AVICEBRON (Ibn Gabirol, Shelomoh ben Yehuda, Avencebrol)—a religious poet, philosopher, and theologian, b. around 1020 in Malaga (Spain), d. around 1058 in Valencia.
He lived and worked in Spain, chiefly in Saragossa. In his verses he expressed his own suffering and that of the Jewish nation. Avicebron’s religious songs and hymns are remarkable for their mature artistic form and become popular among the Jews, with some even becoming part of synagogue liturgy. Of his philosophical works, his work The fountain of life (written in Arabic) brought him renown. This work contained one of the most consistent theories of emanation that was produced in the Middle Ages. In 1150 this work was translated into Latin by Dominic Gundissalvi and John Hispanicus, and then fragments were translated into Hebrew by Ibn Falaker (under the title Mekor Hayyim). In his philosophical and theological views, Avicebron concentrated on the concept of matter and form and on the conception of a mediator between God and the world. He argued that all substances, both physical and spiritual, have a common (incorporeal) matter. This matter is absent only in God, who is a form in the strict sense. Between God and the visible world there is the divine will, which creates the world and puts it into motion, the universals—matter and form, and the soul of the world, which is manifested in three forms, i.e., vegetative, sensitive, and rational.
Medieval authors saw Avicebron as a representative of universal hylemorphism, and as a philosophizing theologian who practiced theology in a speculative manner. Historians of medieval philosophy and theology present Avicebron as a thinker who planted Jewish philosophy in Spain, and as a compiler who brought together the Judaic religious conception of God and creation with the philosophical views of Aristotle and Plotinus. As the first propagator of neo-Platonism in the West, Avicebron has been called the Jewish Plato. Avicebron had a greater influence on Christian philosophy and theology in the Middle Ages than on Jewish or Arab philosophy. His theory of spiritual matter (which Thomas Aquinas opposed), his attempt to present more precisely the nature of sense cognition, and his doctrine of the plurality of forms of their character found an echo in the Franciscan school, especially in the work of Dominic Gundissavli and William of Auvergne.
Among Avicebron’s most important works we may mention: Mukhtar al-giawahir (English translation, NY 1925); Tikkun Middot he-Nefes, The Improvement of the Moral Qualities (ed. and trans. into English by S. Wise, NY 1966); Mekor Hayyim (in Latin translation, Fons Vitae, ed. C. Bäumker, “Beiträge” 1, 2–4, Mr 1892–1895); Keter Malkhut (English translation by I. Zangwilla appeared in: Selected Religious Poems of S. ibn Gabirol, NY 1973; trans. R. Loewe in: R. Loewe, Ibn Gabirol, NY 1990). Avicebron’s poetry appeared in a work by C. N. Bialuk and J. C. Rawnitsky (I–III, B–III, B-Tel Aviv 1924–1929).
J. Guttmann, Die Philosophie des Salomon ibn Gabirol, Gö 1889, Hi 1979; J. Schlanger, Salomon ibn Gabirol. Livre de la source de vie (Fons vitae), P 1970; D. Gonzalo Maeso, Ibn Gabirol, filósofo y teólogo, Miscelánea de Estudios Arabes y Hebraicos 21 (1972) n. 2, 61–86; T. M. Rudavsky, Conflicting Motifs in ibn Gabirol’s Discussion of Matter and Evil, NSchol 52 (1978), 54–71; J.I. Saranyana, Sobre la immaterialidad de las substancias espirituales (Santo Tomás versus Avicebron), RFNS 70 (1978), 63–97; E. Betton, Avicebron e l’unica fonte dell’ilemorfismo universale?, in: Actas del V Congreso international de filosofia medieval, Ma 1979; J. A. Weisheipl, Albertus Magnus and Universal Hylemorphism. Avicebron, The Southwestern Journal of Philosophy 10 (1979) n. 3, 239–260; A. Scheyer, Materia universalis. Die ketzerichen Vorstellungen des Salomon ibn Gabirol, Deutsche Zeitschrift für Philosophie 32 (1984),1000–1009; F. Millet, La connaissance de l’homme dans la philosophie d’Avicebron, Journal philosophique 1 (1985), 273–292; C. Sirat, A. History of Jewish Philosophy in the Middle Ages, C 1985 (bibliogr.); L. Loewe,Ibn Gabirol, Lo 1989; D. Monda, Luce, diamanti e fango. Filosofia e poesia di ibn Gabirol, Bol 1992; J. M. Millas Vallicrosa, Selomó Ibn Gabirol como poeta y filósofo, Granada 1993; A. Salvateirra Ossorio, La muerte, el destino y la enfermedad en la obra poética de Y. Ha-Levi y S. Ibn Gabirol, Granada 1994; J. F. Ortego Munoz, Ibn Gabirol (1021/22–1059/60), Ma 1995; D. H. Frank, REPh IV 618–620 (bibliogr.).
Marian Kurdziałek, Jan Warmiński