Manual 3 Jewish Philosophers

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Probably because the Islamic world isn't doing well today. I really learnt a lot from this book, but many questions arose from what I learnt when considered as a whole I'm not talking about any particular philosopher here. First, I know that the contemporary Islamic world has disproportional low contribution to science, in part because of lack of government financial support and very likely many other political factors.

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But is philosophy still thriving at least in some part of the Islamic world like back in the Middle Ages? I think this is an important question, especially for progressive reformers seeking to revive the Islamic world.

Maimonides: Life and Legacy

Science is so much costlier than philosophy after all. Second, why is the Islamic world not doing well today? I used to think this must be due to blind dogmatism which I consider idolatry and I learnt about the severity of which among many ordinary Muslims from Jeffery Lang's book Losing My Religion , but now it seems that the problem must be much more complicated. Third, after seeing so many schools of thought and so many arguments in support of them, many seeming reasonable I still need to read the original text to grasp more nuances of those arguments though I'm also getting the skepticism that al-Ghazali encountered, about how far philosophy can really get us and about how reason can help or fail to help in religious issues.

As seen in history, reason does not lead people towards a single religion or towards the very same set of beliefs, even though the philosophers of different religions have tried their best. Back in high school, I used to hold that correct reasoning will always lead to correct beliefs and God will punish people who erred in their reasoning and thus held false beliefs, but now I see that things are much more complicated. So how will God judge?

I don't know the mind of God, but God is just. This made me lean towards some sort of pluralism, whether the one of al-Farabi that religion is a specific rhetoric of the real universal truths demonstrated by philosophy but I'm not as optimistic about philosophy as he was or the one of Shah Wali Allah different religions are just specific versions of the single paradigm religion shared by mankind or the one of Seyyed Hossein Nasr's prennialism each religious tradition presents a descent of the Absolute into our reality.

I proposed my own version, that God judges us based on our character and our personal relationships with God, which supervene on specific beliefs and rituals much like how biological functions such as transcription and reproduction supervene on specific molecular mechanisms; but right now, I only consider this a hypothesis. Well, here, I think I also have the influence from a religiously diverse environment, kind of like the one in Mughal that influenced Dara Shikuh and Shah Wali Allah. There's an obvious problem: what about cults like Scientology? I think a solution is that while Scientology has a cult-like organization, individual Scientologists are not necessarily like their organization and God judges individuals rather than the names of their organizations.

In sum, it depends on what the individual makes of his or her religion. What about religious organizations like ISIS? Again, we should focus on the individual; people who chose to join ISIS must have some unholy problems to begin with. Another question related to the previous one, the kind of question that has already been encountered by Rabbis when the Jewish identity was at risk when Jews were force converted to Christianity and when Rabbis debated against Christian theologians: what does it mean to be Jewish?

Who counts as a Jew? Or how to define Judaism? Even the Rabbis profoundly disagreed. Similarly, how to define Islam? How to define Christianity? This is more elusive than it appears. We have seen how diverse theology is and how different faiths profoundly influence each other. I have already thought about this kind of questions in my arguments against Islamophobia my argument centers on definitions of the term "Islam" , but this book further highlights this issue when al-Ghazali and some anti-rationalist scholars considered Avicennans apostates but Avicenna's contemporaries did not, when some Rabbis excommunicated more philosophy-friendly Jews in response to Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed, yet the author and I suppose most readers still implicitly consider Avicennans and Maimodineans Muslims and Jews respectively.

Such elusive definition of boundaries of a religion is another factor that made me lean towards pluralism, at least regarding orthodoxy and heresy within what most people would consider a single religion or sect though the borders between different religions or sects can still be elusive, such as whether Jews for Jesus counts as Judaism or Christianity and whether Christian atheism counts as Christianity or atheism, or maybe both cases counts as both religions of interest.

From the history of philosophy, I also learnt a little about other aspects of the past. Solemn facts first: though there were influential female mystics and scholars, gender bias still needed to be challenged by modern reformers. What might be worse might be problems of class, since many of the influential philosophers, whether Muslim or Christian or Jewish, were of the very elite class, with powerful patrons or elite family background. What were ordinary people doing?

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However, I don't have enough information to really judge the situation of gender and class in the history of the Islamic world. Then there're some fun facts, such as that Avicenna was a night owl and that later Muslim philosophers presented their original ideas in the medium of commentaries of older works. Sounds strange?

