Online conference on post-Avicennian Islamic philosophy and theology
University of Jyväskylä, June 2–3 2021
Organised by the project Epistemic Transitions in Islamic Philosophy, Theology, and Science and funded by the European Research Council
The conference is open to all interested parties. The Zoom links and possible updates will be announced at the conference website,
For further information, please contact Mr. Kutlu Okan (firstname.lastname@example.org).
All times are in Helsinki/Eastern European Summer Time (UTC +3 hours).
Wednesday, June 2
Topic: After Avicenna Day 1
Time: Jun 2, 2021 12:00 PM Helsinki
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Meeting ID: 636 3711 0446
12.00-13.15 Keynote talk: Ayman Shihadeh (SOAS & NYUAD), On the Origins of the Philosophical Turn: al-Juwaynī and Avicenna
13.30-15.00 Panel 1: Logic and the scientific method
Dustin Klinger (Harvard University), Propositional Analysis in Post-Avicennan Philosophical Thought
Mehmet Fatih Arslan (Istanbul University), Taʿdīl al-kalām: Avicennian Adjustment to Post-Rāzīan Kalām
Abdulhakeem Alkhelaifi (Qatar University), The Foundation of World of Soul in Abu al-Barakat al-Baghdadi
16.00-17.30 Panel 2: Avicenna’s impact in theology
Hisashi Obuchi (University of Freiburg), Zayn al-Dīn al-Kaššī’s (d. before 1228) Ḥanafite Background and Moral Rationalism in Tuḥfat al-aṣḥāb
Ayşe Betül Tekin (Harvard University/Yalova University), Shams al-Din al-Isfahani’s Presentation of Classifications of Existents
17.45-19.00 Keynote talk: Frank Griffel (Yale University), Books of ḥikma and Books of kalām – Was There Also a Third Genre in Post-Classical Philosophy?
Thursday, June 3
Topic: After Avicenna Day 2
Time: Jun 3, 2021 13:00 PM Helsinki
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Meeting ID: 642 3608 5901
13.00-14.15 Keynote talk: Amos Bertolacci (IMT School for Advanced Studies, Lucca), Manuscripts and Readers of Avicenna’s Šifāʾ: Faḫr al-Dīn al-Rāzī and Edward Pococke
14.45-16.15 Panel 3: New avenues in the reception of Avicenna
István Lánczky (Avicenna Institute of Middle Eastern Studies), Ibn Ghaylān al-Balkhī against Avicenna on the Infinity of Body
Ivana Panzeca (Scuola Normale Superiore, FSCIRE/La Pira Library and Research Centre), Avicenna’s Ilāhiyyāt: Preliminary Notes on the Persian Translations in the Safavid Era
Salam Rassi (University of Oxford), Syriac Philosophy after Avicenna: Barhebraeus on the Modulation of Being
16.30-18.00 Panel 4: Perspectives to the soul
Ali Fikri Yavuz (Istanbul University), Arguing Soul through Poetry: Samarqandī’s Epistemological Resolution between Ibn Sīnā and Rāzī
Fariduddin Attar (McGill University), Metaphysics and the Cosmic System in Post-Avicennian ḥikma: Abū al-Barakāt al-Baghdādī and Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī’s Interpretation of Ibn Sīnā’s ‘Principle of Unity’ (qāʿidat al-wāḥid)
Ahmet Faruk Yolcu (Istanbul Medeniyet University), A New Perspective in the Origination (ḥudūṯ)/Contingency (imkān) Debates After Avicenna: Kemālpas̲hazādah’s (d. 940/1534) Interpretation of Origination
The Foundation of World of Soul in Abu al-Barakat al-Baghdadi
After Avicenna, a new philosophy emerged in Eastern Islam: the philosophy of Illumination. Though commonly attributed to Suhrawardi (1154-1191), some of its ideas can still be traced back to Abu al-Barakat al-Baghdadi (1077-1164-5). One of these ideas is the World of Suspended Forms, an intermediate world existing between material world and intelligible world. Before Suhrawardi, Abu al-Barakat has divided reality into three worlds: world of Matter, world of Soul, and world of Intellect. In the world of Soul, sensible and imaginative images are things possessing shapes and sizes. He was able to introduce this world when he rejected Avicennian-Aristotelian’s idea of existence as higher genus, and, instead, embraced Stoics’ idea of something as higher genus. As wider than existence, something encompasses both what exists and what does not. This enabled him to introduce a category of non-existent something: things which subsist in the Soul and therefore fall under the nature of things. First, Avicenna’s theory of categories and its relationship to hylomorphism is examined. Next, Abu al-Barakat’s concept of something as a higher genus and its relationship to the world of Soul is considered. Finally, Abu al-Barakat’s impact on Suhrawardi’s world of Suspended Forms is presented.
