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David Bennett

About David Bennett

As part of the Arabic philosophy section of “Representation and Reality,” my focus is the development of psychological sciences in the Islamic world up to the time of Avicenna (d. 1037 CE). Questions concerning the nature and function of the soul arose in various intellectual milieu, and it is important to recognize the variety of working theoretical positions, each of which, to a greater or lesser extent, helped shape the reception and transfiguration of Aristotelian psychology in the 9th-11th Centuries CE.

My background in Islamic theology and philosophy is concentrated on the early development of kalām, speculative theology, as it was practiced by Muʿtazilites and Ashʿarites in this period. Even before the wholesale adoption of Aristotelian and Neoplatonic ideas by philosophers writing in Arabic, early theologians were well acquainted with Greek philosophy and medicine through Syriac (and other) intermediaries. Indeed, no psychological theory was proposed which did not take into account fundamental Aristotelian and Galenic considerations.

I will be providing the account of these formative psychological positions in kalām and in the so-called Baghdād school (Yaḥyā ibn ʿAdī et al), together with other major figures in this period (such as al-Miskawayh), as a framework upon which to build the sub-project “From Perception to Knowledge: Before and After Avicenna”; that is to say, the “before” part. In collaboration with other sub-projects in Representation and Reality, I will also provide additional research on the Greco-Arabic tradition, particularly with respect to the commentary traditions under examination: Theophrastus, Alexander, and the reception of De sensu and related texts in Arabic.

Planned and forthcoming publications:

In addition to a preparing a monograph on early Muʿtazilite thought, producing an edition and translation of al-Ashʿarī’s Maqālāt (first volume submitted; second in preparation), and submitting the co-edited (with Juhana Toivanen) volume, The Mechanisms of Sense Perception, I have the following book chapters and articles currently forthcoming or planned for 2019 (“RR” indicates Representation and Reality’s joint three volume production):

  1. “Sense-Perception before Avicenna” (in RR vol. 1)
  2. “Avicenna and others on dreams” (in RR vol. 2)
  3. (with Filip Radovic) “Autoscopy in Meteorologica 3.4: Some strands in the Greek, Arabic and Latin commentary tradition” (in RR vol. 2)
  4. “The maʿnā in pre-Avicennian thought” (in RR vol. 3)
  5. “The Sixth Sense,” with T. Kukkonen (co-authored), planned for submission.
  6. “Cognisable content in early Kalām,” in a volume edited by Nadja Germann, Intention and Signification, De Gruyter. Submitted, Feb 2018.
  7. “Things,” in Lamanna, M. and F. Marrone, Essence and Thingness (Turnhout: Brepols, series On What There Was), submitted, 2016.
  8. Multiple entries on Kalām figures in Lagerlund, H., Encyclopaedia of Medieval Philosophy, 2nd Edition, Springer. Two submitted, several more to be come.
  9. “Aristotle among the Mutakallimūn,” a survey of the peculiar reception of “Aristotelians” in early kalām sources. For submission to a volume on Doxography.
  10. “Objects of Knowledge in Muʿtazilite Theory,” a planned article on later Muʿtazilite epistemology.