Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

2011 Edition
| Editors: Henrik Lagerlund

Natural Philosophy, Arabic

  • Josep Puig Montada
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9729-4_349

Abstract

Islamic philosophy does not have a unique doctrine about nature and physical issues, but has common features. Two main streams flow in a related direction: the kalām tradition mostly assumes that substances are bodies made of atoms; the falsafa distinguishes between sensible and immaterial substances and assumes substances are bodies that can be infinitely divided. Under the influence of Greek philosophy, falsafa develops a deeper and more comprehensive explanation of nature. It conflicts with kalām on the issue of the preeternity of the universe, because the mutakallimūn understand that eternity in the past excludes the causal action of a free agent. Although this is an important issue, it is not the only one. The condemnation of Averroes in Almohad times and occasional burnings of philosophy books, including Avicenna’s, should not make us believe that falsafa was ousted from Islamic learning. Many Islamic thinkers, such as al-Baydawī (d. 1316?), did not see any conflict in studying kalām and falsafa at the same time. They were abiding by the Qurʾānic teaching to contemplate and reflect on nature.

The Merciful taught the Qurʾān

Created man,

Taught him the explanation:

The sun and the moon are in a reckoning

The star and the tree do obeisance (Qurʾān 55:1–5).

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Josep Puig Montada
    • 1
  1. 1.Facultad de FilosofíaUniversidad Complutense de MadridMadridSpain