The Arabs

We cannot leave the subject of the transmission of classical philosophical

PHILOSOPHICAL SOURCES texts to the mediaeval West without looking briefly at the work of some of the Arabic philosophers who had commented upon the texts, and whose work sometimes arrived in the West with the translations of the texts themselves from Arabic.

Al-Kindi (d. c.873) knew no Greek, but he used to arrange for others to make translations for him and then improve their Arabic if necessary. He knew Plotinus, but the chief influence upon him was Aristotle. His chief interest as a philosopher was the study of the First Cause, which he thought the proper subject of philosophy at its highest. He had leanings towards natural science too, writing on meteorology, astronomy-and-astrology and music. It is instructive that his list of definitions of philosophy's scope emerges as very close to that of Arnulf Provincialis.32 His De Radiis33 among other works was, it seems, a strong influence on Roger Bacon, although its teaching was condemned by Giles of Rome in his Errors of the Philosophers about 1270, and the general condemnation of 1277 includes at least one of Al-Kindi's doctrines.

Al-Farabi (?879-?950) contributed material on the proof of the existence of the First Principle of all things, and on the theory of emanation, and in the area of the theory of knowledge, as well as commentaries on Aristotle which were used in the West from the late twelfth century. Avicenna (9801037) wrote on the soul, and on the metaphysics of Aristotle. He dealt with the problem of universals, with proofs of the existence of God, the theory of emanation, the hierarchy of being, providence, and the problem of evil, topics especially relevant to the Platonic heritage, but discussed with a strongly Aristotelian bias by him. His work was known in the West by the beginning of the thirteenth century.

Averroes (1126-98) was especially influential because controversial. He, like Avicenna, wrote on proofs of the existence of God, on God's knowledge and problems of epistemology, on the theory of emanation, and on the intellect. Like that of Avicenna, his Aristotelianism was deeply dyed with Platonism, because parts of Plotinus' Enneads were known to him under the title of The Theology of Aristotle and he believed the paraphrase of Proclus known as the Liber de Causis to be a work of Aristotle, too. A row was generated in the thirteenth century over the interpretation placed by Siger of Brabant upon Averroes' teaching about the intellect. Averroes seemed to him to be saying in his commentary on Aristotle's De Anima that the potential intellect is one and the same in all rational beings. That would have implications for the relationship of human mind to the mind of God which were unacceptable to the defenders of orthodoxy, and indeed the

PHILOSOPHY AND THEOLOGY IN THE MIDDLE AGES Averroist position was condemned in 1270 by the Bishop of Paris, prompted a vigorous exchange of treatises between Aquinas and the 'Averroists'.

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