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The Arabic Tradition

When it comes to the Arabic reception of Aristotle’s psychology, Western scholars have by and large concentrated on Avicenna and Averroes, whose most extensive psychological works became massively influential among the scholastics from the mid-12th century onwards (in the case of Avicenna) and from the second half of the 13th (for Averroes). In the case of Avicenna’s De anima and Averroes’ commentary on De anima, paraphrase on De anima and epitome on De anima, disproportionate attention has been paid to the issue of intellection, with the other cognitive faculties receiving comparatively little light.

All these works have been edited to a reasonably high standard. However, Avicenna wrote numerous other psychological treatises, and the same goes very much for the Arabic translations of Greek works preceding Avicenna (Aristotle, Alexander, and Themistius above all) and for the Arabic works to which Avicenna and Averroes are responding (Kind, Fârâbî, Yahyâ Ibn ‘Adî et al.). What the R&R researchers on Arabic philosophy can most fruitfully contribute is to engage in ‘deep’ philosophical studies (both historically and analytically oriented), in association with our colleagues in Greek and Latin Aristotelianism, so that these mutually informed investigations come to focus on the most challenging problems in the field, provide new readings of the texts as well as solutions to the open problems.

The dedicated researchers in the Arabic tradition, in collaboration with several short-term visiting scholars, will concentrate on the building blocks of the Aristotelian tradition in Arabic from historical and analytic perspectives. Of particular importance to the former approach will be the context of the reception of the Aristotelian material: the translations into Arabic themselves (of Aristotle and of a significant number of the commentators’ works), and the intellectual milieu in which these were made. The Arabic tradition was profoundly affected by the Neoplatonizing current in Peripatetic thought on the one hand, and on indigenous systems of psychology developed in the early Islamic theological schools, on the other. The cross-pollinating effect of this environment led to interesting features in Arabic philosophy, such as the revision of Aristotle’s account on dreaming to preserve veridical dreams.

As in the Greek and Latin components of this programme, in the Arabic programme we will also be approaching the material from a contemporary analytic perspective, engaging with the arguments preserved in Avicenna’s cognitive theory (including his philosophy of mind, language and logic) and reconsidering their value in philosophy today. This aspect of the project aims at contributing to the “comparative” studies in medieval and modern philosophy.

Page Manager: Andreas Ott|Last update: 3/1/2019

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