Definition and Faculties of Life in Medieval Islamic Philosophy

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Yavuz M.

16th International Congress on Logic, Methodology and Philosophy of Science and Technology, Praha, Czech Republic, 5 - 10 August 2019, pp.530

  • Publication Type: Conference Paper / Summary Text
  • City: Praha
  • Country: Czech Republic
  • Page Numbers: pp.530


It has always been problematic to give a concrete definition and identify a principle, when it comes to life, however, unlike the death. Although life itself is the main difference between biological organisms and lifeless (or inanimate?) things. At first sight, it is visible that between the eighteenth and the twentieth centuries there are forty-three books dedicated in discussions on the origin or definition of life, with a quarter of which has been published in this millennium. The increase in these numbers indicate that the debate on solving life puzzle has been popular among scientists and philosophers. How was this situation in medieval times? Did philosophers and physicians in the medieval Islamicate world compose books, which give a definition of life and its faculties?
In this study, after giving few definitions of life (and that of death) form recent scientific literature, I will try to go back into the medieval in order to investigate how life and its faculties were considered in a book of kalam from fifteenth century. Composed by Sayyid al Sharif al Jurjani (d. 1413) who was appreciated as an authority in the Ottoman Empire, Sharh al Mawaqif had been copied; read, commented frequently, which shows its popularity among Ottoman philosophers, and theologians. This book is an explanation of al Mawaqif fi Ilm al Kalam, written by Adud al din al Ici (d. 1355). I will also pursue by citations form Ibn Sina (d. 1037) -known as Avicenna- through his famous book Al Qanun fi al Tibb (Canon of Medicine) where he discussed the Plant type and Animal type of life through their performance of some actions. As the eminent symbol of Peripatetic Tradition in Islamic Philosophy and Medicine, I will try to compare different considerations on life and death by Kalam and Philosophy Schools.
Starting from biology, shifting towards kalam and philosophy, I will try to show whether or not we can find philosophical instruments which may inspire us to solve the life puzzle, today.