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222 HISTORY OF PHILOSOPHY A History of Islamic Philosophy. By Majid Fakhry. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1970. Pp. xviii+427. $15) Islamic philosophy (i.e. Arabic philosophy--another term that I will use interchangeably with Islamic philosophy) has been, for all intents and purposes, neglected by scholars with the exception of a few Arabists. Although it has attracted some attention in the past century, still--to use Professor Rescher's words on this subject--"the great mass of material remains much terra incognita." Professor Rescher's remarks indeed do present an intellectual challenge to interested scholars, for lack of knowledge concerning Islamic philosophy in general stems primarily from the unavailability of publications of texts into English. Professor Majid Fakhry's A History of Islamic Philosophy does indeed fill in, at least in part, the above noted intellectual gap. The author has provided Western scholars with a comprehensive account of the history of Islamic philosophy from the seventh century to the present. One finds not only in depth analysis of the known great Arab Medieval philosophers such as al-Kindi, al-Farabi, Ibn Sina (Avicenna), al-Ghazali, Ibn Ruschd (Averroes), but also less known philosophers such as al-Suhrawardi and MuUa Sadra. The bulk of Fakhry's book (chapters three through eight) is devoted to the just mentioned philosophers. In addition to the exposition of particular Arab philosophers, Professor Fakhry treated at length the legalism, rationalism and mysticism of Islamic thought. In his exposition, the author depended for the most part on primary available sources in the original languages. In this case he relied heavily on the Arabic language. The translated excerpts that were frequently used in this book are of the highest calibre. In addition to consulting primary Arabic sources, the author also consulted a number of manuscripts in other languages such as Persian, English, French, German and Spanish. In writing the intellectual history of Islamic philosophy, Professor Fakhry was faced with one major obstacle. Often scholars allege that the writing of any general history of Islamic philosophy must be dubiously viewed. For a great part of the material involved must await critical textual analysis before one can adequately evaluate it. Hence the critics charge that anyone who writes about Islamic philosophy is taking a risk. The author admits of this difficulty. Yet he adds that "a fair amount of material is now available, either in good editions or manuscripts, and the collation of the two should make interpretation relatively accurate" (p. ix). He further claims that "the writing of a general history that would give scholars a comprehensive view of the whole field is a prerequisite of progress in that field, since it is not possible otherwise to determine the areas in which further research must be pursued or the gaps which must be filled" (p. ix). Fakhry's A History of Islamic Philosophy will not only help scholars supply that missing gap in textbooks on history of philosophy, but it should also help dispel some of the standard misconceptions about Islamic philosophy. I will only mention briefly three such misconceptions. First, the claim that Arab philosophy is unproductive of any original ideas, that it is simply tantamount to a duplication of Greek philosophy, is philosophically inaccurate and hence does not render justice to the fact that "Islamic philosophy can be said to have followed a distinctive line of development which gave it that unity of form which is a characteristic of the great intellectual movements in history" (p. 10). Second, the claim that Arab philosophy terminated with Ibn Ruschd (1126-1198) is equally inaccurate, for recent scholarship on Arabic philosophy has revealed the philosophic treatises of important philosophers pursuant to the decline of Ibn Ruschd's philosophy. Fakhry's treatment of Arab philosophers such as BOOK REVIEWS 223 Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406) and Mulla Sadra (d. 1640), to name a few, is indicative that Arabic philosophy did not stagnate following Ibn Ruschd. Third, the claim that Arabic philosophy is essentially Islamic (i.e. religious in content) is also misleading, for a closer examination of the texts of the Arab philosophers treated in Fakhry's book would indicate the incorrectness of such identification. One should add, in concluding...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1538-4586
Print ISSN
0022-5053
Pages
pp. 221-223
Launched on MUSE
2008-01-01
Open Access
No
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