Encyclopedia of Medieval Philosophy

2011 Edition
| Editors: Henrik Lagerlund

Plato, Arabic

  • Rüdiger Arnzen
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4020-9729-4_403


There is yet no comprehensive and systematic study of the Arabic transmission of Plato’s works and the knowledge about Plato’s philosophy in the medieval Islamic civilizations. From the tenth to the thirteenth centuries, biographers and philosophers writing in Arabic composed various biographies and bibliographies on Plato, which trace back to different Greek sources such as Thrasyllus and Theon of Smyrna. The reception of Plato’s works was primarily restricted to paraphrases and summaries, among which Galen’s Synopsis of the Platonic corpus played a major role. None of Plato’s works has been preserved in a complete Arabic translation, and it is a matter of doubt whether there were ever such translations. Apart from this rather fragmentary transmission, a number of Greek commentaries on at least four Platonic dialogues were known in the Arabic-speaking world. The major topics of Arabic Platonism are the temporal creation of the world, Plato’s theory of the state, the concept of love (both in terms of its metaphysical as well as its medical implications), the theories of the intellect and the tripartite soul, and the concept of Platonic Forms and its ontological counterpart, the Two-World Theory. More influential than the authentic Plato was the vulgarized Plato of gnomological and doxographical anthologies and popular wisdom literature, and the pseudepigraphic Plato of gnostic, occult, and Neoplatonic writings. The conflation of these traditions during the twelfth and thirteenth centuries initiated a new Arabic Platonism without Plato.

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© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Rüdiger Arnzen
    • 1
  1. 1.Thomas InstitutUniversität zu KölnCologneGermany