Sunday, May 15, 2011

Jews and Philosophy

Quotes the Maverick Philosopher:

Leo Strauss sketches an answer in his "How to Begin to Study Medieval Philosophy" in The Rebirth of Classical Political Rationalism, ed. T. L. Pangle, University of Chicago Press, 1989, pp. 221-222, bolding added:

For the Jew and the Moslem, religion is primarily not, as it is for the Christian, a faith formulated in dogmas, but a law, a code of divine origin. Accordingly, the religious science, the sacra doctrina, is not dogmatic theology, theologia revelata, but the science of the law, halaka or fiqh. The science of the law, thus understood has much less in common with philosophy than has dogmatic theology. Hence the status of philosophy is, as a matter of principle, much more precarious in the Islamic-Jewish world than it is in the Christian world. No one could become a competent Christian theologian without having studied at least a substantial part of philosophy; philosophy was an integral part of the officially authorized and even required training. On the other hand, one could become an absolutely competent halakist or faqih without having the slightest knowledge of philosophy. This fundamental difference doubtless explains the possibility of the later complete collapse of philosophical studies in the Islamic world, a collapse which has no parallel in the West in spite of Luther.
Sed Contra, says Roger Bacon:

God has revealed philosophy to His saints to whom also he gave the Law. He did so because philosophy was indispensable for the understanding, the promulgation, the adoption, and the defense of the Law. It was for this reason that it was delivered in all its details in the Hebrew Language ... to the patriarchs and the prophets. They possessed wisdom in its entirety before the infidel sages obtained it. ... All their information about heavenly bodies, about the secrets of nature and the superior sciences, about religions, God, Christianity, the beauties of virtue ... were derived from God's saints. ... Adam, Solomon, and the others testified to the truth of the faith not only in Sacred Scripture, but also in books of philosophy long before there were any philosophers so-called. (Opus Tertium, x and xxiv, trans. S. Hirsch in A. G. Little, Roger Bacon Commemorative Essays [Oxford, 1914], 137).


NapLajoieonSteroids said...

There is a problem with quoting (or appropriating the quote from Dr.Vallenica's blog) Leo Strauss.

Strauss was idiosyncratic, if I must put it nicely, with his views on religion. And he made it his life's work to separate reason from revelation- checked out his "secret thesis" that Maimondes was an atheist!

Strauss's view of reason within a religious tradition (especially Judaism) is much like his political philosophy- dangerously interesting but off the mark.

Samn! said...

That Strauss deeply misapprehended Arabic philosophy, specifically Maimonides and Farabi, has been widely commented upon, and this misapprehension impacts the substance of his reading of the ancient philosophers as well, if we follow Remi Brague's "Athens, Jerusalem, Mecca" reading of Strauss.

The idea that philosophy died in the Islamic world is something of an old canard, based on an Orientalist prejudice toward seeing certain strains of Sunnism as the most authentic form of Islam. In Iran and the Shi'ite world in general, Avicennian philosophy continues to be very much a live thing and it would be hard to understand the ideology of the current Iranian regime without understanding the importance of Mullah Sadra (and thus Suhrawardi and Avicenna) to Khomeini's thought.

Even in the Sunni world, the scholarly consensus about al-Ghazali has come around to accepting that, despite his famous "Incoherence of the Philosophers", he incorporated much of Avicenna into his own theological-philosophical synthesis. Going a bit further afield, it's difficult to see how kalam, the native Islamic tradition of rationalist theology, cannot be viewed as a form of philosophy, seeing as how it is deeply interested in answering many of the questions addressed by the Greek-inspired philosophical tradition...

But the problem, I guess, that Strauss was not only idiosyncratic about religion, but also in his understanding of what philosophy is... one gets the impression that he saw it as being inherently at odds with religion.