Method, Structure, and Development in al-Fārābī’s Cosmology


This study—the first monograph devoted exclusively to al-Fārābī’s cosmology—provides a new interpretation of this thinker’s philosophical development through an analysis of the Greek and Arabic sources and a contextualization of his life and thought in the cultural and intellectual milieu of his time. It discusses key cosmological and metaphysical concepts articulated in his works, with a special focus on celestial causation, intellection, and motion. This book also examines al-Fārābī’s cosmological method and particularly the connection between astronomy, physics, and metaphysics. The result is a reassessment of al-Fārābī’s cosmology vis-à-vis late-antique Greek philosophical trends and a clearer understanding of how it creatively adapted and transformed this legacy to establish a new cosmological paradigm in Arabic thought.

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Damien Janos, PhD (2009, McGill University), is presently a research fellow working at Georg-August-University in Göttingen, Germany. His research focuses on the history of Arabic philosophy, especially cosmology and metaphysics, about which he has written several articles.
Winner of the 21st World Book Award of the Islamic Republic of Iran, 2014.

"Throughout this work Janos has demonstrated a lively mental rigour in presenting the cosmological thought of al-Fārābī in a very clear and logical manner [...]."
Joseph Ellul in Islamochristiana 38 (2012).

"... a work that needs to be read by any serious student of the history of Islamicate philosophy and science."
Sonja Brentjes in Ilahiyat Studies 4.1 (2013).

"This beautiful and rich book is the revised version of D. Janos’ Ph.D. dissertation submitted to McGill University in February 2009. One of its merits is to synthesize the recent scholarship on al-Fārābī’s metaphysics and cosmology, and its main point is to provide a new interpretation of his theories on the structure and essence of the heavenly world, in order to solve some problems of al-Fārābī’s cosmological thinking. To this end, Janos analyses in depth a cluster of key cosmological and metaphysical concepts such as celestial substance, causation, intellection, and motion, paying attention to al-Fārābī’s terminology and lexicon…Janos’ book fills a gap in the scholarship and opens new perspectives for further studies. It shows that al-Fārābī has important things to say, and that he is a Figure with whom we should engage intellectually in the present."
Cecilia Martini Bonadeo in Studia graeco-arabica 4 (2014).

"Janos's book is a brilliant contribution to Fārābān studies. Scholars may argue with some or even much, of what he has written about this great philosopher, but what they will not be able to do is ignore it. That in itself is a major token of Janos's success."
Ian Richard Netton in Journal of the American Oriental Society 135.4 (2015).

"Zusammenfassend läßt sich sagen, daß D. Janos sowohl eine gut lesbare Synopsis der äußerst umfangreichen Forschungsliteratur zu al-Fārābī, deren kritische Einschätzung und eine darüber hinausgehende Interpretation von wichtigen Aspekten der Farabischen Kosmologie
gelungen ist".
Elvira Wakelnig, University of Lausanne
Chapter One: Cosmology, the Sciences, and the Scientific Method
Chapter Two: The Architecture of the Heavens: Intellects, Souls, and Orbs
Chapter Three: Matter and Creation: a Shift of Paradigms?
Chapter Four: The Aporia of Celestial Motion
Appendix 1
Appendix 2
General Index
All those interested in Arabic thought, especially the philosophy of al-Fārābī and Ibn Sīnā, as well as late-antique Greek and medieval philosophy.
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