For instance, Rāzī asked why is it that we sometimes do things where we sacrifice our own pleasure—or undergo pain—for the sake of someone else, for the sake of a child, for example. And in fact, in that respect, it shares the fate of Indian philosophy, Chinese philosophy, African philosophy, and Latin American philosophy. Roughly speaking, if the local authorities are Muslim, then it’s the Islamic World. Exactly. If you're enjoying this interview, please support us by donating a small amount. The whole story is a bit complicated but, basically, Rāzī is a theologian and he wrote voluminously. For him, metaphysics was the study of substances that came to be through the changing of other substances—like blood being brought together to form a foetus, which becomes a human. Another issue that Stroumsa talks about is whether the body is resurrected after death, because this was a standard Jewish belief, and it’s very clear—and Stroumsa argues that it’s very clear—that Maimonides did not believe this. There was no one who had authority to come along and say, ‘you can’t say that.’ Although there are some exceptions to this rule, generally speaking, it doesn’t really make much sense to think that the way that books were written in the Islamic world had to do with avoiding persecution, because there was so little persecution to be avoided. In a way, the contrast with Europe is not so much that it collapsed but that it didn’t. The title describes him as a ‘Mediterranean’ thinker, which is a slightly unusual way of putting it. Stroumsa’s book is interesting and worth reading. As far as I can tell, the real change happens in the period of colonialisation. It would be strange to call a Christian philosopher like ibn ʿAdī, or a Jewish philosopher like Maimonides, an ‘Islamic’ philosopher. Tao Te Ching book. She talks about how he responds to Almohad culture, despite having been chased out of Spain by them, and how he moves within an Islamic culture and responds to it, even as he was doing these pioneering works both in philosophy and in Jewish law. In this book, Dag Nikolaus Hasse talks about the translations: who did them, and how they were done. Interestingly, even though Aquinas had some very rude things to say about the prophet Mohammed, neither he nor other medieval philosophers in the Christian tradition seem to found it particularly problematic to use ideas from Muslims or Jews. Especially in certain times and places in the Islamic world, you actually had very fruitful interchange and cooperation between people of different religions. He got a lot of criticism for that and wrote a work defending himself and his teaching on the resurrection. Greek Thought, Arabic Culture He said that there are certain things that you can’t teach or say or think, because they’re heretical, and if someone says them then they should be put to death. Which leads us neatly to the next book: Maimonides in His World: Portrait of a Mediterranean Thinker by Sarah Stroumsa (2009). I really love Plato and Aristotle—I teach them all the time, I love reading them—and I spend as much time reading Plato and Aristotle as I do any other thinkers. Avicenna says that his eyesight is veiled, but if you want you could just say he’s in the dark. It’s only if reason can’t figure it out that you then appeal to the Bible to settle the issue. This book is from 1998, so it’s almost 20 years old now, which is hard to believe. Yes. But actually there were several generations in the Latin world where they were reading Avicenna and thinking about Avicenna more than they were thinking about Aristotle, or where they were thinking about Aristotle through Avicenna. One thing that’s interesting about the transmission of Arabic philosophy into Latin is that very early on they translated Avicenna’s work on the soul—De anima means ‘On the Soul’—and we call Aristotle’s work on the soul De anima as well. There was a later Kabbalistic thinker who said many good Jews have believed that God had a body, including better ones than Maimonides. No, or at least they don’t seem to have felt that it was worse than using Aristotle. by Jon McGinnis He has worked extensively on natural philosophy, so he covers that quite well. It’s not introductory in quite the same sense as McGinnis’s book on Avicenna, but it’s a well-rounded portrait of Maimonides as a thinker in his culture. While Plato addresses metaphysical issues, he does so with language and analogies that most people can grasp with studious reading. What we’re really studying here is this shared culture of philosophical work in the Islamic world. Yes, that’s right. In the Islamic tradition they kept working on what were often very technical areas of Avicennan philosophy, trying to negotiate between Avicennan philosophy and Islam. For one thing, not all of the rulers claimed to rule with religious authority, especially after the fracturing of the Abbasid caliphate. What that shows is that you have a way of being aware of yourself or your soul which doesn’t involve the body. But they made an effort to enforce a theological dogma in the 9th century and this effort was defied and they failed to get their will recognised. Avicenna says, ‘if you include flies and worms, then in principle why not humans?’ And although the Christian philosophers were unanimous in rejecting that, as far as I know, (and Averroes too thought that it was a ridiculous idea) they didn’t then say ‘forget Avicenna.’ They took the 99% of him that was useful and said on this one point he was completely wrong. Read, That leads to the next book, which is Avicenna’s De anima in the Latin West: The Formation of a Peripatetic Philosophy of the Soul, 1160. This was a much cheaper and better technology that they got from China. Free Shipping by Amazon ... Eastern Philosophy: The Greatest Thinkers and Sages from Ancient to Modern Times. What about Avicenna? He said explicitly that the book was written for a Jewish reader—in fact, he even had a specific student in mind — but it was aimed at anyone who was in the predicament of this student, who is perplexed because he sees that there are tensions, or apparent tensions, between the Hebrew Bible and philosophy. It wasn’t that I had a personal interest in Islam or anything like that. There are a lot of good books about Maimonides, just as there are about Avicenna, but I thought it was worth singling this one out because the author really nails this point about Maimonides as a representative of a multi-religious Mediterranean cultur—hence the title of the book. Tell the Publisher! Sometimes they translated first from Greek into Syriac, and then from Syriac into Arabic. This, by the way, was very controversial. Absolutely. For example, in the debate about universals and whether universals are real, Scotus was a realist and Ockham a nominalist. They were the people you would consult if you wanted to know the answer to a question and they were involved in the law. 2, The Best Fiction of 2020: The Booker Prize Shortlist, High School Teachers Recommend Books by Subject. We won’t enforce this anymore.’ And maybe, because that policy was a failure, you didn’t see Abbasid Caliphs after that trying to require obedience to any particular theological dogma. But he was just saying this should happen in theory; there was no political apparatus that made it happen; there was no Inquisition; there was nothing that could be compared to the way that scholastic philosophers and theologians could be hauled before a trial and put on charges on heresy by the church. That’s interesting, because it’s using philosophy to come down on the side of truth by authority. To oversimplify, it’s a case of the elites of the Islamic world saying: ‘you guys are Greeks and we understand Greek philosophy better than you do. I knew that there are books that you can go and read, but I had to learn Arabic for that. They were innovative; they made progress in logic, metaphysics, psychology, and so on. Stroumsa’s book is written for someone who is not necessarily an expert on Maimonides. One of the reasons I picked it, though, is that it’s not about metaphysics. He is either falling or floating or flying, that’s why it’s usually called the Flying Man Argument. The Byzantine Empire was Greek-speaking; the eastern Roman Empire in general had always been Greek-speaking. 1-16 of over 70,000 results for "eastern philosophy books" Skip to main search results Eligible for Free Shipping. Being someone who has an interest in the practical concerns of the Translation Movement, he wanted to know not just how they did it and what they translated—he does talk about that—but he wanted to know what the political motivation was. Every year, the Booker Prize judges whittle a year's worth of fiction down to a shortlist of six books, each competing for the title of the best novel of the year.