PHILOSOPHY, MUSLIM. Arabic falsafah فلسفة, or ‘ilmu ‘l-hikmah عام الحخمة
The following account of Arabian philosophy is taken with permission from Professor Ueberweg’s History of Philosophy, translated by G. S. Morris, M.A. (Hodder and Stoughton), vol. i p. 406:-
“The whole phiolsophy of the Arabians was only a form of Aristotelianism, tempered more or less with Neo-Platonic conceptions. The medical and physical science of the Greeks and Greek philosophy became known to the Arabs especially under the rule of the Abassides (from A.D. 750 on), when medical, and afterwards (from the time of the reign of Alrnamun, in the first half of the ninth century) philosophical works were translated from Greek into Syriac and Arabic by Syriac Christians. The tradition of Greek philosophy was associated with that combination of Platonism and Aristotelianism which prevailed among the last philosophers of antiquity, and with the study by Christian theologians of the Aristotelian logic as a formal organon of dogmatics; but in view of the rigid monotheism of the Mohammedan religion, it was necessary that the Aristotelian metaphysics, and especially the Aristotelian theology, should be more fully adopted among the Arabs than among the Neo-Platoaists and Christians, and that in consequence of the union among the former of philosophical with medical studies, the works of Aristotle on natural science should be studied by them with especial zeal.
” Of the Arabian philosophers in the East, the most important were Alkendi (al-Kindi), who was still more renowned as a mathematician and astrologer; Alfarabi (al-Farabi), who adopted the Neo-Platonic doctrine of emanation: Avicenna (Abu Sina), the representative of a purer Aristotelianism and a man who for centuries, even among the Christian scholars of the later medieval centuries, stood in the highest consideration as a philosopher, and, still more, as a teacher of medicine; and, finally. Algazel (al-Ghazzali), who maintained a philosophical skepticism in the interest of theological orthodoxy.
“The most important Arabian philosophers in the West; were Avempace (Thu Badja), Abubacer (Abu Bakr Ibn Tufail) and Averroës (Thu Rashid). Avempace and Abubacer dwell in their works on the idea of the independent and gradual development of man. Abubacer (in his ‘Natural Man’) develops this idea in a spirit of opposition to positive religion, although he affirms that positive religion and philosophical doctrine pursue the same end, namely, the union of the human intellect with the divine. Averroës, the celebrated commentator of Aristotle, interprets the doctrine of the latter respecting the active and the passive intellect in a sense which is nearly pantheistic and which excludes the idea of individual immortality. He admits the existence of only one active intellect, and affirms that this belongs in common to the whole human race, that it becomes temporarily particularized in individuals, but that each of its emanations becomes finally reabsorbed in the original whole, in which alone, therefore, they possess immortality.”
“The acquaintance of the Mohammedan Arabs with the writings of Aristotle was brought about through the agency of Syrian Christians. Before the time of Mohammad, many Nestorian Syrians lived among the Arabs as physicians. Mohammed also had intercourse with Nestorian monks. Hareth Ibn Calda, the friend and physician of the Prophet, was a Nestorian. It was not, however, until after the extension of the Mohammedan rule over Syria and Persia, and chiefly after the Abassides had commenced to reign (A.D. 750), that foreign learning, especially in medicine and philosophy, became generally known among the Arabs. Philosophy had already been cultivated in those countries during the last days of Neo-Platonism, by David the Armenian about 500 A.D.; his Prolog. to Philos. and to the Isagoge, and his commentary on the Categ. in Brandis’ Collection of Scholia. to Arist. his works, Venice, 1823; on him cf. C. F. Neumann, Paris, 1829) and afterwards by the Syrians, especially Christian Syrians, translated Greek authors, particularly medical, but afterward philosophical authors also, first into Syria, and then from Syria into Arabic (or they,’ perhaps made use also of earlier Syria translations some of which are today extant).”
