Senior Fellow: July–September 2016 and July–September 2017
Research Project: Don Isaac Abravanel and the Role of Sceptical Arguments in the Delimitation of Religion
Cedric Cohen-Skalli’s research project will focus on the new delimitation of the realms of religion and science suggested by Isaac Abravanel in his philosophical and exegetical works written in the historical context of the Iberian and Italian peninsulas in the fifteenth century. Cohen-Skalli believes that this new delimitation of religion and science, shared by many Jewish philosophers of the fifteenth century, can be best studied in the works of Isaac Abravanel, since they display their Jewish, Christian, Islamic, and Greco-Roman background more explicitly than most other works of fifteenth-century Jewish philosophers. Cohen-Skalli’s intention is to show how this new delimitation of religion and science is grounded on sceptical claims on the limitation of human knowledge and on the uncertainty of scientific models. These sceptical claims play an essential role in the delimitation of the realm of religion and its distinction from scientific epistemological models. The sceptical argumentation often functions as a discursive justification and preparation for a more fideistic or literal approach to religious events like miracles or prophe-cy in Abravanel’s work. The sceptical arguments used by Abravanel are not meant to invalidate either science or philosophy, but to justify the possibility of religious events defined as ‘supernatural.’ The sceptical argumentation that Abravanel developed has often been approached by modern scholarship as marking the end of medieval Jewish philosophy (Leo Strauss) or as a sign of Jewish backwardness vis-à-vis early modern rationalism (Benzion Netanyahu). Cedric Cohen-Skalli’s hopes to demonstrate that Isaac Abravanel’s disjunction of the realms of religion and science participated in the re-definition of religion, philosophy, and science in the Early Modern period.
Cedric Cohen-Skalli teaches early modern and modern Jewish philosophy at the University of Haifa.