Philosophy in the Islamic world

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I've been planning out the upcoming episodes on philosophy in the Islamic world. It's looking like at least a year's worth of podcasts -- about 50 or so. If anyone has any specific requests or suggestions about themes, figures etc. I would be interested to hear them. A few specific points about what I'm planning (without ruining the suspense too much):

1. I will be covering Jewish and Christian thinkers who lived in the Islamic world along the way, rather than separating out the faith traditions. I think this will be very interesting. For one thing it brought home to me that there is a huge explosion of philosophy in Andalusia in the 11th-13th centuries or so, which involves both Jewish and Muslim thinkers plus the translation movement from Arabic to Latin. I kind of knew that but just coming up with a chronological list I realized that there will be a whole mini-season (more than a dozen episodes I think) about Andalusian thinkers.

2. The Eastern tradition after Avicenna is absolutely enormous, but hard to cover because it is only very recently that in-depth research has been done. I'm going to do my best though to cover philosophy in Arabic and Persian all the way up to Mulla Sadra and beyond, so into the time of "early modernity" in Europe. Without leaving any gaps (of course), insofar as I can manage it.

3. Having said that of course my main expertise is on the earlier period and I'm very excited about writing episodes on Kindi, Razi, Avicenna etc. Should be an interesting challenge, writing a 20 minute episode on al-Kindi who was my main research interest for about 10 years!

4. I also want to cover kalam (rational Islamic theology) and other cultural phenomena as they relate to philosophy -- like science and maybe even jurisprudence (fiqh).

Should be fun! It will all kick off in episode 120, after Boethius.

Ed Mannino on 22 January 2013

Are there any philosophers

Are there any philosophers from the Sufi tradition you are considering? Thomas Merton was fond of their mysticism.

Peter Adamson on 22 January 2013

Definitely Ibn 'Arabi, and

Definitely Ibn 'Arabi, and then other later thinkers influenced by him or by Sufism (Mulla Sadra, for instance).

Omar Ali-de-Unzaga on 23 January 2013

Oh! If it was up to me, I

Oh! If it was up to me, I would have 25 episodes on the Ikhwan al-Safa' ("my" guys). So I guess I will just restrain myself and request you to cover them in *one* episode. Having listened to [almost] all the previous episodes (e.g. on Pythagoras, Philo, Origen, Pseudo-Dysonisus, Iamblichus, etc.) I could imagine the episode on the Ikhwan al-Safa' in the in-between period between Kindi and Ibn Sina. They are roughly contemporary to Farabi and the Ismaili thinkers.
If you can't squeeze them in- don't worry- I'll look forward to the second edition of the HoP!

JasonE on 23 January 2013

I cannot wait to hear this

I cannot wait to hear this series on Islamicate philosophy. Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and Al-Ghazali would be great. I think you already mentioned Ibn Sina, Mulla Sundra, and Al 'Arabi -- all great choices.

Thanks so much for the podcasts.

Peter Adamson on 23 January 2013

Hi folks -- Omar, I was going

Hi folks -- Omar, I was going to do a general episode on Platonism in the 4th/10th century talking about the fusion of adab and falsafa (i.e. literary and philosophical culture), which would take in the Ikhwan but also Tawhidi, 'Amiri, and Miskawayh (all of whom I want to mention but none of whom quite rate a whole episode, I feel). However the Ismailis will get their own episode so I may talk a bit there about the possible Ismaili affiliation of the Ikhwan. 



Gizawi on 24 January 2013

Hello Prof. Adamson, I am

Hello Prof. Adamson,

I am really glad you decided not to split up the Christian and Jewish Arabic philosophers from the Muslim ones. After all they did not live and write in their own bubbles. Also looking at the relationship between philosophy and Fiqh is a great decision because I always thought there was more to the four Madhahib than discussing hadith and their legal implications. After all Hanbalism is usually considered as a theological school in its own right by some. Both Hanbalism and Hanfism carry epistemological implications that would reward philosophical analysis. As far as Adab goes I hope you will cover some of it such as Al-Jahiz, the poetic tradition, and the Nahj Al-Balagha since they had an impact on the sciences and ethics. Like the Jewish and Christian philosophers, Fiqh and Adab existed in the same environment and did respond to and challenge philosophy. After all most of the philosophers were Fuquha, it is how they made a living and were able to practice philosophy in the first place. Few scholars analyze this dimension in Islamic philosophy asides from maybe scholars of Ibn Rushd.

