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Contents:
  1. Emran El-Badawi | Faculty | MCL - University of Houston
  2. Quick Links
  3. Roger Allen wins Arabic Literary Translation Award

During the Abbasid caliphate , a number of thinkers and scientists, some of them heterodox Muslims or non-Muslims, played a role in transmitting Greek, Hindu and other pre-Islamic knowledge to the Christian West. They contributed to making Aristotle known in Christian Europe. By the 12th century, Kalam , attacked by both the philosophers and the orthodox, perished for lack of champions.

At the same time, however, Falsafa came under serious critical scrutiny. The most devastating attack came from Al-Ghazali , whose work Tahafut al-Falasifa The Incoherence of the Philosophers attacked the main arguments of the Peripatetic School.

Averroes, Maimonides ' contemporary, was one of the last of the Islamic Peripatetics and set out to defend the views of the Falsafa against al-Ghazali's criticism. Like all Islamic Peripatetics, Averroes admits the hypothesis of the intelligence of the spheres and the hypothesis of universal emanation, through which motion is communicated from place to place to all parts of the universe as far as the supreme world—hypotheses which, in the mind of the Arabic philosophers, did away with the dualism involved in Aristotle's doctrine of pure energy and eternal matter.

But while Al-Farabi, Avicenna, and other Persian and Muslim philosophers hurried, so to speak, over subjects that trenched on traditional beliefs, Ibn Rushd delighted in dwelling upon them with full particularity and stress. According to this theory, therefore, the existence of this world is not only a possibility, as Avicenna declared, but also a necessity. In early Islamic philosophy, logic played an important role. Sharia Islamic law placed importance on formulating standards of argument, which gave rise to a novel approach to logic in Kalam , but this approach was later displaced by ideas from Greek philosophy and Hellenistic philosophy with the rise of the Mu'tazili philosophers, who highly valued Aristotle 's Organon.

The works of Hellenistic-influenced Islamic philosophers were crucial in the reception of Aristotelian logic in medieval Europe, along with the commentaries on the Organon by Averroes. The works of al-Farabi , Avicenna , al-Ghazali and other Muslim logicians who often criticized and corrected Aristotelian logic and introduced their own forms of logic, also played a central role in the subsequent development of European logic during the Renaissance. According to the Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy :. For the Islamic philosophers, logic included not only the study of formal patterns of inference and their validity but also elements of the philosophy of language and even of epistemology and metaphysics.


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Because of territorial disputes with the Arabic grammarians, Islamic philosophers were very interested in working out the relationship between logic and language, and they devoted much discussion to the question of the subject matter and aims of logic in relation to reasoning and speech. In the area of formal logical analysis, they elaborated upon the theory of terms , propositions and syllogisms as formulated in Aristotle's Categories, De interpretatione and Prior Analytics. In the spirit of Aristotle, they considered the syllogism to be the form to which all rational argumentation could be reduced, and they regarded syllogistic theory as the focal point of logic.

Even poetics was considered as a syllogistic art in some fashion by most of the major Islamic Aristotelians. Important developments made by Muslim logicians included the development of "Avicennian logic" as a replacement of Aristotelian logic. Avicenna 's system of logic was responsible for the introduction of hypothetical syllogism , temporal modal logic and inductive logic.

Other important developments in early Islamic philosophy include the development of a strict science of citation , the isnad or "backing", and the development of a method to disprove claims, the ijtihad , which was generally applied to many types of questions.

Early forms of analogical reasoning , inductive reasoning and categorical syllogism were introduced in Fiqh Islamic jurisprudence , Sharia and Kalam Islamic theology from the 7th century with the process of Qiyas , before the Arabic translations of Aristotle's works. Later, during the Islamic Golden Age , there was debate among Islamic philosophers, logicians and theologians over whether the term Qiyas refers to analogical reasoning, inductive reasoning or categorical syllogism.

Some Islamic scholars argued that Qiyas refers to inductive reasoning. Ibn Hazm — disagreed, arguing that Qiyas does not refer to inductive reasoning but to categorical syllogistic reasoning in a real sense and analogical reasoning in a metaphorical sense. On the other hand, al-Ghazali —; and, in modern times, Abu Muhammad Asem al-Maqdisi argued that Qiyas refers to analogical reasoning in a real sense and categorical syllogism in a metaphorical sense.

