ruth and to the Midrash ha-Ne’elam on Ruth, both of which, according to him, hold latently authoritative evidence of metempsychosis. Genazzano’s view, intended to refute the philosophical explanation by Rabbi Joseph Albo of an infiltration of metempsychosis into Judaism from pagan sources, assumes that one single, Jewish concept of metempsychosis underlies the various religious accounts concerning this issue. Influenced by the prisca theologia tradition of his day and aware of tensions concerning doctrinal ascendancy, Genazzano sought to consolidate the doctrine of metempsychosis under a specifically Jewish matrix. This attempt endeavored to elevate the notion of Jewish authenticity in regard to other systems of thought, while it simultaneously denied the importance of individual features in regard to variant theological views on metempsychosis. I will examine Genazzano’s rather parochial stance in order to come to a better understanding of the role that metempsychosis played within current trends of prisca theologia, and in order to discern how this role figured into intellectual tensions, both within Judaism and between Judaism and the dominant Christian Renaissance culture.

The final chapter of my dissertation will tie together all the previous discussions concerning the diffusion and importance of Jewish notions of metempsychosis within Italian Renaissance thought by turning to the two main Christian exponents of prisca theologia and Neoplatonic Humanism, Marsilio Ficino and Pico della Mirandola. Modern scholars have suggested that both Ficino and Pico openly engaged Jewish intellectuals of the Renaissance for the sake of bringing them to the baptismal font. This claim is certainly fortified by a letter from Ficino to Domenico Benivieni describing a sequence of debates at Pico’s home between two Jews, Elia Delmedigo and another named Abraham, against the apostate Flavius Mithridates.25 Within this letter, Ficino claims that the Jews interpret out Christian truths from the Scriptures, and can only be properly refuted with the aid of “the divine Plato.” An analysis of Ficino’s interpretation of Plato’s belief in metempsychosis within his commentary to Phaedrus,26 rendered figuratively in order to harmonize Plato with Christianity, with an eye toward Jewish views on the subject, will serve to illuminate one important aspect of Jewish-Christian Renaissance tensions concerning prisca theologia and philosophical psychology. Similarly, an examination of the section of Pico’s Conclusiones that treats metempsychosis27 will elucidate the affinities and differences between his perception and those of his Jewish associates,28 thereby clarifying a significant component of his entire project of including Jewish intellectuals and Jewish lore within his scheme of prisca theologia.

Fifteenth century Italy witnessed a notable turning point in the history of philosophical psychology as based upon novel notions of subjective thought. As individual free will took center stage, thereby displacing the static reign of the unmovable cosmos and allowing for a more fluid model of thinking, the individually fluid doctrine of metempsychosis advanced to a position of theoretical prominence. Aided by the greater acceptance of both prior kabbalistic concepts and Plato, the doctrine of metempsychosis began to be taken seriously, even by those outside of the strictly mystical camps. As a student of Jewish Thought, I will investigate the dynamics, complications and consequences of Italian Renaissance thought concerning the creation of man in the divine image and the resulting uniqueness of his distinctive soul by turning to the increasingly popular doctrine of individual continuity, metempsychosis.

TABLE OF CONTENTS FOR THE PROPOSED DISSERTATION PROJECT

Introduction: THE PRE-RENAISSANCE HISTORY OF METEMPSYCHOSIS:

From Greek Thought to the Jewish Tradition



Chapter One: THE DEBATE IN CANDIA:

Rabbi Moshe ha-Cohen Ashkenazi and Rabbi Michael Balbo



Chapter Two: RABBI ELIA DELMEDIGO:

Averroism and Metempsychosis



Chapter Three: RABBI YOHANAN ALEMANNO:

Immortality and Metempsychosis



Chapter Four: RABBI ISAAC ABRAVANEL:

Philosophical Bible Commentary and Metempsychosis



Chapter Five: RABBI ELIA HAYYIM BEN BINYAMIN OF GENAZZANO:

Jewish Prisca Theologia and Metempsychosis



Chapter Six: MARSILIO FICINO AND GIOVANNI PICO DELLA MIRANDOLA:

Christians, Jews, and the Question of the Soul



Conclusion: REFLECTIONS AND ANALYSES:

The Impact and Importance of Metempsychosis to Renaissance Notions of

Philosophical Psychology

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Ms. Harvard Heb. 108, Rabbi Isaac Abravanel’s “lost” commentary on Deuteronomy, written in Portugal in the 1470s.
Ms. Mantua 21, an autograph copy of Rabbi Yohanan Alemanno’s Hay ha-‘Olamim (the Immortal).
Ms. Milan Ambrosiania 128, a Hebrew version of Delmedigo’s Treatise on the Intellect and Conjunction.
Ms. Oxford Bodleian 2234, an autographed anthology of writings by Rabbi Yohanan Alemanno.
Ms. Paris 800, an epistle from the fifteenth century by Rabbi Michael Balbo, concerning the debate on metempsychosis.
Ms. Paris 849, an untitled autograph from the fifteenth century by Rabbi Yohanan Alemanno.
Ms. Paris 968, containing both Delmedigo’s Hebrew version of his Treatise on the Intellect and Conjunction and the

Hebrew version of his Commentary on Averroes’ De Substantia Orbis.


