Abravanel, Judah

Abravanel or Abarbanel, Judah, c.1460–c.1523, Jewish philosopher, physician, and poet, son of Isaac Abravanel, b. Lisbon; he is also known as Leone Ebreo. He fled (1483) from Portugal to Spain with his father and, after the expulsion (1492) of the Jews from Spain, went to Naples, where he became (1505) physician to the viceroy. Philosophically, Abravanel was influenced by the scholars of the Platonic Academy of Florence, most notably Marsilio Ficino and Giovanni Pico della Mirandola; in addition, there are clear indications of philosophical influence from Maimonides and Ibn Gabirol.

In his most celebrated work, the Dialoghi di Amore (published posthumously, 1535; tr. The Philosophy of Love, with introduction by Cecil Roth, 1937), Abravanel gave a classic exposition of platonic love. Holding love to be the dominating and motivating force within the universe, and seeing as its end a union of the lover with the idea of the beautiful and the good as embodied in the beloved, he posited as the ultimate goal of all creation a union with the sublime goodness and intellect that are contained within God. A “circle of love” is thus formed between the universe and its creator in which all things find sustenance and fulfillment. The work had a profound effect upon philosophers into the 17th cent., most notably upon Giordano Bruno and Baruch Spinoza.

The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2024, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: Judaism: Biographies