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Medieval manuscript illustration to Hariri's Maqamat [Public Domain Image]

History of Philosophy in Islam

by T. J. De Boer


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Islam in the first four centuries, ... was inclined to take into its possession not only the outward advantages of the world, but also the intellectual acquisitions of Mankind. (p. 71).

This is a well-written and authoritative review of the history of Islamic philosophy during the middle ages. Medieval Islamic civilization at its height was a center of learning, and its philosophers were no exception. Islamic philosophers grappled with issues such as free-will, causality and the nature of reality. Some of these figures are still well-known, such as Ibn Sina (Avicenna), Ibn Roshd (Averroes), the Sufi Gazali, and Kindi.

These thinkers drew on many sources, including Indian philosophy (such as the Upanishads) and the ancient Greek philosophers, particularly Aristotle, whose works were considered the highest authority. In turn, Aristotelianism was picked up by by the Catholic Church and virtually enshrined as doctrine, particularly in the realm of natural science. This endured until the experimental method was used to test Aristotle in the renaissance, and his dominance was overthrown.

Title Page
Translator's Prefatory Note


1. The Theatre
2. Oriental Wisdom
3. Greek Science

II. Philosophy and Arab Knowledge

1. Grammatical Science
2. Ethical Teaching
3. Doctrinal Systems
4. Literature and History

III. The Pythagorean Philosophy

1. Natural Philosophy
2. The Faithful Brethren of Basra

IV. The Neo-Platonic Aristotelians of the East

1. Kindi
2. Farabi
3. Ibn Maskawaih
4. Ibn Sina
5. Ibn al-Haitham

V. The Outcome of Philosophy in the East

1. Gazali
2. The Epitomists

VI. Philosophy in the West

1. Beginnings
2. Ibn Baddja
3. Ibn Tofail
4. Ibn Roshd

VII. Conclusion

1. Ibn Khaldun
2. The Arabs and Scholasticism


Index of Personal Names