Ms. Paris 6508, a Latin version of Delmedigo’s Commentary to Averroes’ De Substantia Orbis.
Ms. Vatican 105, the records of the 1466 metempsychosis debate in Candia by Rabbi Michael Balbo.
Ms. Vatican 254, the records of the 1466 metempsychosis debate in Candia by Rabbi Moshe Ashkenazi.
Ms. Vatican Lat. 4553, a Latin version of Delmedigo’s Commentary to Averroes’ De Substantia Orbis.
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1 For more on the political and social processes leading to a greater sense of autonomy, both individual and collective, see Hanna Fenichel Pitkin, Fortune is a Woman: Gender and Politics in the Thought of Niccolo Machiavelli, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984, pp. 3-22. For a historical analysis of the idea of the subjective individual within Renaissance thought, see Ernst Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy, translated with introduction by Mario Domandi, Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1963. Though Cassirer has been criticized for being excessively detached from social processes, and therefore from a more comprehensive understanding of history, by focusing exclusively upon the history of ideas, his exceptional philosophical insight concerning the shift from objective to subjective thought cannot be overlooked. For a critique of Cassirer, see Peter Gay, “The Social History of Ideas: Ernst Cassirer and After,” The Critical Spirit: Essays in Honor of Herbert Marcuse, Boston, 1967, pp. 106-120. For a general analysis of the problem of social and intellectual history (and the problem of purely textual analyses), see Dominick LaCapra, Rethinking Intellectual History: Texts, Contexts, Language, Ithica: Cornell University Press, 1983, especially pp. 23-71.

2 For more on this, see primarily James Hankins, Plato in the Italian Renaissance, volumes I and II, New York: Brill, 1990.

3 On this, see primarily Moshe Idel, “Particularism and Universalism in Kabbalah, 1480-1650," in Essential Papers on Jewish Culture in Renaissance and Baroque Italy, New York 1992, pp. 324-344. See also idem, “The Magical and Neoplatonic Interpretations of Kabbalah in the Renaissance,” in Jewish Thought in the Sixteenth Century, Cambridge 1983, pp. 186-242.

4 See bibliography for further details.

5 Most notably, see the following: Renaissance Philosophy of Man: Petrarca, Valla, Ficino, Pico, Pomponazzi, Vives, ed. Ernst Cassirer, Paul Oskar Kristeller, John H. Randall Jr., Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956; Ernst Cassirer, The Individual and the Cosmos in Renaissance Philosophy; Charles Trinkaus, In Our Image and Likeness: Humanity and Divinity in Italian Humanist Thought, vol. 1 and 2, London: Constable and Co., 1970, especially pp. 461-551; and Paul Oskar Kristeller, Renaissance Thought and its Sources, ed. Michael Mooney, New York: Columbia University Press, 1979.

6 Katharine Park and Eckhard Kessler, “Psychology,” in: The Cambridge History of Renaissance Philosophy, ed. Charles B. Schmitt and Quentin Skinner, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1988, pp. 455-534.

7 Paul Oskar Kristeller, Renaissance Thought and its Sources, ed. Michael Mooney, New York: Columbia University Press, 1979, p.186.

8 Ibid.

9 As Cassirer notes, within the Averroist formulation, “the true subject of thought is not the individual, the ‘self.’ Rather, it is a non-personal, substantial being common to all thinking beings; one whose connection with the individual Ego is external and accidental” (The Individual and the Cosmos, p. 127). By forcing the soul into the sphere of impersonal metaphysical forces, Averroism not only compromises individuality, a marked problem for religious thinkers of the Renaissance, it also forsakes subjectivity for a principle of pure objectivity.

10 In 1516, Pietro Pomponazzi published his De immortalitate animae (On the Immortality of the Soul), in which he argues at length from a naturalist position that absolute immortality cannot be proven conclusively. Pomponazzi maintains that man partakes of immortality relatively, insofar as he comprehends and participates in the infinite bliss and wonder of the divinity within his personal, mortal life. Under this formulation, human immortality does not depend on an infinite extension of time, but is fully realized in the experience of the single, present moment. For Pomponazzi, man is “the most perfect of animals” because he is a mean between the material and the immaterial and thus participates in both during his finite life without truly being either. For more on Pomponazzi’s psychology, see Andrew H. Douglas, Philosophy and Psychology of Pietro Pomponazzi, ed. C. Douglas and R.P. Hardie, Lubrecht and Cramer Ltd., 1974.

11 In 1474, Marsilio Ficino completed his magnum opus entitled Theologia Platonica de immortalitate animorum (Platonic

Theology on The Immortality of Souls), which extended to eighteen books and has been described as a summa on immortality. In the preface to the work, addressed to Lorenzo da Medici, Ficino states that his double purpose in writing the work is to reinforce the worship of God and to bring about a new understanding of the nature of man. Deeply rooted in Neo-Platonic philosophy, the work attacks the Averroen notion of the unity of the intellect (especially the fifteenth book), and shows the ultimate purpose of the life of man to be the ascent through contemplation toward the direct vision of God, an activity through which immortality is attained. For more on Ficino, see most recently: Marsilio Ficino: His Theology, His Philosophy, His Legacy, Leiden: Bril, 2001. See also the recent academic translation of Michael J.B. Allen of the Platonic Theology, The I Tatti Renaissance Library, Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2001.



