Article

Arabic Contributions to Medieval Political Theory

Charles E. Butterworth

in The Oxford Handbook of the History of Political Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780199238804
Published online September 2011 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199238804.003.0011

Series: Oxford Handbooks in Philosophy

 Arabic Contributions to Medieval Political Theory

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This article explores political philosophy within the medieval Arabic-Islamic tradition of the Middle East, focusing on the contributions of a few thinkers including Alfarabi, Avicenna, Ibn Bajja, Ibn Tufayl, Ibn Rushd, Averroes, and Ibn Khaldūn. Political philosophy in general differs from political thought, on the one hand, and political theology, on the other, insofar as it seeks to replace opinion about political affairs by knowledge. Political philosophy in the medieval Arabic-Islamic tradition of the Middle East differs from that in the medieval Arabic-Jewish or Arabic-Christian traditions in that it is beholden neither to political nor to theological currents, its occasional rhetorical bows to one or the other notwithstanding. Political thought, best exemplified by the genre known as “Mirrors for Princes,” is always limited by the opinions that dominate the setting and time. Political theology or, for medieval Islam, jurisprudence focuses on how the beliefs and actions set forth in the religious tradition elucidate the conditions justifying warfare or the qualities an individual must have to be considered a suitable ruler.

Keywords: Arabic-Islamic tradition; Middle East; political philosophy; political thought; political theology; Islam; Alfarabi; Avicenna; Ibn Bajja; Ibn Tufayl

Article.  7822 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; History of Western Philosophy ; Social and Political Philosophy

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