During the reign and at the instance of Almamun (A.D. 813-833), the first translations of works of Aristotle into Arabic were made, under the direction of Johannes Ibn-al-Batrik (i.e. the son of the Patriarch, who, according to Renan [L.L, p. 57]. is to be distinguished from Johannes Mesue, the physician), these translations. in part still extant, were regarded (according to Abulfarsgius, Histor. Dynast, p. 153 et al.) as faithful but inelegant.
“A man more worthy of mention is Honein Ibn Ishak (Johannitius), a Neirtorian, who flourshed under Motewakkel, and died in 876. Acquainted with the Syriac, Arabic, and Greek languages, he was at the head of a school of interpreters at Bagdad, to which his son Ishak Ben Honein and his nephew Hobeisch-el-Asam also belonged. The works not only of Aristotle himself, but also of several ancient Aristotelians (Alexander Aphrodisiensis, Themistius, and also Neo-Platonic exegetes, such as Porphyry and Ammonius), and ot Galenus and others, were translated into (Syriac and) Arabic. Of these translations, also, some of those in Arabic are still existing, but the Syriac translations are all lost. (Honein’s Arabic translation of the Categories has been edited by Jul. Theod. Zenker, Leips. 1846). In the tenth century new translations, not only of the works of Aristotle, but also of Theophrastus, Alexander of Aphrodisias, Theomistius, Syrianus, Ammonius, etc., were produced by Syrian Christians, of whom the most important were the Nestorians, Abu Baschar Mata and Jahja ben Adi, the Tagritan, as also Isa Ben Zaras. The Syriac translations (or revisions of earlier translations) by these men have been lost, but the Arabic translations were widely circulated and have in large measure been preserved; they were used by Alfarabi, Avicenna, Averroës, and the other Arabian philosophers. The Republic, Timcocus, and Laws of Plato, were also translated into Arabic. Averroës (in Spain, about 1150) possessed and paraphrased the Rep., but he did not the Politics of Aristotle; the book existing in MS. at Paris, entitled Siaset (Siyasah), i.e. Politica, is the spurious work De Regimme Principum s.Secretum Secretorum; the Polotics of Aristotle is not known to exist in Arabic. Farther, extracts from the Neo-Platonists, especially from Proclus, were translated into Arabic. The Syrians were led, especially in consequence of their contact with the Arabs, to extend their studies beyond the Organon; they began to cultivate in the Arabic language all the branches of philosophy on the basis of Aristotle’s works, and in this they were afterwards followed by the Arabs themselves, who soon surpassed their Syrian teachers. Alfarabi and Avicenna were the scholars of Syrian and Christian physicians. The later Syrian philosophy bears the type of the Arabian philosophy. The most important represeutative of the former was Gregorius Barhebraeus or Abulfaragins, the Jacobite, who lived in the thirteenth century, and was descended from Jewish parents, and whose compendium of the Peripatetic philosophy (Butyrum Sapientice) is still of great authority among the Syrians.”
“Alkendi (Abu Jusuf Jacub Ibn Eshak al Kendi. i.e. the father at Joseph, Jacob, son of Isaac, the Kendaean, of the district of Kendah) was born at Busra, on the Persian Gulf. where later, in the tenth century, the brothers of Purity’ or the Sincere Brethren, who collected in an Encyclopedia the learning then acceptable to the Arabians, were located. Hie lived during and after the first half of the ninth century, dying about 810. He was renowned as a mathematician, physician, and philosopher. He composed commentaries on the logical writings of Aristotle, and wrote also on metaphysical problems. In theology he was a rationalist. His astrology was founded on the hypothesis that all things are so bound together by harmonious causal relations, that each when completely conceived, must represent as in a mirror the whole universe.
