Abū Bakr Muḥammad bin Zakariyya’ al-Rāzī (865–925) is generally known as a freethinker who argued against prophecy and revealed religion based on arguments from fairness of God and rationality. Recently some scholars argued that Razi was not as radical as the general interpretation takes him to be. Both the freethinker and conservative interpretations seem well supported based on difference bodies of evidence. However, the evidence is based on secondhand reports. In this paper I argue there is an interpretation of prophecy (...) which is supported by primary sources and can reconcile these putatively contradictory positions. Under my interpretation Razi allows for prophecy based on the rationality of moral deference in certain circumstances. In this picture one function of prophets is to act as moral experts for deference. This interpretation provides a synthesis of the freethinker and conservative views. Razi is conservative in having room for prophecy because of his dualist nature of humanity, and Razi is still a freethinker who values reason above all, because moral expertise requires excellent command of reason. (shrink)
As a result of the successful religious policy of the Great Leader, the preserved traditions of tolerance, restored historical-religious, architectural monuments, rich art and literature of our people are our greatest contribution to world culture and our most valuable heritage for future generations. There is no doubt that the Azerbaijani people will remain in history as the owner of this heritage, Heydar Aliyev as its protector, and the Heydar Aliyev Foundation as its patron and promoter. In recent years, many religious (...) monuments, including Mohsun Salim and Imam Reza mosques in Bina settlement of Azizbayov district, Shah Abbas and Hazrat Zeynab mosques in Ganja city, Juma mosque in Buzovna settlement, Pir Hasan shrine in Mardakan settlement, were repaired and restored. (shrink)
A main function of common natures in Avicenna’s metaphysics is supposed to be providing an objective ground for the categories. Thus, it is commonly assumed that in his metaphysics things are objectively divided into the categories into which they are because members of each category share the same common nature. However, common natures cannot perform the function unless they are shared, in a real sense of the word, by the members of the respective categories, and it is not clear at (...) all in what real sense Avicenna took common natures to be shared by them. On the one hand, he rejected Platonic and Aristotelian realisms about common natures, the two standard accounts of how common natures are shared by their instances. On the other hand, it is unclear that his alternative account(s) of common natures renders them genuinely common. The primary goal of this paper is to examine whether Avicenna’s common natures can provide an objective ground for the categories. It considers various interpretations of Avicenna's account and argues that they are either incorrect interpretations of Avicenna or do not render common natures genuinely common. It concludes with proposing to look elsewhere in Avicenna’s system to find the objective ground. (shrink)
In his disputatio, Johann Peter von Ludewig provides a history of rational philosophy among the Arabs and sets out to contextualize the Turks’ attitude to it. Like many Lutheran scholars of the time, Ludewig believed that Islam, as a religion, impeded the development of rational philosophy in the Arab world. However, unlike those philosophers, he examines external influences that may have fed the interest of Arab Muslims in rational philosophy, especially dialectic. Unlike Orthodox Lutherans, such as Pfeiffer and Kromayer, in (...) his conclusion, Ludewig prays that Muslim philosophers cultivate reason to overcome the "deceit of Muhammadanists" toward rational worship. The use of the contentious and seemingly oxymoronic phrase “rational worship” (logikē latreia: λογική λατρεία, from Rom. 12:1), combining “rationality” and “worship” together refects, to a certain extent, the Enlightenment belief that reason could be used to understand the nature of God against any type of irrational religiosity. The idea of worshipping God rationally and equating God with reason shows the intellectual engagement of Protestant scholars with Enlightenment rationalism. (shrink)
In Mabādi’ ārā’ ahl al-madīna al-fādila as well as other major political writings of al-Fārābī, politics is accompanied by metaphysics. However, the co-existence of politics and Neoplatonic metaphysics in al-Fārābī is usually refuted on the basis of two major arguments: one, the Neoplatonic argument, which denies al-Fārābī’s politics; and two, the Straussian argument, which denies al-Fārābī’s Neoplatonic metaphysics. However, this article would show that the two arguments against the co-existence of politics and Neoplatonic metaphysics in al-Fārābī are faulty, and that (...) politics and Neoplatonic metaphysics certainly co-exist in al-Fārābī’s philosophical thought. It would be shown that, in fact, Neoplatonic metaphysics plays an important role in al-Fārābī’s politics and distinguishes his theory of the virtuous city from that of Plato’s Republic. (shrink)
Abu Nasr Muhammad Alfarabi, the medieval Muslim philosopher and the founder of Islamic Neoplatonism, is best known for his political treatise, Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al- fadhila (Principles of the Opinions of the Inhabitants of the Virtuous City), in which he proposes a theory of utopian virtuous city. Prominent scholars argue for the Platonic nature of Alfarabi’s political philosophy and relate the political treatise to Plato’s Republic. One of the most striking similarities between Alfarabi’s Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al- fadhila (...) and Plato’s Republic is that in both works the theory of virtuous city is accompanied by a theory of soul. It is true that Alfarabi’s theory of soul differ considerably from that of Plato’s Republic. However, we propose that notwithstanding the differences, the two theories of soul do play an identically important role in the respective theory of virtuous city. The present article explores the relationship between the soul and the city in Plato’s Republic and Alfarabi’s Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al- fadhila, and intends to show that in both works the coexistence of the theory of soul and the city is neither coincidental nor a casual concurrence of two themes. Rather, the concept of soul serves as a foundation on which Plato and Alfarabi erect their respective theory of perfect association. Thus, Alfarabi’s treatise resembles Plato’s Republic not only in the coexistence of the theory of soul and the city, but also in the important role of the concept of soul in the theory of virtuous city. (shrink)
