162 - Sarah Stroumsa on Maimonides

Sarah Stroumsa tells Peter about Maimonides' cultural surroundings and attitudes towards philosophy and the Islamic tradition.

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Further Reading: 

• S. Stroumsa, "Al-Farabi and Maimonides on Medicine as Science," Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 3 (1993), 235-49.

• S. Stroumsa, "On Jewish Intellectuals who converted to Islam in the Early Middle Ages," in D. Frank, ed., The Jews of Medieval Islam: Community, Society, Identity (Leiden: 1995), 179-97.

• S. Stroumsa, "'Ravings': Maimonides Concept of Pseudo-Science," Aleph 1 (2001), 141-63.

• S. Stroumsa, "Maimonides and Mediterranean Culture," in C. Cluse (ed.), The Jews of Europe in the Middle Ages (Turnhout: 2004), 95-104.

• S. Stroumsa, "The Politico-Religious Context of Maimonides," in G. Tamer (ed.), The Trias of Maimonides. Jewish, Arabic, and ancient culture of knowledge (Berlin: 2005), 257-65.

• S. Stroumsa, "The Literary Corpus of Maimonides and Averroes," Maimonidean Studies 5 (2008), 193-210.

• S. Stroumsa, Maimonides in his World: Portrait of a Mediterranean Thinker (Princeton: 2012).

Prof Stroumsa's website at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Tom Roche's picture

Maimonides vs Avicenna

My impression from you et al is that Avicenna is The Big Deal in the medieval Islamic tradition. "Generally regarded as superior" by subsequent Muslim and Western philosophers to his predecessors, contemporaries, and successors for quite awhile, the value proposition seems to be that Avicenna

* built on al-Farabi (as he acknowledged)
* withstood the attacks from Averroes
* was more innovative and influential than either

But the impression I get from you and Stroumsa is that Maimonides deprecated Avicenna explicitly in favor of al-Farabi (who Maimonides regarded as "the bigger deal") and implicitly in favor of Averroes (who Maimonides seems to have drawn upon, if not explicitly acknowledged).

Sooo ... am I missing something? If (mostly) not, then: what was Maimonides' beef with Avicenna?

Peter Adamson's picture

Maimonides on Avicenna

Yes, I think your impression is correct. As I mentioned in passing on the podcast, I think, Avicenna seems in general to have been far less influential in Andalusia than in the East where he totally dominates the scene. So Maimonides' failure to use him more extensively (though he does to some extent) is not unique to him, in fact it's just standard in the Andalusian tradition. It seems that Avicenna's works were rather incompletely known in Spain, as I mentioned in the Ibn Tufayl episode, so to some extent we'Re just talking about a failure of his texts to travel (remember Farabi is earlier so his books may have gotten there in time to exert influence - it seems that already Ibn Hazm knew ideas from the Baghdad school). By the way in a book I edited called Interpreting Avicenna there is a chapter about Avicenna's influence on medieval Jewish philosophy.