Arslan, Mehmet Fatih
Taʿdīl al-Kalām: Avicennian Adjustment to Post-Rāzīan Kalām
The purpose of this presentation is to give an analysis of the interaction between kalām and philosophy in Ṣadr al-Sharī‘a al-Bukhārī’s (d. 747/1346) Ta‘dīl al-kalām (Adjustment of Kalām). In his introduction the author states that he intends to reorganize and to strengthen the structure of kalām, unfortunately without offering any explanation of the method or the means by which he will pursue this goal. Thus, this study will argue that Ṣadr al-Sharī‘a tried to revive and strengthen Maturidian kalām by utilizing the structure and problematics of Ibn Sīnā’s al-Ishārāt, alongside the two most important commentaries on this work by Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī and Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Ṭūsi. The most important claim of this study is that in his Taʿdīl al-Kalām, Ṣadr al-Sharīʿa surveys the tradition of al-Ishārāt both in terms of problematics and outline. A closer examination will show that following al-Rāzī’s pattern, he thoroughly criticizes or adapts the philosophical theories of al-Ishārāt and al-Ṭūsī’s Sharh al-Ishārāt. He thus ultimately aims to improve and reinforce the structure of Maturidian kalām by facing the challenges of Avicennian tradition.
Metaphysics and the Cosmic System in Post-Avicennian ḥikma: Abū al-Barakāt al-Baghdādī and Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī’s Interpretation of Ibn Sīnā’s ‘Principle of Unity’ (qāʿidat al-wāḥid)
The central cosmogonic doctrine in Ibn Sīnā’s philosophy is the principle that “from what is essentially one, only one thing may proceed.” Paradigmatically, the “Principle of Unity” describes the unique circumstances that regulate the atemporal ‘creation’ of the first creature, that is the First Intellect. However, does this principle also underlie Ibn Sīnā’s cosmic system as a whole? While a number of studies have discussed the Principle from the perspective of metaphysics, none have examined its possible relevance in other areas of his philosophy. Yet it is precisely on this extended deployment that the most compelling evaluations of the Principle emerge in the Post-Avicennian period. Abū al-Barakāt al-Baghdadī’s critique initiated a line of inquiry that became highly influential, especially for the Sunnī polymath Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī. They argue that this principle is operative in the context of psychology, in particular Ibn Sīnā’s theory of faculty differentiation and the soul’s transcendent governance of the body. This paper will focus on the psychological dimension of the critique and show how it forms the starting point of Abū al-Barakāt and al-Rāzī’s reasoning for alternative models of the cosmic system.
Manuscripts and Readers of Avicenna’s Šifāʾ: Faḫr al-Dīn al-Rāzī and Edward Pococke
One of the most flourishing fields of scholarly research related to the philosophy of Avicenna (d. 428H/1037) is the study of the influence that the Šayḫ al-raʾīs exerted on subsequent philosophers and theologians, among whom Faḫr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 606H/1210) holds a place of eminence.
The present paper consists of three parts. In the first, I analyze the historical evidence according to which Faḫr al-Dīn al-Rāzī commented on Avicenna’s magnum opus Kitāb al-Šifāʾ (Book of the Cure/Healing) by means of an exegesis made of twenty-five volumes. The second part is an overview of the collection of manuscripts of the Šifāʾ gathered by Edward Pococke (d. 1691) in the Bodleian Library of Oxford, which originally consisted, in all likelihood, of twenty-five items. In the third and final part, I check whether these two apparently unrelated pieces of evidence – relevant, respectively, for the history of Avicennism and the transmission of Avicenna’s works, and studied in separation so far – might be interconnected, trying to determine whether the twenty-five volumes of the alleged commentary on the Šifāʾ by al-Rāzī may be related to the twenty-five codices of the Šifāʾ actually preserved in the Bodelian Pococke collection.
Books of ḥikma and Books of kalām – Was There Also a Third Genre in Post-Classical Philosophy?