“Alfarabi (Abu Nasr Mohammed ben Mohammed ben Tarkhan of Farab), born near the end of the ninth century, received his philosophical training mainly at Bagdad, where he also began to teach. Attached to the mystical sect of the Sufi, which Said Abdul Chair had founded about A.D. 820 (under the unmistakable influence of Buddhism, although Tholuck [Sufismus, Berlin, 1821 Blüthensammlung aus der Morgenländ. Mystik, Berlin, 1825] assigns to it a purely Mohammedan origin), Alfarabi went at a later epoch to Aleppo and Damascus, where be died A.D. 950. In logic Alfarabi follows Aristotle almost without exception. Whether logic is to be regarded as a part of philosophy or not, depends, according to Alfarabi. on the greater or less extension given to the conception of philosophy, and is therefore a useless question. Argumentation is the instrument by which to develop the unknown from the known; it is employed by the uten logicus logica docens is the theory which relates to this instrument, argumentation, or which treats of it as its subject (subjectum). Yet logic also treats of single concepts (incomplexa) as elements of judgments and argumentations (according to Alfarabi, as reported by Albertus M., De Proedicabil. i. 2 seq. cf., Prantl, Gesch. der Log., ii. p. 302 seq,) Alfarabi defines the universal (see Alb M., De Praed., ii. 5) as the unum de multus et in Mulitic, which definition is followed immediately by the inference that the universal has no existance apart from the individual (non habet esse separatum a multis). It is worthy of notice that Alfarabi does not admit in its absolute sense the aphorism: singulare sentitur, universale intlligitur, but teaches that the singular, although in its material aspect an object of sensible perception, exists in its formal aspect in the intellect, and, on the other hand, that the universal, although as such belonging to the intellect, exists also in sensu, in so far as it exists blended with the individual (Alb. An post. i. 1, 3). Among the contents of the Metaphysics of Alfarabi, mention is made of his proof of the existence of God, which was employed by Albertus Magnus and later philosophers. This proof is founded on Plat., Tim, p. 28: and Arist. Metaph, vii. 7 etc., or on the principal that all change and all development must have a cause. Alfarabi distinguishes (Fontes Quaestionum, ch. 3 seq., in Schmölders Doc. Phil. Ar., p. 44), between that which has a possible and that which has a necessary existence, just as Plato and Aristotle distinguish between the changeable and the eternal). If the possible is to exist in reality, a cause is necessary thereto. The world is composite, hence it had a beginning or was caused (ch. 2). But the series of causes and effects can neither recede in infinitum, nor return like a circle into itself;: it must, therefore, depend upon some necessary link, and this link, is the first being (ens primum). This first being exists necessarily; the supposition of its non-existence involves a contradiction. It is uncaused, and needs in order to its existence no cause external to itself. It is the cause of all that exists. Its eternity implies its perfection. It is free from all accidents. It is a simple and unchangeable. As the absolutely Good it is at once absolute thought, absolute object of thought, and absolute thinking being (intelligentia, intslligible, intelligens). It has wisdom, life, insight, might, and will, beauty excellence, brightness; it enjoys the highest happiness, is the first willing being and the first object of will (desire). In the knowledge of his being, Alfarabi (De rebus studio Arist. phil. phoemitt. Comm., ch. 4, ap. Schmölders, Doc. ph. Arab, p. 22), sees the end of philosophy, and he defines the practical duty of man as consisting in rising, so far as human force permits it, into likeness with God. In his teachings respecting that which is caused by or derived from God (Fontes Quoest, ch. 6 seq,), Alfarabi follows the Neo-Platonists. His fundamental conception is expressed by the word emanation. The first created thing was the Intellect, which came forth from the first being (the of Plotinus; this doctrine was logically consistent only for Plotinus, not for Alfarabi, since the former represented his One as superior to all preficates, while Alfarabi, in agreement with Aristotle and with religious dogmatics, recognized in his first being intelligence). From this intellect flowed forth, as a new emanation, the Cosmical Soul, in the complication and combination of whose ideas the basis of corporeality is to he found. Emanation proceeds from the higher or outer spheres to the lower or inner ones. In bodies, matter and form are necessarily combined with each other. Terrestrial bodies are composed of the four elements. The lower physical powers, up to the potential intellect, are dependent on matter. The potential intellect, through the operation (in-beaming) of the active divine intellect, is made actual (intellectus in actu or in effectu), and this actual intellect, as resulting from development, may be called acquired intellect (intellectus acquisitus, after the doctrine of Alexander of Aphrodisias, concerning the ). The actual human intellect is free from matter, and is a simple substance, which alone survives the death of the body and remains indestructible. Evil is a necessary condition of good in a finite world. All things are under divine guidance and are good, since all was created by God. Between the human understanding and the things which it seeks to know there exists (as Alfarabi teaches, De Intellecto el Intellectu, p. 48 seq.) a similarity of form, which arises from their having both been formed by the sense first being, and which makes knowledge possible.
