Pessin, Sarah - Scholars Directory


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NAME: Sarah Pessin
Associate Professor
INSTITUTION: University of Denver
Department of Philosophy
2000 E Asbury Ave., Suite 275
Denver CO 80208-0911
PHONE: 303-709-9047
RESEARCH INTERESTS: Jewish Neoplatonism, Islamic Neoplatonism, Neoplatonic Methodology, transmission of Plotinian and Proclean ideas into Islamic, Jewish and Christian Neoplatonism, Solomon Ibn Gabirol, Ibn Sina, Isaac Israeli, Theology of Aristotle, Discourse on the Pure Good (Liber de Causis), Moses Maimonides, Ps. Empedoclean Neoplatonism in Islamic and Jewish contexts.

Sarah Pessin is Associate Professor of Philosophy and the Emil and Eva Hecht Chair in Judaic Studies at the University of Denver. She works on Neoplatonisms (Greek, Jewish, Islamic, and Christian), medieval philosophy, modern Jewish philosophy, and comparative philosophies of religion. She has presented and published widely, including contributions to the Cambridge Companion to Medieval Jewish Philosophy, the Routledge Companion to Islamic Philosophy, the Cambridge History of Medieval Philosophy, the Blackwell History of Philosophy in the Middle Ages, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, and the Journal of the History of Philosophy.

Her new book is entitled 'Ibn Gabirol's Theology of Desire: Matter and Method in Jewish Medieval Neoplatonism' (Cambridge University Press, forthcoming). Drawing on Arabic passages from Ibn Gabirol’s original Fons Vitae text, and highlighting philosophical insights from his Hebrew poetry, Sarah Pessin develops a "Theology of Desire” at the heart of Ibn Gabirol’s eleventh-century cosmo-ontology, challenging centuries of received scholarship on his work, including his so-called Doctrine of Divine Will. Pessin rejects voluntarist readings of the Fons Vitae as opposing divine emanation, and emphasizes Psuedo-Empedoclean notions of “Divine Desire” and “Grounding Element” alongside Ibn Gabirol’s use of a particularly Neoplatonic method with apophatic (and what she terms “doubly apophatic”) implications. In this way, Pessin reads claims about matter and God as insights about love, desire, and the receptive, dependent, and fragile nature of human being. Pessin reenvisions the entire spirit of Ibn Gabirol’s philosophy, moving us from a set of doctrines to a fluid inquiry into the nature of God and human being – and the bond between God and human being in desire.

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