In my forthcoming book The Formation of Post-Classical Philosophy in Islam, to be published with Oxford University Press this summer, I argue that philosophy in Islam’s post-classical period (i.e. after c 1100) divides into at least two genres, namely books of ḥikma and books of kalām. Authors in the mature period of post-classical philosophy in Islam such as Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 606/1210), al-Āmidī (d. 631/1233), al-Abharī (d. 663/1265), or Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (d. 672/1274) wrote works in both genres. This is prima facie puzzling, because books of ḥikma generally argue in favor of a self-necessitating God who exercises no choice between alternatives in what to create and they also argue in favor of a creation without beginning in time. Books of kalām, on the other hand,argue in favor of a God who is a choosing actor (fāʿil mukhtār) and a world that is created in time. Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, for instance, argues in al-Mabāḥith al-mashriqiyya, al-Mulakhkhaṣ fī l-ḥikma wa-l-manṭiq, and in his Sharḥ al-Ishārāt for a self-necessitating First Principle (mabdāʾ mūjib) and an eternal world, and in his al-Ishāra fī-l-kalām, Nihāyat al-ʿuqūl, and Kitāb al-Arbaʿīn that God is a fāʿil mukhtār and that the world is created in time. In my forthcoming study I offer an explanation for this puzzling fact, which has thus far largely escaped our attention, or, where it has been noticed, has been explained with a change of mind of these authors.
In my paper I am asking whether there were also within the tradition of post-classical philosophy in Islam books that transcend this genre division? While none of the eastern philosophers of Islam in the post-classical period wrote a book like Averroes’ Faṣl al-maqāl that deals with the relationship between books of philosophy and books of kalām, are there books of philosophy from the Islamic east that cannot be subsumed under these two genres? The paper will discuss the case of al-Rāzī’s al-Maṭālib al-ʿāliya which presents itself as a book on ilāhiyyāt, which is a subject of ḥikma, but most often takes positions familiar from books of kalām. Was al-Maṭālib al-ʿāliya, hence, a book of kalām? That’s at least how many readers perceived it. But did its author also perceive it this way?
Propositional Analysis in Post-Avicennan Philosophical Thought
My paper presents a comparative study of the analysis of simple categorical statements in the works of the “new logicians” (Ibn Khaldūn) Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d.1210) and Afḍal al-Dīn al-Khūnajī (d. 1248) on the one hand and the authors of the new logic handbooks around Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (d. 1274) at the Marāghā observatory on the other. In Aristotle’s Organon the analysis of atomic propositions faces a conundrum: while in the De interpretatione they are analyzed into name (ὀνόμα) and statement-word (ῥῆμα), two distinct, heterogenous, logical categories that “interweave” to form a proposition, the Analytica Priora presents them as consisting of two terms, subject and predicate, that are connected by a copula. The conversion rules of the syllogistics require terms to be interchangeable and thus homogenous. Post-Avicennian logicians picked up on the debates on the role of the copula advanced by Alfarabi and Avicenna to make sense of this tension. Post-Avicennian logicians no longer worked on Aristotle, but on Avicenna, and they increasingly realized, helped by their linguistic intuitions from Arabic that doesn’t use a copula, that the copula theory was problematic. Their changing conception of this most fundamental logical relation had wider repercussions for their logical and metaphysical views.
Ibn Ghaylān al-Balkhī against Avicenna on the Infinity of Body
Ibn Ghaylān al-Balkhī (d. ca. 590/1194) in his Kitāb ḥudūth al-ʽālam refutes Avicenna’s arguments in favor of the eternity of the world as it appears in the al-Ḥukūma fī ḥujaj al-muthbitīn li-l-māḍī mabdaʼan zamāniyyan. In chapter 1.2.2, he enumerates Avicenna’s proofs, which aim at proving that the infinite body cannot exist. He quotes a fourth, still unknown, and unstudied argument that cannot be found in the al-Shaykh al-Raʼīs’ known oeuvre. I show that this citation is an excerpt from the al-Masāʽil al-ḥikmiyya, a still unedited (Pseudo?)-Avicennian work, whose critical edition I am currently working on. Apart from the fact that Ibn Ghaylān gives valuable remarks on the manuscript he consulted, he offers a thorough refutation of the argument. In this paper, I will focus on this particular question. After presenting the context in which it appears, I reconstruct the argument attributed to Avicenna and examine Ibn Ghaylān’s refutation, which will show his attitude and critical skills towards philosophical tenets, as a clear evidence of the Post-Ghazālian scientific trend.