“Avicenna (Abu Ali Al Hosain Abdallah Ibn Sina) was born at Afsenna, in the province of Bokhara, in the year 980. His mind was early developed by the study of theology, philosophy, and medicine, and in his youth he had already written a scientific encyclopedia. He taught medicine and philosophy in Ispahen.. He died at Hamadan in the fifty-eighth year of his life. His medical Canon was employed for centuries as the basis of instruction. In philosophy he set out from the doctrines of Alfarabi, but modified them by omitting many Neo-Platonic theorems and approximating more nearly to the real doctrine of Aristotle. The principle on which his logic was founded, and which Averroes adopted and Albertus Magnus often cites, was destined to exert a great influence. It was worded thus: Intellectus in formis agit universalitutem (Alb., De Proedicab, ii. 3 and 6). The genus, as also the species, the differentia the accidens, and the proprium, are in themselves neither universal nor singular. But the thinking mind, by comparing the similar forms, forms the genus logicum, which answers to the definition of the genus, viz. : that it is predicated of many objects specifically different, and answers the question, ‘What is it? (tells the quiditas). It is the genus naturale which furnishes the basis of comparison. When the mind adds to the generic and specific the individual accidents, the singular is formed (Avic., Log., Venice edition, 1508, f. 12, ap. Prantl, Geschichte der Logik, ii. 847 seq.) Only figuratively, according to Avicenna, can the genus be called matter and the specific difference form; such phraseology (frequent in Aristotle) is not strictly correct. Avicenna distinguishes several modes of generic existence, viz.: ante res, in rebus and post res. Genera are ante res in the mind of God; for all that exists is related to God as a work of art is related to an artist; it existed in his wisdom and will before its entrance into the world of manifold existence in this sense, and only in this sense, is the universal before the individual. Realized with its accidents in matter, the genus constitutes the natural thing, res naturalis which the universal essence is immanent. The third mode of the existence of the genus is that which it has in being conceived by the human intellect; when the latter abstracts the form and then compares it again with individual objects to which by one and the same definition it belongs, in this comparisen (respectus) is contained the universal (Avic., Log., f. 12; Metaph., v. 1, 2,f. 87, in Prantl, ii. P. 349). Our thought, which is directed to things, contains nevertheless dispositions which are peculiar to itself; when things are thought, there is added in thought something which does not exist outside of thought. Thus universality as such, the generic concept and the specific difference, the subject and predicate, and other similar elements, belong only to thought. Now it is possible to direct the attention, not merely to things, but also to the dispositions which are peculiar to thought, and this takes place in logic (Metaph., i.2;iii. 10, in Prantl, ii. p. 320 )n this is based on the distinction of ‘first’ and ‘second intentions.’ The direction of attention to things is the first intention (intentio prima); the second intention (intentio secunda) is directed to the dispositions which are peculiar to our thinking concerning things. Since the universal as such belongs not to things, but to thought, it belongs to the second intention. The principle of individual plurality, according to Avicenna, is matter, which he regards, not with Alfarabi as an emanation from the Cosmical Soul, but but with Aristotle as eternal and uncreated; all potentiality is grounded in it, as actuality is in God. Nothing changeable can come forth directly from the unchangeable first cause. His first and only direct product is the inteligentia prima (the of Plotinus, as with Alfarabi); from it the chain of emanations extends throngh the various celestial spheres to our earth. But the issuing of the lower from the higher is to be conceived, not as a single, temporal act, but as an eternal act, in which cause and effect are synchronous. The cause which gave to things their existence must continually maintain them in existence; it is an error to imagine that things once brought into existence continue therein of themselves. Notwithstanding its dependence on God, the world has existed from eternity. Time and motion always were (Avic. Metaph., vi. 2, et al; cf. the account in the Tractatus de Erroribus, ap. Hauréau, Ph. Sc. i. p. 368). Avicenna distinguishes a two-fold development of our potential understanding into actuality, the one common, depending on instruction, the other rare, and dependent on immediate divine illumination . According to a report transmitted to us by Averroes, Avicenna, in his Philosophia Orientalis, which has not come down to us, contradicted his Aristotellan principles, and conceived by God as a heavenly body.”