Probably if they travel to the 21st century, they will in turn find it strange that we publish our cutting edge research as peer reviewed journal articles. Finally, so which philosophers discussed in this book do I admire the most? Among Muslims in the order of my admiration , Avicenna no doubt 1, not for the fact that I'm also a night owl, but mainly for his metaphysics, argument from contingency, and his intelligence, and to some extent for his natural philosophy , Ibn Arabi, Mullah Sadra, Suhrawardi, and Nasir al-Din al-Tusi. There're also Christian philosophers in this book, but the author mainly discussed Muslim and Jewish philosophers here.

I thought about writing a story about Avicenna traveling through time and space and landed in my house some time in the future, when I become a professor in systems biology and a science and religion scholar. Well, actually, perhaps the first thing he will find strange is the term "scientist", then how the natural science has become so distinct from philosophy, and how specialized and fragmented academia has become. He might also find it strange that philosophers now mostly work in universities instead of court culture I don't know if he has seen a university, though early universities such as al-Azhar already existed during his lifetime.

I think he will also be shocked or disappointed that many modern theologians plus philosophers of religion and theologically minded scientists from Pascal to Francis Collins are not so optimistic about philosophical proofs for God's existence. Most likely Aristotelians like Avicenna and al-Farabi won't be fans of Thomas Kuhn but some later Muslim philosophers probably will , since they hold that in the right condition, matter including our brains when we're learning will receive the right Form from Agent Intellect, so our knowledge will match reality, then why paradigms?

We might jointly criticize scriptural literalism, which is popular today, though probably using different arguments. Probably we won't get along because he's arrogant, but probably we will, because he did not exaggerate his intelligence in his biography; probably he's just being honest, not arrogant.

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  8. Then if that's the case, then he's definitely a lot smarter than I am. Alright, that's it for my thoughts. In sum, I think this is an easy to read and comprehensive introduction to the history of philosophy in the Islamic world, and I would like to read other volumes in this series for the breadth of knowledge in philosophy.

    Now I think it is indeed a good idea to deepen my knowledge by reading Aristotle, Avicenna, Maimonides, Ibn Arabi, and etc.

    ISBN 13: 9781592641475

    Jul 10, Diogenes rated it it was amazing. OK, first off, my philosophy courses in undergrad were a very long time ago and I have not read volumes one or two , and while Dr. Adamson claims this volume three is not holistic what single work could be? Adamson is a scholar of superb skill, and this OK, first off, my philosophy courses in undergrad were a very long time ago and I have not read volumes one or two , and while Dr. Adamson is a scholar of superb skill, and this would be a solid reference for any research project.

    I'll assume his other works are equally rewarding. Aug 13, Jacob Andrews rated it really liked it. Listened to podcast version over last several years. Highly recommend. If anyone can make 1, years of philosophy in the Muslim world accessible to the layman, it's Peter Adamson, though for those outside the tradition it's still a challenge to keep all the names with their respective philosophical positions straight.

    In summary, Islamic philosophy started with its own indigenous tradition of kalam, but with the translation of Greek works into Arabic, it was joined by Hellenistic thought: particularly the Neoplatonists associated with al-Kindi and the Aristotelia If anyone can make 1, years of philosophy in the Muslim world accessible to the layman, it's Peter Adamson, though for those outside the tradition it's still a challenge to keep all the names with their respective philosophical positions straight. In summary, Islamic philosophy started with its own indigenous tradition of kalam, but with the translation of Greek works into Arabic, it was joined by Hellenistic thought: particularly the Neoplatonists associated with al-Kindi and the Aristotelian logicians of the Baghdad School.

    Philosophy was systematized by al-Farabi, but the greatest luminary was Avicenna, who eclipsed Aristotle as the main Peripatetic influence. Even critics like al-Ghazali had to deal with him on his own terms, and his thought even found its way into kalam and the Sufi mystical tradition. In Iberia al-Andalus , Averroes asserted the primacy of Aristotle and the classical tradition was maintained there by Muslims and Jews alike; but aside from this geographical sideshow, philosophers continued to debate and refine the thinking of Avicenna, partly through the medium of commentaries, even if they were deeply critical like ibn Taymiyya or appealed to superrational sources of knowledge, like the Sufis and Illuminationists.

    Contrary to the received wisdom in the West, Adamson maintains that Islamic philosophy never declined: it only seems that way because western scholars have been late in examining the more recent works from the Islamic world. Jan 07, Linhao rated it really liked it. Listened to the podcast while reading some of it, same as the previous two volumes. Dr Adamson clearly displayed his enthusiasm and expertise in the Islamic history of philosophy, which is his main area of academic interest.

    3 Jewish Philosophers

    So it can be expected that there would be some level of background knowledge that the author presumes the audience to have. It could be either that or my horrible ignorance of Islamic history and culture or both , I found it difficult to follow from time to time and had to Listened to the podcast while reading some of it, same as the previous two volumes.

