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The West and IslamReligion and Political Thought in World History$

Antony Black

Print publication date: 2008

Print ISBN-13: 9780199533206

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2008

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199533206.001.0001

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(p.166) Appendix: Marsilius and Ibn Rushd

(p.166) Appendix: Marsilius and Ibn Rushd

Source:
The West and Islam
Publisher:
Oxford University Press

Ibn Rushd's Commentary on Plato's Republic survived only in the Hebrew translation by Samuel b. Yehuda. The original Arabic version is lost; such was the interest in Greek political thought in the Muslim world by this time. Samuel b. Yehuda completed his translation at or near Beaucaire (an important trading port on the Rhone) on 9 February 1321.1 Marsilius may have been in Avignon, quite close to Beaucaire, in 1316–18. He is mentioned in a letter of Pope John XXII (29 April 1319) ‘as having been sent by [Matteo Visconti of Milan] and Can Grande [della Scala of Verona] to Count Charles of La Marche’.2 From 1319 or 1320 till 1325 or 1326 he lived in Paris, probably teaching in the Arts faculty; it was there that he wrote the Defender of the Peace, which was finished in 1324 (DP II, 24. 17).

Marsilius had been trained as a physician at Padua; during the rest of his academic life he taught philosophy and science (‘natural philosophy’). He was associated with those who, like his teacher and friend John of Jandun, followed the interpretation of Aristotle by Ibn Rushd (Averroes)—the school of thought known as ‘Latin Averroism’. For all of these reasons relating to his milieu and career, it is at least possible that he would have known whatever nuggets of Muslim and Jewish thought were in circulation, both through the actual transmission of whole works, and embedded in medical works or florilegia.3 As something of a dissident, he would have been more likely than most to have conversed with Jews. There is, therefore, some basis for thinking that he could have known about and read the translation of Ibn Rushd's Commentary on Plato's Republic by Samuel b. Yehuda, completed just four years before he completed his Defender of the Peace. He may also have known al‐Farabi's Commentary on Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics (Quillet 1979: 100).

Notes:

(1.) Quillet 1979: 90, 100; M. Steinschneider, Die hebräische Übersetzungen des Mittelalters und die Juden als Dolmetscher (Berlin, 1893; repr. Graz, 1956), 217; Lawrence V. Berman, ‘Ibn Rushd's Middle Commentary on the Nicomachaean Ethics in Medieval Hebrew Literature’, in Multiple Averroes (p.167) 1978: 295–8. Ibn Rushd's Commentary on the Nicomachaean Ethics was translated into Latin at Toledo, finished 3 June 1260.

(2.) Gewirth 1951: 20–1; Quillet, in CMPT 680; E. Lewis 1954: i. 69–70.

(3.) Research remains to be done on this means of transmission of political ideas from Islamdom to Europe. I would like to thank participants at the conference on the Greek Element in Islamic Political Thought at the Institute of Advanced Studies, Princeton, in June 2003, organized by Patricia Crone, for their discussion and illuminating comments on this whole question.