155 - Matter over Mind: Ibn Gabirol

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Neoplatonism returns in Ibn Gabirol (known in Latin as Avicebron), who controversially holds that everything apart from God has both matter and form.



Further Reading

• Ibn Gabirol, The Fountain of Life [Book 3 only], trans. H.E. Wedeck (New York: 1962).

• Ibn Gabirol, The Kingly Crown, trans. B. Lewis (London: 1961).

• Ibn Gabirol, The Improvement of the Moral Qualities, trans. S.S. Wise (New York: 1966).

• Ibn Gabirol, Lebensquelle I-II [Latin text and German trans. of the Fountain of Life, books 1-2], trans. O. Fraisse (Freiburg: 2009).

• J.A. Laumakis (trans.), The Font of Life (Fons Vitae) by Solomon Ibn Gabirol (Avicebron) (Milwaukee: 2014)


• P. Cole, Selected Poems of Solomon Ibn Gabirol (Princeton: 2001).

• J. Dillon, “Solomon Ibn Gabirol’s Doctrine of Intelligible Matter,” in L.E. Goodman (ed.), Neoplatonism and Jewish Thought (Albany: 1992), 43-59.

• R. Loewe, Ibn Gabirol (London: 1989).

• S. Pessin, Ibn Gabirol’s Theology of Desire: Matter and Method in Jewish Medieval Neoplatonism (Cambridge: 2013).

• N. Polloni, M. Benedetto, and F. Dal Bo (eds), Ibn Gabirol (Avicebron): Latin and Hebrew Philosophical Traditions (Turnhout: 2023).

• T.M. Rudavksy, T. M. 1978. “Conflicting Motifs: Ibn Gabirol on Matter and Evil,” The New Scholasticism 52 (1978), 54-71.

Stanford Encyclopedia: Ibn Gabirol 



avi on 23 December 2013


Hi Peter

and many thanks.

I study with your podcasts.
As immate the prison's officiers allowed me.

A query, if it is possible:

Does Ibn Rushd and Ibn Sina wrote about the "quintessence" ( Anima Mundi/Ether)?

Thanks in advance


In reply to by avi

Peter Adamson on 26 December 2013

Fifth element

Hi there,

Yes indeed, both of them accept the view (which is standard among followers of Aristotle) that the heavenly bodies are made of an indestructible "fifth element", which is where the word "quintessence" comes from. They both also think the universe is eternal, despite being dependent on God for its existence. They both wrote works based on Aristotle's "On the Heavens" where this topic is explored in depth.


Drew McNaughton on 23 December 2013

Links between Ibn Gabriol and John Scotus Eriugena

Hi Peter,

Listening to your podcast on Ibn Gabriol (your podcasts are absolutely brilliant by the way!) I was struck by how his philosophical theories and even creative interests seem to parallel those of John Scotus Eriugena. I have been hoping that you might discuss Eriugena in further length in your podcasts as I have recently found his theories to have connections to certain philosophical musings I have had and now Ibn Gabriol also seems to have struck a resonant chord.

Beyond the connection of their Neoplatonism they also both wrote a dialogue between a teacher and pupil and wrote poetry. Do you think that Ibn Gabriol could have been influenced by Eriugena through some form of cross-cultural interchange in early medieval Europe? Eriugena also had a strong background in both New Testament and Old Testament theology as well as Neoplatonic learning.

I look forward to hearing more on this topic in the forthcoming podcasts.

All the best and Merry Christmas to you.

In reply to by Drew McNaughton

Peter Adamson on 26 December 2013

Ibn Gabirol and Eriugena

Hi there,

I actually love Eriugena and am looking forward to covering him - I'll probably do an episode on the predestination controversy, in which he was involved, and of course one on the Periphyseon.

Regarding your question I don't think there's any way Eriugena could have influenced Ibn Gabirol, since as far as I know Ibn Gabirol would not have been able to read any sources in Latin. There is the possibility of later influence on medieval Jewish philosophy from Latin scholasticism, like for Gersonides (but this is controversial). Not for Ibn Gabirol though. I think instead it's a matter (pun intended) of common sources or similar sources, i.e. Neoplatonic stuff from late antiquity.