The Muʿtazilī theologians, particularly the later Imāmī ones, developed numerous interesting arguments against divine command theory. The arguments, however, have not received the attention they deserve. Some of the arguments have been discussed in passing, and some have not been discussed at all. In this article, I aim to present and analyse the arguments. To that end, I first distinguish between different semantic, ontological, epistemological, and theological theses that were often conflated in the debate, and examine the logical relation among (...) them. Then I go over the Muʿtazila's arguments determining, among other things, which of the theses was targeted by each argument. In presenting the arguments, I focus mainly on the late kalām period, the period falling roughly between the thirteenth and fifteenth centuries of the common era, as the arguments were at their most sophisticated level by this time. (shrink)
There are two dominant approaches towards understanding medieval Muslim philosophy: Greek ancestry approach and religiopolitical context approach. In the Greek ancestry approach, medieval Muslim philosophy is interpreted in terms of its relation to classical Greek philosophy, particularly to the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. The religiopolitical context approach, however, views a thorough understanding of the religious and political situation of that time as the key to the proper understanding of medieval Muslim philosophy. Notwithstanding the immense significance of the two approaches (...) for understanding medieval Muslim philosophy, the question on the reason behind medieval Muslim philosophers’ preference for Plato’s Republic over Aristotle’s Politics in political philosophy is not accurately answered. This preference is usually attributed either to the availability or unavailability of the text or to the suitability or unsuitability of the text for Islamic theological views. However, this article shows that neither the availability or unavailability of text nor its suitability or unsuitability for Islamic religious and theological views can appropriately explain medieval Muslim philosophers’ preference for Plato’s Republic over Aristotle’s Politics in their political thought. This article proposes that the key to understand this preference lies in understanding the transmission of Greek philosophy to medieval Muslim philosophers. Contribution: This study highlights the significance of the thorough understanding of the transmission of Greek philosophy to medieval Muslim world as one of the important approaches towards proper understanding of medieval Muslim philosophy, particularly medieval Muslim political philosophy. (shrink)
According to Avicenna, whatever exists, whenever it exists, exists of necessity. Not all beings, however, exist with the same kind of necessity: some things exist necessarily per se and others necessarily per aliud. Avicenna on the Necessity of the Actual: His Interpretation of Four Aristotelian Arguments explains how Avicenna’s modal claims show that God is the first efficient and the ultimate final cause of an eternally existing cosmos. In particular, Celia Kathryn Hatherly shows how Avicenna uses four Aristotelian arguments to (...) prove this very un-Aristotelian conclusion. These arguments include Aristotle's argument for the finitude of efficient causes in Metaphysics 2; for the prime mover in the Physics and Metaphysics 12; for the mutual entailment between the necessary and the eternal in De Caelo 1.12; and against the Megarians in Metaphysics 9. Moreover, Hatherly contends, when Avicenna's version of these arguments is interpreted using his distinctive understanding of modality, the objections of his contemporaries and modern scholars fail. (shrink)
In theological sources, many symbols are used to explain the transcendent truths of existence. Among the shapes, the circle has the most use of a symbol which is important for Religious, philosophers, and mystics. However, what is refer mostly to the shape of a circle is the rotation of a circular line that begins at a point on a surface and ends at the same point; then, the most superficial and intermediate symbols of facts are explained with it. Contrary, the (...) present article proposes a novel way of drawing a circle, and with this approach, examines some philosophical concepts. We call this drawing "Boiling Circle", because, the rays are coming out boiling from the center. We also have analyzed and introduced a unique example of a mystical-philosophical-religious Architectural building, during which a circular spring has been built. Its water comes out boiling of the center and fills the five circles within itself and twelve eyes around it. This article begins with the drawing of a boiling circle, continues with explaining the philosophical symbols of the boiling circle and boiling spring according to Islamic mysticism, and ends with comparing and expressing the differences between the symbols of the two circles. (shrink)
In this paper, I offer a reconstruction of Ghazālī's encounter with scepticism in the Deliverance from Error. For Ghazālī, I argue, radical scepticism about the possibility of knowledge ensues from intellectualist assumptions about the nature of justification. On the reading that I will propose, Ghazālī holds that foundational knowledge can only be justified via actions that lead to transformative experiences.
This article deals with an argument reported by Razi (d. 1210) that attempted to undermine the immaterialist position about human nature. After some introductory remarks and explanation of the conceptual background, the article analyses the structure of the argument, with special attention to the idea of soul-switching.’ Some comparisons are made between the argument reported by Razi and a number of arguments from modern and contemporary eras of philosophy. One section is devoted to the critique of the argument and its (...) conceptual basis. This article shows that the argument reported by Razi is a methodological antecedent of a family of contemporary epistemological arguments against substance dualism. It is also shown that discussion of the argument could be useful to highlight a weakness in some, but not all, versions of immaterialism about human nature. (shrink)
_Sense Perception_ is the first part of the trilogy _Forms of Representation in the Aristotelian Tradition_. It investigates some of the most complex and intriguing aspects of theories of perception in the Greek, Latin, and Arabic reception of Aristotle’s psychology.
