Arabic manuscript (Treatise on science, religion, and cosmology, 17)

University of Pennsylvania LJS 439: Treatise on science, religion, and cosmology, 17


Writing Histories of Greek Philosophy in Arabic

This project seeks to reconstruct the different visions of the history of the ancient Greek philosophy adopted by medieval Arabic authors and will try to locate them in the context of the Muslim understanding of the “universal” history of ideas. The research is based on the Arabic historical, biographical, gnomological, and doxographical works in which the figures and ideas of the Greek philosophers were presented and interpreted in the light of the Islamic worldview. The project inquires into the reasons for which the Arabic authors were writing about the ancient Greek philosophers and into the place that they attributed to them in their general visions of history. In this context, it is crucial to understand how the religious or ideological believes of the Arabic writers shaped their understanding of the ancient Greek philosophy. This requires looking into the ways in which the Arabic authors were using the Greek philosophy for their own purposes and the reasons for which they needed it. I look at the intellectual and cultural horizons of the Arabic authors who were interested in the Greek philosophy, in particular by discussing the general scope and contents of their works. It is important to place them in the socio-religious contexts in which they were created, and bring out the authors’ assumptions and their methods of making selections from the material that was available to them.