“Algazel (Abu Hamed Mohammed ibn Achmed Al-Ghazzali), born A..D. 1059 at Ghazzalah in Khorasan taught first at Bagdad, and afterwards having become a Sufi, resided in Syria. He died A.D. 1111 at Tus. He was a sceptic in Philosophy, but only that his faith might be all the stronger in the doctrines of theology. His course in this respect marked a reaction of the exclusively religious principle of Mohammedanism against philosophical speculation – which in spite of all accommodation had not made itself fully orthodox – and particularly against Aristotelianism; between the mysticism of the Neo-Platonist, on the contrary, and the Sufism of Algazel, there existed an essential affinity. In his Makacid al filasifa (Maqasidu ‘l-Fala-sifah), The Aims of the Philosophers, Algazel sets forth the doctrines of philosophy following essentially Alfarabi and particularly Aviecenna. These doctrines are then subjected by him to a hostile criticism in his Tehafot al filasifah (Tahafutu ’1- Falasifah), ‘Against the Philosophers,’ while in his ‘Fundamental Principles of Faith,’ he presents positively his own views. Averroës wrote by way rejoinder his Destructio Destructionis Philosophorum. Algazel exerted himself especially to excite a fear of the chastisements of God, since in his opinion the men of his times were living in. too great assurance. Against the philosophers he defended particularly the religious dogmas of the creation of the world in time and out of nothing, the reality of the divine attributes, and the resurrection of the body, as also the power of God to work miracles, in opposition to the supposed law of cause and effect. In the Middle Ages, his exposition of logic, metaphysics, and physic as given in the Makaacid, was much read.
“The result of the skepticism of Algazel was in the East the triumph of an unphilosophical orthodoxy; after him there arose in that quarter no philosopher worthy of mention. On the other hand, the Arabian philosophy began to flourish in Spain, where a succession of thinkers cultivated its various branches.”
“Avempace (Abu Bekr Mohammed be Jahja Ibn Badja), born at Saragossa near the end of the eleventh century, was celebrated as a physician, mathematician, astronomer, and philosopher. About 1118 he wrote, at Seville, a number of logical treatises. At a later period he lived in Granada, and afterwards also in Africa. He died at not a very advanced age in 1138, without having completed any extensive works; yet he wrote several smaller (mostly lost) treatises, among which, according td Munk (Mélanges, p. 386), were Logical Tractates (still existing, according to Casiri, Biblioth. Arabico-Hisp. Esrcurialensis, i. p. 179, in the library of the Escurial), a work on the soul another on the conduct of the solitary (regime de solitaire), also on the union of the universal intellect with man, and a farewell letter; to these may be added commentaries on the Physics, Meteorology, and other works of Aristotle relating to physical science. Munk gives the substance of the ‘Conduct of the Solitary,’ as reported by a Jewish philosopher of the fourteenth century, Moses of Narbonne (Mel., pp. 389-409). This work treats of the degrees by which the soul rises from that instinctive life which it shares with the lower animals, through gradual emancipation from materiality and potentiality to the required intellect (intetlectus acqiuiaitus) which is an emanation from the active intellect or Deity. Avempace seems (according to Averroes, De Anima, fol. 168A.) to have identified the intellecus materialis with the imaginative faculty. In the highest grade of knowledge (in self-consciousness) thought is identical with its object.”
