Friday, August 11, 2017

Islamic Philosophy

Carlos Frankel, Deprovincializing Philosophy, LA Review of Books (July 29, 2017), a review of Peter Adamson, Philosophy in the Islamic World (Oxford UP 2016).
A key lesson from Adamson’s overall project is that the conventional notion of “Western” philosophy (where “Western” essentially means “European”) is useless — a relic of colonial intellectual cartography. To begin with, it arbitrarily disrupts the historical narrative. After antiquity, the second great period in the history of philosophy unfolded in the Islamic world: from Baghdad to Córdoba — that’s where the action was. Besides, “Western” doesn’t pick out a specific region: geographically speaking, about a third of Adamson’s volume is devoted to European philosophy — that of Andalusia or Muslim Spain.
Rather later in the review, after explaining how Islamic thought had been elided from (Western) intellectual history:
Adamson deliberately wrote a book on “philosophy in the Islamic world,” not on “Islamic philosophy.” This points to a further important innovation of his account: he doesn’t divide up the material artificially according to religious affiliation — Muslim, Jewish, and Christian. The intellectual space I’ve outlined above, following al-Ghazālī, is one that Jews and Christians shared. While Christians mainly contributed to kalām and falsafa, Jews were eager to take up the full gamut of emerging new intellectual discourses. Thus, we find Jewish mutakallimūn like Saadia Gaon, Jewish falāsifa like Abraham ibn Daud and Maimonides, Jewish Sufis like Baḥya ibn Paqūda and Abraham ben Maimonides, and Jewish appropriations of Shīʿite concepts — for example in Judah Halevi. Indeed, thinkers in the Islamic world often felt more affinity to members of rival religions who shared their intellectual commitments than to co-religionists who did not.
H/t Kenan Malik:

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