In reply to by Peter Adamson

Drew McNaughton on 26 December 2013

Ibn Gabriol and Eriugena

Hi Peter,

Thanks for the response and I look forward to your episodes on Eriugena.

All the best.

Brett Harris on 24 December 2013

Thank you Peter !

Peter, thanks for another year of incredible podcasts. They are always very educational, not only on philosophy but also on the use of giraffe/Buster Keaton analogies as tools for teaching and how to end a podcast with a brilliant pun !!

I very much enjoy my weekly dose of philosophical history, it is the perfect counterpoint to the more contemporary topics talked about on ABC (Australia) Radio National's The Philosopher's Zone podcast
(which is where I first heard you speaking about Averroes).

Thanks again for all of your hard work in putting the show together, and I wish you all the best for the festive season and hope you have a great start to 2014.

I'll be listening again in the new year, and look forward to hearing where our journey takes us next.

See you,

(aka The Comic Book Evangelist)

In reply to by Brett Harris

Peter Adamson on 26 December 2013


Thanks very much! Especially for the rare vote of appreciation for the closing puns. I thought I was the only one who liked them.

I also like the Philosophers' Zone, but I miss the original host Alan Saunders, he was fantastic. The newer ones are also good but I find them a bit more popular in approach, not quite as in-depth.

Happy New Year to you too!


In reply to by Berel Dov Lerner

Peter Adamson on 27 December 2013

Orphaned Land

I can't say I wasn't tempted. But apart from the copyright issues there is the danger of blasting people's eardrums apart.

I wonder what Ibn Gabirol himself would make of it? "Bemused" might be the right word.

Jorge on 11 May 2015

Not in verse?

Hi Peter,

Here's your number one fan (I'm sure you have so many of us). Just dropping  a line to say how excited I was to think that you were gonna do this podcast in rhyme! And then oh dissappointment! And yes, I'm sure it's very challenging, though you seem to do it very well.

Thanks for introducing us to islamic philosphy. I'm currently reading The Conference of the Birds, and wow! I'm in awe at the transcendental beauty of mystical poetry. Unbelievable, I'm amazed at what an elightened mind can achieve, or should I say what a mind touched by God can achieve? (no offense to other philosophers)

Also, thank you so much for sharing all this amazing knowledge with us, I has truly nourished my mind and life. Please don't stop.

I can't wait for the rest of the episodes.

Greetings from Vancouver!

Your Mexican amigo, Jorge

In reply to by Jorge

Peter Adamson on 12 May 2015


Thanks so much! Glad you are enjoying the series. I think as modern readers we tend to forget how important poetry was in these cultures - true of all the times and places I've covered so far but perhaps especially the Islamic world. You will probably like the Rumi episode (178) when you get there.

Haseef on 25 January 2017


Came across your podcast by complete chance Philosophy is irrelevant was my stance knowledge and wisdom you do provide A lifetime of study just couldn't suffice I appreciate your introductions the most Because they act as a key i suppose To unlock the paradigm of our subject matter and if that does work, there's always Hiawatha!

In reply to by Haseef

Peter Adamson on 26 January 2017


Next time I want to include a poem in a script, I'll be contacting you to do the ghostwriting! Thanks.

ZenonKronos on 6 February 2018

Help Asking


I am a Chinese middle school student who is doing a school project about ibn Gabirol. As some reasons, it is nearly impossible for me to get his works or other research datas. I really need your help to complete my project. Would you please send me your transcript of this podcast to my email address?I will make good use of it and protect your copyright. 

Thanks you very much!

P.S.Please forgive my bad English writing.

In reply to by ZenonKronos

Peter Adamson on 6 February 2018

Ibn Gabirol

Thanks for your interest. Send me an email to peter.adamson@lrz.uni-muenchen.de and I will send you a copy of the chapter on Ibn Gabriol from the book version of the podcast.

Jordan on 7 December 2021

Hey, it's the guy! The guy…

Hey, it's the guy! The guy with the homoerotic love poetry that I mentioned way back when! I feel like I just saw a celebrity cameo on a TV show. 

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