    It could be either that or my horrible ignorance of Islamic history and culture or both , I found it difficult to follow from time to time and had to check other sources for better understanding. I am sure it is much more helpful to people who were more familiar with Islamic thoughts and history. In general, I was very grateful that I had the chance to have an initial impression of the philosophical thoughts and religious background of this period.

    Dec 16, Hamdanil rated it it was amazing Shelves: philosophy , islamic-history , religion. Very well-written book on an interesting topic. Jewish philosophy refers to philosophical inquiry informed or inspired by the texts, traditions and experience of the Jewish people. Judaism is not only a religion, but an agglomeration of cultural and historical traditions which in some cases date back thousands of years. It draws from the ancient Biblical texts of Genesis and the Pentateuch, the books of the Prophets, the midrash and dialectics of the Rabbis, and the works and discourses of medieval and modern Jewish philosophers, poets and writers.

    Formats and Editions of 3 Jewish philosophers []

    Jewish philosophy can be considered to take two directions; the use of philosophical inquiry to search for a deeper understanding of Judaism and the Jewish experience, and the contribution to philosophy in general of insights gained from the study of Judaism or the experience of being a Jew. Jewish philosophers played a crucial role in the transmission of the concepts and ideas of ancient Greek philosophers to early Christian thinkers, thus influencing the development of Christian doctrine and theology.

    They were also instrumental in introducing and developing humanism in Europe, and ultimately separating philosophical inquiry from religious practice altogether. The debate over whether philosophical inquiry is compatible at all with revealed religious truth has existed in Judaism , Christianity and Islam almost since the beginning of Jewish religious philosophy. The works of one of the earliest Jewish philosophers, Philo Judaeus , were ignored by his Jewish contemporaries in the first century because they simply saw no connection between their faith and philosophy.

    The twelfth-century Jewish poet-philosopher Yehuda Halevi argued against philosophy, contending that knowledge arrived at by human reason is false and illusory and that real knowledge is that instilled by God in the human soul. Any attempt to synthesize religion and philosophy is difficult because classical philosophers start with no concept of the conclusions they will arrive at through their investigations; while classical religious believers have a set of religious principles of faith which they already believe to be true.

    Some hold that one cannot simultaneously be a philosopher and a true adherent of a revealed religion, and that all attempts at synthesis ultimately fail. For example, Rabbi Nachman of Breslov, a Hasidic mystic, viewed all philosophy as untrue and heretical. From the opposite point of view, Baruch Spinoza , a pantheist , viewed revealed religion as inferior to philosophy, and thus saw traditional Jewish philosophy as an intellectual failure.

    One type of synthesis is accomplished by using philosophical arguments to prove that religious principles are true, a method found in the philosophical writings of many religious traditions, including Judaism, Christianity and Islam. This is not generally accepted as true philosophy by philosophers. One example of this approach is found in the writings of Lawrence Kelemen, in Permission to Believe, Feldheim Another approach is to abstain from holding as true any religious principles, unless they can be independently arrived at through a philosophical analysis.

    An example of this can be found in the works of Reconstructionist Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan twentieth century. This approach is generally unsatisfactory to serious adherents of that religion.

    Jewish Philosophy for the Twenty-First Century

    The earliest Jewish philosophers were those who applied philosophical inquiry to the tenets of their own faith, in order to provide a logical and intellectual explanation of the truth. Early Jewish scholars, well-acquainted with the ideas of Plato , Aristotle and Pythagoras , identified Moses as the teacher of the ancient Greek philosophers. Philo Judaeus , 20 B. Philo did not use philosophical reasoning to question Jewish truths, which he regarded as fixed and determinate, but to uphold them, and he discarded those aspects of Greek philosophy which did not conform to the Jewish faith, such as the Aristotelian doctrine of the eternity and indestructibility of the world.

    He reconciled biblical texts with philosophical truths by resorting to allegory, maintaining that a text could have several meanings according to the way in which it was read. More modern Jewish thinkers have used philosophical inquiry to re-examine and revitalize their faith, and to seek answers to new questions, such as whether faith in God is still possible after historical catastrophes such as the Holocaust holocaust theology. Other questions confronting modern Jewish philosophers are whether Jews, as a people who have a special covenant with God, have a particular social or spiritual mission to fulfill; and the problem of how to maintain a unique identity when Jews are quickly assimilating into the cultures of the many modern nations in which they live.

