In one sense easy, in another difficult: Reverberations of the opening of Aristotle's Metaphysics α ελλατον in medieval and renaissance Hebrew literature

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Abstract

By an accident of transmission history, medieval and Renaissance Hebrew readers received the opening line of Metaphysics α ελλατον (considered in our editions to be Book II) as the opening line of the Metaphysics as a whole: “Theorizing about truth is in one sense difficult, in another sense easy.” This line took on its own iconic status as it was quoted, though more often referred to through literary allusion, in numerous Hebrew works. These include the Derašot of Nissim of Gerona, the opening of Joseph Albo's Sefer ha-'Iqarim, the Hešeq Šelomo of Yohanan Alemanno, and Don Isaac Abravanel's Commentary on 1 Samuel 8. Additionally, the line is referred to in the Italian Dialoghi D'Amore of Judah Abravanel (Leone Ebreo) in a way that reflects previous uses. These authors refer to this line so that their readers will recall metaphysics and divine science in a general way, even though the texts themselves do not engage with Aristotle's Metaphysics in significant detail. Such literary references to the Metaphysics highlight the preference of these thinkers to shy away from Aristotelian metaphysics and a theology based upon it.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)133-160
Number of pages28
JournalRevue des Études Juives
Volume179
Issue number1-2
DOIs
StatePublished - Jan 2020

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • History
  • Religious studies
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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