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Asian Philosophy


Review Essays of Academic, Professional & Technical Books in the Humanities & Sciences


Arab Philosophy

Arabic Theology, Arabic Philosophy: From the Many to the One: Essays in Celebration of Richard M. Frank edited by James E. Montgomery (Orientalia Lovaniensia Analecta: Peeters) The final sentence of the last scholarly work by Professor Richard M. Frank to have been published runs:
Ontology and logic are not separable the one from the other.

This remarkable statement concludes an incisive and authoritative exposition of the term hukm, plural ahkäm, in the writings of the classical Ash`arite masters, the architects of the formal theological system posterior to the eponym's death in 324/935 and prior to the floruit of al-Ghazali. It forms one panel of a triptych of remarkable surveys of Ash`arite ontology, stemming from the final stages of Professor Frank's professional career, the others being The As'arite Ontology: I. Primary Entities, and The Non-Existent and the Possible in Classical Ash'arite Teaching. These works are characterized by scrupulosity in the record­ing of source references, subtlety and ingenuity in the exposition of ideas, and an astonishing sensitivity to the systematic implications and supple delimitations of Classical Arabic as a formal language for the speculative exploration of existence. Taken together they represent one of the most sustained endeavours to-date by any scholar to penetrate the formidable formalism of this system, predicated upon a reluctance to establish philosophical reasoning as an autonomous principle of theolog­ical speculation, a reluctance inherited from al-Ash'ari's refusal to com­mit himself on a number of questions or to subject the godhead to an over-reductive analysis.

The prize of this formidable intellectual exercise is the sentence quoted above, in which 'logic' is to be understood as 'the formal and technical language of the classical Ash`ariya', for whom being was uni­vocal and ontology was truly nominalistic, deriving the impetus for their speculations from al-Ash'ari's construction of 'a formal method based on the Arab grammarians' analysis of predicative sentences' which are

Divided into three categories: (1) those that assert the existence of only the subject itself (al-nafs, nafs al-mawsuf); (2) those that assert the existence of an 'attribute' (sifah, ma`na) distinct from the 'self' of the subject as such; and (3) those that assert the existence of an action (fi `l) done by the subject.

We can trace this trajectory in Professor Frank's scholarship right back to his first encounter with the Kalam and his reluctance to acquiesce in its characterization as an apologetic exercise in hair-splitting quibbling and logic-chopping, combined with that remarkable moment tournant captured so brilliantly in 1981 when he demonstrated the full ontological implications for speculative theology of the system developed by the Arabic grammarians.'

Professor Frank's contribution to the Ash`ariya alone would render the scholarly world deeply indebted to him. But of course, his legacy does not end there, for he has devoted the same considerable energies to the formative first centuries of the Kallam as a formal system, with par­ticular emphasis on the emergence of the Mu'tazila and the school's first theological acme in the teachings of Abu 'Ali and Abu Hashim al-Jubbal; has been among the first scholars fully and systematically to make use of the publication of sections of al-Mughni of Cadi `Abd al-Jabbar; has made al-Ash`ari the object of a number of studies spanning some thirty years; has established the influence of Kalam thinking on the theories of the falasifa; and has subjected to the most searching and penetrating scrutiny al-Ghazali's cosmological and doctrinal affiliations, reading this influential thinker against the grain of his own reception history, in a manner that is not only controversial but refreshing and liberating — whatever the rights and wrongs of Professor Frank's al-Ghazali, few will have brought such an impressive array of erudition to bear on his writings and paid him the greatest of all scholarly compliments, that of taking another thinker's thoughts seriously. And this is to say nothing of the works on the Syriac tradition and the Greek into Arabic translation movement. Indeed, an overview of his scholarly achievement will be greatly facilitated by the initiative, under the editorship of Professor Dimitri Gutas of Yale, to publish, as part of the Variorum Collected Studies Series, three volumes of Professor Frank's major articles under the general heading Texts and Studies on the Development and History of Kalam.

In all of his studies on the Arabic-Islamic tradition, when once we have recognised the courage and enterprise demonstrated in embarking upon his study of the tradition of the Kalam; have celebrated the moral and intellectual integrity of his conviction that this tradition was any­thing but meaningless; have valued his repeated efforts to resist the appeals of approximation to Western theological traditions, especially when he has pointed to his own lack of success in such resistance —there is one feature which looms large and which I find irresistible: the prominent attention paid to the `arabiya, to Classical Arabic. It is hard to read a piece by Professor Frank without being deeply impressed by his command of the `arabiya, and without, in fact, having one's own knowl­edge thereof enhanced, challenged, revised or deepened. It is for this reason that I have chosen the principal title of this volume, Arabic Theology, Arabic Philosophy, with its slightly jarring repetition — for this is a theology (more customarily referred to as Islamic) which we should fail to appreciate, should we close our mind's eye for even one second to the `arabiya in which it is housed.