“Abubacer (Abu Bakr Mohammed Abd al Malic Ibn Tophail al Keisi) was born in about the year 1100, at Wadi-Asch (Guadix), in Andalusia, and died in 1185, in Morocco. He was celebrated as a physician, mathematician, philosopher, and poet, and pursued still further the path of speculation opened up by Ibn Badja. His chief work, that has come down to us, is entitled Haji Ibn Jakdhan (Haiyu bnu Yaqzan), i.e. the Living One, the Son of the Waking One. The fundamental idea is the same in Ibn Badja’s ‘Conduct of the Solitary’, it is an exposition of the gradual development of the capacities of man to the point where his intellect becomes one with the Divine. But urn Tophail goes considerably farther than his predecessor in maintaining the independence of man in opposition to the institutions and opinions of human society. In his theory he represents the individual as developing himself without external aid. That independence of thought and will, which man now owes to the whole course of the previous history of the human race, is regarded by him as existing in the natural man, out of whom he makes an extra historical ideal (like Rousseau in the eighteenth century). Ibn Tophail regards positive religion, with its law founded on reward and punishment, as only a necessary means of discipline for the multitude; religions conceptions are in his view only types or envelopes of that truth to the logical comprehension of which the philosopher gradually approaches.
“Averroes (Abul Walid Mohammed Ibn Achmed Ibn Roschd), born A.D. 1126, at Cordova, where his grandfather and father filled high judicial offices, studied first positive theology and jurisprudence, and then medicine, mathematics, and philosophy. He obtained subsequently the office of judge at Seville, and afterwards at Cordova. lH was a junior contemporary and friend of Ibn Tophail, who presented him to Calif Aim Jacub Jusuf, soon after the latter’s ascent of the throne (1163), and recommended him, in place of himself, for the work of preparing an analysis of the works of Aristotle. Ibn Roschd won the favour of this prince, who was quite familiar with the problems of philosophy, and at a later epoch he became his physician in ordinary (1182). For a time also, he was in favour with a son of the prince. Jacub Almansur, who succeeded to his father’s ru1e in 1184, and he was still honoured by him in 1195. But soon after this date he was accused of cultivating the philosophy and science of antiquity to the prejudice of he Mohammedan religion, and was robbed by Almansur of his dignities and banished to Elisana (Lucena) near Cordova; he was afterwards tolerated in Morocco. A strict prohibition was issued against the study of Greek philosophy, and whatever works on logic and metaphysics were discovered were delivered to the flames. Averroes died in 1198, in his seventy-third year. Soon after, the rule of the Moors in Spain came to an end. The Arabian philosophy was extinguished, and liberal culture sunk under the exclusive rule of the Koran and of dogmatics.
“Averroes shows for Aristotle, the most unconditional reverence, going in this respect much farther than Avicenna; he considers him, as the founders of religion are wont to be considered, as the man whom alone, among all men, God permitteed to reach the highest summit of perfection Aristotle was, in his opinion, the founder and perfecter of scientific knowledge. In logic Averroet eveiywbere bmtts himself to merely annotating Aristotle. The principle of Aviccena: intellectus in forminagit universalitatem is also his (Averr De An. i 8., cf. Alb. M. De Proedicab, i ch 6) Science treats not of universal things, but of individuals under their universal aspect, which the understanding recognizes after making abstraction of there common nature (Destr destr fol 17 Scientia autem non est scientia rel universalis, sed est scientia particularium modo universali, quem facit intellectum in particularibus. Quum abstrahit ab iis naturam unam commenene, quae divisa est in materiis. The forms which are developed through the influence of higher forms, and in the last resort through the influence of Deity, are contained embryonically in matter.”
