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A History of God. Chapter 6 The God of the Philosophers. Early Islamic Philosophy. In early Islamic thought, which refers to philosophy during the "Islamic Golden Age," traditionally dated between the 8th and 12th centuries, two main currents may be distinguished.

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A history of god

A History of God

Chapter 6

The God of the Philosophers

Early islamic philosophy
Early Islamic Philosophy

  • In early Islamic thought, which refers to philosophy during the "Islamic Golden Age," traditionally dated between the 8th and 12th centuries, two main currents may be distinguished.

  • The first is Kalam, that mainly dealt with Islamic theological questions, and the other is Falsafa, that was founded on interpretations of Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism.

  • Abbasid Empire: 750-1258


  • Kalām is the Islamic philosophy of seeking Islamic theological principles through rational thought.

The kalam cosmological argument
The Kalam Cosmological Argument

  • The kalamcosmological argument dates back to medieval Muslim philosophers such as al-Kindi and al-Ghazali.

  • What distinguishes the kalam cosmological argument from other forms of cosmological argument is that it rests on the idea that the universe has a beginning in time.

The kalam cosmological argument1
The Kalam Cosmological Argument

  • This argument has the following logical structure:

  • (1) Everything that has a beginning of its existence has a cause of its existence.(2) The universe has a beginning of its existence.Therefore:(3) The universe has a cause of its existence.(4) If the universe has a cause of its existence then that cause is God.Therefore:(5) God exists.


  • The term applies primarily to members of a theological school that flourished in Basra and Baghdad in the 8th–10th century.

  • These Mutazilah were the first Muslims to employ systematically the categories and methods of Hellenistic [Greek] philosophy to derive their dogma.


  • The tenets of Mutazilah

  • belief in the oneness of God

  • human free will (the ability to choose between good and evil)

  • belief in God's fairness (i.e., God will punish only those deserving of punishment).

Al ashari

  • al-Ash'arī (874 – 936) was a Muslim Arab theologian and the founder of the Ash'ari school of early Islamic philosophy.

  • No human act could occur if God does not will it, and that God's knowledge encompass-es all that was, is, or will be.

  • It is God's will to create the power in humans to make free choices.

  • God is therefore just to hold humans accountable for their actions.


  • Falsafa (Arab., falṣafa, from Gk. philosophia), the pursuit of philosophy in Islam.

  • The Muslim delight in philosophy rests on a confidence that God is the creator of all things, and that knowledge (ilm) leads to a deeper understanding of him and of his works.

Abu ali ibn sina
Abu Ali ibnSina

  • Avicenna (980-1037), Iranian Islamic philosopher and physician.

  • Avicenna's best-known philosophical work is Kitab ash-Shifa(Book of Healing), a collection of treatises on Aristotelian logic, metaphysics, psychology, the natural sciences, and other subjects.

Abu ali ibn sina1
Abu Ali ibnSina

  • Avicenna's own philosophy was based on a combination of Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism.

  • Contrary to orthodox Islamic thought, Avicenna denied personal immortality, God's interest in individuals, and the creation of the world in time.

  • Because of his views, Avicenna became the main target of an attack on such philosophy by the Islamic philosopher al-Ghazali.

  • Nevertheless, Avicenna's philosophy remained influential throughout the Middle Ages.


  • In Arabic, Abu al-Walidibn Muhammad ibnRushd (1126-98), Spanish-Arab Islamic philosopher, jurist, and physician.

  • Averroës held that metaphysical truths can be expressed in two ways:

    A. through philosophy as represented by the views of Aristotle

    B. through religion, which is truth presented in a form that the ordinary person can understand.


  • Maimonides (1135-1204), Jewish philosopher and physician, born in Córdoba, Spain.

  • Following the capture of Córdoba in 1148 by the Almohads, who imposed Islam on Christians and Jews alike, Maimonides's family decided to emigrate.

  • After years of wandering they finally settled in Cairo.

  • There Maimonides eventually became the chief rabbi of Cairo and physician to Saladin, sultan of Egypt and Syria.


  • He is regarded also as the outstanding Jewish philosopher of the Middle Ages.

