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Religion and Society

Philosophical Dialogue in the Spirit of Toledo

Author: A. T. Tymieniecka Title: The Passions of the Soul in the Metamorphosis of Becoming Publisher: Kluwer Academic Publisher, Dodrecht, 2003, pp. 288

This book edited by Prof. Tymieniecka, President of the World Phenomenology Institute, has an especial relevance both because of the essays it contains and because it is the first volume in the series 'Islamic Philosophy and Occidental Phenomenology in Dialogue'. The essays in this volume derive in part from symposia held in 2000 and 2001 when an attempt was made to identify and analyse the bases for dialogue between Western phenomenology and Islamic philosophy. 'There is something new in the air; indeed, something ancient', one wants to declare when presented with an initiative which embarks on the path of cultural dialogue with Islam through philosophy. Looking at the history of European culture, one can observe, for example, that by the middle of the twelfth century, in Toledo, which became the most important centre for the dissemination of Arab and Greek culture, the Archbishop, the Frenchman Raimondo di Sauvetât, had secured the translation from Latin, in a specific Collegium works, by al-Farabi, by Avicenna, and by al-Ghazzali (as well as by Aristotle and Avicebron). The Collegium of Toledo thus led to the completion of a full translation of no less than ninety-two complete Arab works as a result of which the philosophers and theologians of Medieval Christendom could interact with Arab philosophers. Avicenna offered the first major speculative synthesis of the thought of Aristotle, a synthesis in which the thought of the Greek philospher was permeated by neo-Platonism and teachings taken from the Islamic religion. This last aspect, in particular, constituted an important element from a cultural point of view: the attempt to harmonise Aristotelian philosophy with the (Islamic) religion did not appear in principle to be impossible. Medieval philosophers also addressed Averro who advanced two theses that were radical and held to be problematic: the eternity of the world and the uniqueness of the possible intellect (this had a certain importance in European modern philosophical and political thought).


The essays in this volume reflect on this and other subjects. The work is organised into four sections: 'The Soul and its Passions'; 'The Spheres of the Mind'; 'Flux and Stasis'; and 'More about the Phenomenon and its Unveiling'. Of especial significance are the opening essay by Tymieniecka entitled 'The Human Soul in the Metamorphosis of Life' and the last essay 'The Shared Quest Between Islamic Philosophy and Modern Phenomenology' by Reza Davari Ardkani. In her essay Tymieniecka sets out the bases for this dialogue by reflecting on concepts that are fundamental for knowledge (phenomenon, appearance, intuition) and on the position of man understood as a creative microcosm within the world. Encounter and dialogue with others, in faith, in religion, and in institutions, is the other side of the inquiry into rationality and the principle of human life to which philosophy has always dedicated itself. In his essay Reza Davari Ardekani, the President of the Academy of Sciences of the Islamic Republic of Iran, enucleates five subjects which can be adopted by Islamic phenomenologists and philosophers as a point of departure for a profound cultural dialogue and a contribution to the debate that is underway in contemporary culture. The first subject for shared reflection is intentionality (to which, however, Islamic philosophy, has not hitherto paid great attention); the second subject is the nexus between two forms of knowledge: that specific to daily life and that which is authentically philosophical. Other elements for reflection whose exploration could be especially fruitful, taking into account as well the fact that both phenomenology and Islamic philosophy ask themselves first and foremost about essences, are the place of historicity in philosophical knowledge and human knowledge and the distinction between perception and apperception, which is explored by phenomenology and by the important Persian philosopher Mulla Sadra (1571-1640) and taken as a term of dialogue in many essays. Lastly, the author calls for the restoration of Sophia Perennis at the centre of the debate, a classic subject which re-emerged in the thought of Husserl on the crisis of science and the destiny of philosophy, a subject that is dear to Islamic philosophy.