  • Contents:
    James E. MONTGOMERY, Editor's Introduction          
  • Richard M. FRANK, Ya Kalam        
  • Monica BLANCHARD and James E. MONTGOMERY, Richard M Frank, A Bibliography         |/li>
  • Qur'an
  • |span>James A. BELLAMY, Seven Qur'anic Emendations
  • James E. MONTGOMERY, The Empty Hijaz         
  • Paths to al-Ash'ari
  • Henri HUGONNARD-ROCHE, Le vocabulaire philosophique de l'etre en syriaque d'apres des texts de Sergius de Reg`aina et Jacques d'Edesse            
  • Cristina D'ANCONA, The Arabic Version of Enn. IV 7[2] and its Greek Model   
  • Roshdi RASHED, Greek into Arabic: Transmission and Translation
  • Al-Ash'ari and the Kalam
  • Abdelhamid 1. SABRA, Kalam Atomism as an Alternative Philo­sophy to Hellenizing Falsafa     
  • Wilferd MADELUNG, Abu 1-Husayn al-Basri's Proof for the Exis­tence of God  
  • Daniel GIMARET, Un chapitre inédit de la tadkira d'Ibn Mattawayh sur les illusions d'optique et autres singularités de la vision oculaire   
  • Christian Falsafa
  • Sidney H. GRIFFITH, Yahya b. `Adi's Colloquy On Sexual Absti­nence and the Philosophical Life         
  • Avicenna and Beyond
  • Dimitri GUTAS, Imagination and Transcendental Knowledge in Avicenna            
  • Michael MARMURA, Avicenna's Critique of Platonists in Book VII, Chapter 2 of the Metaphysics of his Healing            
  • Gerhard ENDRESS, Reading Avicenna in the Madrasa. Intellectual Genealogies and Chains of Transmission of Philosophy and the Sciences in the Islamic East    
  • Al-Ghazali. on Causality
  • Therese-Ann DRUART, Al-Ghazali's Conception of the Agent in the Tahafut and the Iqtisad: Are People Really Agents?
  • Jon McGINNIS, Occasionalism, Natural Causation and Science in al-Ghazali

Philosophy, Theology And Mysticism in Medieval Islam: Texts And Studies on the Development And History of Kalam by Richard M. Frank and Dimitri Gutas (Variorum Collected Studies Series: Ashgate Publishing)

Early Islamic Theology: the Mu`tazilites and Al-ash`ari: Texts and Studies on the Development and History of Kalam by Richard M. Frank and Dimitri Gutas  (Variorum Collected Studies Series: Ashgate Publishing)

Beings & Their Attributes: The Teaching of the Basrian School of the Mu'tazila in the Classical Period by Richard M. Frank (State University of New York Press)

Al-Ghaz¯al¯i and the Ashárite School by Richard M. Frank (Duke Monographs in Medieval and Renaissance Studies: Duke University Press) 

Widely regarded among students of medieval thought as the most important of the medieval Islamic thinkers, al-Ghazali (1058–1111) remains an extremely complex figure whose texts continue to present serious challenges for scholars. In this book, Richard M. Frank confronts the traditional view of al-Ghazali as a loyal supporter of Ash arite doctrine and reexamines his relationship to the school theologians.
This reexamination, Frank argues, is essential to an understanding of al-Ghazali’s work, a diverse series of texts made difficult by the various postures and guises assumed by their author. Statements by al-Ghazali regarding the kalam (the speculative theology of the schools) and its status as a religious science provide the focus for a detailed analysis that contrasts the traditional school theology with his own. From this, the question of al-Ghazali’s relationship to the Ash arite school becomes a key to the basic characteristics of his method and language and therefore to the overall sense that governs much of his work. Finally, as reflected in the chronological sequence of al-Ghazali’s writings, Frank’s analysis demonstrates al-Ghazali’s commitment to basic elements of Avicennian philosophy and his progressive alienation from the Ash arite establishment.
Al-Ghazali and the Ash arite School offers an important and provocative reassessment of a major medieval Islamic thinker. It will be of interest not only to specialists in the field, but also to a broad range of historians of the period and to those interested in all aspects of Islam.



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