175 - Bright Ideas: Illuminationism

The Illuminationists carry on Suhrawardī’s critique of “Peripatetic” philosophy and wonder if they will be reborn as giraffes.

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Further Reading: 

• Y.T. Langermann, “Ibn Kammūna and the ‘New Wisdom’ of the Thirteenth Century,” Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 15 (2005), 277-327.

• R. Marcotte, “Suhrawardī’s Realm of the Imaginal,” in Y. Eshots (ed.), Ishraq: Islamic Philosophy Yearbook (Moscow: 2011), 68-79.

• L. Muehlethaler, Ibn Kammūna (d.683/1284) on the Eternity of the Human Soul: The Three Treatises on the Soul and Related Texts (Yale PhD, 2010). [My thanks to the author for making a copy available to me.]

• L. Muehlethaler, “Revising Avicenna’s Ontology of the Soul: Ibn Kammūna on the Soul’s Eternity a Parte Ante,” The Muslim World  102 (2012), 597-616.

• R. Pourjavady and S. Schmidtke, A Jewish Philosopher of Baghdad: ʿIzz al-Dawla ibn Kammūna (d.683/1284) (Leiden: 2006).

• S. Schmidtke, “The Doctrine of the Transmigration of Soul According to Shihāb al-Dīn al-Suhrawardī (Killed 587/1991) and his Followers,” Studia Iranica 28 (1999), 237-54.

• J. Walbridge, The Science of Mystic Lights: Qub al-Dīn al-Shīrāzī and the Illuminationist Tradition in Islamic Philosophy (Cambridge MA: 1992).

• H. Ziai, “The Illuminationist Tradition”, in S.H. Nasr and O. Leaman (eds), History of Islamic Philosophy (London: 1996), 465-96.

 My thanks to Lukas Muehlethaler for his advice on this episode!

And one correction: I incorrectly state in this episode that Qub al-Dīn al-Shīrāzī was a shiite thinker but this seems not to be true (it is true that his teacher al-Ṭūsī was though.)

Dave Martin's picture

A Question About Complete Causes

Dear Peter
Thanks for another great episode. I was particularly taken by the section on Ibn Kammūna and his ideas about complete causes. When he applies this to soul, he seems to go down a line that has wide reaching consequences, which - if I've got this right - goes something like this:
Complete causes guarantee their effect, so if God is the complete cause of a thing, that thing must be eternal, since God is eternal. Ibn Kammūna uses this argument to prove the eternal nature of the soul, but it seems the same argument would apply to anything 'caused' by God. However, if this is so, it would have a big knock on effect of some other key issues. I don't see how, for example, God could cause anything that wasn't eternal and it's surely a big problem if he didn't create temporary things such as the sun and the earth, or any of the creatures on it. Further, Avicenna's proof of the necessary existent (i.e. God) depends on contingent - and therefore temporary- things being caused by the necessary existent. Thus, you would be forced to conclude that the neccessary existent must be temporary in order to be the complete cause of contingent things, and therefore either God isn't the necessary existent, or God isn't eternal. This leads to a breakdown in the extended chain of argument: if God isn't eternal then time pre-exists God and therefore all things don't need the neccesary existent to cause them and therefore , a necessary existent is not necessary.
You can probably see why this line of thought is causing me problems
Regards, Dave M

Gizawi's picture

Ishraq and Kalam

Hello Prof. Adamson,

Was there a relationship between the Ishraqi tradition and Kalam? I tried to read up on Fakhr al-Din Razi's Illuminationist Discourses to see if it was intended to be an Ishraqi work but none of the secondary literature I read answered my question. I know Mulla Sadra was hostile towards Kalam, but I would like to know about the general mood between both sides. Did the Mutakalimun aim polemics at the Ishraqis like they did the Peripatetics?

Peter Adamson's picture

Ishraqis and kalam

That's a good question. Basically I would say no: in the 12-13th centuries these are two separate traditions for the most part, albeit that figures like Ibn Kammuna and Qutb al-Din al-Shirazi do draw on both strands. But it is really only later that we have figures who a both full blown Illuminationists and full blown Avicennan mutakallimun, like the Shirazi thinkers perhaps, or the most obvious example who is Sadra.