Kindī, Abu Yūsuf YaʿQūb ibn Isḥaq al-°

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KINDĪ, ABU YŪSUF YA ʿQŪB IBN ISḤAQ AL- ° (805–873), most notable "philosopher of the Arabs." Al-Kindī is known to have written more than 270 works. His writings, many of them short treatises, deal with arithmetic, geometry, astronomy, astrology, pharmacology, meteorology, chemistry, medicine, optics, divination, music, and polemics. Through condensed writing, redundant passages, and repetitive arguments, Al-Kindī developed ideas and terminology from the philosophical works originally written in Greek and Syriac, and dressed the classical philosophic ideas in a popular style. For this purpose Al-Kindī oversaw the work of important early translators, such as Ustath, translator of Aristotle's Metaphysics; Yaḥya b. al-Biṭrīq, translator of Aristotle's De Caelo; and Ibn Naʿīma al-Ḥimsī, who translated logical works of Aristotle and parts of the Enneads of Plotinus known as the Theology of Aristotle. He was also involved in the translation of Proclus' Elements of Theology, named in Arabic Book on the Pure Good and called in Latin Liber de Causis.

Al-Kindī's works on philosophical topics are his treatise On First Philosophy (Fī al-Falsafa al-Ūlā) and the treatise On the Definitions of Things and Their Descriptions (Fī Ḥudūd al-A'shyā' wa-Rusūmihā); his treatise on the unity of God, On the Oneness of God and the Limitation of the Body of the World (Fī Waḥdaniyat Allah wa-Tunahiy Jirm al-'Alām); and a scientific work, dealing with The Quantity of the Books of Aristotle and What Is Required for the Acquisition of Philosophy (Fi Kammiyat Kutub Aristutalis wa ma Yaḥtāj ilahi fi Taḥsīl al-Falsafa). Among his ethical writings the best known is the treatise On the Art of Averting Sorrows (Risālah fi al-hīlah li-Daf' al-Aḥzān). Almost all of his works in Arabic, aside from translations into Hebrew and Latin, were lost until the mid-20th century, when 24 works of different size and varying importance were published in Cairo (1950, 1953) from an Istanbul manuscript.

Al-Kindī was born in *Kufa and served the *Abbasid caliphs al-Maʾmūn and al-Muʿaṣsim. He fell from favor in the time of the caliph al-Mutawakkil. His status under the patronage of the Muʿtazilah-oriented Abbasid caliphs has naturally connected Al-Kindī with Mu'tazilite ideology, but in spite of external similarities (such as perceiving the unity of God as involving no attributes, predicates, or characteristics), Al-Kindī avoids characteristic Muʿazilite themes (such as God's unity and justice) and typical Muʿtazilite argumentation (such as the proofs for the creation of the world, and the supremacy of the revealed truth to all knowledge).

Al-Kindī based his philosophical views on an incomplete acquaintance with the teachings of Plato and Aristotle and other popular late Greek and Hellenistic authors. He contributed greatly to the formation of the philosophical-theological body of knowledge, enthusiastically embraced by Arabic philosophers who came after him. Much of the philosophical and scientific information reached Al-Kindī through oral transmission of paraphrases and commentaries and through secondary sources, such as encyclopedias and doxographies. Al-Kindī was the first to use systematically the science of philosophy to support faith. He deserves to be called the "First Arabic Philosopher," not only because of his ethnic origin but also because of his courageous and pioneering stand in favor of the superiority of philosophy to Arabic sciences and traditional Koranic studies. His distinction between logical, demonstrative information, and revealed, spontaneous knowledge is correlative to the distinction between objective nature and subjective self and between particulars and universals.

