Reconsidering the Case of Elijah Delmedigo’s Averroism and Its Impact on Spinoza
Elijah Delmedigo (d. 1493) remained faithful to the medieval Islamic and Jewish rationalist tradition that he saw embodied, above all, in the works of Averroes and Maimonides, even as the imagination of Pico della Mirandola, his most brilliant Italian student, was captured by Neoplatonism and Kabbalah. This rationalist tradition shaped both Delmedigo’s philosophical outlook and his interpretation of Judaism, set out in the philosophical-theological treatise Sefer behinat ha-dat (‘The Examination of Religion’). In the scholarly literature, however, one finds persistently reiterated the view that Delmedigo adopted a ‘double truth’ doctrine, allegedly set forth by Christian Averroists. In the first part of this chapter it is argued that Delmedigo clearly did not endorse such a doctrine. His stance on the relationship between philosophy and religion fundamentally agrees with that of Averroes, according to which ‘the truth does not contradict the truth.’ At the same time, Delmedigo’s position shows considerable originality and is best described as the outcome of a critical dialogue with both Averroes and Maimonides. This also accounts for the passages in his work that allegedly reflect a ‘double truth’ doctrine. The second aim of this chapter is to revisit the question of Delmedigo’s influence on Spinoza. It is highly likely that Spinoza was familiar with Averroes’s ideas in the form in which Delmedigo adopted them and this may help to account for the distinctly Averroistic features of Spinoza’s views on the relationship between philosophy and religion.