12 Of paramount significance, see Gershom Scholem’s extensive essay, “Gilgul: the Transmigration of Souls,” in On the Mystical Shape of the Godhead: Basic Concepts in the Kabbalah, New York: Schocken, 1991, pp. 197-250. See also idem, “On the Research of the Doctrine of Gilgul in the Kabbalah of the Thirteenth Century” [Hebrew], in Tarbiz, vol. 16, pp. 135-150; Rachel Elior, “The Doctrine of Transmigration in Galya Raza,” in Essential Papers on Kabbalah, ed. Lawrence Fine, New York, 1995., pp. 243-269; Moshe Hallamish, “The Doctrine of Transmigration,” in An Introduction to the Kabbalah, translated by Ruth Bar-Ilan and Ora Wiskind-Elper, New York: State University of New York Press, 1999, pp. 281-309; and Michal Oron, “Terms of the Doctrine of the Soul and of Gilgul in the Kabbalah of the Thirteenth Century and the Writings of Rabbi Todros Halevi Abulafia” [Hebrew], in Studies in Jewish Thought, ed. Sarah Heller-Wilensky and Moshe Idel, Jerusalem: Magnes, 1989, pp. 278-289.

13 See Gershom Scholem, “The Book Bahir,” in Scholem, Origins of the Kabbalah, Princeton: The Jewish Publication Society and Princeton University Press, 1987, pp. 49-198.

14 See his Emunot V’Deot, VI, 7.

15 See Job 33:4-31.

16 See Deuteronomy 25:5

17 See mainly Scholem, “Gilgul: the Transmigration of Souls” as referenced in footnote 14 above. See also R.J. Zwi Werblowsky, Joseph Karo: Lawyer and Mystic, Philadelphia, 1977, pp. 234-256 and Rachel Elior, “The Doctrine of Transmigration in Galya Raza,” referenced in footnote 14 above.

18 Aviezer Ravitzky, “The God of the Philosophers and the God of the Kabbalists: A Controversy in Fifteenth Century Crete,” in History and Faith: Studies in Jewish Philosophy, Amsterdam: J.C. Gieben, 1996, p. 117.

19 Apparently, lengthy deliberations on the issue preceded the exchanges that are preserved within the two main tracts mentioned. Moshe Idel has asserted that Ms. Paris 800, attributed by Scholem to Abraham Abulafia, is actually a part of this preliminary stage within the Candia debate. See his Abraham Abulafia’s Works and Doctrine, [Hebrew] Hebrew University doctoral dissertation, 1976, vol. 1, p. 76.

20 See Gottlieb, “The Dispute Concerning Gilgul in Candia in the Fifteenth Century” [Hebrew], Studies in Kabbalah Literature edited by Joseph Hacker, Tel Aviv: University of Tel Aviv Press, 1976, p. 372 and Ross, “Introduction,” in Sefer Behinat ha-Dat, Tel Aviv University, 1984, p. 36.

21 These two treatises are extant in Ms. Paris 968 and in Ms. Milan Ambrosiania 128. The Latin version of the Commentary is extant in Ms. Vatican Lat. 4553 and Ms. Paris 6508.

See Kalman Bland, “Elijah del Medigo’s Averroist response to the Kabbalas of fifteenth-century Jewry and Pico della Mirandola,” in the Journal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy, vol. 1, 1991, pp. 23-53.

22 An autographed manuscript of Hay ha-‘Olamim is housed in the Biblioteca Comunale di Mantova. For a critical translation into Italian of the first part, which deals with rhetoric, see: Hay ha’olamim (L’immortale), parte I: la retorica. Edizione, Traduzione e commento a cura di Fabrizio Lelli (Quaderni di Rinascimento 21), Firenze: Olschki, 1995. For a review of Lelli’s work, see: Angela Guidi, “L’edizione critica della prima parte dell’immortale di Yochanan Alemanno a cura di Fabrizio Lelli,” in Journal des ֹtudes de la Cabale, vol. 3, 2000.

23 See Mifalot Elohim, VII, ch. 6.

24 See Benjamin Richler, “Isaac Abravanel’s ‘Lost” Commentary on Deuteronomy,” in Jewish Studies at the Turn of the 20th Century, ed. Judit Targarona Dorras and Angel Saenz-Badillos, Leiden: Brill, 1999, pp. 199-204.

25 Marsilio Ficino, Opera Omina, Basel, 1576, 1:873. See also David Ruderman, The World of a Renaissance Jew, chapter 4.

26 See primarily his commentary to Phaedrus sections 248-249.

27 See Conclusiones, p. 38.

28 Fabrizio Lelli has already suggested a close link between the thought of Pico and Genazzano concerning metempsychosis. See his “Prisca Philosophia and Docta Religio,” p. 58.





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