METHOD STRUCTURE AND DEVELOPMENT IN AL-FARABI COSMOLOGY
  • Book Title:
 Method Structure And Development In Al Farabi Cosmology
  • Book Author:
Damien Janos
  • Total Pages
447
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METHOD STRUCTURE AND DEVELOPMENT IN AL-FARABI COSMOLOGY – Book Sample

CONTENTS – METHOD STRUCTURE AND DEVELOPMENT IN AL-FARABI COSMOLOGY

  • Acknowledgements … xi
  • Abbreviations …xiii
  • Introduction …. 1
  • I Cosmology, the Sciences, and the Scientific Method.. 11
  • The Late Antique Greek and Early Islamic Contexts.. 11
    • Some Biographical Notes .. 12
    • The Dual Legacy of Greek Astronomy and
  • Philosophy … 16
    • Early Islamic Cosmological Trends .. 26
    • Cosmology in al-Fārābī’s Philosophical Treatises
  • and the Problem with Mahdi’s Hypothesis .. 38
  • Astronomy and its Place in the Philosophical Curriculum .. 43
    • Astronomy and Astrology and their Subject Matter .. 44
    • The Principles of Astronomy .. 57
  • The Primacy of Metaphysics and its Impact
  • on Cosmology … 73
  • Al-Fārābī and the Later hayʾah Tradition .. 82
  • Demonstration and Analogy: A Tension in
  • al-Fārābī’s Method … 84
  • The Evidence for and against Demonstration .. 84
  • The Limits of Human Knowledge and the Role
  • of Analogy… 94
  • Transferred Terms (asmāʾ manqūlah) and
  • Transference (naqlah).. 98
  • 4. Conclusion …111
  • II The Architecture of the Heavens: Intellects, Souls, and Orbs ..115
  • The Celestial Bodies…115
    • Orbs, Spheres, Planets, and Stars..115
    • Al-Fārābī and Ptolemy on the Planetary Models ..119
    • The Celestial Souls…128
  • The Separate Intellects …142
    • The Origin of al-Fārābī’s Ennadic Scheme..142
    • A New Problem …162
  • viii contents
  • The Nature, Activity, and Knowledge of the
  • Separate Intellects ..167
  • The Special Case of the Agent Intellect ..174
  • 2.5. Intellect and Form..176
  • The First (al-awwal) …180
  • Unity and Multiplicity…190
  • Conclusion …201
  • III Matter and Creation: A Shift in Paradigms? ..203
  • The Nature of Celestial Matter..203
    • Al-Fārābī’s Hylic Terminology ..203
  • A Survey of Celestial Matter in al-Fārābī’s
  • Philosophy …206
  • Four Explanations of al-Fārābī’s Theory
  • of Substrate (mawḍūʿ)..222
  • The Origin of Matter: From Creationism to Eternal
  • Causation …235
  • Aether and Creationism: An Exercise
  • in Harmonization…236
  • Iḥ̣ ʾ and Aghrāḍ: Two Transitional Works? ..256
    • A Common Cosmogonical Paradigm ..266
    • Conclusion …279
    • Falsafat Aristūtạ̄ līs ..283
  • The Eternalist Paradigm: Ārāʾ, Siyāsah, Taḥ̣ l,
  • Fusūl, and Fī l-ʿaql ..286
  • Causation, Compositeness, and the Celestial
  • Substrate …304
  • Strengthening the Developmentalist Hypothesis..312
  • Conclusion …325
  • IV The Aporia of Celestial Motion..333
  • The Various Motions of the Heavenly Bodies ..333
  • The Causes of Celestial Motion ..339
    • Nature and Motion: An Impasse..339
    • Quwwah …345
    • Intellection as a Cause of Motion ..348
  • The Problem of the Particular Motions of the Planets ..355
    • Ibn Sīnā and the Different Models of Planetary
  • Motion …356
  • contents ix
  • A Hypothetical Reconstruction of al-Fārābī’s
  • Kinematic Model…362
  • Celestial Kinematics and the Classification of the
  • Sciences in falsafah ..369
  • Conclusion …376
  • Conclusion ….379
  • Appendix 1 ….383
  • Appendix 2 ….397
  • Bibliography …403
  • Index ….427
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Early Islamic Cosmological Trends

Al-Fārābī’s cosmological theories should also be contextualized in terms of the religious, philosophical, and scientific activity that devel- oped during the first centuries of Islam. In this regard at least three important elements come into play: traditional Islamic cosmology, the philosophical precedents of al-Kindī and Abū Bakr al-Rāzī, and the development of an Arabic astronomical tradition.

Traditional Islamic Cosmology and Early kalām

The first Islamic centuries witnessed the emergence of a traditional cosmology that has its roots in various passages of the Qurʾān and in some ḥadīths. This ‘Qurʾānic’ or ‘traditionalist’ cosmological model quickly became widespread in Islamic society, due to the exalted status of these texts in Muslim worship and scholarship. It also gradually infiltrated other Arabic literary genres such as poetry, creeds, tafsīr, sīrah, and miʿrāj accounts. Briefly, it presents the universe as consisting of seven superimposed earths and heavens, with God’s throne (ʿarsh) and footstool (kursī) occupying the space above it.38

 There is some ambiguity concerning the shape of these seven heavens, which could be either domed or complete orbs surrounding the earth, depending on one’s interpretation of the relevant verses. The celestial bodies, i.e., the sun, moon, and stars, occupy the space of the lowest heaven and move through the firmament by gliding in their orbits, while celestial oceans or rivers encircle the entire structure. As for the earth, it is presumably flat and is compared to a carpet that has been spread by God.

