Skip to main content

The origin and early development of philosophy in tenth-century al-Andalus: the impact of ill-defined materials and channels of transmission.

Periodic Reporting for period 2 - PhilAnd (The origin and early development of philosophy in tenth-century al-Andalus: the impact of ill-defined materials and channels of transmission.)

Reporting period: 2019-04-01 to 2020-09-30

PhilAnd is a project to conduct a large-scale exploration of how, and under which form, philosophy appeared for the first time in al-Andalus. This issue is pivotal to understanding the history of sciences and ideas, and the role of the Arab-Muslim world in this transfer to Medieval Europe. Its relevance today also lies in the fact that it addresses questions of cultural and religious identities, since the formative stage of philosophy in al-Andalus proved decisive in shaping the intellectual background of many later authors from the Peninsula, whether Muslims, Jews, or Christians. At the crossroads of several major lines of enquiries in modern scholarship and in line with recent discoveries having important chronological implications, PhilAnd focuses on the 10th century, a period usually disregarded by historians on the assumption that philosophy as such was not cultivated in the Iberian Peninsula before the 11th-12th centuries. Its originality is also to put emphasis on ‘ill-defined’ materials and channels of transmission, a field which remains largely unexplored.
This project consists of five topics designed for highly-specialised scholars working in close interaction, and of another three transversal types of exploration conducted in the form of conferences convened with leading experts in the world.

The five individual sub-projects are defined as: SP1: ‘Jābir ibn Ḥayyān’; SP2: ‘Ikhwān al-Ṣafā’; SP3: ‘Ibn Waḥshiyya’; SP4: ‘Ibn Masarra’; SP5: ‘Maslama Ibn Qāsim al-Qurṭubī’.

The three transversal sub-projects are defined as: SP6: Power, Religion and Wisdom: Bāṭinism between orthodoxy and heterodoxy in tenth-century al-Andalus; SP7: Interconnections between Jewish and Islamic rationalistic forms of thought during the tenth century; SP8: Science and Craft: the relations between the theoretical and practical sides of esoteric disciplines in al-Andalus and their link with craft.

The overall objectives are to test the hypothesis: 1) that the emergence of philosophy in al-Andalus significantly predates the currently accepted time; and 2) that the impact of this formative stage was considerably wider than commonly acknowledged. This project also seeks to provide a better evaluation of the originality of the first Andalusī philosophers with respect to their Oriental forerunners.

This cutting-edge investigation is likely to stimulate major changes in our perception of how this primeval stage of philosophy in al-Andalus determined the subsequent developments of rational speculation among the three monotheistic communities of the Peninsula and, through them, the cultural and intellectual formation of Europe.
"Progress with the five indivdual projects at this stage can be summarized as follows:

SP1: ‘Jābir ibn Ḥayyān’. Transcription of the Kitāb al-Nukhab (= Kitāb al-Baḥth) completed. Conceptual framework of the book established. Monograph on schedule, plus two articles to appear shortly. Two papers presented in International conferences.
SP2: ‘Ikhwān al-Ṣafā’. Systematic survey of the redaction chronology of the three works attributed to the Brethren of Purity (Ikhwān al-Ṣafāʼ) now almost complete. Manuscripts obtained from Istanbul and Tübingen. Monograph on schedule, plus two articles submitted for publication. Two papers in international conferences.
SP3: ‘Ibn Waḥshiyya’. Exploration done of the rational elements and the theoretical frameworks of the Nabatean Agriculture leading to the forthcoming publication of two articles. Focus on astrology in the Nabatean Agriculture and its influence on later scholars in al-Andalus, leading to the the forthcoming publication of another two articles. Two papers in international conferences.
SP4: ‘Ibn Masarra’. The research led to the discovery of a new source, central to the issues of authorship and chronology of the Kitāb Khawāss al-ḥurūf.
New hypothesis that this and other works thus far ascribed to Ibn Masarra were produced in the twelfth century. Consequently, major reformulation of the material for the expected monograph to discuss this hypothesis and to evaluate its impact for the history of Arabic science and philosophy. Monograph on schedule, with two articles on related issues to be published shortly.
SP5: ‘Maslama Ibn Qāsim al-Qurṭubī’. Critical edition with annotated English translation and commentary of the Rutbat al-hakīm slightly behind schedule, but heuristics of 65 manuscripts now completed, and collation of the 33 copies already in possession now begun. Extensive corpus of alchemical texts now realised to identify the sources of the treatise. One article on the Rutba to be published in 2020, plus a long study of Arab-Latin translations of alchemical texts.

Of the three transversal sub-projects in the form of conferences, the first one (SP6) was planned to take place in June 2020 at the Institute for Advanced Study (Princeton), but was cancelled due to the Covid-19 outbreak, forcing us to reschedule it in 2021 (at the same place). But this delay will inevitably have important consequences for the organizations of the other two major conferences (see ""Problems and difficulties"").

Three exploratory workshops thus far organized in view of these international conferences: two at UCLouvain (26/3/2018 for SP6 and 17/9/2018 for SP7) and one at the Warburg Institute (17/6/2019 for SP8).

Two special workshops and reading sessions organized at UCLouvain with visiting professors from The Hebrew University of Jerusalem and the IRHT (Paris)."
As the above summary reveals, the five individual SPs of PhilAnd have by now all substantially progressed beyond the state of the art. The long-awaited editions of certain crucial texts as part of SP-1, SP-4 and SP-5 are all on good tracks and the five lines of inquiry have generated a wide range of innovative and challenging studies to appear in high-rated academic journals. As was hoped from the launching of the project, the simultaneous exploration of these five interconnected topics, together with the working sesssions and workshops thus far organized, enables us today to clarify, or to re-evaluate, important facets of the transmission of philosophy and science on the soil of the Iberian Peninsula. Over the past thirty months, new methods were tested, new tools were created, and our network of international collaborations was significantly expanded. The partnership between UCLouvain and the Warburg Institute (University of London) proves to be very effective. Three major international conferences are now to be organized in the second part of the project to test its fundamental hypotheses, taking a maximal benefit from the synergies created between PhilAnd and leading projects currently being carried out in the world on closely-related topics.
Project logo (other formats available on request)