Philosophy 19

Summer 2021 Session A

Number Title Instructor Days/time Room
19 Arabic Philosophy Abid MTuWTh 9:30-11:30 TBA

In this introductory survey of Arabic philosophy, we will focus on the philosophical works of al-Kindi, al-Razi, al-Farabi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), al-Ghazali, and Ibn Rushd (Averroes) produced during the “Islamic Golden Age,” traditionally dated from the 9th to the 12th century CE.

Through a combination of primary and (to a lesser extent) secondary sources, we will explore topics relevant to several branches of philosophy. Within metaphysics, we will discuss time, eternity, causation, modality (e.g., the distinction between necessity and possibility), and the existence of God. Within the philosophy of mind, we will consider the problem of how in thought—as opposed to in perception—we can grasp an object without coming into direct contact with it and whether a creature receiving no sensory inputs can be self-conscious. Within epistemology, we will discuss the conditions for absolute certainty and whether philosophical knowledge is compatible with religious knowledge. Finally, we will discuss the important issue of whether one should, as al-Razi puts it, confine oneself to “eating dry herbage, wrapping himself in a threadbare robe, and taking shelter in a barrel in the wilderness.” In other words, we will discuss ethical issues surrounding asceticism, on one extreme, and excess indulgence, on the other.

This course has no prerequisites and counts for the broader history requirement for the philosophy major. In addition to providing an introduction to Arabic philosophy, this course will give students ample opportunity to reconstruct and critically assess arguments extracted from dense pieces of text.