343. As Far as East from West: Jewish Philosophy in Renaissance Italy

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Jewish philosophers in Renaissance Italy, focusing on Leone Ebreo’s Dialogues of Love, the Averroism of Elijah del Medigo, and Italian Kabbalah.



Further Reading

• D. Bacich and R. Pescatori (trans.), Leone Ebreo: Dialogues of Love (Toronto: 2009).

• D. Harrán, Jewish Poet and Intellectual in Seventeenth-Century Venice: the Works of Sarra Copia Sulam in Verse and Prose (Chicago: 2009).


• K. Bland, “Elijah Del Medigo: Unicity of the Intellect and Immortality of Soul,” Proceedings of the American Academy for Jewish Research 61 (1995), 1-22.

• R. Bonfil, Jewish Life in Renaissance Italy (Berkeley: 1994).

• B.D. Cooperman (ed.), Jewish Thought in the Sixteenth Century (Cambridge MA: 1983).

• M. Engel, Elijah Del Medigo and Paduan Aristotelianism (London: 2016).

• C. Fraenkel, “Considering the Case of Elijah Delmedigo’s Averroism and its Impact on Spinoza”, in A. Akasoy and G. Giglioni (eds), Renaissance Averroism and Its Aftermath: Arabic Philosophy in Early Modern Europe (Dordrecht: 2013), 213-36.

• D.B. Ruderman, “The Italian Renaissance and Jewish Thought,” in A. Rabil Jr. (ed.), Renaissance Humanism (Philadelphia: 1988), vol.1, 382-433.

• W.J. van Bekkum, “Jewish Intellectual Culture in Renaissance Context,” in S. Gersh and B. Roest (eds), Medieval and Renaissance Humanism: Rhetoric, Representation and Reform (Brill: 2003), 227-41.

• G. Veltri, Renaissance Philosophy in Jewish Garb: Foundations and Challenges in Judaism on the Eve of Modernity (Leiden: 2008).

• C. Wirszubski, Pico della Mirandola’s Encounter with Jewish Mysticism (Cambridge MA: 1989).

Stanford Encyclopedia: Elijah Delmedigo, Judah Abrabanel


Pieter Kock on 27 February 2020


Hello there,

first of all: I think this is one of the best podcasts out there. I have listened every episode at least twice.

No news is good news, so i guess a lot of these comment tend to focus on something that irritates or worse. 

Just wanted to say that it would be great if these longrunning jokes of allmond croissants (i get a shiver through my spine writing it here now) baldness and giraffes became at some point more than annoying. It really makes it difficult to concentrate on what is being explained (out of irritation).

The other thing is that Peter talks really really fast. I download the mp3 and put it in a dj app and pitch the tempo down 8 or 9 %. People who cant do this complain to me that they don't listen to it because of that.

For the rest, amazing work! Absolutely great.

Looking fwd to more episodes.

Best Regards,

Pieter Kock



In reply to by Pieter Kock

Peter Adamson on 28 February 2020


Thanks for the feedback. The running jokes seem to divide opinion but my sense is that it works for more audience members than not. As for speed, I definitely agree this is a problem with the early episodes but I would have thought that after the first few I settled into a pretty good i.e. not too fast speed. When I listen back myself, it doesn't strike me as too fast. Would you say this is still true for episodes of more recent vintage like these on the Renaissance? If so I wonder how many would agree, since to be honest no one else has told me this for years. Of course it is hard for me to tell since I wrote it so I am not trying to follow in the same way as a normal listener.

In reply to by Pieter Kock

Spencer on 1 March 2020

Tough crowd at open mike

Tough crowd at open mike night.

I actually miss some of the beginning-of-an-episode humor that you featured prominently in some of the the early podcasts. As someone with no philosophy background, the humor helped pull me in (at least once I stopped laughing). I loved the references to Baloo the Bear and Linus awaiting the arrival of the Great Pumpkin. And I still giggle about the reference to what Mrs. O'Leary's cow said: "oops."

I am not sure if you are old enough to remember Rick(y) Nelson and his Garden Party, but: "You can't please everyone, so you've got to please yourself."

Douglas Campbell on 8 March 2020

Running jokes

I like the running jokes, because I never expect them. Just when you thought it was safe to go into the water ... a giraffe!

Jay on 11 March 2020

Copia Sulam

If you want to learn more, you might also look at a complete biography of Copia Sulam newly out from UToronto Press:

Sarra Copia Sulam: A Jewish Salonnière and the Press in Counter-Reformation Venice

By Lynn Lara Westwater


In reply to by Jay

Peter Adamson on 12 March 2020


Oh thanks, I had not seen this! Added the reference in a note for the book version.

Harold Augenbraum on 1 June 2021

Jokes and speech gait

Keep the giraffe jokes, Buster Keaton references, and baldness self-deprecation. A little humor, as corny as it is, acts as inter-missions. And the speed is fine for native speakers. Non-natives may find that the natural glissando of speech makes it difficult to distinguish individual words, but slowing it too much would turn it into an annoying drawl. 

Jordan on 20 July 2022

I also like the jokes. It…

I also like the jokes. It reminds me of old teachers and professors who had "catchphrases" or similarly running jokes, which worked as memory aids. (I associate this topic with Buster Keaton... which means I learned it from Peter Adamson... which means I can find the source!) 

As for speed, I usually listen on 1.5x speed. That is pretty normal for me, with "slow" podcasts needing to go up to 1.8x and "fast" podcasts hovering around 1.3x. (I blame the ADHD - I get bored and distracted when audio or video is too slow - though I know others with ADHD who need to slow video/audio down.) So that puts you right in the middle IMO. (I listen in-browser and use a Chrome extension called "Playback Rate Controller.")

Not saying that someone can't disagree, but that hasn't been my experience with the podcast so far. The running jokes definitely make it more relatable for average joes like me.

Anyway, Jewish episode! Exciting! 

Alfredo on 18 October 2022

I've been listening at these too much...

Yikes, Peter! I've clearly been listening at these too much.

The moment you started talking about desire, what popped into my mind?

Yes, an almond croissant.

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