172 - All Things Considered: Abū l-Barakāt al-Baghdādī

Abū l-Barakāt al-Baghdādī makes up his own mind about physics and the soul, and along the way inaugurates a new style of doing philosophy.

Press 'play' to hear the podcast: 

You are missing some Flash content that should appear here! Perhaps your browser cannot display it, or maybe it did not initialize correctly.

Further Reading: 

• P. Adamson (ed.), In the Age of Averroes: Arabic Philosophy in the Sixth/Twelfth Century (London: 2011).

• R. Arnaldez, “La Doctrine de l’âme dans la philosophie d’Abū l-Barakāt al-Baghdādī,” Studia Islamica  66 (1987), 102-12.

• S. Pines, Studies in Abu’l-Barakāt al-Baghdādī: Physics and Metaphysics (Jerusalem: 1979).

mikko's picture

Intro tune

Great programme! What's the intro tune? digging it.

Peter Adamson's picture

Intro music

Oh right, I forgot to post that under Links. I've done it now, thanks for reminding me. Anyway it is from the album Spendors of Topkapi by the Bezmara Ensemble.

mikko's picture


Thanks! The puns are painful but soul-soothing music makes them bearable. :)

Bear's picture

Phantom limbs

Hi Peter,

just a question about Abū l-Barakāt. You indicated that he was a physician, and I would therefore assume that he would be aware of a phenomenon known as Phantom Limbs, which has been known about since ancient times.

This occurs in amputees and others who have lost limbs or hands or feet. There is a sensation of feeling the limbs, and in some cases needing to stretch the limb or having the sensation of a clenched fist. These days we have a sophisticated neuro-physiological explanation for this phenomenon.

Did this play any part in Abū l-Barakāt's argument about the unity of the soul? I am thinking in particular of the observation that our souls are not diminished if we lose a limb. Or does this not appear in the literature?

Peter Adamson's picture

Phantom limbs

That's a great question! Unfortunately, though I can think of numerous places where philosophers discuss issues of identity over time involving amputation (the Stoics, Plotinus, and of course Abu l-Barakat) I can't think of anyone who talks about the phantom limb phenomenon. It would be great to hear of an example though.


Phantom Limbs

I'm not aware of any such instances in Ancient or Medieval Philosophy, but in more recent times, Merleau-Ponty devotes in his Phenomenology of Perception a lengthy examination of the phenomenon and its relation to our embodied experience of the world, our being-in-the-world.