“The most noticeable thing in his psychology is the explanation which he gives of the Aristotelian distinction between. the active and the passive intellect and . Thomas Aquinas, who opposes the explanation, gives it in those words: Intellectum substantiam esse omnino ab anima separatum, esseque unum in omnibus hominibus: — nec Deum facers posse quod sint plures intellectus; but, he says, Averroes added: per rationed concludodi necessitate quod intellectur est unus numero, firmiter tamen teneo oppositum per fidem. In his commentary to the twelfth book of the Metaphysics, Averroes compares the relation of the active reason to man with that of the sun to vision, as the sun, by its light, brings about the act of seeing, so the active reason enables us to know, hereby the rational capacity in man is developed into actual reason, which is one with the active reason. Averroës attempts to recognise two opinions, the one of which he ascribes to Alexander of Aphrodisias, and the other to Themistius and the other commentators. Alexander he says, had held. the passive intellect to be a mere ‘disposition’ connected with the animal faculties, and, in order that it might be able perfectly to receive all forms, absolutely formless; this disposition was in us, but the active intellect , was without us; after our individual intellects no longer existed Themistius, on the contrary, and the other commentators, had regarded the passive intellect not as a mere disposition connected with the lower psychical powers, it as inhering in the same substratum to which the active intellect belonged; this subsratum, according to them, was distinct from those animal powers of the soul which depend on material organs, and as it was immaterial, immortality was to be predicated of the individual intellect inhering in it. Averroes, on the other hand, held that the passive intellect loot was indeed more than a mere disposition, and assumed (with Themsistius and most of the other Commentators, except Alexander) that the same substances was passive and active intellect (namely, the former in so far as it received forms, the latter in so far as it constructed forms) ; but he denied that the same substance in itself and in its individual existence was both passive and active assuming (with Alexander) that there existed only one active intellect in the world, and that man had only the ‘disposition’ in virtue of which he could be affected by the active intellect, when the active intellect came in contact with this this position, there arose in us the passive, or material intellect the one active intellect, the one becoming on its entrance into the plurality of souls particularized in them, just as light is decomposed into the different colours in bodies. The passive intellect was (according to Munk’s translation): Une chose composée de la disposition qui existe en nous et d’un intellect qui se joint la cette disposition, et qui, en tant qu’il y est jint, est un intellect prédisposé (en puissance) et non pas un intellect en acte, mais qui est intellect en acte en tant qu’il n’est plus joint à la disposition (from Commentaire moyen sur le traité de l’Ame, in Munk’s Mél , p 447), the active intellect worked first upon the passive, so as to develop it into actual and acquired intellect and, then on this latter, which it absorbed into itself, so that after our death it could be said that our , mind, continued to exist – though not as an individual substance, but only as an element of the universal mind. But Averröes did not identify this universal mind (as Alexander of Aphrodisias identified the ) with the Deity himself but conceived it (following in this the earlier Arabian commentators and directly the Neo-Platonists) as an emanation from the Deity, and as the mover of the lowest of the celestial circles, i.e. the sphere of the moon. This doctrine was developed by Averroes, particularly in his commentaries on the De Anima, whereas, in the Paraphrase (written earlier) he had expressed himself in a more individualistic sense (Averr., op. Munk, Mélanges, p. 442 seq) The psychological teaching of Averroës resembled, therefore, in the character of its definitions, that of Themistius, but in its real content that of Alexander Aphrodisiensis, since both Averroes and Alexande limited the individual existence of the human intellect to the period proceeding death, and recognized the eternity only of the one universal active intellect . For this reason the doctrine of the Alexandrists and of the Averroists were both condemned by the Catholic Church.”
