Islamic Philosophy, Science, Culture, and Religion: Studies in Honor of Dimitri Gutas

By Rizvi, Sajjad | The Journal of the American Oriental Society, January-March 2015 | Go to article overview

Islamic Philosophy, Science, Culture, and Religion: Studies in Honor of Dimitri Gutas


Rizvi, Sajjad, The Journal of the American Oriental Society


Islamic Philosophy, Science, Culture, and Religion: Studies in Honor of Dimitri Gutas. Edited by FELICITAS OPWIS and DAVID REISMAN. Islamic Philosophy, Theology and Science, vol. 83. Leiden: Brill, 2012. Pp. xii + 493. $221, 161 [euro].

There is little doubt that Dimitri Gutas is a major contributor to the history of Arabic-Islamic philosophy, both through his work--notably, his model study locating Avicenna in the Aristotelian tradition (Leiden: Brill, 1988)--and through the training of exemplary doctoral students who in turn have extended our understanding of the course of philosophical traditions in the world of Islam. Building on his work on the classical period, Gutas has made a strong case for why we should take the philosophical speculations and achievements of the post-Avicennan period, the so-called golden age, more seriously, while clearly, and emphatically, distancing himself from the "theosophical" approach to later hikma espoused by Henry Corbin and Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Many of us coming into the field in the last twenty years and wishing to make sense of the later traditions were often caught up in the polemics of the two sides, exemplified by the argument over whether one could discern a mystical tendency, approach, or even privileging of non-discursive noetic activity in the thought of Avicenna. Part of this argument relates to definitions of categories, and part to one's own philosophical and ontological commitments to a vision of reality.

The present volume is a fitting and rich celebration of Gutas' work, bringing together many of his colleagues and students; it was edited by two of the latter, one of whom (David Reisman) sadly passed away before it appeared. The collection demonstrates the breadth of Gutas' interests in Arabic and Islamic studies as well as ancient thought. The twenty contributions, of which one--by Gutas' long-standing collaborator Gerhard Endress--is in German, range over three categories: the classical heritage, Arabic sciences and philosophy, and the Muslim traditional sciences.

Some of the chapters are indexical, providing useful notes and indicators for scholars to follow up. Hans Daiber presents the contribution of cAbd Allah Ibn al-Fadl of Antioch (eleventh century) as a Christian transmitter of the Hellenic tradition. Heinrich von Staden's study of Galen of Pergamum (d. ca. 216) on anger and that of William Fortenbaugh on the Aristotelian philosopher Aristo of Ceus are on non-Arabic traditions and arise from Gutas' engagement with and interest in the historical background to the classical Arabic philosophical tradition. Gutas and Fortenbaugh earlier collaborated on a study of Theophrastus and a major recent contribution is Gutas' study and edition of Theophrastus' On First Principles. Hidemi Takahashi examines the fortunes and transmission of one Syriac manuscript of Bar Hebraeus preserved in the Yale collection. David King tackles legends within intellectual history, and offers a contribution on the invention of algebra in Yemen. Charles Burnett and Gideon Bohak jointly demonstrate how Geniza material can be exploited through careful philology to recover work of lost thinkers, in this case Thabit b. Qurra's De imaginibus. The late David Reisman's rather personal study of the medical ethics of Ibn Ridwan (d. 1061 or 1068) argues for the social significance of the field. Robert Wisnovsky's presentation of one Safavid manuscript from the Madrasa-yi Marvi in Tehran recovers the work of Yahya Ibn 'Adi (d. 974), a Christian Aristotelian of the classical period whose work has attracted recent attention; the codex includes fifty-three works of which twenty-four were previously thought to be lost (as enumerated in the analytical inventory of Endress published in 1977). It should be read alongside another article and partial edition by Wisnovsky dedicated to the same codex in a recently published festschrift for Hossein Modarressi, and signals the forthcoming edition of the text in the series co-published by the Institute of Islamic Studies in Berlin. …

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