_Concept Formation_ is the final part of the trilogy _Forms of Representation in the Aristotelian Tradition_. It investigates some of the most perplexing and provocative discussions on conceptual thinking in the Greek, Latin, and Arabic reception of Aristotle’s psychology.
_Dreaming_ is the second part of the trilogy _Forms of Representation in the Aristotelian Tradition_. It investigates some of the most fascinating and enduring discussions on dreams in the Greek, Latin, and Arabic reception of Aristotle’s psychology.
لا تجدُ الكتبُ المقدّسة واقعيتها إلا حينما تخرج من دائرة الكتابة والمدوّن والطقوسية المغلقة، والمغلّفة بهالة من القدسيّة التي لا يكاد المرء معها أن ينفذ إلى المعاني والمقاصد الحقيقية للنصّ، نحو أفق القراءة المتجددة، وبالتالي سنجدُ أنفسنا أمام نصّ متجدّد لا ينضب معينه. تحقّق الوعي بمسألة العلاقة بين جمود النصّ وفاعلية القراءة في ظل الجدل الذي قام بين الدينيّ والسياسيّ، لحظة حمي الصّراع حول المعنى واقتيدت المعارك تحت ألوية تأويل القرآن، ''فالدين -أيُّ دين- نصوصٌ صامتة بين دفَّتين (= كالقرآن في (...) وصفٍ شهيرٍ للإمام عليّ بن أبي طالب)، والرّجال هُمْ مَن يُنطِقون تلك النصوص على نحوٍ من الأنحاء وتبعاً للمصالح التي تحملهم على إنطاقها على هذا المقتضى أو ذاك (...) يسعُنا أن نحسب المعركة هذه -وهي ممتدة منذ فجر الإسلام- معركة تأويل. وهي كذلك، لأن النصوص ليست ناطقة بذاتها، مثلما قلنا، وإنما محمولة على معانٍ ومضامين يقرّرها المؤوِّلون. (shrink)
Since the formation period, the concept of religion and the basic issues related to religiosity have been among the main subjects that attracted the Sūfīs. As a consequence, Sūfī writers showed great interest in the subject and endeavoured to produce a genuine religious thought. This tradition of religious thought, which was developed by the Sūfīs, also dealt with problems concerning other religious systems, their basic tenets and rituals, as well as the relationship with the members of other religions. In this (...) context, the school of Wahdat al-Wujūd, which is one of the most significant schools of thought that was developed within the context of Sūfī tradition, provided the most original explanations concerning the nature of religion, various religions and belief systems and their relationship with each other. This article aims to examine the main tenets of the Wahdat al-Wujūd school concerning the concept of religion as well as several basic issues related to this concept. Therefore, the definition of religion, the need for religion, the transcendent unity of religions, the reason for the plurality of religions and the concept of wahdat-i ma‘būd are among the topics that are discussed in this article. (shrink)
I argue that practical knowledge can be understood as constituted by a kind of imagining. In particular, it is the knowledge of what I am doing when that knowledge is represented via extramental imagination. Two results follow. First, on this account, we can do justice both to the cognitive character and the practical character of practical knowledge. And second, we can identify a condition under which imagination becomes factive, and thus a source of ob-jective evidence. I develop this view by (...) extracting an account of self-knowledge via extramental imagination from the writings of Ibn ‘Arabi (1165-1240). (shrink)
This article investigates religious ideals persistent in the datafication of information society. Its nodal point is Thomas Bayes, after whom Laplace names the primal probability algorithm. It reconsiders their mathematical innovations with Laplace's providential deism and Bayes' singular theological treatise. Conceptions of divine justice one finds among probability theorists play no small part in the algorithmic data-mining and microtargeting of Cambridge Analytica. Theological traces within mathematical computation are emphasized as the vantage over large numbers shifts to weights beyond enumeration in (...) probability theory. Collateral secularizations of predestination and theodicy emerge as probability optimizes into Bayesian prediction and machine learning. The paper revisits the semiotics and theism of Peirce and a given beyond the probable in Whitehead to recontextualize the critiques of providence by Agamben and Foucault. It reconsiders datafication problems alongside Nietzschean valuations. Religiosity likely remains encoded within the very algorithms presumed purified by technoscientific secularity or mathematical dispassion. (shrink)
This article aims to elaborate on the pre-Ghazzālī period Sufis’ approaches to the concept of knowledge. We know that Ghazzālī, as a milestone in the Islamic thought, satisfies in taṣawwuf after a long quest. He benefits from the Sunnī taṣawwuf already established before him. Therefore, the importance of the sources feeding Ghazzālī’s Sufi view is manifest. Thus, in this article, I focus on the ideas of the main figures of the Sunnī taṣawwuf regarding the concept of knowledge. Having stated concisely (...) about what taṣawwuf is, the concepts of knowledge and gnosis were described. And then, the ideas of the Sufis on knowledge and its ways were examined. I concluded at the end of the research that the Sufis restrict human reason (ʿaql) into the worldly life while giving the intuitional knowledge priority. Also, they separate the reality (ḥaqīqa) from religious law (sharīʿa). For the former, intuitional knowledge is a necessity, while the human reason is useful and responsible for the latter. Finally, it is hard to say that compared to Ghazzālī, Suhrawardī, and Ibn al-ʿArabī, those Sufis have a consistent epistemology when they set forth their view. (shrink)
The medieval Islamic solutions to the liar paradox can be categorized into three different families. According to the solutions of the first family, the liar sentences are not well-formed truth-apt sentences. The solutions of the second family are based on a violation of the classical principles of logic (e.g. the principle of non-contradiction). Finally, the solutions of the third family render the liar sentences as simply false without any contradiction. In the Islamic tradition, almost all the well-known solutions of the (...) third family are inspired by the solution proposed by At_īr al-Dīn al-Abharī (d. 1265). Providing a logical analysis of his discussion of the liar paradox, I show that his solution is based on a conception of truth according to which every sentence signifies, usually among other things, its own truth. This makes Abharī’s solution of the same spirit as certain solutions that were later developed in the Latin tradition, in particular by John Buridan (d. 1358) and Albert of Saxony (d. 1390). (shrink)
