The Volume

The claim here is that we need more cross-pollination in the study of medieval thought than occurs at present and especially in the histories that do so much to establish and maintain the boundaries of the discipline. The present work is an attempt to move in this direction. As the Islamic philosophical tradition was the privileged site for the study and continuation of the Classical philosophical tradition in the Middle Ages, due attention is given to this tradition. An initial chapter on the history of Islamic philosophy sets the stage for sixteen articles on issues across the three traditions. The goal is to see the Islamic tradition in its own richness and complexity as the context of much Jewish intellectual work. Taken together, these two traditions provide the wider context for Christian intellectuals. The articles are grouped under six topics relevant both to the period and to current philosophical interest-topics that would need covering in a future history of medieval philosophy: the Islamic philosophical context, the nature of philosophy in the Middle Ages, Neoplatonism and the activity of the soul, creation, virtue, and the Latin reception. Furthermore, one of the excellent features about the volume is the attention paid to the influence of Neoplatonism on the three traditions. This is an important topic in its own right and provides unity to a volume that includes, as it should, a wide-ranging number of discussions of the use of Classical philosophy.

In the first section of the book, Marmura offers an historical overview of Islamic philosophy before the Modern period that serves as a framework for the book as a whole. This framework is left out of the standard histories, but is necessary in order to orient general readers and scholars not versed in Islamic philosophy to a more balanced picture of medieval philosophy.

Ghazali provides the touchstone for the second section of the book on the nature of philosophy. Reynolds clarifies why Ghazali's Intentions of the Philosophers has confused both Jews and Christians, Griffel offers a revised view of Averroes's interpretation of Ghazali, and Kogan indicates similarities and differences between Ghazali and Halevi on the usefulness of philosophy.

Since much recent and current work focuses on medieval Neoplatonism and the history of its reception, the third section is devoted to medieval Neoplatonism and its brand of cognitive activity. Beginning with a Neoplatonic notion of being, MacIsaac provides the pagan Neoplatonic background on human cognition through a discussion of Proclus, a treatment which Adamson completes in a careful analysis of the view of knowledge in the Arabic Plotinus. At this point in the text, Hankey unravels the Latin reception of a Neoplatonic understanding of knowledge in Boethius, Anselm, and Bonaventure. Then Pessin brings us back to Proclus with the argument that Avicenna adopted a Proclean methodology. This section closes with Williams's caution that there are limits on the degree to which we should describe an author like Augustine as a Neoplatonist.

The fourth section concerns the relation between the creator and creation, a topic where Classical philosophy was put to extensive use in the Middle Ages. Kukkonen builds on MacIsaac and Adamson in arguing that there is not much of a difference between medieval Neoplatonism and Aristotelianism when it comes to the relation between infinite power and finite creation. In principle, levels of necessity and determinism are compatible with creation. Yet, he also argues that the tension between necessity and creation served to motivate Avicenna to break with the Classical tradition in his modal formulation of this relation. Burrell goes beyond the standard influences on Christian thinkers by suggesting Ghazali as the closest parallel to Aquinas on the relation between God and creation in texts that Aquinas did not read. His point is that a shared network of conceptual tools and issues led writers in different traditions to similar conclusions.

The next section treats virtue, with Jacobs arguing for continuities and differences between Aristotle, Maimonides, and Aquinas. His point is to clarify what it means to say that one is an Aristotelian. Frank continues this focus by reflecting on Maimonides as an Aristotelian, and in doing so, helps to counter the current tendency to interpret medievals as Neoplatonists. Hochschild responds to this challenge in relation to Aquinas by directing attention to the Neoplatonic character of his often presumed Aristotelian account of virtue.

The sixth section is given over to the Latin reception of Islamic and Jewish Philosophy. Except for a writer like Aquinas, little work has been done on the Latin reception. In order to make progress, attention needs to be devoted to the reception of individual authors. Three case studies are included in order to make this point. On the theme of creation, Miller fills out Burrell's picture by treating William of Auvergne, one of the first Latins to make a close study of Islamic philosophy. He clarifies William's use and criticisms of Avicenna in formulating a view of natural causality. In the second case study, Rosheger clarifies Aquinas's response to both Avicenna and William of Auvergne on whether God has an essence and the implications that this has for naming. Aquinas is shown to oppose a Neoplatonic view shared by Avicenna and William, a view with roots in Plotinus. Rosheger argues convincingly that other texts in Avicenna and William disavow this interpretation, and furthermore, that Aquinas sounds in places close to the view he attributes to Avicenna and William. This case study serves to indicate the complexity of labeling medievals as Aristotelians or Neoplatonists. In the third case study, Hackett offers the first study of the influence that Maimonides had on the important Franciscan Roger Bacon in regard to his views on analogy, astrology, and the virtue humility.

In sum, fairness and accuracy demand that we move beyond writing histories of medieval philosophy that focus on the Latin tradition. A true history of medieval philosophy must cover Islamic and Jewish as well as Christian thought. The time is right to present the philosophy of the period as one of cross-pollination between traditions. A balanced history needs to do justice to the orbit of continuities and discontinuities. Being clear about this will allow for even greater fairness and accuracy when discussing the internal dynamics of a single tradition. As a step towards the writing of this history, the present volume examines the study and use of Classical philosophy during the Middle Ages by members of the three great monotheistic traditions.

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