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Parallels of Stoicism and Kalam

Simko, Ivan (2008) Parallels of Stoicism and Kalam.
Diplomarbeit, University of Vienna. Fakultät für Philosophie und Bildungswissenschaft
BetreuerIn: Wimmer, Franz Martin

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DOI: 10.25365/thesis.2109
URN: urn:nbn:at:at-ubw:1-29599.70107.758760-5

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Abstract in English

"More ideas mean more thought, more thought means more wisdom, and more wisdom means more sensible actions." - Jahiz, The Proofs of Prophecy The work presents the history of ideas of two historically and culturally distant schools of thought in order to find their mutual interests, premises and conclusions. The scope of work is on the one hand intercultural, as both Stoic and Kalam teachings belong to a different historical period, while the continuity between them was broken in many aspects, which are for our work relevant. Kalam, or Muslim theology, emerges in the time, when Arab/Persian speaking nations gain majority in former Middle Eastern provinces of the Roman Empire; the continuity between the sciences of 3rd century Athens, Imperial Rome and its Byzantine successor is questionable as well. On the other hand, the scope of the work is also interdisciplinary, as the reasons why and methods how people developed Stoic and Muslim theological ideas were often very different. After an introduction, the work continues with a brief presentation of Stoicism: the historical and scientific context in which its foundations emerged, basic teachings (as well as their contributors and contemporary opponents), and also the ways how they influenced various cultures and paradigms (including Roman law, Christian theology and modern, ie post-Renaissance philosophy). The goal is to distinguish peculiarities of Stoicism in all of their fields of scientific interest; and thus also to prevent vague assumptions based on similarity of their fatalistic and deontic ethics, which may occur because of their perception in our times. Also, despite the Stoic school was in many ways influenced by previous Platonic, Peripatetic, religious and other traditions, the specific context of Hellenistic philosophy allows us to focus on their debate with Epicurean and Sceptic schools: on the questions of epistemology, theology, physics, understanding of reason, obligations and death, as well as consequent ethics. Of course, the inner development of the Stoic tradition is handled as well. This invites to a comparision between the dynamic reality of the school's development and its image, reflected in the (mostly secondary) texts available in the centers of Kalam. Before the work proceeds to analyze their reception on the particular cases, it is important to present the context of Kalam as well. The third chapter presents the origin of Kalam in the practice of religious law; the original dilemmas and conflicts (of both spiritual and political nature), their consequent development into abstract ideas, religious communities and political parties. It presents the paradox nature of this early Kalam as well: the attempts to formulate orthodoxy, which end up in a plurality of thoughts and worldviews, and make the turbulent era of the late 7th and first half of the 8th century AD to change into a century of scientific progress in the 9th. There isn't much space left to analyze the possible Stoic influence in the foundations of Kalam, and it doesn't seem there has been any at all. Thus the reason of this chapter is to provide reader with basic terms, historical context and religious or scientific relevance of particular themes. It is to provide an ability not only to distinguish the role of Stoicism in the ancient Athens and that of Kalam in (both medieval and modern) Islam, but also to distinguish their nature, as Kalam was a much more general phenomenon than Stoicism, whose foundation was a single school. The fourth chapter handles the Mu´tazila, a particular school or tradition within Kalam, which grew important in the 9th century. Despite the fact their teaching is better known from their later critics than from original sources, the Mu´tazila seems to present a stage in Kalam, when the abstraction of debates was so apparent that a clear reasoning without logic independent on quotations of Quran (and other authorities) was impossible. The era of Mu´tazila is also the era of first translations of ancient Greek texts to Arabic language, which provide an inspiration for solutions in many of those abstract questions, which emerged in Kalam, especially in the school of Mu´tazila. In the questions of physics (like the debate between Atomism and an elemental theory), of "pure" theology (between pantheism, idealism and anthropomorphism), psychology and ethics we can already find ideas, which are not only clarified by Stoic opinions, but also may be traced to some of these translated texts, of which the most important source was a 3rd century "encyclopaedia" Placita Philosophorum. In the last of the major chapters we will handle the latter two of the great traditions in Kalam, whose role was crucial in formulation of Sunni theological orthodoxy. The debates about abstract ideas like freedom of will or physics is being criticized, and the new, deeply conservative generation of Ash´arite and Maturidite theologians tend to change the role of these debates to an auxiliary one, to find objective arguments in interreligious (or intersectarian) debates, while they consider ethics subjective, dependent on individual faith and attitude. These theologians, using faith as a shield and reason as a weapon, also started what we would consider an early interdisciplinary discourse with the contemporary philosophic tradition as well, especially in the case of Ghazali's criticism of Ibn Sina (as well as the later reaction of Maimonides and Ibn Rushd). Stoic ideas, which were perceived as mere isolated fragments throughout the Mu´tazilite era, become here integrated into coherent worldviews, in which faith and knowledge about a single omnipresent God merge into one attitude, struggle for inner perfection, reasoning and virtue. One of the motives in the writing of this work was the search for theological aspects of Stoicism as well as for philosophical aspects in Kalam. However, its scope isn't to provide any philosophical analysis of Islam, not even of the particular religious attitudes of these medieval theologians, who considered themselves Muslims. Neither can it be said about the Stoics; even if their theological formulations may have reflected their worldview, we can't measure the piety. Its scope is more like to present Muslim theology as a tradition, which (unlike the complex of religion, as a sphere of sacred human activity) may be seen as a part of the general philosophical quest.

Schlagwörter in Englisch

Stoicism / Kalam / intercultural philosophy

Abstract in German

nicht vom Autor angegeben

Schlagwörter in Deutsch

Stoiker / Kalam / interkulturelle Philosophie

Item Type: Hochschulschrift (Diplomarbeit)
Author: Simko, Ivan
Title: Parallels of Stoicism and Kalam
Umfangsangabe: 92 S.
Institution: University of Vienna
Faculty: Fakultät für Philosophie und Bildungswissenschaft
Publication year: 2008
Language: eng ... Englisch
Supervisor: Wimmer, Franz Martin
Assessor: Wimmer, Franz Martin
Classification: 08 Philosophie > 08.99 Philosophie: Sonstiges
AC Number: AC07132835
Item ID: 2109
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