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al-Kindi, Abu Yusuf Ya‘qub ibn Ishaq (d. c.866–73)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-H029-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved June 24, 2024, from

Article Summary

Practically unknown in the Western world, al-Kindi has an honoured place in the Islamic world as the ‘philosopher of the Arabs’. Today he might be viewed as a bridge between Greek philosophers and Islamic philosophy. Part of the brilliant ninth-century ‘Abbasid court at Baghdad, composed of literati of all types, he served as tutor for the caliph’s son. He gained insights into the thought of Greek philosophers, especially Aristotle, through the translation movement; although he did not make translations himself, he corrected them and used them advantageously in his own thought.

Al-Kindi is notable for his work on philosophical terminology and for developing a vocabulary for philosophical thought in Arabic, although his ideas were superseded by Ibn Sina in the eleventh century. The debate about the allowability of philosophy in terms of orthodox Islam also began with al-Kindi, a battle that is usually considered to have been won for religion by al-Ghazali. Like other innovators, his ideas may no longer appear revolutionary, but in his own day, to push for the supremacy of reason and for the importance of a ‘foreign science’ – philosophy – as opposed to an ‘Arab science’ – grammar, Qur’anic studies – was quite astonishing. When the Khalif al-Mutawwakil came to power and sought to restore traditionalism, al-Kindi suffered a reversal of fortunes.

Citing this article:
Kennedy-Day, Kiki. al-Kindi, Abu Yusuf Ya‘qub ibn Ishaq (d. c.866–73), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-H029-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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