Al-Māturīdī is seemingly the first medieval theologian who gives precedence to his theory of knowledge over other theological issues. 4 He opens his discourse with a chapter of invalidity of taqlid and continues with a discussion of means of knowledge. In that chapter, Al-Māturīdī offers two ways of knowing the divine will: reason (‘aql) and tradition (sam’). For him, tradition, as a source of knowledge, refers to knowledge of past events, names of things, distant countries, benefits and harms of a (...) thing. They are not self-evident nor are we able to witness their reality for ourselves by way of senses. In principle, Al-Māturīdī says, we acquire all our knowledge about external world by way of hearing. However, this kind of knowledge is not valid unless it is transmitted by uninterrupted chains of authority (mutawātir) or unless its validity is determined by sensual or rational channels of knowledge. 5 Thus, the reliable knowledge originated by tradition is of two kinds; one is that mutawātir, the other is that which can be validated by reason. Al-Māturīdī asserts that due to the rational signs demonstrating the truth of the message of prophets, their message richly deserves to be admitted as truth. (shrink)
The paper deals with an argument reported by Razi (d. 1210) that was used to attempt to refute the immateriality of human nature. This argument is based on an epistemic asymmetry between our self-knowledge and our knowledge of immaterial things. After some preliminary remarks, the paper analyzes the structure of the argument in four steps. From a methodological point of view, the argument is similar to a family of epistemological arguments (notably, the Cartesian argument from doubt) and is vulnerable to (...) the same objection that can be raised against that form of reasoning. The last section points out that the argument can be used indirectly to highlight the weakness in some arguments for the claim that there is something immaterial in human beings. (shrink)
ABSTRACT: Mullā Ṣadrā’s (c 1571-1640) commentary on Uṣūl al- Kāfī is one of the more famous commentaries on this significant Shi‘i hadith collection. For his philosophical and Sui background, Ṣadrā’s approach to the hadith is slightly different and in some ways contrary to the earlier commentators such as`Allāma Majlisī in Shi'a and Ibn Taymīyya in Sunni Islam. This paper aims to shed light on the way, Ṣadrā interprets al-Kāfī and particularly to determine his understanding of the ʿaql (intellect) at the (...) cosmic (as first created being) and human levels as presented in the Kitāb al-ʿAql wa al-Jahl (The Book of Intellect and Ignorance). Ṣadrā, already well-versed in the philosophical discourses on ontology and cosmology find al-Kāfī as a fertile ground to develop and extend his vision of cosmos and existence. This paper, furthermore, investigates and reviews some later and contemporary scholars’ critiques of Ṣadrā’s view on hadith and intellect. (shrink)
Sunni or Sunnism stands for Ahlu As-Sunnah wa al-Jamā`ah which is also called ASWAJA. Many people publish and debate it without clear meaning and reference. This article is a demonstrative-linguistic study that outlines the meaning and reference to the term "Sunni" to understand it clearly. This research shows that Sunnis have at least two groups. First, Sunni Ahlu Al- Ḥadīts, the path of Ibn Hanbal and Ibn Taimiyyah, which tends to be puritan and at some point raises hardline intolerant Muslims. (...) Second, moderate Sunnis, who opened the space for fiqh schools other than Ibn Hanbal, and chooses to refer to moderate Islamic thinkers, such as Ash-Shāfi'i in fiqh (Islamic law), Al-Asy`ari in kalam (Islamic theology) and Al -Ghazali in Sufism (Islamic mysticism). The two Sunni groups were both Ahlu as-Sunnah wa al-Jamā`ah. The first group tends to embody the phrase Ahlu as-Sunnah wa al-Jamā'ah terminologically (iṣṭilāḥan), while the second group tends to display the phrase linguistically (lughatan). (shrink)
There is a tendency among scholars to identify Alfarabi’s political philosophy in general and his theory of the state in particular with that of Plato’s The Republic. Undoubtedly Alfarabi was well versed in the philosophy of Plato and was greatly influenced by it. He borrows the Platonic concept of the philosopher king and uses it in his theory of the state. However, we argue that the identification of Alfarabi’s virtuous city with that of Plato’s The Republic is an inaccurate assessment (...) as it involves overlooking Alfarabi’s unique religiopolitical context. Alfarabi was a Muslim political philosopher, and the present article intends to understand Alfarabi’s theory of the state in light of his historical context. The article shows that, viewed through the prism of Islamic religion and political history, Alfarabi’s virtuous city seems distinct from that of Plato’s The Republic. (shrink)
In his political treatise, Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al-fadhila, Abu Nasr Alfarabi, the medieval Muslim philosopher, proposes a theory of virtuous city which, according to prominent scholars, is modeled on Plato’s utopia of the Republic. No doubt that Alfarabi was well-versed in the philosophy of Plato and the basic framework of his theory of city is platonic. However, his theory of city is not an exact reproduction of the Republic’s theory and, despite glaring similarities, the two theories do differ in (...) many aspects. In both, Alfarabi’s Mabadi ara ahl al-madina al-fadhila and Plato’s Republic, the theory of virtuous city is accompanied by a theory of the soul. Since the theory of soul plays a foundational role in both theories of the virtuous city, the present article intends to provide an explanation for the differences between the two theories of the city in terms of the differences between the two theories of the soul. (shrink)
In Themistius’ Paraphrase of Aristotle’s _Metaphysics_ 12, Yoav Meyrav offers a new critical edition and study of the Hebrew text and the Arabic fragments of Themistius’ 4th century paraphrase, whose original Greek is lost.
