[3.4] Ibn Gabirol on Cosmology and Universal Hylomorphism

Jewish philosopher and poet Solomon ben Judah Ibn Gabirol (or Ibn Jabirul in Arabic; Avicebron in Latin, 1021/2-1057/8 AD) in his work Fons Vitae envisioned a cosmology, which is:

  • emanationist in a neoplatonist sense, like that of Plotinus, al-Farabi, Avicenna (see [2.4.2], [3.2.1], [3.3.2])
  • emphasizes the importance of the Devine Will
  • and distinctively introduces universal hylomorphism (for hylomorphism see [1.3.5] and [1.3.7]), meaning that the (universal) intellect and soul – not just the bodies – are compound of matter and form.

Here is a OntoUML representation of Ibn Gabirol’s cosmology:

Ibn Gabirol cosmology and universal hylomorphism
ClassDescription Relations
God“Ibn Gabirol’s God is described as a Creator God who is an absolute simple unity—so simple as to exceed the grasp of the human mind and tongue.” relates to Matter and DivineWill
Matter “God’s formative act begins with creating matter and form (possibly a creation ex nihilo, but described fluidly enough as to leave open other interpretations)”
Form “God’s formative act begins with creating…form…  form, on the contrary, arising somewhat secondarily from the Divine Will.”relates to DivineWill
DivineWillWill is identified also with Wisdom and Word.
“Turning further to Will’s mediating cosmic role, while the Latin text translates “intermediary between the extremes,” the Arabic text uses a dual grammatical form, translating more specifically as “intermediary between the two extremes…, Ibn Gabirol might mean that Will intermediates between (1) matter and (2) form, the two cosmic “building blocks” out of which all reality is comprised.”
mediates between Matter and Form
UniversalIntellect “In Ibn Gabirol’s cosmology, Intellect is highlighted as the first created being, as the Divine Glory (Kavod),and as the first occurrence of “form in matter” composition… Pure universal matter is thus coupled—in a process overseen by Divine Will—with a pure universal form to yield the first fully existing substance, Universal Intellect.”
PureMatter“Ibn Gabirol describes pure matter as stemming directly from the Divine Essence itself… existent in and of itself, of a single essence, sustaining diversity, and giving to everything its essence and name”is contained by UniversalIntellect; is Matter
PureFormThe closest Form to the Devine Will, contained in the Universal Intellect. is component of UniversalIntellect; is Form
UniversalSoul Ibn Gabirol also envisions not one but three Universal Soulsrelates to UniversalIntellect and itself (there are 3 souls in a chain of emanation)
MatterSMatter of the Universal Soul is contained by UniversalSoul; is Matter
FormSForm of the Universal Soulis component of UniversalSoul; is Form
CeletialBodyCelestial Bodies are: Fixed Stars, Saturn, Jupiter, Mars, Sun, Venus, Mercury, Moonrelates to UniversalSoul and itself (there are 8 bodies in a chain of emanation)
MatterCMatter of the Celestial Bodyis contained by CelestialBody; is Matter
FormCForm of the Celestial Body is component of CelestialBody; is Form
TerrestrialBodyAll bodies on the Earth relates to CeletialBody
LowerMatterForm of the Celestial Body is contained by TerrestrialBody; is Matter
LowerForm Form of the Celestial Body is component of TerrestrialBody; is Form

The following triplets present hylomorphic structure:

  • PureMatter – UniversalIntellect – PureForm
  • MatterS – UniversalSoul – FormS
  • MatterC – CeletialBody – FormC
  • LowerMatter – TerrestrialBody – LowerForm


First published: 12/09/2019