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CHAPTER 1: WHAT IS ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY?

A copy of Kant’s doctoral thesis, dated 1755, contains the basmala at the top of the title page
Why this was placed at the top of the page, we will never know; Kant most likely didn’t, hardly mentions Islam

Is it possible to propose there is congruence between Kant et al + Muslims philosophers/Qur’an?


Does the basmala poke fun at the idea that Islam could offer anything philosophical compared to Kant et al?

What is Islam?
Muslims look to the scripture for guidance on how to be a good Muslim (=good human being)
What constitutes a good Muslim? Is it belief OR belief + action?
There are nominal or cultural Muslims, whereby identity is confirmed by being born to a Muslim father 1

What is philosophy?
Philosophy means the love of wisdom; it begins with the ancient Greeks
The PRE-SOCRATICS were investigating the nature of the world without relying on mythic explanations
What they were doing may remind us more of SCIENTIFIC ENQUIRY today than what we deem philosophy
They had a common concern for the cosmos & were intent on explaining the apparent chaos of the world

Plato + Aristotle laid the foundations for what we understand by philosophy to this day
Plato + Socrates were different from pre-Socratics because of their more rigorous + rational method of enquiry
They invented the method + terminology of philosophizing that is still used today by introducing
1. Analysis
2. Cogent argument
3. Rational approach to thought

PLATO especially laid the foundations for all the philosophers that came after him
Alfred North Whitehead: History of philosophy is a series of footnotes to Plato
His main concern was with moral philosophy2, as he matured his works covered other branches of philosophy

In a nutshell, philosophy concerns itself with & attempts to address these BIG QUESTIONS systematically:
1. What can we know for sure?
2. What is the best form of political government?
3. What does it mean to be good?
4. Is there a mind? And is it separate from the body?

How does philosophical methodology + enquiry relate to Islam?


Muslims argue that God provides us with all the knowledge we need
Satan fell from grace by using his intellect to defy God
So using the mind to question what God decrees is treated with suspicion in Islam
Islamic sciences
Science, from the Latin derivation scientia, means knowledge
Ibn Khaldun on the distinction between philosophy & theology:

Philosophy Explores both the physical & metaphysical realms


Theology Exploration of the physical & metaphysical realms were confined to
how they could support arguments for the existence + nature of God

Islamic theologians are often considered in same way Plato regarded Sophists: clever talkers but lacking wisdom

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Bosnian Muslims were largely secular, their only connection with Islam until the war was having Muslim
names such as Amra & Emir. Muslims that went to Bosnia for the war were shocked by the Bosnian lifestyle
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How we ought to live our lives
CHAPTER 2: GREEK + PERSIAN LEGACY

Hellenism: The encounter with Greek philosophy


HELLENISM is used to describe people of Greek lineage OR a set of values for living OR relating to ancient Greece
Today scholars of Greek philosophy, including Muslims differ on what the Greeks meant

As ALEXANDER’S empire spread, so did Hellenic Culture3 + Greek philosophy


Alexandria was significant for spread + survival of philosophy, home to a Greek community + Hellenistic learning
Muslims didn’t go as far as China, but they went as far as Alexandria where Greek philosophy influenced Islam

After Alexander, the ROMANS were the dominant power; this led to a fusion of Greek + Roman culture
Under the Romans, philosophy flourished & centres financially supported by Marcus Aurelius

By 7th century, most of Europe was in its DARK AGES & Greek philosophy was LOST with fall of the Roman Empire
Christianity + Gnosticism beliefs grew in influence; philosophical centres were banned because of Christian influence
Philosophers were concerned so they decided to make some effort to CHRISTIANIZE Greek philosophy
So theology developed & was concerned with understanding religious concepts with a philosophical quality

When Muslims entered Egypt, Alexandria was the last remaining centre of philosophy
Thanks to Alexandrian library + translation of works by Muslims, philosophy was able to return to Europe

When the Academy of Athens was closed, seven of its philosophers fled to the Persian Empire in Iraq then Alexandria
It’s the writing of these scholars the Muslims encountered when they entered Egypt: Philoponus + Simplicius
They concentrated on a NEOPLATONIC INTERPRETATION OF ARISTOTLE

Question: What did the Muslims encounter when they began to digest the great works of scholarship in Alexandria?
It was not Plato & Aristotle, but translations + commentaries of some of Aristotle’s writings with a Neoplatonic twist
Greek philosophy in Egypt when Muslims arrived was different to Greek philosophy a few hundred years back
It survived but was transformed into a cosmopolitan + eclectic school combining:
1. Neo-Platonism (itself a synthesis of religion + philosophy)
2. Christianity
3. Mysticism
4. Egyptian thought

When Arabs conquered SYRIA + IRAQ in the 7th century, they encountered several Greek schools of philosophy
These schools translated Greek works, many deriving from Alexandria into Syriac
The Arabs were confronted with the task of translating Syriac into Arabic; they were confronted with a:
1. Neoplatonic Aristotle in Alexandria
2. Christian Aristotle in Syria

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Hellenic culture meant being part of a city-state, a polis, with its own city walls, marketplace, bath
houses & town halls, as well as many other characteristic features & activities. Hellenic culture was not
just its architecture, but its arts, its theatre, its religions, its festivals, its legends & its philosophies
Neo-Platonism

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