Joseph Kenny, O.P.


Introduction (below)
1. Historical survey
2 God and the world
3. Secondary causality or determinism
4. The human soul
5. The way to happiness
6. Faith and reason
Bibliography of works quoted
Detailed bibliography of the works of each philosopher


The sudden burst of Greco-Arab philosophy into the Western world in the thirteenth century irreversibly altered the course of European thought and continues to reverberate in world history.

The philosophy of the Arab-Muslim world began as a discovery of an ancient heritage, and moved on in its own original way. Freely delving into every topic of human interest, it came up with theories that had serious consequences on religion, society and the individual. The questions raised then are still discussed today, and it is worth while to see how they were approached in a different time and culture.

It is not easy to define the focus of a book like this. On the one hand, philosophy at that time included all of science. (1) Here only certain major themes are reviewed, touching on the destiny of man and religion, such as the existence of God, human freedom before the omnipotence of God (with the question of evil), the immortality of the human soul, and the relationship between philosophy and revelation.

Again, while we may expect to look at the major players, such as al-Kindî, al-Fârâbî, Ibn-Sînâ et Ibn-Rushd, we must avoid focusing strictly on the Arab or Muslim world. Some of the great philosophers of this world were non-Arabs or non-Muslims. Nor can we leave out Latin Averroism and the reply of Thomas Aquinas. It was one intellectual world debating the same questions with the same philosophical tools.

A new résumé of the thought of the Muslim philosophers is particularly called for now because of the vast number of publications of the works of these philosophers over the past thirty years. Even though more specialized work remains to be done, a new synthesis of the thought of these philosophers is called for.

Presupposing a general knowledge of the history of philosophy and a familiarity with the fundamental notions of Aristotelian and neo-Platonic philosophy, I first present a historical survey, then devote a chapter to each of five main themes.

I designed this book primarily as a course textbook such as can cross-fertilize a general program of philosophy. It should at the same time serve as a reference book on the subject.

1. Apart from what will be discussed below, see Ibn-Bâjja, Risâla al-wadâ`, p. 120.