Both the Islamic world and the medieval West went through periods of intense interest in Greek philosophy, and especially in the works of Aristotle. Yet whereas the West ultimately experienced a Renaissance, the East turned its back on reason and devolved into a culture of mysticism and coercion. In this course, Dr. Barry Wood explores the men and ideas that made up the battle over reason in the Islamic world. He not only introduces some of the interesting personalities involved—including a precocious gardener, a disgruntled academic with a lethal grudge, and a highly industrious bookseller—but also examines, in non-specialist terms, the philosophical concepts over which these men fought. He also makes it clear why, despite a truly heroic last effort, the Aristotelians were doomed to defeat.
The first lecture describes the initial introduction of Greek philosophy into the Islamic world and the impact it had on early Muslim theologians. In the second lecture, Dr. Wood outlines the major rationalist philosophers in Islam, including al-Farabi and Avicenna, as well as a handful of courageous freethinkers. The third lecture takes up the fateful attack on philosophy by al-Ghazali and the futile attempt by Averroes to revive Islamic Aristotelianism. The final lecture traces the final, post-Ghazalian decline of reason in Islamic thought and draws some lessons.
This course is intended for beginners; no previous knowledge of history or philosophy is required.
(MP3 download; 3 hrs., 57 mins., 170 MB)