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Groundwork in Islamic Philosophy

Greek philosophy was the major formative influence on the later philosophical traditions of Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. In all three, the theories of the Greeks, particularly Plato and Aristotle, were employed to clarify and develop the basic beliefs of the religious traditions.

In the Islamic tradition the starting point was the work of Plato and Aristotle. The 9th-century Neoplatonist al- Kindi was followed by al-Farabi, who drew on both Plato and Aristotle to create a universal Islamic philosophy.

The most important of the medieval Muslim philosophers, however, was Avicenna (ibn Sina). Starting from the distinction between essence and existence, Avicenna developed a metaphysics in which God, the necessary being, is the source of created nature through emanation. Both his metaphysics and his intuitionist theory of knowledge were influential in the later Middle Ages as well as in the later history of Islamic thought.

The philosophical tradition did not go unchallenged, however. The 11th-century theologian and mystic al-Ghazali mounted a critique of philosophy, specifically Avicenna's, that is rich in argument and insight. Al-Ghazali's Incoherence of the Philosophers provoked a response by Averroes ibn Rushd entitled the Incoherence of the Incoherence, in which al-Ghazali's arguments are countered point for point. Averroes was best known, however, as an interpreter of Aristotle and excited great influence on all subsequent thinkers in the Aristotelian tradition.

In the later Middle Ages the historian and philosopher Ibn Khaldun produced a trenchant critique of culture, and the elaboration of metaphysics and epistemology was carried on in the theosophical schools of Islamic mysticism.

Adapted from the book: "Groundwork in Islamic Philosophy"

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