His unawareness of systematical differences between Aristotelianism and Neoplatonism is especially remarkable in Al-Kindī's perception of God as the True One in relation to the world and in his perception of the divine intellect as reflected in the human soul. While Aristotle bases the notion of the True One on its simplicity, uniqueness, and self-containment, in Neoplatonism these qualities are considered as deriving from the exaltedness of God. In his treatise on the soul, Al-Kindī also combines Platonic moral philosophy and the Platonic trichotomy of the soul with Aristotelian philosophy. He mentions the four platonic cardinal virtues but recommends observance of the Aristotelian golden mean. In his remarks on the intellect, Al-Kindī anticipates later mature theories of intellection, which explain the working of the human intellect as a minimized and imperfect imitation of the universal intellect. He alludes to the existence of a divine cosmic intellect, which is always in actuality in comparison to human intellect, which must overcome its state of potentiality in order to acquire knowledge. The status of the individual soul and its enduring life is still embryonic in Al-Kindī's full concept of the human soul, but here too Al-Kindī prefers to talk about interior serenity in current life rather than discuss eschatological topics common to theological literature, such as the resurrection of the dead, the end of days, the final judgment, and the nature of reward in the hereafter.

When describing the universe as composite and corruptible while arguing for its createdness, Al-Kindī follows John Philoponus' proofs of creation based on the impossibility of an infinite number, by using them as proofs for the finiteness of time and bodies.

Influence on Jewish Philosophy

Al-Kindī was one of the two main sources used by Isaac *Israeli (855–c. 955), the first Jewish Neoplatonist, in his philosophic writings. Whether Israeli read Al-Kindī's works, or acquired his knowledge through personal contact with Al-Kindī's disciples, is not known.

*Saadiah Gaon (882–942), in his Book of Doctrines and Beliefs, makes extensive use of arguments posited by Al-Kindī in his On First Philosophy and other treatises in favor of the finiteness of the world.

*Kalonymus b. Kalonymus translated three of Al-Kindī's minor treatises on astronomy and meteorology into Hebrew. Al-Kindī was mostly known in Hebrew literature as an astrologer, and *Abraham Ibn Ezra quotes him in this connection.


primary sources: Al-Kindī, Rasa'il Al-Kindī al-Falsafiyya (Philosophical Treatises of al-Kindī), ed. M.A. Abu Ridah (1950–1953; 1999); Al-Kindī, Fi al-Falsafa al-Ūlā (On First Philosophy: Al-Kindī's Metaphysics), ed. and trans. A.L. Ivry (1974). secondary sources: P. Adamson, "Al-Kindī and the Reception of Greek Philosophy," in: P. Adamson and R.C. Taylor (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy (2005), 32–51; G.N. Atiyeh, Al-Kindī: The Philosopher of the Arabs (1966); G. Endress, "The Circle of al-Kindi: Early Arabic Translations from the Greek and the Rise of Islamic Philosophy," in: G. Endress and R. Kruk (eds.), The Ancient Tradition in Christian and Islamic Hellenism: Studies in the Transmission of Greek Philosophy and Sciences (1997), 43–76; A. Ivry, "Al-Kindi as Philosopher: The Aristotelian and Neoplatonic Dimension," in: S.M. Stern, G. Hourani, and V. Brown (eds.), Islamic Philosophy and the Classical Tradition: Essays Presented to Richard Walzer (1972), 39–117; J. Jolivet, L'Intellect selon Kindi (1971); F. Klein-Franke, "Al-Kindi," in: S.H. Nasr and O. Leaman (eds.), History of Islamic Philosophy (1996), 77–165; R. Rashed and J. Jolivet, Oeuvres Philosophiques & Scientifiques d'al-Kindi, 1–2 (1997–8): S.M. Stern, "Notes on Al-Kindī's Treatise on Definitions," in: Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society, 1–2 (1959), 32–43. influence on jewish philosophy: A. Altmann and S.M. Stern, Isaac Israeli (1958); R. Walzer, Greek into Arabic (1963), 175–205; H.A. Davidson, Proofs for Eternity, Creation and the Existence of God in Medieval Islamic Jewish Philosophy (1987), 106–116.

[Amira Eran (2nd ed.)]

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Kindī, Abu Yūsuf YaʿQūb ibn Isḥaq al-°

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