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Second, al-Kindī’s metaphysics is marked by two critical doctrines: the denial of the eternity of the cosmos, and the ineffability of God.God is utterly transcendent and his essence unknowable, a position within apophatic theology that he shares with the Platonic tradition and the Muʿtazila (through their denial of the reality of the divine attributes as independent entities).But if the history of philosophy is also concerned with focusing upon pivotal, influential and significant figures and ideas that effected paradigm shifts in the modes of human thought, then one needs to make an argument for the need to study al-Kindī.Adamson makes a good case for why a study of al-Kindī is still informative for a number of reasons, for an understanding of the development of philosophy in the Muslim world, and as I would suggest, for theologically-minded Muslim thinking about being in the world.
Even if it should come from far-flung nations and foreign peoples, there is for the student of truth nothing more important than the truth, nor is the truth demeaning or diminished by the one who states or conveys it; no one is demeaned by the truth, rather all are ennobled by it.
This highly readable account comprises eight chapters: the first two are contextualising on his life, works, influences, sources, the formation of an intellectual inquiry called falsafa and its relationship with systematic theology (ʿilm al-kalām) in the classical period; the remaining five chapters tackles various branches of philosophy such as metaphysics, eternity and the creation of the world (in which al-Kindī significantly follows the Christian philosopher Philoponus on insisting upon the creation of the cosmos in time as consistent both with the Qurʾan and with Plato, and thus prefiguring al-Ghazālī’s argument against Avicenna on eternity), psychology (which in the premodern period means the study of the soul-psuche), ethics, science and the study of the heavens (the De Caelo and meteorology Aristotelian tradition).
One may argue that such an account is made manageable by the limited extent of al-Kindī’s works (and by comparison such an exhaustive account of Avicenna would be a tall order), this does not detract from the efficacy of the analysis and the insightful nature of the engagements. While some Arab intellectuals have championed Averroes as a rationalist before his time neglected by Muslim posterity which was corrupted by Persian irrationalism and other-worldliness (the racism inherent in ʿAbid al-Jabiri’s thesis is stark all the more so for the disinclination of most Arab intellectuals to refuse a clear disavowal), I would suggest that al-Kindī is potentially far more interesting.
Of course, it is never enough just to be a foreigner, but it is always a good first step to begin communication.
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870) is famous for being the first Arab-Muslim philosopher.