  • In the Guide for the Perplexed, written in Arabic (circa 1190), Maimonides sought to harmonize faith and reason by reconciling the tenets of rabbinic Judaism with the rationalism of Aristotelian philosophy in its modified Arabic form, which includes elements of Neoplatonism.


  • He considers the nature of God and creation, free will, and the problem of good and evil; he profoundly influenced such Christian philosophers as St. Thomas Aquinas.

  • His use of an allegorical method of biblical interpretation, which minimized anthropomorphism, was opposed for several centuries by many Orthodox rabbis.

  • He also produced writings on astronomy, logic, and mathematics.

St anslem
St. Anslem

  • Anselm of Canterbury (c. 1033 – 21 April 1109) was a Benedictine monk, an Italian medieval philosopher, theologian, and church official who held the office of Archbishop of Canterbury from 1093 to 1109.

  • Called the founder of scholasticism, he is famous as the originator of the ontological argument for the existence of God.

The ontological argument
The Ontological Argument

  • God is something of which nothing greater can be thought.

  • God may exist in the understanding.

  • It is greater to exist in reality and in the understanding than just in understanding.

  • Therefore, God exists in reality.

St anslem s ontological argument
St. Anslem’s Ontological Argument

Peter abelard
Peter Abelard

  • Peter Abelard (1079-1147), French philosopher and theologian, whose fame as a teacher made him one of the most celebrated figures of the 12th century.

Abelard s philosophy
Abelard’s Philosophy

  • Peter Abelard is a French scholar.

  • The importance of his works lies in the fact that he advocated the use of reason and pointed out the folly of relying on authorities.

  • In the Sic et Non (Yes and No), Abelard showed the inconsistencies among most respected theological authorities.

  • Peter Abelard was a magnificent and popular lecturer. By many, he is considered the founder of the University of Paris.

  • Abelard looked at theology as the "handmaiden" of knowledge - he believed that man could gain a greater knowledge of God through the use of reason.

St thomas aquinas
St. Thomas Aquinas

  • Saint Thomas Aquinas is sometimes called the Angelic Doctor and the Prince of Scholastics (1225-1274)

  • This Italian philosopher and theologian produced works that have made him the most important figure in Scholastic philosophy and one of the leading Roman Catholic theologians.

Aquinas philosophy
Aquinas’ Philosophy

  • Reconciling the Augustinian emphasis upon the human spirituality with the Averroist claim of autonomy for knowledge derived from the senses, Aquinas insisted that the truths of faith and those of sense experience, as presented by Aristotle, are fully compatible and complementary.

Aquinas philosophy1
Aquinas’ Philosophy

  • Some truths, such as that of the mystery of the incarnation, can be known only through revelation, and others, such as that of the composition of material things, only through experience; still others, such as that of the existence of God, are known through both equally.


  • Nominalism (Latin nominalis, “of or pertaining to names”), in medieval Scholastic philosophy, doctrine stating that abstractions, known as universals, are without essential or substantive reality, and that only individual objects have real existence.

  • These universals, such as animal, nation, beauty, circle, were held to be mere names, hence the term nominalism.

Moderate realism
Moderate Realism

  • Moderate realism as a position in the debate on the metaphysics of universals holds that there is no realm in which universals exist.

  • They exist as universals only as objects of our intellect, due to abstraction.

Aquinas on universals
Aquinas on Universals

  • All knowledge, Aquinas held, originates in sensation, but sense data can be made intelligible only by the action of the intellect, which elevates thought toward the apprehension of such immaterial realities as the human soul, the angels, and God.

  • To reach understanding of the highest truths, those with which religion is concerned, the aid of revelation is needed.

  • Aquinas's moderate realism placed the universals firmly in the mind, in opposition to extreme realism, which posited their independence of human thought.

  • He admitted a foundation for universals in existing things, however, in opposition to nominalism and conceptualism.

The teleological argument
The Teleological Argument

  • If the universe contains design then there must be some intelligent agent that designed it.

  • Just as if something is carried then there must be a carrier, so if there is design there must be a designer.

  • What those who reject the argument dispute, then, is not whether the design in the universe implies that there is someone who designed it, but whether the order and complexity in the universe does constitute design.