The World Explored, the World Suffered Education Issue Nr. 32 July 2020 - Page 28

The influence of the Arabs during the medieval period is somewhat of an enigma. Many scholars have been characterized as Neoplatonic in spite of the fact that there was a tangible presence in their work of Aristotelian ideas especially in the arenas of logic and philosophical psychology. Bertrand Russell in his work "History of Western Philosophy" ventures into East-West philosophical and religious relations and claims the following: "The distinctive culture of the Muslim world, though it began in Syria, soon came to flourish most in the Eastern and Western extremities, Persia and Spain. The Syrians at the time of the conquest(634 AD) were admirers of Aristotle, whom Nestorian preferred to Plato, the philosopher favoured by the Catholics. The Arabs first acquired their knowledge of Greek Philosophy from the Syrians, and thus, from the beginning, they thought Aristotle more important than Plato."(p416) As mentioned above, however, it was in the theoretical spheres of logic and philosophical psychology that the Arab scholars were most active. It was not clear, for example, how the Arab preference for Nestorianism(the thesis that there were two beings present in the Incarnation of Jesus) could be a consequence of the Aristotelian monistic hylomorphic theory. Nestorianism could be many things amongst which include: 1. A belief in a Platonic form of a dualism of the mind and the body. or 2. An Aristotelian belief that man is both an animal(irrational) and rational. The essentially encyclopedic approach to knowledge displayed by wide-ranging Arab interests of this period prevents a categorical stance on this issue. With some exceptions, they appeared to regard Philosophy as merely one subject among many. Avicenna, Ibn Sina, embodies this spirit, being the author of an encyclopedia and producing work in philosophical psychology that has a distinctive empirical character. Given the fact that his fame was principally gained in the field of medicine practicing as a doctor his preference for Aristotle over the more theoretically inclined Plato is understandable. He is noted amongst analytical philosophers for his work on the problem of Universals and here his views were clearly in some ways related to Aristotle, claiming that universals are before things, in things, and after things. One of the major differences between Aristotle's and Plato's theories as we know resides in a differing view of the character of the forms: Plato claiming that, for example, the natural objects of the external world "participate" in some sense of the term in their form and