Ernst Bloch’s short masterpiece Avicenna and the Aristotelian Left gives a striking account of materialism that traces emancipatory elements of modern thought to medieval Islamic philosophers’ encounter with Aristotle. This classical text of 20th Century German philosophy is more relevant today than ever, and has just been translated into English by Loren Goldman (University of Pennsylvania) and Peter Thompson, Emeritus Reader in German, University of Sheffield, and founder of the Ernst Bloch Centre.
Bloch argues that the great medieval Islamic philosopher Avicenna (Ibn Sina) planted the seeds of a radical materialism still relevant for critical theory today. He contrasts Avicenna’s and Aquinas’s interpretations of Aristotle on form and matter to argue that Avicenna’s reading democratizes power and undermines clerical and political authority. Bloch explores Avicenna’s world and metaphysics in detail, showing how even his most recondite theoretical concerns prove capable of pointing toward radical social transformation. He blazes an original path through the history of ideas, including Averroes (Ibn Rushd), Spinoza, and Marx as well as lesser-known figures.
Translated into English for the first time, Avicenna and the Aristotelian Left is at once a succinct summation of Bloch’s own idiosyncratic materialism, a provocative reconstruction of the Western philosophical tradition in light of its exchanges with Islamic thought, and a vital resource for contemporary debates about materialism in critical theory.
ISBN 9780231175340 (Hb) | 9780231175357 (Pb), 144 pp, 2018
Columbia University Press