    One response to the last question has been the development of Zionism, the belief that Judaism must have a central nation, Israel, or a spiritual center on earth, in order to continue their mandate from God. Early Jewish philosophy drew heavily from Plato , Aristotle and Islamic philosophy. Early medieval Jewish philosophers from the eighth century to end of the ninth century were especially influenced by the Islamic Mutazilite philosophers; they denied any limitations that might be imposed by assigning attributes to God and were champions of God's unity and justice.

    Saadia Gaon is considered one of the greatest of the early Jewish philosophers. His Emunoth ve-Deoth originally called Kitab al-Amanat wal-l'tikadat, the " Book of the Articles of Faith and Doctrines of Dogma " , completed in , was the first systematic presentation of a philosophic foundation for the dogmas of Judaism. Saadia Gaon supported the rationality of the Jewish faith, with the restriction that reason must capitulate wherever it contradicts tradition. Saadia closely followed the rules of the Mutazilites the rationalistic dogmatists of Islam, to whom he owed in part also his thesis and arguments , adhering most frequently to the Mutazilite school of Al-Jubbai and borrowing the structure of the Mutazilite Kalam.

    Medieval Jewish scholars had early access to Arabic manuscripts on philosophy , mathematics and science, and to Arabic translations of the works of Greek philosophers. Thus they took an important role in formulating monotheistic concepts and transmitting Aristotelian thought to scholastic philosophers and theologians in Western Europe. Gersonides , Ibn Gabirol , Maimonides , and Crescas preserved the continuity of philosophical thought from the Hellenistic thinkers and the Arabic philosophers, physicians, and poets to the Latin-Christian world of medieval Europe. His work was quoted by Moses ibn Ezra and Abraham ibn Ezra.

    Bahya ibn Paquda Spain, first half of the eleventh century was the author of the first Jewish system of ethics, written in Arabic in under the title Al Hidayah ila Faraid al-hulub " Guide to the Duties of the Heart " , and translated into Hebrew by Judah ben Saul ibn Tibbon in under the title Chovot ha-Levavot Duties of the Heart. Though he frequently quoted the works of Saadia Gaon, he was an adherent of Neoplatonic mysticism and often followed the method of the Arabian encyclopedists known as "the Brothers of Purity. He wanted to present a religious system at once lofty and pure and in full accord with reason.

    Rather, "Hebrew may be called primarily a language of the senses. The words originally expressed concrete or material things and movements or actions which struck the senses or started the emotions. Only secondarily and in metaphor could they be used to denote abstract or metaphysical ideas. A literal translation of Proverbs reads, " One who makes his walk straight will revere Yahweh, but the one who makes his path crooked is worthless.

    Exodus describes the direction of the court in relationship to the four sides of the Tabernacle. Block Logic While the Modern Western person thinks and arranges events chronologically Step Logic , the Ancient Hebrews thought and arranged events according to action and purpose Block Logic.

    Let me demonstrate with the following paragraph from a western step logic perspective. I then drove to work. While at work I read yesterday's reports. At noon I walked across the street for lunch. While there I read a magazine. Back at work I read my emails. After work I drove home and had dinner. I ate breakfast and I ate lunch and I ate dinner. I read the newspaper and I read the reports and I read a magazine and I read my emails. However, this narrative would make much more sense to a person who is steeped in block logic as they can easily see my actions being grouped together.

    It is very important when reading the Bible to ignore the philosophy that has been ingrained in you and instead learn a completely new form of philosophy and logic. Western readers of the Bible, who are reading the Bible from a linear perspective, read the creation account in Genesis as if it was written in chronological order, but this was not how the narrative was written; the different events of the creation account are recorded in blocks of related events. The first three days of creation are related to separation. The record of events for the first six days of creation, are written in blocks of parallels, a form of Hebrew poetry, and can be written like this;.

    Days 1 and 4 are paralleled with each other and are recording the same event as we can see from the following verses. And God saw that the light was good. And God separated the light from the darkness. And God saw that it was good. Verse 4 occurs on the first day and is describing the action of God separating light and darkness, but in verse 14, which is day four, we have God again separating light and darkness.

    There are only two possible explanations for this. Either the separation of light and darkness on the first day disappeared and had to be separated again on the fourth day, or the first and fourth days are recording the same event. In addition, days 2 and 5 are recording the same event, as are days 3 and 6. In our minds we would never relate an oak tree to a ram or view them as the same. The reason being is that we relate to features and appearances. However, the Hebrews relate to the function and in the case of the oak and the ram, they function in the same way.

    An oak tree is a very hard wood and the horns and skull of a ram are equally as hard. This is how you are to make it: the length of the ark three hundred cubits, its breadth fifty cubits, and its height thirty cubits. Genesis From our Modern Western mindset, we assume that this passage is describing the "appearance" of the ark.