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AN INTRODUCTION TO ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY

This course has finished

Delivered by: By Professor Peter Adamson [University of London]

Date: Saturday 23rd June 2012 Time: 9am – 5pm

Venue: Birkbeck College, Malet Street, London WC1E 7HX

The word ‘philosophy’ is derived from the Greek for ‘love of wisdom’. Its is essentially, the study of general and fundamental problems, such as those connected with existence, knowledge, values, reason, mind, and language but is distinguished from other ways of addressing such problems by its critical, generally systematic approach and its reliance on rational argument.

All ancient civilisations has some philosophical outlook and the Greeks were known to be one of the first to record and have systematic approach. As the Islamic Civilisation expanded away from the Middle East into Iran, China, India, Africa and Europe, it came into contact with all types of ideas thus many of these were translated into Arabic and either taken on, refuted or worked on. To this day much of what we know about ‘Greek philosophy’ is owed to the translations by Muslims, otherwise it would have been lost to the annals of history.

Islamic philosophy is unique in the sort of topics and issues with which it deals, the sort of problems it attempts to solve and the methods it uses in order to solve them. It is mainly concerned itself with such matters as the problem of unity and multiplicity, reconciling revelation with reason, the relationship between God and the world, and there were many categories in particular ‘speculative’ and ‘practical’ and their discussions extended over varied topics such as natural philosophy, mathematics, metaphysics, ethics and politics. All subjects have been of heated controversies and discussions among the theologians for a long time.

In this course we shall see its historical rise and development, the translation movement from the 8th to the 10th century, and its interaction with Greek and Hellenistic traditions of philosophy. While dealing with such towering figures of Islamic philosophy as Kindi, Farabi, Ibn Sina, Ghazali, Ibn Rushd, Ibn Hazm, Ibn Tufayl, Ibn Bajjah, Suhrawardi, the school of Ibn al-Arabi, Nasir al-Din Tusi, and Mulla Sadra, we will also discuss the central issues and concepts of Islamic philosophy, including existence (wujud) and essence (mahiyyah), God’s existence and knowledge of the world, knowledge (‘ilm) and its foundations, cosmology, causality (‘illiyyah) and its role in sciences of nature, and political thought.

An intensive introductory course delivered by one of the world’s leading experts on the subject.

An intensive introductory course delivered by one of the world’s leading experts on the subject. The course will look at the following:

  • Philosophy (Falsafa) and Rational Theology (Kalam)
  • Major Muslim philosophers and their arguements in various periods: Classical, Post-Classical & Modern
  • Islamic & modern Western philosophy – Clash, Challenges & the future!

Professor Peter Adamson [University of London]

Peter Adamson is Professor of Ancient & Medieval Philosophy at the King’s College London. His areas of interest include late ancient philosophy, especially Neoplatonism and Arabic and Medieval philosophy. He has published many papers on a wide range of figures in Greek and Arabic philosophy, including Aristotle, Plotinus, al-Farabi and other members of the Baghdad School, Avicenna and Averroes. However he has concentrated especially on the output of the translation circle of al-Kindi, who is usually credited with being the first philosopher in the Islamic tradition. This research includes a book, “The Arabic Plotinus: a Philosophical Study of the “Theology of Aristotle” (London: Duckworth, 2002) and a volume entitled “Great Medieval Thinkers: al-Kindi” (New York: Oxford University Press, 2007). He is also a co-editor of The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, co-edited with Richard Taylor (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004), and Philosophy, Science and Exegesis in Greek, Arabic and Latin Commentaries (London: Institute for Classical Studies in 2004). He has edited three books for the Warburg Institute, the most recent of which (“In the Age of Averroes”) will appear soon.

Professor Adamson is a frequent contributor to BBC Radio 4’s ‘In Our Time’ with Melvin Bragg, and other radio broadcasts.

Professor Adamson is currently at work on a monograph on the 10th century CE doctor and philosopher al-Razi. He also runs a three-year project, funded by the Leverhulme Trust, on Natural Philosophy in the Islamic World.

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