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



The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy by Peter Adamson  (Cambridge Companions to Philosophy: Cambridge University Press) 'The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy was long overdue. The Arabic philosophical tradition has often been treated as marginal by Western scholars, but this work attests to its great riches. It has, however, remained much understudied, hence, the editors aim to 'invite' readers to the study of Arabic philosophy and to provide 'a basic grounding in some of the main figures and themes'. These are modest goals in comparison to what this excellent new Cambridge Companion achieves. ... The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy will not only be of interest to scholars and students of Arabic philosophy, but should also be of interest to students and scholars working more generally on later Greek philosophical traditions and on philosophy in the Middle Ages. The work should remain a very good reference for a number of years to come.' Bryn Mawr Classical Review

Representing one of the great traditions of Western philosophy, philosophy written in Arabic and in the Islamic world was inspired by Greek philosophical works and the indigenous ideas of Islamic theology. This collection of essays, by some of the leading scholars in Arabic philosophy, provides an introduction to the field by way of chapters devoted to individual thinkers (such as al-Farabi, Avicenna and Averroes) or groups, especially during the 'classical' period from the ninth to the twelfth centuries. 

The Introduction of Arabic Philosophy into Europe edited by Charles E. Butterworth, Blake Andree Kessel (Studien Und Texte Zur Geistesgeschichte Des Mittelalters: Brill Academic Publishers) The contributors to this volume are noted scholars from Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Hungary, Morocco, Poland, the Soviet Union, and Spain. Each has stepped somewhat outside of his or her usual academic interest to consider how the writings of a particular Arab philosopher or of a group of Arab philosophers were introduced into a particular European university. Their essays identify the European professor or scholar who first introduced the works of an Arab philosopher into the university. They speak about the works themselves, and explore what prompted the original European interest in the particular philosopher or philosophers. Thus, by explaining how medieval European universities first approached Arab philosophy, these papers contribute to the growing interest in the curriculum and general life of those important institutions.
Excerpt: Of particular interest, given the major role philosophic and scien­tific commentaries and treatises written by medieval Arab authors played in the history of European thought, is the way these writings came to be known in European universities. Who first introduced Arabic philosophical treatises or commentaries into the University of Oxford, the University of Paris, or those other European institu­tions less well-known generally, such as the University of Cracow and that of Saragossa? What prompted the choice of some Arabic treatises and commentaries, of some authors even, but not of others? Did competence in the languages of the Middle East, especially in Arabic and Persian, matter in any way? Or was it enough to be able to read the works chosen in Latin translation?

These are the questions that seized the coordinator's attention in planning the seminar. Accordingly, each scholar invited to partici­pate in the seminar was asked to step somewhat outside of his or her usual academic interests and to consider how the writings of a partic­ular Arab philosopher might have been introduced into a particular European university. However learned each scholar was in a limited subject, the paper presented in the seminar was not to focus on that specialization. Rather, the assigned task for each was to identify the European professor or scholar who first introduced the works of an Arab philosopher into his university, speak about the works them­selves, and explore what prompted that European professor or scho­lar to first become interested in these works. In this sense, each par­ticipant was encouraged to engage in a kind of limited intellectual history. After minor negotiations to avoid duplication of efforts and to achieve some sort of geographical distribution, each of the work­shop participants was allowed to choose any university and any Arab philosopher. Consequently, the expectation was that this series of papers would allow us to describe in some detail the curricula of medieval European universities with respect to Arabic philosophy.

As so often happens with group projects, things did not work out exactly as planned. Yet the modifications introduced by each of the authors contributed to a far better understanding of the transmission of knowledge and of the introduction of Arabic philosophy into Europe. Michel Chodkiewicz, for example, has challenged, with carefully detailed arguments, notions heretofore accepted among scholars about how Sufism made its way into Western learning and especially into Western literature. Speaking only in passing about the way this aspect of Arabic culture—he is hesitant to call it philosophy—came to be introduced into European universities, he demonstrates why it must be reckoned a very late arrival. Those papers that did concentrate more directly on the subject were equal­ly split between discussions of the medieval European university and the European university of the Renaissance and later. In fact, two papers revealed that Arabic philosophy became a subject of interest in particular universities only in the late nineteenth and early twen­tieth centuries.