Ex interiore ipso exeas. Preface. This book reconstructs the history of a still open dialectics between several ethoi, that is, shared codes of unwritten rules, moral traditions, or self-aware attempts at reforming such codes, and ethical theories discussing the nature and justification of such codes and doctrines. Its main claim is that this history neither amounts to a triumphal march of reason dispelling the mist of myth and bigotry nor to some other one-way process heading to some pre-established goal, but (...) instead to a chain of controversies where the partners’ will to win unintentionally yields a wealth of insights on human existence that has still something to teach us. -/- 1. The Hellenic moral tradition. -/- Two different traditions of morality in vi-v century Greece are described. The birth of philosophical questioning of traditional morality and temporal and spatial variation of custom is described within the context of the v century crisis, the demise of traditional aristocratic and tyrannical rule and the birth of democracy. Two conflicting answers to the challenge are reconstructed, namely conventionalist or immoralist theories formulated by the Sophists and the eudemonist and intellectualist Socratic theory. -/- 2. Plato and the Good. -/- Plato’s own reformulation of Socrates rejoinder to the Sophists is reconstructed. His psychological views, his classification of the four cardinal virtues and his political theory are described as parts of a unitary system, culminating in an extremely realist moral ontology identifying the idea of the good with the essence of the (moral and extra-moral) world itself. -/- 3. Aristotle and practical philosophy. -/- Aristotle’s invention of practical philosophy as a field separated from first philosophy is shown to be an implication of his break with Plato moral ultra-realism. Aristotle’s agenda in his moral works is arguably dependent on a polemical intention, namely dismantling Socratic intellectualism. The semi-inductive or virtuously circular method of practical philosophy is illustrated, starting with the received opinions of the better and wiser individuals and trying dialectically to sift what is left of mistake and inconsistency in such opinions, finally trying to correct mistakes and make the overall practical science more consistent. The relationship of individual ethics, or ‘monastics’, with the art and the science of the pater families, or ‘economics’, and the science of the ruler and citizen, or politics, is illustrated. The nature of virtues, or better, excellences of character, is discussed, highlighting the basic role of hexes, or ‘dispositions’. Prudence, or better, practical wisdom, is the focus of the chapter. Its relationship with boùleusis or deliberation is discussed, and its autonomous status vis-à-vis theoretical knowledge is stressed. -/- 4. Cynics and Stoics: ethics as therapy. -/- The chapter provides an overview of Hellenistic ethics, which almost amounts to Hellenistic schools of philosophy, in so far as ‘philosophy’ became in these centuries primarily the name for a way of life. The typical character of the Cynical movement is highlighted, that of a school of life, not a school aimed at providing any kind of intellectual training was to be provided. The various phases of Stoicism are described, and the shifting place that was given to ethics in the Stoic system of idea, culminating in the paradoxical view of ethics, its impossibility in principle notwithstanding, as the only truly significant and necessary part of philosophy. The peculiar character of the Epicurean school is described, a combination of the science of well-being aiming, more than pleasure understood as in the popular view, the reduction of useless suffering, of unnecessary needs, and at a balanced selection of pleasures of the best and most durable kind. -/- 5. Roman and Imperial Moralists. -/- The chapter is dedicated to the reconstruction of a particular kind of literature, whose specific features have long been under-stressed, namely the Roman and Imperial moral literature. Cicero is treated at some length, showing how his own synthesis of various Hellenistic trends is as a truly philosophical enterprise, deserving serious consideration after one or two centuries when he was confined to the role of literate. Epictetus is given pride of place, stressing the novelty of his approach to ethics as cognitive therapy, in this case just following an already existing new wave of interest after nineteenth-century oblivion justified by alleged lack of authentic ‘philosophical’ character. -/- 6. The Hebrew moral tradition. -/- A reconstruction of basic ideas from a few books of the Hebrew Bible is provided, starting with the Prophetic tradition and the focus on God’s mercy as the source of motivation and standard for human behaviour. Then a comparative analysis is undertaken of a parallel tradition, namely the three codifications of the Torah (Law or, better, Instruction), highlighting how a core of moral ideas may be recognized as a basis and preamble of codification of civil law, cultural practice, and regulation of ritual purity. The importance of Levitic is stressed as the turning point when the stress on mercy, typical of the Prophetic tradition, starts being combined with legal tradition yielding the change in the sensibility of the Second Temple time. -/- 7. Second Temple Judaism. -/- This chapter describes the Long March leading from the post-exile Zadokite restoration to the first-century aevi vulgaris. The first topic reconstructed is the Zadokite theology of the double retribution. The second is the alternative Enochic tradition consistently rejecting the central role of the Temple, the Priesthood and worship as atonement for sins and offering as an alternative God’s unlimited mercy and preaching mercy, not sacrifice as the way of behaving requested by God. Wisdom literature, the third subject discusses, is a kind of third way, on the one hand