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Page last edited on 23 April, 2003

Groundwork on Islamic Philosophy


Chapters in this essay

Groundwork on Islamic Philosophy

There is a strong tradition of rigorous Islamic thought on philosophical issues.   Issues in Islamic metaphysics and epistemology are varied and complex.   There are strong and useful similarities of thought within Muslim and Western thought.  Western philosophers have expanded upon many of the debates originating within the Islamic world, as the Muslims had done earlier with the Greek scholars.  It would be a mistake, however, to consider Islamic thought a relic of the past.   Islamic philosophy is showing signs of significant recovery and with the emergence of an integrated worldview, it will be a viable discipline.

The consensus among modern Muslim philosophers seems to be moving away from the purely empirical arguments for Godís existence.   The recent consensus of Islamic thinkers like Ghazzali, Al-Attas and Iqbal seem to prefer arguments from religious experience over the rational arguments.

Apart from the basic question of how faith and reason interact in epistemology, there are significant other issues in philosophy that need study.  For instance,  is there an Islamic response to the mind-body problem?    Are we to reject the concept of the soul as Kant did since it is an obscure concept?  Or can it be reinterpreted to be read as the mind?  If so, what constitutes the mind?  Does Islam provide its own ethical framework? If so, what are its principles and does it resolve the problems with Western ethical theories (of Aristotle, Kant, Mill or Nietzche)?  How does Islam tackle the radical existentialism of Satre or Heidegger?  These are just some of the other problems, besides those in epistemology and metaphysics that will face future Muslim philosophers.
Resolving these problems will have profound implications on the Islamic worldview and values.   It is also a prerequisite to any tangible and independent Islamic academic philosophy.

In the modern context it is important, for Islamic thought at least, to reassert itself clearly and define its parameters upon which a modern Islamic epistemology can be built.   The work of European and American philosophers cannot be ignored, and their criticism should be used to recreate the vigor of Islamic philosophy which has been lost over the past few centuries.

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Last updated on 23 April, 2003

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