La Sala, Beate Ulrike
Senior Fellow: October–December 2020
Research Project: Spinoza’s Epistemological Scepticism and Its Classical Arabic Sources
The question of the role of images, imagination, and imaginative knowledge in the epistemological process was already of great importance in classical Arabic-Islamic and Judeo-Arabic philosophy. In the works of numerous thinkers of this period, it had a specific epistemological function in the framework of prophetic knowledge. This is a reflection on the reception, adoption, and adaptation of Aristotelian epistemology and psychology in classical Arabic philosophy. In these texts, the knowledge that images and the imagination must provide in the process of prophetic cognition is supposed to lead to a surplus of knowledge and especially to an extended cognition of God. Interestingly, this line of argumentation can be seen in the writings of Arabic-Islamic Aristotelian and non-Aristotelian thinkers, as well as in the works of Judeo-Arabic Aristotelian and non-Aristotelian authors—such as, for example, Ibn Sīnā or Al-Ghazālī—and in their Judeo-Arabic recipients Halevi and Maimonides. Spinoza’s understanding of images and imagination seems to be in dialogue with these medieval approaches, as the nineteenth-century author Manuel Joel pointed out in relation to Maimonides’s account. It is therefore worth considering whether his concept of imagination is an example of the transfer of knowledge from classical Arabic philosophy to modernity and, if so, what parts of it become transformed in this process. Furthermore, this concept appears to form one of the links between Spinoza’s different works.
Beate Ulrike La Sala has been a postdoctoral research and teaching associate at the Institute of Philosophy and the Collaborative Research Center (CRC) 980 at Freie Universität Berlin since 2012.