Other Islamic scholars at the time, however, argued that the term Qiyas refers to both analogical reasoning and categorical syllogism in a real sense. The first original Arabic writings on logic were produced by al-Kindi Alkindus — , who produced a summary on earlier logic up to his time. The first writings on logic with non-Aristotelian elements was produced by al-Farabi Alfarabi — , who discussed the topics of future contingents , the number and relation of the categories , the relation between logic and grammar , and non-Aristotelian forms of inference.

Averroes — , author of the most elaborate commentaries on Aristotelian logic, was the last major logician from al-Andalus. Avicenna — developed his own system of logic known as "Avicennian logic" as an alternative to Aristotelian logic. By the 12th century, Avicennian logic had replaced Aristotelian logic as the dominant system of logic in the Islamic world. The first criticisms of Aristotelian logic were written by Avicenna — , who produced independent treatises on logic rather than commentaries.

He criticized the logical school of Baghdad for their devotion to Aristotle at the time. He investigated the theory of definition and classification and the quantification of the predicates of categorical propositions , and developed an original theory on " temporal modal " syllogism. Its premises included modifiers such as "at all times", "at most times", and "at some time".

While Avicenna — often relied on deductive reasoning in philosophy, he used a different approach in medicine. Ibn Sina contributed inventively to the development of inductive logic , which he used to pioneer the idea of a syndrome. In his medical writings, Avicenna was the first to describe the methods of agreement, difference and concomitant variation which are critical to inductive logic and the scientific method.

Ibn Hazm — wrote the Scope of Logic , in which he stressed on the importance of sense perception as a source of knowledge. Fakhr al-Din al-Razi b. Systematic refutations of Greek logic were written by the Illuminationist school , founded by Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi — , who developed the idea of "decisive necessity", an important innovation in the history of logical philosophical speculation, [18] and in favour of inductive reasoning. Avicenna 's proof for the existence of God was the first ontological argument , which he proposed in the Metaphysics section of The Book of Healing.

Avicenna's proof of God's existence is unique in that it can be classified as both a cosmological argument and an ontological argument. The proof is also "cosmological insofar as most of it is taken up with arguing that contingent existents cannot stand alone and must end up in a Necessary Existent. Islamic philosophy, imbued as it is with Islamic theology , distinguishes more clearly than Aristotelianism the difference between essence and existence.

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Whereas existence is the domain of the contingent and the accidental, essence endures within a being beyond the accidental. This was first described by Avicenna 's works on metaphysics , who was himself influenced by al-Farabi. Some orientalists or those particularly influenced by Thomist scholarship argued that Avicenna was the first to view existence wujud as an accident that happens to the essence mahiyya.

However, this aspect of ontology is not the most central to the distinction that Avicenna established between essence and existence. One cannot therefore make the claim that Avicenna was the proponent of the concept of essentialism per se , given that existence al-wujud when thought of in terms of necessity would ontologically translate into a notion of the "Necessary-Existent-due-to-Itself" wajib al-wujud bi-dhatihi , which is without description or definition and, in particular, without quiddity or essence la mahiyya lahu. Consequently, Avicenna's ontology is ' existentialist ' when accounting for being— qua —existence in terms of necessity wujub , while it is essentialist in terms of thinking about being— qua —existence in terms of "contingency— qua —possibility" imkan or mumkin al-wujud , meaning "contingent being".

Some argue that Avicenna anticipated Frege and Bertrand Russell in "holding that existence is an accident of accidents" and also anticipated Alexius Meinong 's "view about nonexistent objects. The idea of "essence preced[ing] existence" is a concept which dates back to Avicenna [25] and his school as well as Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi [26] and his Illuminationist philosophy.

Ibn al-Nafis wrote the Theologus Autodidactus as a defense of "the system of Islam and the Muslims' doctrines on the missions of Prophets, the religious laws, the resurrection of the body, and the transitoriness of the world. Later Islamic scholars viewed this work as a response to Avicenna 's metaphysical argument on spiritual resurrection as opposed to bodily resurrection , which was earlier criticized by al-Ghazali.

Emran El-Badawi | Faculty | MCL - University of Houston

The Muslim physician -philosophers, Avicenna and Ibn al-Nafis , developed their own theories on the soul. They both made a distinction between the soul and the spirit , and in particular, the Avicennian doctrine on the nature of the soul was influential among the Scholastics. Some of Avicenna's views on the soul included the idea that the immortality of the soul is a consequence of its nature, and not a purpose for it to fulfill.

