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Ethics in Islamic philosophy

DOI
10.4324/9780415249126-H018-1
DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-H018-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 21, 2019, from https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/ethics-in-islamic-philosophy/v-1

Article Summary

The study of Islamic ethics, whether philosophical or theological, grew out of early discussions of the questions of predetermination (qadar), obligation (taklif) and the injustices of temporal rulers, particularly the caliphs. Early writers on ethics from the Mu‘tazila school were probably influenced by Greek philosophy. By the third century AH (ninth century ad) a clearly discernible current of philosophical ethics began to take shape, with strong influences from Greek ethics including Stoicism, Platonism and Aristotelianism.

Al-Kindi, the first genuine philosopher of Islam, appears from his extant ethical writings to have been particularly influenced by Socrates and Diogenes the Cynic. Other classical influences can be seen in the work of Platonists such as Abu Bakr al-Razi, who followed Plato’s division of the parts of the souls, and Neoplatonists such as al-Farabi, while Aristotelian influences can be seen in al-Farabi, who also discussed the problem of evil, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd. Ibn Sina developed a theory of the conjunction of the soul with the active intellect; with this conjunction is bound up the ultimate perfection of the soul which has attained the highest degree of wisdom and virtue.

Neoplatonism again surfaces in the work of Ibn Miskawayh and his followers, to whom we owe the groundwork of a whole ethical tradition which flourished in Persia well into the twelfth century AH (eighteenth century ad) and beyond. Onto Plato’s threefold division of the soul, Ibn Miskawayh grafts a threefold division of virtue into wisdom, courage and temperance. His views were elaborated upon by al-Tusi and al-Dawwani, among others. A blend of philosophical and religious ethics is characteristic of the work of some later writers such as al-Ghazali and Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, in which the road to moral and spiritual perfection has mystical overtones.

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Citing this article:
Fakhry, Majid. Ethics in Islamic philosophy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-H018-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis, https://www.rep.routledge.com/articles/thematic/ethics-in-islamic-philosophy/v-1.
Copyright © 1998-2019 Routledge.

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