Al-Kindi (The Philosopher of The Arabs)

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Item Code: NAG990
Author: George N. Atiyeh
Publisher: Kitab Bhavan
Language: Arabic and English
Edition: 2006
ISBN: 8171511872
Pages: 254
Cover: Hardcover
Other Details 8.5 inch x 5.5 inch
Weight 480 gm
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Book Description
About The Book

In this book an attempt is made to present al-kindi's philosophy in comprehensive way for the general readers and the students of Arab-Muslims thought. Al-Kidni contributed a lot in philosophical and scientific sphere. The present treatise based on metaphysics and astronomy. It also deals the problems relation between philosophy, religion and ethics.



I have attempted here to present to the general reader and the student of Arab-Muslim thought a tolerable sketch of al-Kindi's philosophy. I thought it important and necessary to bring together in one volume the information available about his philosophy and works, and to trace his Influence down the centuries. I do not pretend to have written an exhaustive, least of all, a final study of al-Kindi and his contribution to philosophy.

Al-Kindi is the first of a galaxy of great Muslim thinkers whose humanistic and scientific works helped shape the trend of the medieval Arab renaisance. To study him is important not only for tracing the origin of the different tendencies in Arab-Muslim thought, but also for understanding the methodologies and attitudes of a great number of Muslim thinkers. His writings which include works on all current sciences of his time put him in a unique position to help establish the relations of Arab-Muslim philosophy with earlier philosophies and with following generations of Muslim thinkers who deal with metaphysical, and scientific problems.

The existence of an Arab-Muslim philosophy raises many problems. In what sense can we consider it pure Philosophy? In what relation does it stand to theology? What peculiarities of its own does it have? What contributions did it make to the discipline of philosophy as a whole? Philosophy is a technical term as we know. It is the study of reality, the search for certainty and the study of values by means of reason. In this sense philosophy is a Greek invention. The ancient Greeks established the bases and the rules for the huge and kaleidoscopic edifice of philosophy; and since then men of all nations have been adding their own contribution and insight to that edifice. One, therefore, cannot take the study of philosophy solely to mean, the rational search into reality and actions; it should be considered also as conceptual formulation of man's deeper experiences and his interpretation of the world through a peculiar vision springing from the ethos of the philosopher's own environment.

The Near East like all other areas that have contributed to philosophical thought has a manifest set of beliefs and a particular world-view. It has contributed, both in Ancient and Medieval times, an important share to philosophy by inventing new approaches, by discovering new solutions and simply by bringing in its own vision to contrast with the extreme rationalistic and humanistic attitude of the greatest of the Greek philosophers. It has been often been said that the Arab-Muslim world has no proclivity towards rationalistic philosophy and science. It is indeed a challenge to try to prove the contrary especially when one believes that philosophy cannot be as objective and rationalistic as that. In al-Kindi we have a notable case of an Arab-Muslim intellectual, representing the milieu in which he flourished. It should be interesting and enlightening to study him first as a philosopher and a product of his own genius and secondly as a product of the genius of his race. Regardless of what one thinks of al-kindi, there is no doubt that he channelised Arab- Muslim thought into new alleys. His raising the problems of the relation between philosophy and religion, his delving into the problem of the One, his attitude towards the epistemological and ethical problems single him out as the founder of Arab-Muslim philosophy.

Any extensive study of al-Kindi would have been almost impossible a few years ago. The relatively recent publication in original Arabic of a number of his philosophical treatises not only throws new Iight on the mode of thinking and ideas of the Philosopher of the Arabs, but also on the situation of philosophy in the Near East during the 3rd/9th century.

The publication in the early fifties of the present century by Professor M. A. Abu Ridah of Egypt of twenty-six treatises of al-Kindi generated new interest in the philosopher and his times. The works that have been published since then about al-Kindi, though not numerous, are quite extensive and indicative of this new interest.

The published works of al-Kindi range from metaphysics to astronomy. Each treatise is preceded by an outline and a brief study of the contents; the first volume opens with a general introduction which, as a whole, constitutes the best study on al-Kindi yet published in Arabic. The millenary celebrations held in Baghdad in 1962 under the auspices of the Ministry of Information, Government of Iraq, also served as a stimulus. The apparent aim of the celebrations was served well by focussing the attention of the students of Arab-Muslim thought on the first true philosopher of the Islamic world.

In English there is yet relatively very little written on al-Kindi. Professor R. Walzer blazed the trail in the recent past, and the publication by Professor Nicholas Rescher of University of Pittsburgh of a general Annotated Bibliography on al-Kindi (Pittsburgh, 1964) should prove most useful. With the publication of the present book and its Appendix on the works •of al-Kindi, it is hoped to complete the levelling of the ground for further and more profound studies, general as well as specialized.