One paper that would have contributed much to this volume is missing, its author having been taken from us by a cruel death in July, 1992 before he could finish his revisions. Out of affection for him and as a small token to his memory, it seems appropriate to speak briefly of the paper he presented during the seminar. Profes­sor Jamal al-Din al-Alawi of the Sidi Muhammad Ibn Abdullah University in Fez explored the question of the way Arabic phi­losophy was introduced into Spain. In his paper, "Dukhul al­Falsafah al-Islamiyyah fi Isbaniya" ("The Entry of Islamic Phi­losophy into Spain"), he focused on the authors and works that were studied in Muslim Spain as well as on how they were studied at that time. The paper of al-Alawi complemented and was in turn com­plemented by that of Professor Josep Puig from the Universidad Complutense of Madrid. Puig's paper, as its title indicates—"The Transmission and Reception of Arabic Philosophy in Christian Spain (1300-1500)"—concentrates upon the same general topic as al-Alawi, but from the perspective of Christian Spain and from a later period. Thus he shows how several of the works mentioned as central to intellectual life in Muslim Spain by al-Alawi were trans­lated into Latin, mainly by priests and monks, and then found their way into the Latin curriculm in various Spanish universities. C .S.F. Burnett of the Warburg Institute in London carries this same theme a bit further in his paper, "The Introduction of Arabic Learning into English Schools." He explains not only how some of the early Latin translations from Spain found their way to England, but also how they were added to by translations made in England and elsewhere. Burnett also expands the general theme to speak about Arabic science and its introduction into English schools generally. M. Abdelali Elamrani-Jamal of the Centre National de Recherches Scientifiques in Paris addresses somewhat the same theme as his col­leagues, but does so from the perspective of what occurred at the Sorbonne. Entitled "L'Entrée de la philosophic arabe a l'université de Paris," Elamrani-Jamal's paper gives a general account of the numerous Latin translations of Arabic philosophical works that were used in the Sorbonne during the thirteenth and fourteenth cen­turies and identifies their authors.

Each of these papers looks broadly at the question in order to present, in generous detail, an account of how Arabic philosophy came to be accepted in the major centers of European learning. None, however, explores the more limited question of how or why a particular European scholar first became interested in Arabic philosophy and then sought to introduce it to his own university. For this earlier period of time, only Hans Daiber of the Vrije Univer­siteit Amsterdam addresses the more limited question. His paper, "The Reception of Islamic Philosophy at Oxford in the 17th Cen­tury: The Pococks' (father and son) Contribution to the Under­standing of Islamic Philosophy in Europe," looks both at a particu­lar Arab philosopher—Ibn Tufayl—and at the individual (or, in this case, individuals) who introduced him to a particular European university. Daiber explores how the senior Pocock first became in­terested in Arabic philosophy generally, then in Ibn Tufayl's famous Hayy Ibn Yaqzan more particularly, and eventually decided to edit and translate it. He was aided in the task by his son. Daiber also draws attention in his paper to parallel activities occurring in Oxford at the time the Pococks were working on Ibn Tufayl.

The Ukranian scholar Iaroslav Isaievych does something similar to Daiber in his account—"George Drohobych's Astronomical Treatises and Their Arabic Sources"—of how the fifteenth century Ukranian Rector of the University of Bologna became interested in Latin translations of Arabic science. His fellow countryman, Profes­sor Youri Kochubey, writes more broadly in order to capture the rise, great moments, and eventual eclipse of an important insti­tution. His essay, "La philosophie de l'ouest et de l'est dans l'académie Kiev-Mohyleana," traces the development of the cur­riculum of the Kiev academy from the late sixteenth century on­wards as it slowly came to include works on Arabic philosophy and science in Latin translation. Jerzy Korolec of the Polish Academy of Science in Warsaw studies Cracow University starting in the late fifteenth century in order to explain the way Arabic philosophy and science came to be known there through Latin translations. In addi­tion to providing a detailed account of the development of the Arabic curriculum at the University of Cracow, Korolec's chapter, "La premiere reception de la philosophic islamique a l'université de Cracovie," is especially interesting for its account of the commen­taries some of the professors there wrote on al-Ghazali.

