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Aesthetics in Islamic philosophy

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-H020-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved May 18, 2024, from

Article Summary

The major Islamic philosophers produced no works dedicated to aesthetics, although their writings do address issues that contemporary philosophers might study under that heading. The nature of beauty was addressed by Islamic philosophers in the course of discussions about God and his attributes in relation to his creation, under the inspiration of Neoplatonic sources such as the pseudo-Aristotelian Theology of Aristotle, a compilation based upon the Enneads of Plotinus. Considerations of artistic beauty and creativity were also addressed in works inspired by Aristotle’s Rhetoric and Poetics, and Islamic philosophers also adapted some of Plato’s views on literature and imitation, particularly those expressed in the Republic.

On the whole, Islamic philosophers did not view artistic and literary creativity as ends in themselves. Rather, their interest was in explaining the relations of these activities to purely intellectual ends. In the case of poetics and rhetoric in particular, the emphasis in Islamic philosophy was pragmatic and political: poetics and rhetoric were viewed as instruments for communicating the demonstrated truths of philosophy to the populace, whose intellectual abilities were presumed to be limited. The medium of such communication was usually, although not necessarily, that of religious discourse. Islamic philosophers also devoted considerable attention to explaining the psychological and cognitive foundations of aesthetic judgment and artistic production within the spectrum of human knowledge. They argued that rhetoric and poetics were in some important respects non-intellectual arts, and that poetics in particular was distinctive in so far as it addressed the imaginative faculties of its audience rather than their intellects.

Citing this article:
Black, Deborah L.. Aesthetics in Islamic philosophy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-H020-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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