[P4780] Making Falsafa: Towards a Modern History of Arabic Philosophy

Created by Angela Giordani
Tuesday, 11/21/17 10:30am


This panel explores the modern construction of the Arabic philosophical canon. It examines how the falsafa tradition and its authors were interpreted, appropriated, and produced in Arabic and Orientalist writings from the late nineteenth through twentieth centuries. The papers bring together two strands of scholarship, in post-classical Arabo-Islamic philosophy and modern Arabic intellectual history, similarly committed to re-thinking the modern terms with which falsafa came to be read and represented as, for example, a medieval relic that did not survive in Arabic past the twelfth century. Drawing on diverse disciplinary methods to address the question of falsafa's modern genealogy, our papers seek to both debunk and explain this and other dominant representations of philosophy and its history in Arabic and the Islamic World. While this sort of interdisciplinary conversation among specialists in different periods of Arabic intellectual production has long since begun in the literature on fiqh, the fact that there is no such conversation on falsafa reflects a wider conceptual problem and historiographical discrepancy. The growing body of critical scholarship--inspired by Talal Asad's influential conceptualization of Islam as a "discursive tradition"-- has privileged legal modes of reasoning as definitive of the tradition in the modern era, while neglecting to trace the concurrent transformation of other fields of Islamic thought. By examining different aspects and contexts of the modern study and remaking of falsafa as an integral component of the Islamic discursive tradition, our panel aims to open new pathways for tracing Islamic discursive forms in modern intellectual history.
The four papers follow in chronological order. The first places in intellectual-historical context the composition and publication of two understudied philosophical works by Muhammad 'Abduh: his Hashiyah on Jalal al-Din al-Dawani's Sharh on 'Adud al-Din al-Iji's 'Aqa'id 'Adudiyyah, and his Ta'liqat on Ibn Sahlan al-Sawi's Basa'ir Nasiriyyah fi 'Ilm al-Mantiq. The second paper then traces the efforts of three hitherto underappreciated Syrian scholars to publish and popularize classical works of falsafa in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Returning to Egypt, the third presentation considers the early twentieth-century emergence of two genres for representing falsafa--the historical survey and anthology--and their competing universalizing claims on the Arabic philosophical heritage. The panel concludes with a paper on Ibn Tufayl's modern reception that examines how twentieth-century editions, especially those illustrated for children, adapted an allegory about the superiority of the philosopher into one about future citizens of the Arab nation.





Robert J. Wisnovsky

(McGill University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Ahmed El Shamsy

(The University of Chicago)
Panel Participating Role(s): Presenter;

Angela Giordani

(Columbia University)
Panel Participating Role(s): Organizer; Presenter;