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488 JOURNAL OF THE HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY ~9:3 JULY t991 even excluded from the title of A. Grafton's dynamic artide on natural philosophy and humanistic scholarship, "Humanism, Science and Magic," in The Impact ofHumanism on Western Europe, ed. Goodman and MacKay (~99o). Grassi's book at least clarifies the necessity for a better understanding of the relationship between Renaissance humanism and sixteenth- and seventeenth-century philosophy. C, W. T. BLACKWELL Foundationfor Intellectual History, London David B. Ruderman, Kabbalah, Magic and Science: The Cultural Universe of a SixteenthCenturyJewish Physician. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, a988. Pp. ~32. NP. David Ruderman has been exploring the intellectual world of Jewish scientists and medical doctors in Europe, especially in Italy, at the end of the sixteenth century, examining how they related early modern science to their religious, magical, and theosophic views. In this work, he describes the career of Abraham Yagel, 15531623 ?, a leading physician in northern Italy, and a prodigiously encyclopedic writer, who was interested in a wide range of topics in the contemporary scientific, philosophic , and religious world of the time. Although Yagel wrote in Hebrew, he read widely in classical sources and in the major European authors. He sought to harmonize what he knew as a physician and a scientist, what he found in the Neoplatonic tradition, the occult tradition (especially as expressed by Agrippa van Nettesheim) with rabbinic Judaism and the kabbalistic views including those of Christian kabbalists such as Pico, Ficino and Agrippa. None of his major works was published in his lifetime, and many exist even now only in manuscript form. Yagel was vitally interested in new ideas in medicine, astrology, botany, zoology, magic, astronomy, and other subjects that were emerging in the late Renaissance. He was interested in the new ways of explaining the natural world as found in people as diverse as Cardano, Agrippa, and Galileo, in relating their work to the Jewish tradition, and to understanding the wonderful and wondrous world that God has created. He tried to show how much more we could understand on the basis of these new ideas, while also claiming that these ideas conformed to, or were presaged in, earlier Jewish writings. The case of Galileo is typical and intriguing. Yagel learned about Galileo's telescope from reading Sidereus Nuncius 061o). Yagel wrote: "in every generation things will be revealed to humanity that were imagined by the ancients.., a wise gentile man.., in our day found several stars from a nebula that the ancients never saw" (98). Yagel was most impressed by how Galileo made these discoveries, namely, by constructing a telescope. But he rummaged through Judaic sources to find two earlier mentions of tubular instruments used to examine the heavens. The "sanctified authority " of prior Jewish sources made it possible for Yagel to accept revolutionary developments in Renaissance thinking. "By locating precedents within Jewish tradition, he was able to make the new more comprehensible and more compatible with his own experience " (tot). Ruderman shows in several interesting cases how Yagel did this, and how he even BOOK REVIEWS 489 went beyond the Jewish tradition by stretching the permissible, as in his acceptance of Agrippa's occult theories. In the final chapter, "Ancient Theology, Kabbalah, and Judaism," Ruderman explores the tensions between Yagel's acceptance of the Renaissance Platonic view of a universal philosophy, knowable by all wise people, and the special knowledge claim of the Jewish tradition. Yagel "officially" held that Jewish thinkers possessed the superior truth of the Torah, and hence did not need to learn from philosophers of other traditions. But hc also felt the need to study non-Jewish authors, and "recognized their independent value and even capacity to discover the divine truth" (159). Yagel wanted both to overcome the cultural isolation of Jewish culture and to show its strengths in the general context of Western civilization. Hc believed this would reveal that the rabbis knew mathematics better than non-Jews, and that the kabbalists possessed a science that surpassed that of the Renaissance naturalists . But as he sought wisdom beyond the usual categories of Jewish learning, hc reduced the singularity of Judaism to the vanishing point. Zoroaster and Plato became coequal to the Jewish...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 488-489
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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