increasingly critical towards the double retribution and ruling theology’s optimism facing the world as it is and on the other mocking at the Enochic current as a band of dreamers and visionaries. The third way consists in disenchantment facing the word as it is combined with a refusal of vain and childish hope of prizes for the righteous, suggesting instead the leading idea of right deeds for righteousness’s sake. Rabbi Hillel, Rabbi Yeshua and Philo of Alexandria are described as the three leading figures at the culminating point of such process of emergence of a new sensibility, gradually including mercy as an essential part of justice and establishing the starting point of both the Rabbinic and the Christian tradition. This starting point consists precisely in the precept of one’s neighbour’s love or of the golden rule, whose meaning is, arguably, more consistent than a long-lasting Christian tradition deriving from John and Augustine made us believe. And Christian morality, vis-à-vis allegedly legalist ‘Ancient Testament’ teachings, is less of a novelty than most early Christian writers announced. -/- 8. Talmudic moral doctrines and proto-Christian paraenesis. -/- The first three sections examine the moral doctrines of so-called 'ethical Treaties' from the Talmud, a group of treaties, among which the best known is Pirke Avot, that were left out of the six "orders" of the canon as they did not fit in any of the six groups of issues ritual or legal on which the division was based. According to Maimonides, their peculiar theme is provided by the Deot, 'opinions', i.e., mental dispositions, that is, the translation of the Greek term hexes and Arab akhlak (in turn providing in this language the name for ethics as such). The three topics I reconstruct are: i) the notion of Torah: The Torah is understood as the world order itself, or as the ‘Wisdom’ that existed even before creation and was "the tool by which the world was built"; however, the Torah is an earthly and human entity, as it was "received" by humans, and from that very moment belongs to them; ii) the relationship between love of God and love of neighbour; the treaties require us to study and practice the Torah ‘for its own sake’, that is, require us to act out of love, not out of fear or hope of reward; iii) the idea of sanctification of daily life: having disappeared with the destruction of the Temple the possibility of any conflict between liturgical service and everyday life, the latter is assumed to be in itself divine service: to give food to the poor has the same value as sacrifices in the Temple, and as an implication, the insistence become recurrent on the goodness of created things in themselves along with a polemic against ascetic currents. The conclusions drawn are: i) the moral teachings of the Talmud and those of Yeshua are, rather than similar, virtually identical; one may safely say that the precept of love and the golden rule are central ones for all Talmudic rabbis, that mercy plays an indispensable role alongside with justice, and the latter is not a different thing from one’s neighbour’s love; ii) a peculiarity of Talmud rabbis facing Yeshua is the idea of study as worship, and knowledge as a source of justice; but this is an idea of Judaism after the Temple's destruction that cannot be attributed to the Pharisees of Yeshua’s time; iii) the relation of study and practice in the Talmud parallels that between faith and deeds in Paul's epistles, that is, respectively faith or learning are a necessary and sufficient condition to be recognized as righteous, but deeds are the inevitable effect of either faith or learning. The last two sections examine first the various Christian currents and then Gnostic para-Christian or non-Christian currents as well as Manicheism. The sayings ascribed to Yeshua are examined first, yielding the conclusion that a close equivalent may be found for every saying in Talmudic literature and yet the whole is ascribed to one rabbi, with rather consistent stress on God’s mercy and unconditional forgiving as the mark of true imitation of God. Thus, Yeshua’s teaching is pure, purest Judaism. The last section describes briefly the galaxy of Gnostic currents and Manicheism, trying to sketch the profile of moral teachings resulting from an encounter of Asian spiritual traditions, Hellenistic lore and sparks of teachings from apocalyptic Jewish currents. -/- 9. Christianity as “philosophy”. -/- The chapter reconstructs the stormy story of several encounters between Christian currents and Hellenistic philosophical schools. The first one was with late Cynicism. Recent, rather controversial, literature discovered the jargon and several rhetorical topics from the Stoic and Cynical popular philosophy in a few books from the New Testament itself. This, far from proving that Rabbi Yeshua himself had been influenced by cynical preachers, is a proof of the necessity to translate the original Christian message in a Greek lexicon deeply impregnated with cynic terminology. The second was with Platonism, yielding the mild and temperate moral teaching of Clemens of Alexandria, teaching the sanctity of nature and the human body, the joy of moderate fruition of ‘natural’ kinds of pleasures, and the beauty of the marital life – in short, the opposite of the standard picture of Medieval Christianity. Ambrose of Milan brings about a different kind of synthesis, namely with Middle Platonism, where Stoic themes prevail. The most shocking case is Augustine, where early Manichean education is overcome in a former phase by a synthesis of Plotinian Neo-Platonism and Christian preaching, yielding a sustained polemic with the Manicheans and rather optimistic views on life and Creation, the body and sexuality, and Hebrew-Judaic tradition not far from Clemens of Alexandria. In a later phase, occasioned by controversy on the opposite front, with such Christian currents as the Pelagians and Donatists, Augustine comes back to heavily