Thirteenth Century Hebrew Psychological Discussion: The Role of Latin Sources in the Formation of Hebrew Aristotelianism

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Close examination of thirteenth century Hebrew psychological literature reveals an important trend, relatively underestimated in modern research, of Avicennian influence. Avicenna's psychology, although fairly late and only partially directly translated into Hebrew, gained a considerable amount of influence through a whole tradition of paraphrases, beginning with Dominicus Gundissalinus and his anonymous Hebrew translator, and followed by a group of popular authors throughout the thirteenth century. The paper offers a comparative study both of the vocabulary and theoretical framework of this group of writings in order to describe different phases of its formation. It starts with the first attempts to translate Aristotle's De anima to Hebrew, dated to the beginning of the 13th centuiy in Catalonia. The anonymous translator ends by providing a full translation of Dominicus Gundissalinus' Tractatus de anima. Closer examination of the translation reveals a clear division between two different parts: the first part deals with psychological-medical matters and presents the reader with a fluent and coherent Hebrew text. The second part however, in which Gundissalinus' text moves to a more abstract discussion of epistemological matters, reveals the lack of elementary vocabulary from the side of the translator, forcing him to give all the technical terms in their original Latin form, without any Hebrew translation. This might be explained by the early date of the translation, before this terminology became an integral part of any Hebrew philosophic discourse following the translation into Hebrew of Arabic Aristotelian texts, especially of Averroes commentaries. A comparison with two authors of the second half of the 13th century who made an intensive usage of Gundissalinus' tractate-Gershom ben Solomon of Arles and Hillel ben Samuel of Verona-clearly reveals the development of such new Hebrew terminology that can cope with the scholastic epistemological discussion. However, while both are still deeply interested in Gundissalinus' Avicennian psychological and medical speculations, they completely ignore his epistemology in favor of more sophisticated and up-to-date discussions which they find in Averroes and in Thomas Aquinas' anti-Averroistic polemic.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Letter before the Spirit
Subtitle of host publicationThe Importance of Text Editions for the Study of the Reception of Aristotle
EditorsAafke M. I. van Oppenraay, Resianne Fontaine
Place of PublicationLeiden
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic)9789004235083
ISBN (Print)9789004234147
StatePublished - 2012

Publication series

NameAristoteles Semitico-Latinus
ISSN (Print)0927-4103


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