Décision humaine et animale dans la pensée de Rabbi Isaac Israeli

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The aim of this article is to analyze the opinion of Rabbi Isaac Israeli (ninth-tenth century, Kairouan) on the question of free will. The first part of the article describes the difference between human and animal psychology. According to Israeli, a human being can act in a number of ways when faced with a specific situation. The reason for this ability is the capacity of discernment, and more specifically of cogitation and consideration. Due to these capacities humans are able to acquire theoretical and practical knowledge and become capable of differentiating between good and evil. Because animals do not possess these capacities, they are limited to acting in a definite way in particular situations. The second part of the article demonstrates that human freedom is a consequence of humans' position between pure intellect and beast. People use their cogitation and consideration to attain a higher level of knowledge. However, as long as humans use those capacities their knowledge will remain imperfect and they will continue to hesitate and be uncertain. Once they have united with the universal intellect they will not use those capacities any more. They will no longer be uncertain and will act in the best possible way in all situations.

Original languageFrench
Pages (from-to)143-160
Number of pages18
JournalJournal of Jewish Thought and Philosophy
Issue number2
StatePublished - 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Isaac Israeli
  • Jewish Neo-Platonism
  • akrasia
  • free choice

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cultural Studies
  • Anthropology
  • Religious studies
  • Sociology and Political Science
  • Philosophy
  • Literature and Literary Theory

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