Zayn al-Dīn al-Kaššī’s (d. before 1228) Ḥanafite Background and Moral Rationalism in Tuḥfat al-aṣḥāb
Zayn al-Dīn al-Kaššī (d. before 1228) was a star pupil of Faḫr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 1210), the significant Šāfiʿite-Ašʿarite scholar who arguably represents the post-Avicennan thought. Though much less is known about the pupil, recent scholarship has shown that his works, including the partially extant Ḥadāʾiq al-ḥaqāʾiq, were also influential among later Arabic logician-philosophers. His theological views, however, are not examined. Fortunately, his earlier work on theology (uṣūl al-dīn), Tuḥfat al-aṣḥāb fī maʿrifat rabb al-arbāb, survives in a manuscript codex preserved in the Marʿašī Library (no. 4416, ff. 1v–91v). This presentation, focusing on al-Kaššī’s moral philosophy in the Tuḥfa, will reveal his hitherto unnoticed Ḥanafī (or Māturīdī) theological background. First, concerning the nature of morality, al-Kaššī rejects not only the divine command theory typically held by Ašʿarite theologians but also consequentialist ethics of post-Avicennan theologians such as al-Rāzī. Instead, al-Kaššī adopts a sort of anti-realism and considers moral terms, such as goodness and badness, to be fixed to actions. He, following Abū Ḥanīfa and Abū Manṣūr al-Māturīdī, maintains that humans can and ought to recognize some moral facts as well as metaphysical truths by using their reason. Such Ḥanafī rationalism probably laid a foundation for al-Kaššī’s later Ḥadāʾiq.
Avicenna’s Ilāhiyyāt: Preliminary Notes on the Persian Translations in the Safavid Era
This paper aims to give a description of the translations from Arabic to Persian of the Metaphysics section of Ibn Sīnā’s Kitāb al-Šifā’. Recent discoveries have shed new light on the picture of the testimonia currently preserved in Iran and India. The extant manuscripts insert in the variegated and multidisciplinary context in which most of them were produced, namely in the Safavid Renaissance. During that period, a large number of commentaries and translations from Arabic to Persian contributed to the diffusion of philosophical works belonging to the complex Islamic intellectual scenario. The peripatetic heritage, the išrāqī current, the ṣūfī tradition and the School of Iṣfahān enriched the scientific heritage and, to a varying extent, influenced both the reading of texts and the doctrinal and terminological choices of the epoch. It is reasonable to believe that these processes also affected the reception and transmission of some of the manifold aspects of Avicennian thought. The manuscript heritage of this production is still to be explored in detail. It will be necessary to examine the recently acquired testimonia and to analyze both the translation into Persian and the exegesis of the text and contextualize them in the complex identity of the Safavid era.
Ḥikma mutaʿāliya as Universal Science in the Philosophy of Mullā Ṣadrā
While a number of specialists in the last few decades have worked on the metaphysics of Mullā Ṣadrā Šīrāzī (d. 1045/1636), few have come to conclusive positions on the true nature of his philosophical project or indeed what exactly in meant by ḥikma mutaʿāliya (a couple of recent attempts fail to hit the mark). This presentation aims at a convergence between two critical areas of discussion in post- Avicennian philosophy, the classification and hierarchy of the sciences and the problem of metaphysica generalis (al-umūr al-ʿāmma) relating to the ‘common’ properties of existence (wuǧūd). In particular, I shall examine the arguments of Mullā Ṣadrā Šīrāzī in two rather distinct works, Iksīr al-ʿārifīn (Elixir of the Gnostics) a composition highly influenced by the Neoplatonism of Afḍal al-Dīn al-Kāšānī (d. c. 610/1213), his Commentary on the Metaphysics of al-Šifāʾ of Avicenna (d. 428/1037), a work that changed the nature of Avicennian debates from the late Safavid period, and bring to light his approach to the nature of true, objective knowledge in his magnum opus, al-Asfār al-arbaʿa (The Four Journeys). Considered together, the aporetic nature of his philosophy will become clearer and his philosophical master-project, namely al-ḥikma al-mutaʿāliya as the central aim of his composition in this context become manifestly clear.
Syriac Philosophy after Avicenna: Barhebraeus on the Modulation of Being
The topic of my paper is the impact of Avicennan and post-Avicennan discourses on the metaphysical thought of Gregory Barhebraeus, a 13th polymath who has often been compared to Thomas Aquinas and is of comparable significance to the Syrian Orthodox Church today. In particular, I will discuss his doctrine of being and its theological implications. Profoundly influenced by Avicenna, Barhebraeus articulates an onto-cosmological proof of God’s existence from radical contingency—i.e. the theory that all beings that derive their existence from something other than themselves are contingent upon another: an uncaused Necessary Being. How, then, does the Necessary Being’s existence differ from our own? Barhebraeus argues that existence is equivocal, shared across different types of beings, be they contingent or necessary, mental or concrete, though in very different ways. My paper examines this modulation of being in the context of debates among Barhebraeus’ Muslim interlocutors, namely, Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī and Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī. I wish to demonstrate that in order to fully appreciate Barhebraeus’ position on this issue, we must understand the philosophical praxis that had emerged among Islamic thinkers some 200 years after Avicenna’s death. I also wish to show how Barhebraeus’ (post-)Avicennism represents a significant break from the earlier Syriac philosophical tradition of Qenneshre. The site of this earlier tradition tended to be commentaries on Aristotle and Alexandrian-style prolegomena. Barhebraeus, on the other hand, is among the first Syriac philosophers to make extensive use of the philosophical summa, a genre that had become highly commonplace in the post-Avicennan Islamicate world. Thus, my paper argues that a comprehensive history of the reception of Avicennism can only be written when we consider the Syriac Christian sources—material that few scholars have systematically studied.
