On Abravanel’s Philosophical Tendency and Political Teaching

"On Abravanel's Philosophical Tendency and Political Teaching," Isaac Abravanel: Six Lectures, ed. J. B. Trend and H. Leowe, Cambridge University Press, 1937.  Reprinted in Gesammelte Schriften: Band 2.

Abravanel may be called the last of the Jewish philosophers of the Middle Ages. He belongs to the Middle Ages, as far as the framework and the main content of his doctrine are concerned. It is true that there are features of his thought which distinguish it from that of all or of most other Jewish medieval philosophers; but most of those features are probably of medieval Christian origin. Yet Abravanel is a son of the humanist age, and thus we shall not be surprised if he expresses in his writings opinions or tendencies which are, to say the least, not characteristic of the Middle Ages. Generally speaking, however, Abravanel is a medieval thinker, a Jewish medieval thinker.

The central figure in the history of Jewish medieval philosophy is Maimonides. Thus it will be advisable to define the character of Abravanel’s philosophical tendency by contrasting it with that of Maimonides. One is all the more justified in proceeding thus, since there is scarcely any other philosopher whom Abravanel admired so much, or whom he followed as much, as he did Maimonides.