Sunday, March 13, 2022

Abraham and Aristotle

I've been listening to the History of Philosophy podcast. One thing that has struck me with some force is the great similarity of the three Abramhamic religions in taking up Plato and Aristotle, especially Aristotle. The Jews have Maimonides, the Muslims Avicenna, and the Christians Aquinas as the most prominent philosophers of their respective faiths, and these men might fairly be called followers of Aristotle.

And each of these faiths has contributed something unique and valuable to Aristotelian thought. I think of Avicenna in particular, since he was the first to apply Aristotle's distinction between essence and existence to metaphysics, and in particular to the unique Existent that is the transcendant God of Abraham. I hadn't know that fact before; he is not popularly credited for this advance among Christians who, say, study Aquinas.

As has become more and more apparent over the years with the secular world in ascendancy, these three faiths already share so much in common, most prominently belief in the an omnipotent, all-wise Creator. Yes, there are deep differences and these are not to be glossed over. But it would be of mutual advantage—and advantage to the health of the broader world—if they would cooperate more. Aristotle, it seems to me, would be a sound reason for gathering for cooperation people who don't normally mix. If we are going to build peace in this world, it ultimately has to be based in reason, not force, since reason is how we build agreement that is co-natural to everyone involved, that is, rooted in our nature as rational animals.