Kindi, Al- (801-866)

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KINDI, AL- (801-866)

Abu Yusuf Ya˓qub Ibn Ishaq al-Sabbah al-Kindi, also known as "the philosopher of the Arabs," was born around 801 and died in Baghdad around 866. He belonged to the courts of the caliphs al-Ma˒mun and al-Mu˓tasim, but lost influence at the end of his life during the caliphate of al-Mutawakkil. Al-Kindi flourished during the period of both the Arabic translation movement of Greek philosophical and scientific texts, of which he played a limited role as a translator, and the Mut˓azilite controversy, of which al-Kindi appeared to have affinities with Mu˓tazilism.

A significant contribution of al-Kindi is his assimilation and appropriation of Greek science and philosophy, writing nearly two hundred and fifty treatises on philosophy and science, of which less than forty are extant. Examples of this assimilation are his adoption of such Aristotelian concepts as the act/potency, form/matter, substance/accident relations, and the four causes. One also finds hints of Neoplatonism in his discussion of the "one" and the "many" in his On First Philosophy and his subsequent positing of the One True Being. Still al-Kindi did not blindly follow the Greeks, especially when Greek philosophy contradicted the Qur˒an. Thus, notably, he rejected the eternity of the world, a doctrine held by most Greek philosophers and most other Islamic falasifa (e.g., al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, and Ibn Rushd).

Al-Kindi's scientific achievements included work in mathematics, optics, medicine, and music. Again, although Greek scientists such as Hippocrates, Euclid, and Ptolemy influenced him, his work shows originality, especially in optics and medicine.

See alsoFalsafa ; Mu˓tazilites, Mu˓tazila .


Ivry, Alfred. Al-Kindi's Metaphysics: A Translation of Ya'qub Ibn Ishaq al-Kindi's Treatise "On First Philosophy". Albany: State University of New York Press, 1974.

Jolivet, Jean, and Rashed, Roshdi. "Al-Kindi". Vol. 15, suppl. 1, Dictionary of Scientific Biography. New York: Scribner's, 1978.

Jon McGinnis