On the Origins of the Philosophical Turn: al-Juwaynī and Avicenna
It is generally accepted that Avicennan philosophy had an almost immediate impact on the theological tradition. Both medieval sources and recent studies hence explain some of the views and arguments of the celebrated Ashʿarī theologian al-Juwaynī (d. 478/1085) as exhibiting substantive influence from the philosopher. Against this narrative, this paper argues that al-Juwaynī’s works in fact contain no identifiably Avicennan influence, and that supposedly Avicennan elements in his thought are more plausibly explained as having their roots in earlier theology. It accordingly offers a revised reading of the beginnings of the philosophical turn in theology.
Tekin, Ayşe Betül
Shams al-Din al-Isfahani’s Presentation of Classifications of Existents
Classification of existents was one of the crucial issues that differentiated Muslim philosophers and theologians. It was variously discussed by post-Avicennan scholars, including Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1210), Qadi Baydawi (d. 1286), and Shams al-Din Isfahani (d. 1349). In this paper, I will look at Isfahani’s presentation of the classification of existents according to theologians and philosophers. Isfahani discussed this issue in the introduction of his Tasdid al-Qawaʿid fi Sharh Tajrid al-ʿAqaʾid, a commentary on Nasir al-Din al-Tusi’s summa of theology. This presentation is significant since it was copied as a separate treatise during the Ottoman period. I will look at some of the sources of Isfahani’s presentation as well as its reception in by other glossators of the Tajrid.
Yavuz, Ali Fikri
Arguing Soul through Poetry: Samarqandī’s Epistemological Resolution between Ibn Sīnā and Rāzī
Arguments on the soul (nafs) convey the primary quest of epistemology: the knowing-self. Thus, debates on perception, knowledge and soul, as well following approaches in logic form the outlines of an epistemological framework in philosophical works. However, one of unusual cases regarding this debate can be observed in Samarqandī’s (d. 722/1322) Qasīdah al-Qāfiyyah in response to Ibn Sīnā’s Qasīdah al-‘Ayniyyah where he addresses the problem also by composing a structurally similar versification. This paper tends, firstly, to revisit the reception of this qasīdah focusing on Samarqandī’s correspondence and to restore the prominence of this unique philosophical debate on the soul by means of poetry. Secondly, it aims to analyse his efforts to reconcile Avicennian and Rāzīan theories on the soul by also utilising two of his major works: al-Ma‘ārif fī Sharḥ al-Ṣaḥā’if and ‘Ilm al-Afāq wa’l-Anfus.
Yolcu, Ahmet Faruk
A New Perspective in the Origination (ḥudūṯ)/Contingency (imkān) Debates After Avicenna: Kemālpas̲hazādah’s (d. 940/1534) Interpretation of Origination
In the Islamic thought, there are two concepts to establish both the God-universe relation and the evidence for the existence of God: namely origination and contingency. Avicenna stated that the concept of contingency is superior to the concept of origination in both issues. Therefore, in his works, he often criticized theologians’ concept of origination. Avicenna’s criticisms to the concept of origination led to new discussions about these two concepts after his death. This study aims to address Kemālpas̲hazādah’s new interpretation of the concept of origination based on the debate between Fak̲h̲r al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 606/1210) and Nāṣir al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī (d. 672/1274). Hence, our study first touches on Avicenna’s critique of the origination, then explain the debate between al-Ṭūsī and al-Rāzī on the origination-contingency problem, and finally discusses Kemālpas̲hazādah’s new interpretation on the origination. In this study, it is found that Kemālpas̲hazādah elaborates on two aspects of the origination-contingency debates: (i) how the relationship between creatures and creator emerges (ii) why creatures need a creator? Kemālpas̲hazādah argued that the concept of origination is used in two different meanings with regards to these two issues. Thereby, he stated that the concept of origination means “to come out of nothing” in the first case and “to be an existence preceded by absence” in the second.