The LRB hasn't been listening to my podcast

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So there I was this evening innocently reading the London Review of Books (23 October 2014; yes, I'm behind) and came across Malise Ruthven's review of what sounds like an entertaining book about the history of Baghdad by Justin Marozzi. Good news: it mentions Abu Bakr al-Razi, one of my favorite early philosophers. Bad news: Ruthven apparently hasn't been listening to my podcast. Discussing the pro-Mutazilite inquisition (mihna) under the 9th century 'Abbasids, he says that this event unleashed a backlash which "helped to bring about an intellectual debacle - the defeat of rationalism - from which the mainstream tradition of sunni Islam has yet to extricate itself." So, that's the mid-9th century we're talking about. which means more than a century before Avicenna, the greatest sunni philosopher and probably one of the top 10 philosophers of all time anywhere, who had more influence on mainstream sunni thought than any other thinker. It is also, just to select some other great sunni rationalists, a couple of generations before the greatest Mutazilite rationalist author 'Abd al-Jabbar; 3 centuries before Averroes, 'Abd al-Latif al-Baghdadi, and Fakhr al-Din al-Razi; 4 centuries before the great Mongol-era rationalist theologians like Hilli, Baydawi, Iji and Taftazani, to say nothing of Ibn Khaldun (!) who died in 1406. That's without even getting into the various thinkers I covered from the Ottoman empire.

When I said there is still a widespread myth of philosophical decline in the Islamic world, this is exactly the sort of thing I meant. Though actually I have hardly ever seen someone allege the decline to start quite that early, usually people date it from the death of Averroes (i.e. from the last Muslim philosopher who influenced Christian Europe... not a coincidence).

kikuri tiwtiw on 5 December 2014

He is a regular contributor

He is a regular contributor to the NYR, where he has written articles and reviews on such topics as Al Qaeda. Which i really like. - Review Solution

In reply to by kikuri tiwtiw

Peter Adamson on 5 December 2014

Thanks - I actually enjoyed

Thanks - I actually enjoyed the rest of the review, it was just that one paragraph that I felt I had to protest!

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