Tuesday, March 25, 2014

515: Arabic Philosophy, the Introduction...

Well, my friends, this is going to be a difficult exercise: Arabic philosophy. The MacmIllan Encyclopedia has a lemma “Arabic philosophy”, but that refers straight to the lemma “Islamic philosophy”

Thus you may call it either way. I preferred Arabic philosophy just to escape the use of “Islamic”. I can’t help it, but words like “Islam” or “Islamic” carry rather unpleasant connotations for me.

Of course one might say immediately, that this is due to all kinds of prejudices I have regarding Islam or Muslims or what is happening in the Arabic world.

Initially I thought that Eastern, Chinese and Indian philosophy would be somewhat troublesome to handle philosophically due to its heavy load of theology.

But now that I concentrate on Arabic philosophy, where the term Islamic philosophy is more generally used, it seems, I get the feeling that this is an even more difficult subject to handle.

Not only because of the religious connotations and metaphysics of the philosophy, but especially because of its political topicality.

When we hear the word “Islam” we  are easily inclined to see images of bloodthirsty mobs of the evening news, exploded car bombs and the like.

And then, when you dig into the literature you read, that reason is central to Islam. I beg you pardon….reason? Through the fog of all my prejudices and bias, I try to get hold of that observation: reason.

But it is true. And history shows this clearly. It also made me think of the Indian philosophers, who first wished to decide on the question “What is the source of knowledge? Perception, inference, intuition , revelation?” before starting the debate.

The dominance of reason in Islamic philosophy and thence inference as the source of knowledge has its clear roots.

There is within Islam, as in many other theocentric cultures, a conflict between the dictates of reason and the prescriptions of revelation. 

But reason and the use of the human intellect, though seen by some as challenges to the all-encompassing mind of God, have occupied a position of unusual importance in the tradition of  Islamic thought.

For Islamic thinkers the perennial problem was to strike a precarious and sometimes dangerous balance between reason and belief.

Just listen to this:
- quote -
Through reason we humans are made superior to inarticulate beasts so that we can own them and train them, tame them and manage them in ways by which advantages accrue to us as well as to them. 

Through reason we apprehend all that by which our life is elevated and made beautiful and good; through reason we attain our desires and the fulfillment of our wishes .... 

Through reason we perceive distant and hidden matters that are veiled from us; through reason we know the shape of the earth and of the firmament and the magnitude of the sun and moon as well as the other stars, together with their distances and their motions. 

Through reason we arrive at knowledge of the Creator -He is exalted!- which is the most immense knowledge we can to attain, and the most beneficial object of our aspiration. 

In sum, reason is something without which our state would be the state of beasts, infants, and the insane.
- end quote -

These are the words of Muhammad ibn Zakariyā Rāzī  (854 CE – 925 CE), a Persian polymath, physician, alchemist and chemist, philosopher.

So, I think it is quite reasonable to pay attention to Islamic philosophy with an open mind.

Main Sources:
MacMillan The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 2nd edition
Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, 1995
From Africa to Zen, R.C. Solomon & K.M. Higgins
The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, P.Adamson & R.Taylor

