Abu Y%u016Bsuf Ya’q%u016Bb ibn Is%u1E25%u0101q a%u1E63-%u1E62abb%u0101%u1E25 al-Kind%u012B (c.801-870) also named the philosopher of the Arabs is a Muslim philosopher, musician, mathematician, and physician. He is famously referred to as the “father of the Islamic Arabic philosophy” especially for his promotion, synthesis, and adaptation of the Hellenistic and Greek philosophy in the Muslim world (Adamson 32). This paper discusses the philosopher’s biography information, his theories, and presents a personal judgment of the theories.
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Abu Yusuf Ya‘qub b. Ishaq al-Kindi was an Arab philosopher, mathematician, astronomer, geographer and physician born around c.801 to a noble family in Yemen and died in c.866 in Iraq. He is one of the world’s most important and prolific scholars of the Islamic word. Al-Kindi's origins are not exactly known but are considered to link him with the famous south Arabian tribe of Kinda. He served as a tutor for the Caliph’s son. He was a member of the “Abbasid court” that was found in the 9th century in Baghdad and included intellectuals and specialists in different sciences. Al-Kindi studied the thoughts of the Greek philosophers including Aristotle and used ancient translations in developing his theories (Oxford Reference n. p.).
Al-Kindi is well known for his philosophical terminologies; in addition, he developed a new Arabic vocabulary of philosophical notions. During his days, Al-Kindi’s philosophical works were considered revolutionary (although they may now appear such today). Al-Kindi was a master in different sciences and was held high as one of the greatest Islamic philosophers of his time. He wrote many books that contributed to philosophy, geometry, medicine, physics, logic, and even music. Some of his famous works are discussed below.
Al-Kindi’s best-known work is the metaphysical research Fi al-Falsafa al-Ula, which is translated as – On the First Philosophy. In this work, he explains what the first philosophy is. Al-Kindi asserts that it is the highest and most noble philosophy that is the cause of truth (and the primary cause of everything). He seems to agree with the Aristotle’s ideas although only to a certain point. He disagrees with the Greek philosopher concerning the problem of the world’s origin. While Aristotle proves that the world has existed for eternity, Al-Kindi advocates the ex nihilo creation theory. He emphasized the importance of philosophy, through which people can discover and study the true meaning of things and, consequently, cognize God, His divinity and unity. In his works, Al-Kindi stresses the role of ‘aql (intellect) and also contrasts this notion with the matter. In addition, he asserts that, through knowledge, people can learn about human virtue (Adamson 34).
Verdict: According to the philosopher, the metaphysics goal is explaining God’s knowledge. Al-Kindi makes a clear differentiation between theology and philosophy although he believes they are both concerned with the same subject. However, I would argue that the nature of God is somewhat different from the traditional beliefs that are purely incidental.
Theory of Music
The philosopher was one of the first Muslim music theoreticians. He wrote 15 tractates on the theory of music although only about five survived. He is credited to have added the 5th string to the ‘oud.’ In his works, Al-Kindi also discussed ‘cosmological connections’ and therapeutic effects of music.
Verdict: Having added an extra string to ‘oud’ is a great achievement for the music world.
In his works, Al-Kindi studied some major concepts of mathematics including geometry, multiplication, numerical numbers, cancellation, relative quantities, measurements, and Indian numbers. In addition, Al-Kindi is the author of Ketab fi Isti'mal al-'Adad al-Hindi or On the Use of the Indian Numerals, which influenced the spread of the Indian numeration system in the West and Middle East. Through mathematics, al-Kindi attempted to prove the world’s eternity; he managed to demonstrate that infinity was a mathematic equation that possessed certain logical absurdity (Al-Allaf n. p.)
Verdict: The issue of numbers and especially as a mathematical concept has been and still is an issue, with which many people have problems. Al-Kindi was a specialist in numbers and used this knowledge to define and prove his concept of infinity. I agree that he was not just an ‘ordinary brain’ as mathematical theory on infinity is relevant even today.
Logic and Translation
Known as the philosopher of the Arabs, al-Kindi used the early Arabic-language translations of the Greek philosophers that enabled him to add part of the Hellenistic tradition to his program. Al-Kindi is also said to have corrected some translations although he did not read in Greek by himself. Studying of al-Kindi’s terminology shows that he was aware of some terms used in the Hellenistic period/philosophy. When concerning the terms that al-Kindi defined, for example, the first cause, creation, finitude and some others, it is easy to conclude that the Islamic philosophy of his time diverts from the Greek philosophy formed by his predecessors (Islamic Philosophy Online n. p.).
Verdict: From his work Fi Hudud al-Ashya’ Wa-Rusumiha, we can easily conclude that al-Kindi was more of a logical person due to his translation and interpretation of complicated philosophical notions. His interpretation thus sets him apart and shows that he was logical in his translations.
According to al-Kindi, there is a separate, universal, and incorporeal intellect known as the First Intellect that was God’s first creation, through which other things came into being. According to al-Kindi, human intellect is potentially able to interpret abstract concepts. He argues that external agency of this intellect is necessary by noting that humans cannot understand a universal concept through perception only (Adamson 40-42).
Verdict: I agree with al-Kindi’s statement through understanding of Plato’s concept that all that exists in the material world corresponds to certain universal forms in the heavenly world.