It is no easy task to survey and present a comprehensive history of philosophy of an entire intellectual tradition to a broad public audience without compromising on the scholarly rigor demanded by that history’s nuances. In an ambitious endeavor to do precisely that with the Islamic tradition, Peter Adamson
masterfully shows how it can be done. His work, Philosophy in the Islamic World: A History of Philosophy Without Any Gaps
(Oxford University Press, 2018) forms the third volume of a larger series of books comprising Adamson’s oeuvre on the history of philosophy and serves as an excellent starting point for anyone interested in the subject.
By covering a geographical territory spanning from Spain to South Asia; a temporal chronology running from the formations of philosophy in the Islamic world up to the modern period; and an intellectual arena incorporating Christian and Jewish thinkers; Adamson takes readers on a vivid – and accessible – journey through the intricate landscape of the philosophical world of Islam. In the process, he discusses crucial historical questions around translation movements, decline narratives, and the broader intellectual frameworks that have shaped the contours of how philosophy in the Islamic world has been viewed. From Avicenna to Ibn ‘Arabi, Maimonides to Saadia Gaon, Al-Ghazali to Mulla Sadra, Fatema Mernissi to Muhammad Iqbal, there is never a dull moment as Adamson shows us how these and other thinkers drew from and diverged from one another.
Divided chronologically into three parts – “The Formative Period,” “Andalusia,” and “Later Traditions – and split into 62 brief chapters, with a generous list of further readings at the end, Adamson’s work will prove to be a useful resource both for the non-specialist seeking to expand their horizons and for the specialist seeking to write and teach on the subject.
Asad Dandia is a graduate student of Islamic Studies at Columbia University.