Avicenna (Great Medieval Thinkers) – Book Sample
Historical Background: Avicenna (Great Medieval Thinkers)
From Athens to Baghdad Ex nihilo nihilo fit: Nothing comes from nothing, and Avicenna and his philosophy are no exception. Indeed, multiple influences were at work in the formation of his thought.
In this chapter, I consider a few of these influences so as to provide a general backdrop against which to situate the intellectual and political-historical milieu within which Avicenna worked.
To this end, I begin the odyssey that was Avicenna’s life with a brief look at the Greek scientific and philosophical course curriculum being taught at the Academies in Athens and Alexandria, which in turn became the standard regimen of study for those practitioners of falsafa, that is, the Arabic philosophical tradition that saw itself as the immediate heir and continuation of a Neoplatonized Aristotelianism.
I then consider the reception and appropriation of this Greek scientific and philosophical heritage into Arabic, which in its turn also offers an opportunity to consider the Islamic political situation just prior to and during the time of Avicenna.
In addition to the Graeco-Arabic scientific tradition, Avicenna also took inspiration from influences indigenous to the culture in which he lived. These include, but are certainly not limited to, the religion of Islam itself and particularly its philosophical-theological articulation (kal m), the Persian Renaissance, and of course mathematical, scientific, and philosophical developments that were being done in Arabic as well.
Once having provided this background, I turn to the life and works of Avicenna himself and the political turmoil of the region that haunted him and constantly forced him to be on the move throughout his life.
The Greek Milieu
While Avicenna was born outside of Bukhr in what is now modern-day Uzbekistan in 980 of the Common Era, a significant part of his story begins some 1,300 years earlier in Athens. For it is the fourth century BCE Greek philosopher, Aristotle, and his works on logic, science, and philosophy that would provide the starting point for much of Avicenna’s own unique vision of philosophy.
Indeed, it was the works of Aristotle—ordered and supplemented by later thinkers—that provided what might be called the school curriculum for most philosophers working in the late Hellenistic world—whether in the academy at Athens until it was closed in 529 CE or thereafter in the academy at Alexandria
Avicenna (Great Medieval Thinkers)
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