The Discussion

[13:17] herman Bergson: Thank you :-)
[13:18] Zanicia: Bravo
[13:18] herman Bergson: Thank you ZANICIA
[13:18] herman Bergson: If you have any questions or remarks...the floor is yours ^_^
[13:19] Zanicia: Incredible insight into how they thought....well one in particular!
[13:19] Bejiita Imako: yes this was something for sure
[13:19] herman Bergson: Yes it is most interesting and contrary to what people think in general about Islamic philosophy
[13:20] Zanicia: however...'reason' is it's own variable
[13:20] herman Bergson: One thing is already interesting...
[13:20] herman Bergson: Islamic thought came to life about 700 to 900 CE....
[13:21] herman Bergson: so much later than Greek or Indian philosophy
[13:22] Zanicia: please take a chair with us Areyn
[13:22] herman Bergson: But it is a delicate subject...as soon as the word "Islam" is mentioned....
[13:22] Areyn Laurasia: trying to... sorry.. having technical issues
[13:22] herman Bergson: Like we have that crazy politician here in the Netherlands who pleads against islam in the Netherlands...
[13:23] Zanicia: you were right, Herman, to mention prejudices
[13:23] herman Bergson: I cant deny it....
[13:24] herman Bergson: I have may personal ideas about the arabic world....
[13:24] Merlin: I dont know about someone in NL but I think something happened in Denmark
[13:24] Zanicia: in light of recent world events, I think the feeling is worldwide
[13:24] herman Bergson: But I'll set them aside and  I will try to show you the historical roots of Islamic philosophy
[13:25] Zanicia: yes
[13:25] herman Bergson: the cartoonist, you mean Merlin?
[13:25] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:25] Merlin: Aah yes that was it
[13:25] Zanicia: there can't be any sort of reason until we examine things from all aspects
[13:26] Merlin: I have got brainwashed into not daring to say anything about Muslims
[13:26] herman Bergson: made a cartoon of Mohammed with a bomb on is head or something like that...
[13:26] herman Bergson: That is what I tried to say too Merlin.....
[13:26] Merlin: Yes it think someone I know found them on the internet
[13:26] Merlin: but it wasn’t me, honestly
[13:26] Merlin: hehe
[13:27] Merlin: Thinking also about Mr Snowdon
[13:27] herman Bergson: But I think we'll try to avoid discussing such more cultural, non philosophical issues :-))
[13:27] Zanicia: don't you remember the guy in England who had to go into hiding because of the book he wrote?
[13:27] Merlin: Salman Rushdie
[13:27] Zanicia: (name escapes me for the moment)
[13:27] Zanicia: yes that's it
[13:27] Bejiita Imako: yes
[13:27] herman Bergson: Ruslie or something like that.....
[13:27] Oceane: yes
[13:27] herman Bergson: He wrote that book
[13:28] herman Bergson: He is still alive btw :-))
[13:28] Merlin: I think he is still under protection even now
[13:28] Oceane:
[13:28] Bejiita Imako: and the ayatollas in iran came after him so he fled
[13:28] Merlin: but he appears on TV occasionally
[13:28] herman Bergson: Yes he does
[13:29] herman Bergson: I 'll try to be careful in what I say...otherwise they'll call a fatwa over me too :-)
[13:29] Zanicia: lol
[13:29] Merlin: hehehehe
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: lol
[13:29] Zanicia: but thinking back to the quote........
[13:30] Merlin: Then there's LL too!
[13:30] Zanicia: centuries before God dictated to man that the world was a sphere....
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: well as son there is a small think like someone painted mohammed ect hell break lose it seems
[13:30] herman Bergson: What about it ZANICIA?
[13:30] Zanicia: 'civilised men had reasoned that the world was flat
[13:30] Bejiita Imako: that i dont call reason however i also think the islamic ideas are distorted heavily by these guys from what it was in the beginning
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: and thats why it is like this
[13:31] Zanicia: the patheitic thing is.....there is still a 'flat earth society'!!!!
[13:31] Zanicia: in 2014
[13:31] Merlin: Yes Bejiita... people will just believe what the WANT to believe
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: i guess so
[13:31] herman Bergson: People believe what they are made to believe, I would say.....
[13:32] Merlin: yes that too
[13:32] Zanicia: I believe this
[13:32] herman Bergson: And ZANICIA....one important point is, that knowledge can be obtained by inference....
[13:32] Areyn Laurasia: don't they have the ability to question?
[13:32] herman Bergson: not just mere perception.....
[13:32] Merlin: Well I often mention Dawkins and he thinks it is terrible to talk about a Muslim child etc
[13:33] Merlin: or any religion ...
[13:33] herman Bergson: for that Arab philosophy leaned heavily on Aristotle's logic...
[13:33] Merlin: because a child clearly has not made up its mind
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: true
[13:33] Zanicia: "beast/child/insane"
[13:33] herman Bergson: I would put it more general, Merlin...I just wonder about the phenomenon called religion as a part of human behavior
[13:34] herman Bergson: and as we will see...... the conflict between reason and belief...revelations
[13:35] herman Bergson: This will be an interesting issue in Islamic philosophy....
[13:35] herman Bergson: and also its metaphysics....
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: its a complicated subject for sure
[13:35] herman Bergson: Especially because it still is stuck with it, it seems
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:36] Areyn Laurasia: wish I had caught the class earlier
[13:36] herman Bergson: Tomorrow or the day after I'll post it on the blog Areyn...
[13:36] Areyn Laurasia: Thank you
[[13:38] herman Bergson: It really is a challenge
[13:38] Bejiita Imako: will be really interesting
[13:38] Zanicia: yes
[13:39] herman Bergson: Yes...we have to look past and through the picture the media show of Arabic culture
[13:39] herman Bergson: We'll see how far we'll get ^_^
[13:39] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:39] Zanicia: I have long suspected we only get what we are fed from the one-sided media
[13:39] herman Bergson: So...thank you all again for your interest :-)
[13:40] Zanicia: Thank you Herman
[13:40] .: Beertje :.: thank you Herman
[13:40] herman Bergson: We'll see ZANICIA.....
[13:40] herman Bergson: can be an interesting experiment
[13:40] Oceane: thank you herman, great class
[13:40] herman Bergson: Class dismissed :-)
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: this was a nice start
[13:41] herman Bergson: Enjoy tyour Steampunk party ^_^
[13:41] Areyn Laurasia: Sure sounds interesting
[13:41] Oceane: well it will take awhile till the party starts ;)
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: aa ill check that out maybe¨
[13:41] Bejiita Imako: _=
[13:41] Bejiita Imako:
[13:42] .: Beertje :.: have a goodnight all en till next time
[13:42] Areyn Laurasia: have a great night, bye everyone
[13:42] Merlin: Bye Beertje
[13:42] herman Bergson: you too Beertje
[13:42] Zanicia: you too everybody
[13:42] Merlin: and everyone
[13:42] Zanicia: Goodnight
[13:43] herman Bergson: Bye all :-)

[13:43] Merlin shouts:

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