With Therese-Anne Druart and her study of the University of Louvain, "L'Introduction de la philosophic islamique a l'université de Louvain," we come very close to our own time. Professor Druart notes that there was minor interest in the Latin translations of Arabic philosophical works at Louvain for a long period of time, but no scholar willing to learn Arabic and look at the works first-hand came forth until the mid-nineteenth century. It is on this period, primarily on the efforts of Jacques Forget, that Druart focuses her attention. Forget, known to us above all for his edition and transla­tion of Avicenna's Kitab al-Isharat wa al-Tanbihat, brought the study of Arabic and of Arabic philosophy back to the University of Louvain. Because no one willing to learn Arabic could be found, the study of the language and of Arabic letters generally had been absent from the University of Louvain for almost three hundred years. A similar tale is told by Professor Miklós Maróth from the University of Budapest. His paper, "The Reception of Arabic Philosophy at the University of Budapest," concentrates on the efforts—or, more accurately, the trials and tribulations—of Ignaz Goldziher during the early part of this century as he sought to bring Arabic philosophy to that university.

Both Druart and Maróth show in their investigations how impor­tant it was for Arabic to become accepted as part of the curriculum and how difficult it was for those intent upon learning the language to do so. Daiber also touches upon this theme. But for the Pococks, it was not such a difficult issue. The need to teach Oriental lan­guages had already been accepted at Oxford and Cambridge. And Chodkiewicz notes that it was not until the founding of the École des Langues Orientales Vivantes in Paris in 1795 that French academic interest in Arabic philosophy began to flourish, a claim attested to by what is known of Ernest Renan's attempts to further such studies even half a century later.

From the diverse studies presented here, it is all too evident that however much Arabic philosophy flourished in Latin translation during the late Middle Ages and the Renaissance, it quickly dropped out of favor when Latin was no longer the medium of in­struction. That Arabic philosophy has never enjoyed a stable place in any single seat of learning in Europe, neither East nor West, also becomes utterly clear from these contributions. Indirectly, they also show how important it is at all times—this one included—for univer­sities to develop the study of the Arabic language. One of the leitmo­tifs of Professor Druart's paper, for example, is the long and demanding voyages various Louvain professors embarked upon as they dedicated themselves—usually without success—to learn Arab­ic. Finally, from these papers, any one interested in the study of Arabic philosophy in the West today gains deeper insight into why it is still a fledgling enterprise. 

An Introduction to Classical Islamic Philosophy by Oliver Leaman (Cambridge University Press) Islamic philosophy is a unique and fascinating form of thought, and particular interest lies in its classical (Greek-influenced) period, when many of the ideas of Greek philosophy were used to explore the issues and theoretical problems which arise in trying to understand the Qur'an and Islamic practice. In this revised and expanded edition of his classic introductory work, Oliver Leaman examines the distinctive features of Classical Islamic philosophy and offers detailed accounts of major individual thinkers. In contrast to many previous studies that have treated this subject as only of historical interest, he offers analysis of the key arguments within Islamic philosophy so that the reader can engage with them and assess their strengths and weaknesses. His book will interest a wide range of readers in philosophy, religious studies and Islamic studies.

Although Islamic philosophy represents one of the most important philosophical traditions in the world, it has only relatively recently begun to receive attention in the non-Islamic world. This is a new edition of a successful introductory book, expanded and updated to take account of recent scholarship. It focuses on what is regarded as Islamic philosophy's golden age, and will appeal to students and to any general reader interested in this philosophical tradition. 

A History of Islamic Philosophy by Majid Fakhry (Studies in Oriental Culture: Columbia University Press) "Fakhry deserves commendation for the considerable service he has rendered by providing a textbook which should be useful to many groups. Scholars and teachers of Islamic philosophy, students in this field, and general readers owe him a great measure of appreciation." -- The Muslim World

Islam is the religion of over nine hundred million Muslims, and was the latest of the three monotheistic faiths to appear. Muslims believe the Koran to be the revelation of God through the Prophet Mohammed, and base every aspect of their daily lives upon its teachings.

This second edition of Majid Fakhry's highly successful book, first published in 1970, presents the most detailed historical survey to date discussing Islamic philosophy and theology from the seventeenth century to the present. Professor Fakhry discuses the legalism, rationalism, and mysticism of Islamic thought and its impact upon the cultural aspects of Muslim life. He examines the rise of nineteenth-century Pan-Islamism which attempts to unite the politically disunited Islam into a spiritual unity, and he follows that distinct line of development which gave it the unity of form characteristic of all the great intellectual movements in history.

The author has based his work on primary sources, chiefly in Arabic, but has also consulted a great number of manuscripts, books, and monographs in Arabic, Persian, English, French, German and Spanish. The book will prove invaluable to teachers of Oriental studies and of Philosophy, as well as to students and readers interested in these disciplines. 

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