Articles ft. philosophy of history, progressive business, self-interruption

Featuring: interreligious cooperation in philosophy; philosophy in the Islamic world;

When philosophy needed Muslims, Jews and Christians alike, Peter Adamson @ Aeon

In 10th-century Baghdad, philosophical studies, especially those of Aristotellian texts, were studied as a cooperation between Islamic, Jewish, and Christian philosophers. One interesting example: Arabic scholars generally did not know how to read Greek, so they could not read Aristotle’s texts themselves. However, because the study of Greek had been maintained by Christian scholars, they translated Aristotle’s works into Arabic.

…philosophy and the sciences more generally offered a kind of meeting point or neutral ground for intellectuals of different faiths. Muslims, Christians and Jews who shared an interest in Aristotle’s metaphysics or the medical theories of Galen read each others’ commentaries and elaborations on the Hellenic tradition.

It’s interesting that religious scholars were so closely tied into philosophical studies (and cross-religion philosophical studies), because philosophy is generally considered a very non-religious area now. In this example, religion is not merely not opposed to philosophical studies; it’s actually the motivator for them. The article is also another example of how interreligious cooperation is generally profitable for scholarly discourse.

Not really a full essay, but a blurb shedding light on an easily-overlooked historical example of religious cooperation in the pursuit of truth.

If Aquinas is a philosopher then so are the Islamic theologians, Peter Adamson @ Aeon

Why do we call Aquinas a philosopher, but not certain Islamic theologians? Where is the distinction between theologians and philosophers? In the sidebar, this question: Is it possible to separate out philosophical arguments from essentially theological texts?

The article argues that some Islamic theologians (practitioners of what is called kalām, ‘theology’) should also be considered philosophers and studied as such. Some arguments are made that kalām did not base arguments on reason. The article concludes with:

it is worth spreading the news that rationalism in Islam did not die with Averroes, and that the famous partisans of philosophy in the Islamic world, like al-Fārābī, Averroes and Avicenna, had no monopoly on philosophical thinking there.

I don’t really have much thought on the argument, but the idea that philosophical arguments might be separated out from ‘essentially theological texts’ is interesting. I don’t think I know the scopes of either theology or philosophy well enough to make a well-reasoned argument for either side, but it seems to me that if a philosophical argument is made based on theological texts, then it is really, really difficult to separate them out because you must separate the conclusions from its core assumptions about the world and life. Perhaps we could also make the argument that all philosophical texts are based on something — but even I don’t know if that’s necessarily true.

When faced with so-called ‘progressive business’, stay skeptical, Christian O. Christiansen @ Aeon

The last paragraph, out of all the paragraphs in this essay, made the most sense to my tired mind.

In brief, a corporation might very well provide health insurance to ‘its’ employees, but only the state can provide adequate health care for all citizens, including the long-term unemployed. Similarly, a corporation might implement more sustainable environmental and climate policies, but other forces such as strong environmental organisations are necessary for a long-haul push. Progressive business is an idea with a longer history than commonly recognised. This history shows that while progressive business can certainly help achieve good things, it should not be a substitute for progressive politics.

Are You a Self-Interrupter?, Adam Gazzaley & Larry D. Rosen @

One interesting aspect of this penchant for combining tasks is that we seem to have lost the ability to single task. Glance around a restaurant, look at people walking on a city street, pay attention to people waiting in line for a movie or the theater, and you will see busily tapping fingers. We act as though we are no longer interested in or able to stay idle and simply do nothing. We appear to care more about the people who are available through our devices than those who are right in front of our faces. And perhaps more critically, we appear to have lost the ability to simply be alone with our thoughts.

Interesting how technology and UI design encourage this too! In the middle of the article: an ad for another article — couldn’t even read the whole article in one go.


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