In his theory of "The Ten Intellects", he viewed the human soul as the tenth and final intellect. Avicenna generally supported Aristotle 's idea of the soul originating from the heart , whereas Ibn al-Nafis on the other hand rejected this idea and instead argued that the soul "is related to the entirety and not to one or a few organs. While he was imprisoned in the castle of Fardajan near Hamadhan , Avicenna wrote his "Floating Man" thought experiment to demonstrate human self-awareness and the substantiality of the soul. He referred to the living human intelligence , particularly the active intellect , which he believed to be the hypostasis by which God communicates truth to the human mind and imparts order and intelligibility to nature.

His "Floating Man" thought experiment tells its readers to imagine themselves suspended in the air, isolated from all sensations , which includes no sensory contact with even their own bodies. He argues that, in this scenario, one would still have self-consciousness. He thus concludes that the idea of the self is not logically dependent on any physical thing , and that the soul should not be seen in relative terms , but as a primary given, a substance.

While ancient Greek philosophers believed that the universe had an infinite past with no beginning, early medieval philosophers and theologians developed the concept of the universe having a finite past with a beginning. This view was inspired by the creationism shared by Judaism , Christianity and Islam. The Christian philosopher John Philoponus presented a detailed argument against the ancient Greek notion of an infinite past.

Muslim and Arab Jewish philosophers like Al-Kindi , Saadia Gaon , and Al-Ghazali developed further arguments, with most falling into two broad categories: assertions of the "impossibility of the existence of an actual infinite" and of the "impossibility of completing an actual infinite by successive addition". In metaphysics , Avicenna Ibn Sina defined truth as:. Avicenna elaborated on his definition of truth in his Metaphysics :. In his Quodlibeta , Thomas Aquinas wrote a commentary on Avicenna's definition of truth in his Metaphysics and explained it as follows:.

So that is called true gold which has properly the being of gold and attains to the established determinations of the nature of gold. Now, each thing has properly being in some nature because it stands under the complete form proper to that nature, whereby being and species in that nature is. Early Islamic political philosophy emphasized an inexorable link between science and religion and the process of ijtihad to find truth. Ibn al-Haytham Alhacen reasoned that to discover the truth about nature, it is necessary to eliminate human opinion and error, and allow the universe to speak for itself.

Thus the duty of the man who investigates the writings of scientists, if learning the truth is his goal, is to make himself an enemy of all that he reads, and, applying his mind to the core and margins of its content, attack it from every side. He should also suspect himself as he performs his critical examination of it, so that he may avoid falling into either prejudice or leniency.

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The issue of free will versus predestination issue is one of the "most contentious topics in classical Islamic thought. This is explained in Qur'anic verses such as "Say: 'Nothing will happen to us except what Allah has decreed for us: He is our protector' According to Muslim theologians, although events are pre-ordained, man possesses free will in that he or she has the faculty to choose between right and wrong, and is thus responsible for his actions.

Atomistic philosophies are found very early in Islamic philosophy, and represent a synthesis of the Greek and Indian ideas. Like both the Greek and Indian versions, Islamic atomism was a charged topic that had the potential for conflict with the prevalent religious orthodoxy. Yet it was such a fertile and flexible idea that, as in Greece and India, it flourished in some schools of Islamic thought.

The most successful form of Islamic atomism was in the Asharite school of philosophy, most notably in the work of the philosopher al-Ghazali — In Asharite atomism, atoms are the only perpetual, material things in existence, and all else in the world is "accidental" meaning something that lasts for only an instant. Nothing accidental can be the cause of anything else, except perception, as it exists for a moment.

Contingent events are not subject to natural physical causes, but are the direct result of God's constant intervention, without which nothing could happen. Thus nature is completely dependent on God, which meshes with other Asharite Islamic ideas on causation , or the lack thereof.

Roger Allen wins Arabic Literary Translation Award

Other traditions in Islam rejected the atomism of the Asharites and expounded on many Greek texts, especially those of Aristotle. An active school of philosophers in Spain, including the noted commentator Averroes AD explicitly rejected the thought of al-Ghazali and turned to an extensive evaluation of the thought of Aristotle.

Averroes commented in detail on most of the works of Aristotle and his commentaries did much to guide the interpretation of Aristotle in later Jewish and Christian scholastic thought. There are several cosmological verses in the Qur'an — which some modern writers have interpreted as foreshadowing the expansion of the universe and possibly even the Big Bang theory: [40]. Do not the Unbelievers see that the heavens and the earth were joined together as one unit of creation , before we clove them asunder?

We have built the heaven with might, and We it is Who make the vast extent thereof. In contrast to ancient Greek philosophers who believed that the universe had an infinite past with no beginning, medieval philosophers and theologians developed the concept of the universe having a finite past with a beginning.