Gersonides

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Levi ben Gershon, better known by his Latinised name as Gersonides or the abbreviation of first letters as RaLBaG[1] (1288–1344), philosopher, Talmudist, mathematician, astronomer/astrologer. He was born at Bagnols in Languedoc, France. According to Abraham Zacuto and others, he was the son of Gerson ben Solomon Catalan.

Contents

Biography

As in the case of the other medieval Jewish philosophers little is known of his life. His family had been distinguished for piety and exegetical skill in Talmud, but though he was known in the Jewish community by commentaries on certain books of the Bible, he never seems to have accepted any rabbinical post. It has been suggested that the uniqueness of his opinions may have put obstacles in the way of his preferment. He is known to have been at Avignon and Orange during his life, and is believed to have died in 1344, though Zacuto asserts that he died at Perpignan in 1370.

Works

Philosophical and religious works

Part of his writings consist of commentaries on the portions of Aristotle then known, or rather of commentaries on the commentaries of Averroes. Some of these are printed in the early Latin editions of Aristotle’s works. His most important treatise, that by which he has a place in the history of philosophy, is entitled Sefer Milhamot Ha-Shem, ("The Wars of the Lord"), and occupied twelve years in composition (1317–1329). A portion of it, containing an elaborate survey of astronomy as known to the Arabs, was translated into Latin in 1342 at the request of Pope Clement VI.

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