 Finally, it is important to stress that all of these heavenly entities were created by God for the welfare and benefit of human beings and to help them perform their various daily tasks and activities.39 This model (Figure 1), which assumed the role of a paradigm for many Muslim theologians and traditionalists, endured well into the early modern period, as can be seen in the works of the fifteenth-century author al-Suyūṭī.40

A quick comparison between al-Fārābī’s cosmology and this Qurʾānic model enables one to perceive the gap that separates them and the very different sources and traditions from which they stem. While the Qurʾānic model is indebted to previous Biblical sources and ultimately to ancient Mesopotamian culture and religion, the roots of al-Fārābī’s model, in contrast, can be traced back to the Greek philosophical and scientific traditions of late antiquity.41

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In addition, and contrary to many other Arabic thinkers, one does not perceive in his works any effort to reconcile the Ptolemaic worldview with the Qurʾānic scheme of seven earths and seven heavens and with Islamic cosmology in general.42 On the contrary, some of al-Fārābī’s theories, such as the ensoulment of the heavenly bodies, the eternity of celestial motion, and the causation of the separate intellects, are not compatible with the tra-ditional Islamic understanding of the universe and of God’s relation to His creation.

Although al-Fārābī shows no interest for the Qurʾānic cosmological model, one should not conclude that the Islamic theological tradition was not instrumental in shaping some aspects of his cosmology, be it only in reaction to it. Indeed, the model outlined above seems to have been prevalent in traditionalist Muslim circles and not among the the-ological groups that assimilated some aspects of Greek philosophy, especially the Muʿtazilites and some Ashʿarites. Although little is known about the early cosmology of these theologians, S. Pines, H. A. Wolfson, and A. Dhanani have shown that kalām was already actively engaged in physical and cosmological pursuits during al-Fārābī’s life and that the Muslim theologians debated among themselves and against the phi-losophers about various physical issues.43

 It is therefore not unreason-able to surmise that al-Fārābī was cognizant of these theologians’ position on important topics such as the creation of the universe, atom-ism and the nature of celestial matter, as well as the ontological status of the celestial bodies, even though it is objectively difficult to establish concrete links and textual parallels between these thinkers.

In this con-nection, U. Rudolph has in two recent papers argued that al-Fārābī was aware of some of the debates taking place in the theological circles of his day and that there is a structural overlap between his treatises and contemporary theological works.44

 As J. van Ess argued some time ear-lier, it is possible that he intended to refute the views of individual theo-logians hailing from Khurāsān, notably Ibn al-Rāwandī and Abū l-Qāsim al-Balkhī.45 Indeed, the doctrines of these Khurāsānī theolo-gians had spread to a geographic area comparatively closer to al-Fārābī’s homeland than to the ʿAbbāsid capital.46

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In addition to the Muslim mutakallimūn, it is possible that the doc-trines of the Christian theologians inspired some of al-Fārābī’s ideas with regard to cosmogony. Al-Fārābī’s formative years, spent in the company of the Baghdad Christian commentators and philosophers, not only influenced his understanding of Aristotle, but may also have been decisive in shaping some of his views on the question of the crea-tion of the world.

It is well known that al-Fārābī in Jamʿ attributes a creationist position to Aristotle, a view which may also be defended in some of his other treatises. Assuming for the time being that these writings are authentic, can the view they put forth be attributed to the influence of theological ideas on al-Fārābī’s early intellectual forma-tion?

While this question will be discussed in detail in chapter 3, suffice it to say here that the dialectic between the doctrines of the philoso-phers and those of the Christian and Muslim theologians is an impor-tant element of the early history of Arabic thought and should be borne in mind when analyzing the works of the falāsifah.47

Method Structure and Development in al-Farabi Cosmology, Method Structure and Development in al-Farabi Cosmology

Early Arabic Philosophical Precedents

The role of previous Arabic philosophers, especially al-Kindī and Abū Bakr al-Rāzī, in shaping the approach and content of the Second Teacher’s cosmology represents another important aspect of the prob-lem. They were the two most outstanding figures of the pre-Fārābīan Arabic philosophical tradition and had already elaborated complex cosmologies, which, like al-Fārābī’s, assimilated Greek ideas and theo-ries to address the theological and philosophical problems of their day.

Al-Kindī plays a particularly important role in our story, for to our knowledge he is the first Arabic philosopher to develop a full-fledged cosmological model that relies on a substantial amount of astronomi-cal data and to show some interest for this science. Al-Kindī wrote extensively on cosmology and was particularly interested in astronomy and astrology, as his numerous writings on these subjects testify.48 Like al-Fārābī, al-Kindī is said to have commented on Almagest, and again like al-Fārābī, he integrates a large share of astronomical, and

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