When confronted with early Islamic philosophy, would one's time be better spent just reading Aristotle, Plato, Plotinus?


I have been reading Avicenna, al-Razi, al-Kindi, and others, and I have noticed that almost nothing is an original work in the realm of philosophy, especially as it applies to metaphysics.

al-Farabi seemingly plagiarizes Aristotle's Metaphysics, though I do not fault him. At this point they were in the game of catch-up, and were producing incredible works on medicine.

I skimmed through some of the later Islamic philosophers and found their works to be original and fresh, so I presume it is only around ~1,000 that their works are largely, effectively, translations.


Posted 2018-10-19T02:11:57.550

Reputation: 763



I'm not really sure if the question in answerable quite how you worded it, because you're asking us to confirm your suspicion that you should just read Aristotle, Plato, and Plotinus...

I think a better way to understand this is that much of medieval philosophy (both Islamic and Christian) follows a commentary tradition which differs from most types of scholarship today. In other words, you can't really understand what makes Avicenna Avicenna without understanding Aristotle rather well -- to detect where Avicenna is volunteering a novel interpretation and to detect what he over/under emphasizes with respect to the classic text he's working on.

Here's a quality article on this topic from the SEP: Medieval literary traditions.


Posted 2018-10-19T02:11:57.550

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