Aquinas and Jewish and Islamic Authors

David B. Burrell

in The Oxford Handbook of Aquinas

Published in print January 2012 | ISBN: 9780195326093
Published online May 2012 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks

Aquinas and Jewish and Islamic Authors

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  • Philosophy
  • History of Western Philosophy
  • Philosophy of Religion



The works of Plato and of Aristotle were made available to the Islamic people by virtue of Syriac translators from Greek into Arabic. Aristotle's Metaphysic offered the paradigm for carrying out philosophy to al-Farabi's successor, Avicenna (980–1037). His al-Shifa adapted the cosmological scheme of al-Farabi, whereby the planetary spheres transmit the primary causal influence of the One successively to the earth. Moses Maimonides (113–-1204) lived all of his life in the Islamicate, which is the linguistic and cultural world of Islam, coming eventually to serve as court physician for Saladin in Foster, the modern Cairo. He composed works of philosophy in Judaeo Arabic, the most significant of which is the Guide of the Perplexed, addressed to his student, Joseph. It was quickly translated into Hebrew, coming to Aquinas's attention in Latin translation. Avicenna had tried to reconcile Qur'anic assertions about creation with a pre-existent (and eternal) matter because he could see no other place to locate the possibility that what came to be would come to be. Aquinas was able to offer a coherent characterization of the act of creation without pretending to have described it. Existence (esse), understood as actuality, becomes the vehicle for articulating God's transcendence, as well as what links created things with their creator.

Keywords: Qur'anic assertions; medieval philosophy; existence; God's transcendence

Article.  3991 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Philosophy of Religion

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