humanism


humanism
   A tendency in Islamic thought that mostly flourished in the lively intellectual milieu of fourth/ tenth-century Baghdad, under the Buyid dynasty.
   Generally Aristotelian in spirit, the humanist movement included thinkers such as Yahya ibnAdi, al-Sijistani, and al-Tawhidi (as well as lesser lights), and reached its apex with Miskawayh. Perhaps even more so than the earlier falasifa, the humanist thinkers were marked by a commitment to reason as the path to knowledge, salvation and happiness. For them, traditional religious concerns were generally peripheral, and their recognition of Islam is interpreted primarily as a practical concession to the dominant conventions of their particular community and culture. This is not to say that they disparaged religion (as, for example, freethinkers such as Ibn al-Rawandi and Abu Bakr al-Razi had); rather they saw it as one possible source of (partial) truth among many. Well-educated cosmopolitans with the collective insights of Arabic, Persian, Indian and Greek civilization at their disposal, the humanists sought theoretical and practical knowledge wherever they could find it. They were particularly committed to the project of reviving the so-called ‘ancient sciences’ (al- ‘ulum al-awa’il) of the Greeks. They crafted syncretic philosophies that drew from diverse schools and traditions, and produced volumes of wisdom literature, which compiled aphorisms, arguments and biographical anecdotes from their wisest and most admirable predecessors. This enthusiasm for collecting and synthesizing the insights of the past dovetailed with the humanists’ ethical perfectionism and proximity to the adab tradition (which emphasized the cultivation of good manners, refinement and urbanity). The point of their scholarship and discussions was thus not to produce a watertight theoretical system, but rather to learn from exemplary individuals about the proper formation of character and the attainment of happiness, i.e. the good life for human beings.
   See adab; Ibn ‘Adi; Miskawayh; al-Sijistani, Abu Sulayman Muhammad; al-Tawhidi
   Further reading: Goodman 2003; Kraemer 1986a/93; Netton 1992/99

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

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