The Appendix is based on the list of titles of Ibn al-Nadim, the oldest that we possess. The additions and difference contained in this list are the result of investigations done in published materials without reference to extant manuscripts, which was rather a difficult task. The paucity of research facilities on Arabic and Muslim cultures at the University of Puerto Rico and the dispersion of al-Kindi's extant works over a wide area prevented me from fulfilling this essential requirement.

The title of the third Appendix is mine. The material comes from al-Muntakhab Siwan al-Hikmah, an unpublished work based on Abu Sulayman al-Mantiqi al-Sijistani's (d. 391/1001) famous but lost work Siwan al-Hikmah.

Fortunately the abbreviator whose name is not mentioned in any of the manuscripts and who must have lived not later than 639/1241, made a selection (muntakhab) of what he thought were significant parts of al-Sijistani's original work. "I decided to set down the lives of the philosophers, their names and some of their ideas and characters, so I have selected from Siwan al-Hikmah an account of the ancients, and I placed at the end (of my selection) Talimmah Siwan al-Hikmah of the excellent scholar Zahir al Din Abu'l Hasan ibn 'Ali al-Qasim al-Bayhaqi, God's Mercy be on him."

There are several copies of this work: one in the British Museum, three in Istanbul, one in Leiden and one in Cairo. This work, one of the oldest references to al-Kindi and other Arab and Greek philosophers, contains a collection of anecdotes about al-Kindi, analects and selected passages from his writings.

To establish the text of the selection on al-Knidi, I used photostat copies of two manuscripts, the first, MS. On 9033 (fols. 60a-65b), in the British Museum (7th/14th century). On this I based my text. The second MS. 902 Koprulu in Istanbul (8th/15th century). Both seem to come from the same source. However, the manuscript in the British Museum contains an additional passage covering about fifteen lines. The Koprulu copyist could not have left that part out on purpose, but most• probably he skipped over the missing lines by mistake.

Unfortunately, neither al-Mantiqi nor the abbreviator mentions the. sources from which they selected their passage on al-Kindi. Except for numbers five and seven which come from the treatise On the Soul, we have no way of determining what specific works of al-Kindi they come from. Some of the passages are biographical in nature and consequently could not have been taken from al-Kindi's own works. The great majority could have been drawn from his ethical treatise, and there is an indication that some of the sayings have been taken from Tahsil Subul al-Fada'il.

The sayings in themselves correspond to a popular genre of literature common during the times of al-Kindi and frequently found in the East as a whole. Miskawayh (d. 420/1029), a friend and disciple of al-Mantiqi, put together a collection of Arab, Indian, Persian and Greek sayings in his Jawidan Khirad (Cairo, 1952). The Maxims of Socrates, which al-Kindi was possibly the first to popularize in Arabic, are to be found with minor changes in Miskawayh's work.

I hope the publication in this volume of the passages preserved by al-Sijistani would prove useful.

Finally, I would like to thank the authorities of The Carnegie Fund and the University of Puerto Rico for their financial aid. I would also like to thank Professor Lewis Richardson for correcting the language of the first draft, and Mrs. Charles Toth for correcting the second draft of this book. To Professor A. S. Bazmee Ansari, General Editor of the series, should go my deepest gratitude for undertaking to translate the Sayings of al-Knidi into English and for all the editorial improvements that my book needed.




1 The life and Times of al-Kindi 1-15
2 The Philosophy of al-Kindi 16-39
  A-Philosophy and Religion 16
  B-Logic, method, and the classification of the philosophical sciences 29
3 The Theoretical Philosophy 40-87
  A-The Metaphysics of Being 40
  B-Creation 44
  C-God: the Proofs of His Existence 52
  D-God: The Divine Predicates 56
  E-The Organization of the Created World 62
  F-The Philosophy of Nature 73
4 Anthropology 88-108
  A-The Soul and its Nature 88
  B-The Faculties of the Soul 93
  C-Mind 100
5 Ethics 109-131
  A-Al-Kindi's Ethical Theory 109
  B-Al-Kindi and the Hellenistic Ethical Tradition 114
  C-The Place of al-Kindi in Muslim and Western Thought 121
  APPENDIX I. The Works of al-kindi 132
  APPENDIX II. On the Intellect 193
  APPENDIX III. The Sayings of al-Kindi 197-234
  Arabic Text 197
  English Translation 219

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