“Avveroes professes himself in no sense hostile to religion, least of all to Mohammedansim, which he regarded as the most perfect of all religions. He demanded in the philosopher a grateful adherence to the religion of his people, the religion in which he was educated. But by this ‘adherence’ he meant only skillful accommodation of his views and life to the requirements of positive religion — a course which could not but fail to satisfy the real defenders of the religious principle. Averroes considered religion as containing philosophical truth under the veil of figurative representation; by allegorical interpretation one might advance to purer knowledge, while the masses held to the literal sense. The highest grade of intelligence was philosophical knowledge; the peculiar religion of the philosopher consisted in the deepening of his knowledge; for man could offer to God no worthier cultus than that of the knowledge of his works, through which we attain to the knowledge of God himself in the fullness of His essence. (Averroes in the larger Commentary on the Metaph. Ap. Munk, Mélanges, p. 455 seq.).
Dr. Marcus Dods remarks that “in philosophy the attainments of the Arabians have probably been overrated (see Lit. Hist.of Middle Ages, by Berrington, p. 446) rather than depreciated. As middlemen or transmitters, indeed, their importance can scarcely be too highly estimated. They were keen students of Aristotle when the very language in which he wrote was unknown in Roman Christendom: and the commentaries of Averroes on the most exact of Greek philosophers are said to be worthy of the text. It was at the Mohammedan university in his native city of Cordova, and from Arabian teachers, that this precursor of Spinoza derived those germs of thought whose fruit may be seen in the whole history of scholastic theology. And just before Averroes entered these learned halls, a young man passed from them equipped with the same learning, and gifted with genius and penetration of judgment which have made his opinions final wherever the name of Memonides is known. Undoubtedly these two fellow-citizens – the Mohammedan Arab, and the Arabic speaking Jew — have left their mark deep on all subsequent Jewish and Christian learning. And even though it be doubted whether their influence has been wholly beneficial, they may well be claimed as instances of the intellectual ardour which Mohammedan learning could inspire or awaken. A recent writer of great promise in the philosophy of religion has assigned to the Arab thinkers the honorable function of creating modern philosophy.’Theology and philosophy became in the hands of the Moors fused and blended; the Greek scientific theory as to the origin of things interwound with the Hebrew faith in a Creator. And so speculation became in a new and higher sense theistic; and the interpretation of the universe, the explication of God’s relation to it and its relation to God.’ (Fairhairn’s Studies, p. 398.) But speculation had become theistic long before there was an Arab philosophy. The same questions which firm the staple of modern philosophy were discussed at Alexandria three centuries before Mohammed; and there is scarcely a Christian thinker of the third or fourth century who does not write in presence of the great problem of God’s connection with the world, the relation of the Infinite to the finite, of the unseen intangible Spirit to the crass material universe. What we have here to do with, however, is not to ascertain whether modern philosophy be truly the offspring of the unexpected marriage of Aristotle and the Koran, but whether the religion promulgated in the latter is or is not obstructive of intellectual effort and enlightenment. And enough has been said to show that there is nothing in the religion which necessarily and directly tends to obstruct either philosophy or science; though when we consider the history and achievements of that nice which has for six centuries- been the leading representative of Islam, we are inclined to add that there is nothing in the religion which necessarily leads on the mind to the highest intellectual effort. Voltaire, in his own nervous way, exclaims, ‘I detest the Turks, as the tyrants of their wives and the enemies of the arts,’ And the religion has shown an affinity for such uncivilised races. It has not taken captive any race which possesses a rich literature, nor has it given birth to any work of which the world demands a translation; and precisely in so far as individuals have shown themselves possessed of great speculative and creative genius, have they departed from the rigid orthodoxy of the Koran. We should conclude, therefore, that the outburst of literary and scientific enthusiasm in the eighth century was due, net directly to the influence of the Mohammedan religion, but to the mental awakening and exultant consciousness of power and widened horizon that came to the conquering Saracens. At first their newly awakened energy found scope in other fields than that of philosophy. ‘Marte undique obstrepenti, musis vix erat locus,’ But when the din of war died down, the voice of the Muses was heard, and the same fervour which had made the Saracen arms irresistible, was spent now in the acquirement of knowledge.”— Mohammed, Buddha, and Christ. p. 118)
Based on Hughes, Dictionary of Islam