anti-Judaic and world-denying ascetic attitudes where is earlier Manichean upbringing seems to emerge again. The tragedy of medieval Christianity will be the later Augustine’s overwhelming influence. A final section is dedicated to the monastic tradition where a curious mixture of world-denying asceticism with an astonishingly penetrating ‘science’ of introspection emerges. -/- 10. Ethics in the Arabic-Islamic Philosophy. -/- The Qurān and the qadit, that is, collections of sayings ascribed to the prophet Muhammad contain a wealth of precepts and catalogues of virtues mirroring moral contents from the Jewish and the Christian traditions, among them the basic notion of imitation of the Deity, where mercy is assumed to be its basic trait. An important tradition within Islam, namely Sufism, stressed to the utmost degree the role of mercy, turning Islam into a mystic doctrine centred on the retreat from the world, abandonment to God’s will, and a peaceful and fraternal attitude to our fellow-beings. A secular literary tradition originating in the Sassanid Empire, the literature of advice to the Prince, had for a time a widespread influence in the newly constituted Arabic-Islamic commonwealth. In a later phase, the legacy of Hellenic philosophy made its way into the intellectual elite of the Islamic world. The first important legacy was Platonic, and the Republic became the main text for Islamic Platonism. In a second phase also Aristotelian and Stoic influence were assimilated. Miskawayh’s treatise was the masterwork at the time Arabic philosophy reached its Zenith. It is a treatment of the soul’s diseases and their remedies, combining the Aristotelian doctrine of the golden mean with the Stoic doctrine of the passions and elements of Galenic medicine. Towards the eleventh-twelve centuries, a war raged among theologians and philosophers, finally won by the former with the disappearance of philosophy as such. The newly established mainstream, yet, was no kind of intolerant fanaticism. It drew from the work of mystic theologian Al-Ghazālī, the best heir of Sufism, teaching a tolerant and peaceful attitude to our fellow-beings and a passive attitude to destiny as an expression of the Divine will. -/- 11. Ethics in the Jewish philosophy. -/- The encounter between the Talmudic tradition and Hellenic philosophy had taken place for the first time in Alexandria at the time of Philo but the two traditions had parted way again. In fact, the kind of Platonic Judaism founded by Philo survived only within Christianity, in the fourth Gospel and then in writings by Clemens of Alexandria. The Talmudic literature had absorbed too a few traits from the Hellenic Philosophy, namely an idea of ethics as care of the self and a role for the education of character as propaedeutic to theoretical knowledge. In the Arabic-Islamic world, a second round started when Jewish authors writing in Arabic undertook the task to prove the full compatibility of the tradition deriving from Tora and Platonic philosophy. The culmination of this attempt is provided by Moshe ben Maimon who tried to use Aristotelian ethics as a language into which the teaching from the Pirke Avot could be translated. -/- 12. The practical philosophy revival in Latin Europe. -/- A reconstruction is carried out of a fresh start of philosophical ethics in Latin Europe at the turn of the Millennium rescuing a Platonic and Augustinian legacy, with Anselm and Peter Abelard. In this phase remarkable innovations are introduced, including Abelard’s claim of the obliging character of erring consciousness. In a second phase, the rediscovery of Nicomachean Ethics thanks to Latin translation of Arabic versions, gives birth to a new wave of ethical studies, recovering the very idea of Aristotelian practical philosophy, with the potential implication of a full legitimization of natural morality, i.e. ethics without Revelation. -/- 13. Scholastic practical philosophy: Thomas Aquinas. -/- Aquinas’s ethics is theological ethics out of which it would be vain to try to extract self-contained philosophical ethics. His treatment of topics in philosophical ethics, yet, does not boil down to the repetition of Aristotelian arguments but is rather a creative reshaping of such arguments. For example, he introduces also in the practical philosophy a first principle parallel to the principle of non-contradiction; and he also carries out a synthesis of Aristotelianism, Stoicism, neo-Platonism. Even though it is essentially moral theology, Aquinas’s doctrine - unlike Augustine – grants full citizenship to "natural" morality, firstly by rejecting the claim that the corruption of human nature due to the original sin is so radical as to leave pure nature incapable of moral goodness. The doctrine is presented in a more sophisticated formulation in a few of the Quaestiones such as De Malo and De Veritate, in the Summa contra Gentes and in the commentaries to Aristotle than in the famous Summa Theologica, but the latter work includes the only or the largest exposition of some decisive part of the theory. Thus, the Summa Theologica should be read for what it is more than criticized for not being what it was not meant to be. It was not meant to be the brilliant synthesis of all that Reason he had been able to produce with what Revelation had added about which the Neo-Thomists used to dream, but rather a manual for the training of preachers and confessors, where theoretical claims are not too ambitious, and a few serious tensions are left. Besides a jump between the Prima Secundae and the Secunda Secundae, being the former an essay in virtue theory and the latter a handbook for confessors, the most serious tension is perhaps the one between the ethics of right reason presented in most of Prima Secundae and the eudemonistic ethics developed in quaestiones 1-5 of the same part; the alternative ethical theory which also may be found in Augustine, the Stoic view of a cosmic reason eventually coincident with