Joseph Ibn Kaspi

Portrait of a Hebrew Philosopher in Medieval Provence


Joseph Ibn Kaspi was among the most prolific philosophical writers in one of the most vibrant, productive, creative periods in the history of Jewish philosophy. Born around 1280 in Provence, Ibn Kaspi penned works engaging a broad range of fields, including philosophy, theology, grammar, logic, biblical exegesis, and interreligious polemics. In Joseph Ibn Kaspi: Portrait of a Hebrew Philosopher in Medieval Provence, Adrian Sackson asks the question: What was Ibn Kaspi’s overarching intellectual project? The book focuses on several key themes: Ibn Kaspi’s conception of the formative (not just discursive) function of philosophy; his multi-layered esotericism; his distinct approach to the interpretation of Maimonides; his Maimonidean-philosophical approach to the interpretation of religious texts and practices; his Platonic political thought; his approach to messianism, and his attendant conception of the nature of human history.

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Adrian Sackson, Ph.D. (2016), New York University, is a Teaching Fellow at Tel Aviv University and a Visiting Assistant Professor at Al Quds Bard College of Arts and Sciences. He has published articles on medieval Jewish philosophy and American Pragmatism.
Introduction: Joseph Ibn Kaspi: An Intellectual Portrait
Ibn Kaspi in Modern Research
A Classical Jewish Philosopher
A Note on Methodologies
Structure of This Study

1 A Hebrew Philosopher in Medieval Provence
Who was Joseph Ibn Kaspi?
What Did Joseph Ibn Kaspi Write?

2 (Jewish) Philosophy as a Way of Life: Joseph Ibn Kaspi’s Intellectual Project
Philosophy as a Way of Life: Hadot
Jewish Philosophy as a Way of Life
Intellection and Conjunction: Ibn Kaspi on Human Perfection
A Goal for the Elite
Ibn Kaspi on the Jewish Philosophical Life: Halakhah and Human Perfection
Halakhic Practice, Talmudic Learning, and the Pursuit of Philosophy
A Jewish-Philosophical Curriculum
Joseph Ibn Kaspi’s Intellectual Project

3 Joseph Ibn Kaspi as Interpreter of Maimonides and Maimonidean Interpreter
Secrecy and Exegesis: Esoteric Religion in Ibn Kaspi and Maimonides
Ibn Kaspi’s Commentaries on the Guide of the Perplexed
Judaism through two Maimonidean Lenses

4 The Republic in Hebrew: Ibn Kaspi and Platonic Political Thought
The Republic in Arabic
The Republic in Hebrew: Samuel ben Judah of Marseilles
Ibn Kaspi’s ‘Offering of Silver’: Its nature and purpose
Key Themes in Ibn Kaspi’s Summary of the Republic
Terumat ha-Kesef and Ibn Kaspi’s voice
Gender: A Platonic Approach
Conclusion: Platonic Political Reverberations

5 Rationalistic Messianism and the Vicissitudes of History
‘The Silver is Spent’
Maimonidean Messianism
Ibn Kaspi’s Conception of History
Was Ibn Kaspi a ‘Proto-Zionist’?
Ibn Kaspi, Abulafia, Spinoza: Originality and Influence
Conclusions: Disarming the Messiah

Appendix 1: Joseph Ibn Kaspi, Terumat ha-Kesef: Summary of Plato’s Republic
Appendix 2: Joseph Ibn Kaspi, Tam ha-Kesef, Eighth Discourse: Critical Edition and Annotated English Translation
All interested in medieval philosophy and/or Jewish thought, especially scholars and students with an interest in the evolution of philosophy in the Hebrew language after Maimonides.
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