Arabs and Jews

Way back in undergrad, while taking Medieval Philosophy with Burke, I decided that I needed to learn Arabic in order to come to terms with Averroes and Avicenna and Maimonides. Then I somehow got swept up in the business of getting a law degree. While in law school, I got paid to study Arabic, which helped to redeem the time a little. Now that I've gotten out, gotten reinvolved in the family firm, and settled down in bourgeois domesticity with Mrs. JNW, I've been able to make considerable progress in going through medieval Arabic philosophy.

Of Abu Nasr Al-Farabi, I've read the sprawling cosmopolitical opus on the Virtuous City/Perfect State, the basic Attainment of Happiness and Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, an enlightening collection of his other political writings, including the Aphorisms, the Book of Religion, and the Harmonization of Plato and Aristotle. The excellent Lerner and Mahdi sourcebook from the 60s, Medieval Political Philosophy has been helpful as well, especially on filling in the gap between Farabi and Averroes, while Mahdi's recent full-scale Straussian presentation of Farabi is still something that I'm digesting.

For Avicenna, I'm sorta waiting on METI to release Marmura's edition of the Shifa'. (Ghazali would be goo back-to-back reading at that point.)

Of Averroes, I have really only read the Decisive Treatise, although I've collected a slew of his Aristotelian commentaries to go through, probably from the De Amina to the Poetics to the Republic.

And so at length I find myself doing rather a lot of reading in the shadow of Leo Strauss. I don't know what to think of Straussianism, really. Part of it fills me with a certain amount of incredulity. (The claims can be a little overreaching.) The textualism, so long as it doesn't devolve into superstitious numerologies, is often very fascinating. Strauss & Co. do have a powerful metaphysical dream. I guess I just need to read a lot more, especially of Plato and Machiavelli and Carl Schmitt.

Sometimes I feel that Strauss doesterribly remind me of Plato (as opposed to Aristotle). He presents this vast alluring vision and you badly want to be able to embrace it. But you are convinced by one who is in truth the Philosopher.

For a very different, anti-Straussian take on Arabic philosophy, see Dmitri Gutas' challenging article.

Arabic philosophy has lead me to see the importance of medieval Jewish philosophy. I intend to do a study of Maimonides' Guide for the Perplexed fairly soon. I also need to read a real Arabic text in toto, both for the vocabulary and internalization, and for my Arabic. I'm thinking of Ibn Tufayl's Hayy?it's both deeply philosophical yet helpfully literary and narrative.

Someday, I'll make past Ockham and Suarez to Grotius and Descartes. Lordwilling.

No comments: