Greek philosophy was the major formative
influence on the later philosophical traditions of
Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. In all three, the
theories of the Greeks, particularly Plato and
Aristotle, were employed to clarify and develop the
basic beliefs of the religious traditions.
In the Islamic tradition the starting point was
the work of Plato and Aristotle. The 9th-century
Neoplatonist al- Kindi was followed by al-Farabi,
who drew on both Plato and Aristotle to create a
universal Islamic philosophy.
The most important of the medieval Muslim
philosophers, however, was Avicenna (ibn Sina).
Starting from the distinction between essence and
existence, Avicenna developed a metaphysics in
which God, the necessary being, is the source of
created nature through emanation. Both his
metaphysics and his intuitionist theory of
knowledge were influential in the later Middle Ages
as well as in the later history of Islamic
The philosophical tradition did not go
unchallenged, however. The 11th-century theologian
and mystic al-Ghazali mounted a critique of
philosophy, specifically Avicenna's, that is rich
in argument and insight. Al-Ghazali's Incoherence
of the Philosophers provoked a response by Averroes
ibn Rushd entitled the Incoherence of the
Incoherence, in which al-Ghazali's arguments
are countered point for point. Averroes was best
known, however, as an interpreter of Aristotle and
excited great influence on all subsequent thinkers
in the Aristotelian tradition.
In the later Middle Ages the historian and
philosopher Ibn Khaldun produced a trenchant
critique of culture, and the elaboration of
metaphysics and epistemology was carried on in the
theosophical schools of Islamic mysticism.
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Your Life With a Philosophy