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The Philosopher Responds

Original price $23.80 - Original price $23.80
Original price
$23.80 - $23.80
Current price $23.80

Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi and Abu ʿAli Miskawayh

Sophia Vasalou and James E. Montgomery (translation)

Paperback, 446 pages

English-only edition



An Intellectual Correspondence from the Tenth Century


Why is laughter contagious? Why do mountains exist? Why do we long for the past, even if it is scarred by suffering? Spanning a vast array of subjects that range from the philosophical to the theological, from the philological to the scientific, The Philosopher Responds is the record of a set of questions put by the litterateur Abu Hayyan al-Tawhidi to the philosopher and historian Abu ʿAli Miskawayh. Both figures were foremost contributors to the remarkable flowering of cultural and intellectual life that took place in the Islamic world during the reign of the Buyid dynasty in the fourth/tenth century.


The correspondence between al-Tawhidi and Miskawayh holds a mirror to many of the debates of the time and reflects the spirit of rationalistic inquiry that animated their era. It also provides insight into the intellectual outlooks of two thinkers who were divided as much by their distinctive temperaments as by the very different trajectories of their professional careers. Alternately whimsical and tragic, trivial and profound, al-Tawhidi's questions provoke an interaction as interesting in its spiritedness as in its content.


Select Contents:

• On why people seek worldly goods through knowledge but do not seek knowledge through worldly goods

• On why people long for the past

• On why men of knowledge tend to be conceited

• On why relatives and kinfolk are prone to outbreaks of extreme hostility

• On why friendship arises between apparently dissimilar individuals

• On why people take pleasure in contemplating beautiful forms

• On why some people master different subjects more easily than others

• On why people experience fear in the absence of an apparent cause

• On why atheists act morally

• On the relative merits of verse as against prose

• On why excellent souls find repose in the truth and find falsehood repugnant

• On the physical reactions people exhibit when listening to music

• How we can see things in our sleep without an organ of sense perception

• On why it takes us longer to hear thunder than to see lightning