Will you cover Islamic philosophy in one go, or will you split it up and jump from Europe to the Islamic lands when a time period closes? Such as from the classical period in the Islamic lands, to Europe for Scholasticism, then to Byzantium to its fall, and before you go into the early modern period or the Enlightenment, pop back in to the Islamic world?

Lee Malatesta on 26 January 2013

I would greatly appreciate

I would greatly appreciate coverage of al-Farabi, especially the ongoing controversies concerning how much he was influenced by Neoplatonism and whether he thought that the soul was genuinely immortal.

It's really a shame that his commentary on the Ethics is lost.

Peter Adamson on 26 January 2013

Thanks for these new

Thanks for these new comments! I will most certainly cover al-Farabi. In answer to the question about doing it in one go my plan is to go all the way up to at least Mulla Sadra and maybe further before circling back to Latin medieval philosophy.

I share the view that fiqh (jurisprudence) is important for historians of philosophy, both because it raises its own philosophical issues and because it influences philosophers. As you say many philosophers (not sure about "most") were jurists and even those who weren't (al-Farabi, in fact) sometimes discuss law and its relation to philosophy. Many were also doctors by the way, and I'll also be covering medicine in the Islamic world, in an interview with P.E. Pormann.

Jaime Valles on 11 February 2013

Wow, this sounds really

Wow, this sounds really exciting. Must include the usual suspects Al-kindi, Al-Biruni and, of course Avicenna (and definately floating man).

Love to know more about the link between Islamic Philosophy and the development of science and mathematics and, of course, medicine.

It would great to achieve an overall perspective as the tendency is to overlook much of the originality of Islamic philosophical thought, especially when seem through the prism of the Translation Movement. Like to get away from the idea that it was all simply rehash of Aristotle. Need to consider the cultural stimulus which in turn reflects the diversity of the Islamic thought, then as now! And must have some Giraffes!

Yasser Saffar on 20 February 2013

Hi Professor Adamson! I hope

Hi Professor Adamson! I hope you're well.

I'm really looking forward to the episodes on Arabic philosophy. I have a request, but no worries if you can't cover it. I would be particularly interested on an episode on Ibn Khaldun, particularly his thought and works on social and political philosophy. I'm particularly interested in his Asabiyyah concept, and this possibly being a forerunner to Durkheim's social solidarity theories. I don't think Ibn Khaldun is acknowledged enough as the founder of the philosophy of history and of sociology itself, or even of thinking in economic terms centuries before Adam Smith. Other honourable mentions of topics I'd really like to hear about:

Ibn Tufail's 'Hayy ibn Yaqdhan' philosophical novel;
Avicenna's proof;
Ghazali's deliverance from error and incoherence of the philosophers;
Averroes' incoherence of the incoherence;
The influence of Arabic philosophy on Aquinas and later thinkers.

Best wishes,

In reply to by Yasser Saffar

Peter Adamson on 21 February 2013

Hi Yasser,Yes, I do have an

Hi Yasser,

Yes, I do have an episode planned on Ibn Khaldun though I'm not sure what I'll say about him yet. I agree though that he's a huge figure in the philosophy of history. And those other topics you mention are definitely on the list too!



In reply to by Peter Adamson

Yasser Saffar on 24 February 2013

Great, looking forward to the

Great, looking forward to the episodes!


Ollie Killingback on 24 February 2013

I am looking forward to

I am looking forward to beginning something I know absolutely nothing about. To start off on such a venture at my age is exciting.

Essam on 30 May 2013

Professor Adamson, I'd like

Professor Adamson, I'd like to hear more about natural philosophy within the Islamicate philosophy, particularly as it contributes to the development of natural philosophy in all three religious traditions participating in this conversation that makes up Islamicate philosophy. I'm interested in the question of how these thinkers understood the natural world as creation, and in the manner they related it to God. I'd also love to hear more about natural philosophy across the traditions, especially around the 13th century in al-Andulus, and how that might have contributed to subsequent developments in natural philosophy.

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