Between the 8th and 19th centuries, from Iberia to India, Muslim, Christian, Jewish, and even pagan and atheist philosophers composed their works in the Arabic language. Arabic replaced Greek as the language of philosophy and science, but this new Arabic philosophy (falsafa) still moved with the inertia of late-ancient Greek philosophy. In addition to translating, systematizing and refining the logical, physical, and metaphysical teachings of the First Teacher (Aristotle) and others, the philosophers of the Arabic-speaking world also had to adapt and reapply these teachings to deal with a number of philosophical and theological problems associated with monotheist creationism, among them: What kinds of proof can one have for the existence of God, or the creation of the world? What makes one argument better than another? How can one have knowledge of God’s attributes, and how can one describe God, without violating His absolute simplicity? Does God’s knowledge extend to future events, and if so, does this infringe on freewill? How can philosophers account for things like revelation or prophecy? What kinds of powers govern the heavenly and sublunar worlds?
This course will focus on the earlier half of this tradition, up until the 12th century. It will introduce representative works of major figures like al-Kindī, al-Rāzī, al-Fārābī, Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) and Ibn Rushd (Averroes). But it will also seek to contextualize these highlights by comparing them to other less commonly read works, and samples from dialectical theology (kalām). By providing a conspectus of so many different genres of works, from minor as well as a mainstream figures, this course aims to shed light on the dynamic intellectual developments taking place over these centuries, and demonstrate the centrality of falsafa within the set of sciences making up the broader Islamicate intellectual world.