What it’s about
The History of Philosophy without any Gaps brought about its 3rd volume which focuses on the transition from greek philosophy to the islamic world. This volume of the series by Peter Adamson focuses on the muslim contibrutions and non-muslims as well to Philosophy. Peter Adamson tries an unbiased approach to highlight the specific contributions in different time scales and places.
It takes a deeper look in the eastern and western traditions and how philosophy has been incorporated into areas of politics, law, ethics, etc. I can say that the most common name you’ll hear in the book is a muslim philosopher called Avicenna. Given the two seperate traditions (western and eastern) happen on a relatively close time scale Avicenna plays a huge role in both.
The book also makes mention of other muslims and non-muslim philosophers that come into the game and brand themselves in deserving to be recorded in the book. This incudes Averroes, maimonides, Al-ghazali, Ibn Gabirol and many more names you’ll feel proud to remember and as Adam says “to spice up your dinner conversations”.
The variety in thought and philosophy stretches from rationalism, the mystical sciences, Sufism and Kabbalah ideologies, Illuminationism, a sort of theory of light to create. these ideologies sit in the passenger seat of prominent figures carrying on these thoughts even the mongols!
What to expect
If you do plan on buying the book, which again as Adamson remarks not to just add a decoration to your coffee table, then here is what to expect. Adamson emphasizes to us that the Islamic world does not exclusively talk about muslim contributions but also the non-muslims that contributed to the history of Philosophy living within in the islamic world. This includes Jewish, and Christian responses towards muslim philosophers in terms of doctrines for example.
The book starts off with the earliest traditions that started the whole movement of translating greek philosophyinto Arabic and persian in the Formative period. Next Adamson focuses on the occurences in Andalusia which is the western tradition and then the later traditions that stem up to this day.
Previously i mentioned that the most common name you will find in the book is a persian muslim philosopher, Avicenna. And as you read the book you’ll understand why it was so. Avicenna depending on alot of factors such as traditions, time period, or ideologies was known to be the most notorious.
What i personally found to be consistent in the descriptions of the movement of philosophy after avicenna was the “always needing to respond” by treatises, and ALOT of commentaries and refutations.
Almost every famous philosopher you find in the book will have something to say about Avicenna’s philosophy, either adding to it, refuting it altogether, or leaving it be (though this was rare since philosophers couldnt really keep their mout shut). You’ll expect to find figures trying to merge ideologies together.
Humour, corny puns and alot of it. In every chapter Adamson does not hesitate to take chances when the opportunity for the corniest puns comes. It leaves the reader such as myself with a long sigh yet makes me want to read more atleast.
What I liked
The book does enough justice to let the world know about te actual role that muslims in the middle ages played so significantly. The Author sheds light where it has gone dark for centuries that dont go written down in today’s history and science books.
The amount of appreciation i had for studying history and how it affects us all today definitely grew seeing the reality of development in today’s world in a brighter light. Sympathy does follow after reading the book to how much things have changed in the world in terms of values and human development.
Furthermore, the book leaves the reader thinking what is it that the world is doing today if its not philosophy? Adamson in the end brings up the birth or nationalism and introduce how it contributed to the overall story flow of philosophy. It puts ones own place in question where how will he or she contrubute to society.
What i also found to be so rich in its content was including a historical perspective that tells more about the history of events. The book mentions the time periods so we can expect what type of situations would have existed like the Mongol invasion, the Ottoman empire, Persian empire and you guessed it, many more.
What I didn’t like
This may not be the deal breaker of putting “Philosophy in the Islamic world” finally on your coffee table however it does tell something about how the reader gets exposed being actually interested in the book. Figures such as Avicenna as previously established recieved the most spotlight in this book and this is not talking about the historical reference of Avicenna’s popularity.
The Author seems to understandably emphasise quite alot on what Avicenna contributed. However, there were figures where i would have expected to recieve just as much attention as Avicenna. This may step into personal preference since i came into this book with prior knowledge on some figures that I know contributed much more than what was said in the book. It left me agitated that a pinch of injustice was done that in some personal perspectives would have potentially change the outcome of events.
Secondly, in relation to the previous comment there were other new figures that intrigued me to learn more about that stopped too abruptly for my taste. It set the reader up about the creativity of certain prominent figures yet you could only take the Author’s bit about them.
In Conclusion, this review may not do justice to how underrated this book and series is. Its not guaranteed that the book may be for the everyone’s coffee table (unless they’re not planning on reading it then thats fine). The book aims at the people that are actually curious about history and how it leads up to today (probably minimal).
Personally I was curious about what was the driving force for the Muslim community from the birth of Islam to the golden age where advances in science, history, literature, law and many more that leads up to the totally different, critical, and harsh view on islam today but thats a story for another time.
Overall, this book is only a piece of a greater picture it can actually accomplish and which is why the Author puts it in a series for more informational adventures to come. It must also be emphasised that this review does not encompass all of what the author offers as he is much of a story in himself and his contributions to world history and philosophy without any gaps. You can take a look at his website and see what I mean: https://historyofphilosophy.net/
If you’d like to check out this book with the exact cover for the look of your coffee table you can click here!