the moral law, was believed by Anselm (followed by John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham) to be incompatible with eudemonism. It is questionable whether Thomas was able to solve the tension proving that it is just an apparent tension, in so far as the right reason and bliss derived from the knowledge of God tend to coincide, but this is just a conjecture. Thomas’s ethics is a virtue ethics, not a law-based one, and moral judgment focuses on the virtues, particularly charity, not on the commandments and even less on absolute prohibitions; Thomas, however, would not have considered a drastic alternative between law and the virtues such as the one which has been advanced in late twentieth-century philosophy to be justified. Nonetheless, when it discusses ‘special’ virtues, it ceases to be an ethics of virtue and becomes a disappointing and often contradictory discussion of legal and illegal acts. Such a discussion takes most of the time ‘reasonable’ middle positions on controversial issues but not the alternative approach that Aristotelianism would have made possible; even when some occasional Aristotelian claim shows up, such as money’s barrenness as a reason against usury, this seems to be made by an author who apparently ignores the Aristotelian Thomas of the Prima Secundae. It is an ethic of human autonomy which recognizes the binding character of the individual conscience and, potentially, even a duty to disobey unjust laws. It is true that what Thomas writes in his discussion of the death penalty and persecution of heretics is simply disgusting, and yet we should blame Thomas the man, not the Thomist ethical theory. Finally, Thomas’s ethics is no way an ethical ‘absolutism’, as both the traditionalist Catholic theologians and secularists tend to believe, but rather an ethic of prudential judgment on the individual case. Exceptions to this approach – or better the result of logical fallacies – are provided by the thesis of the absolute character of negative precepts and of the existence of so-called intrinsically evil acts, a thesis that would simply cease to make sense in the light of Thomas’s own distinction between human act and natural act, carrying consequences that Thomas did not live long enough to draw. -/- 14. Scholastic practical philosophy: John Duns Scotus and William of Ockham. A reconstruction is carried out of the ethical doctrines by both most authoritative Franciscan doctors. Their continuity with Aquinas is vindicated against prejudice carried by centuries of polemics within the Catholic Church and tendentious disparaging of both as forerunners of execrable Reformation. Besides aspects of continuity, also the important novelties are illustrated, first John’s abandonment of Aquinas’s and Augustine’s eudemonism, asserting righteousness for righteousness’s sake, and then William’s explicit defence of the philosopher’s virtues, that is, natural morality, and his solution to the dilemma of God’s omnipotence and the universal validity of natural law extending to God himself. -/- 15. Aristotelianism interpreted by the Magistri Artium. -/- A reconstruction of the until recently forgotten ethical doctrines by the Parisian Magistri Artium, falsely depicted as ‘Averroists’ and either deprecated as heretics or mistaken for predecessors of modern secularism. In fact, they illustrate a view of ‘natural’ virtue as may be understood by human reason without the assistance by Revelation. -/- Etiamsi daremus Deum non esse. Intermediate considerations. Three considerations may be suggested by the story told in the book. The first one is that intellectual histories have been mounted in the past with the same state of mind as one may mount a war chariot. Such constructions are not very helpful as tools for understanding the past. Wars waged in the past have left the field obstructed by ruins not easy to remove even by those historians who have animated by an impartial academic motivation. They have been influenced too by consequences of past emphasis on some authors and damnatio capitis suffered by others, by stratifications left on sources by secondary literature and translations, by allotment of originally close sources to different literary genres, by the monopolization of religious texts by churches with full cooperation by secular scholars who still fear contamination. The second one is that aware or unaware ethnocentrism has carried various calamities to our comprehension of the past. Their last vestiges have surfaced again in the semi-scholarly discussion on the idea of Europe occasioned by the debate on a project of a European Constitution. Mention of Europe’s Christian roots has been the clumsiest move. Proclamations of such roots were so obvious in what they affirmed as they were totally off-path concerning what they omitted, namely that he modern European moral tradition included legacies from Middle-Eastern wisdom, Hellenic philosophy, Roman Imperial legal literature, and, besides, a Jewish legacy in turn incorporating other more ancient Middle-Eastern legacies and which has been partly conveyed by Christianity. And the Islamic-Arabic philosophy too, in so far it made the Nicomachean Ethics available to Latin Christian scholars, is one more of Europe’s roots. The third is that religious traditionalists and secularist fundamentalists have gone hand in hand for a couple of centuries in either extolling or deprecating the allegedly Modern idea of Ethics without God, first formulated by Hugo Grotius with the claim that natural law would still be valid ‘etiamsi daremus – quod sine summo scelere dari potest – Deum non esse’. The facts are, firstly, that this is not an irreligious claim and Grotius was just a pious and meek Christian and, secondly, that it is not a ‘modern’ claim but rather one more formulation of the claim that there is a natural morality, independent of divine revelation, a claim shared by Moshe ben Maimon, Aquinas and William of Ockham. -/- . (shrink)