Course Description


             Aquinas,               Alfarabi,                  Avicenna,         Averroes,       Maimonides  &    Albertus

Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’

The Importance of the Arabic Philosophical Tradition for the Development of the Philosophical and Theological Thought of Thomas Aquinas

My purpose in teaching this course in Istanbul is to share with colleagues and students in Turkey what I have learned and continue to learn regarding the importance of Arabic / Islamic philosophy in the thought of medieval European philosophers and theologians, in particular in the thought of one of the most well known theologians and philosophers of Christian Europe, Thomas Aquinas.  Yet further, it is also my purpose to learn from from genuine and personal interaction with Turkish colleagues and students for whom Islam and its history of religious and philosophical studies are a living and vibrant reality. The greater purpose, however, is to show the commonalities and shared teachings of the philosophical and theological foundations for the development of human discourse on matters of religion and philosophy that are common to the monotheistic Abrahamic traditions of intellectual thought in medieval Islam and European Christianity. These purposes are the driving considerations behind the present course.

In recent years the powerful influence of the Arabic tradition on the development of the philosophical reasoning and insightful teachings of Thomas Aquinas has been firmly established in international conference meetings and publications by members of the Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’ International Working Group and other scholars. (See It has also become abundantly clear that Aquinas is most fully understood through the method of source based contextualism involving the location of a thinker in relation to the sources he himself studied in forming his own philosophical and theological doctrines. For Aquinas those sources were not just the Christian theological tradition or the texts in Aristotle, but importantly included Latin translations of the writings by major philosophers in the Lands of Islam, including thinkers of 9th / 3rd century Baghdad and the famous philosophers Ibn Sina / Avicenna and Ibn Rushd / Averroes. This course considers in detail five (5) major issues in the philosophical and theological thought of Aquinas for which philosophical teachings from the Arabic tradition in Latin translation played key roles: the metaphysics of creation, the nature of being, the theory of human knowledge, the nature of the human soul, ultimate human happiness in knowing God.

As can be seen on the Syllabus page, I proceed by first studying in detail the teachings of key figures of the Arabic tradition.  I then proceed to the texts of Thomas Aquinas and with precise analysis show how he drew on the Arabic philosophical tradition and how he modified his sources in accord with his own philosophical and theological insights.