What a grand series of comments to my brief description of the course I want to teach at UNC Chapel Hill. I am especially grateful to Ahmed Fares. That is what a philosophy blog ought to look like! I became familiar with the work of Al-Ghazali and Al-Farabi through the courses I took at Harvard almost 70 years ago with the great medievalist Harry Austryn Wolfson, but I really was not familiar with the details that Ahmed Fares lays out in his very useful comments. Hume, of course, would have been familiar with the work of the 17th century philosopher Malebranche, whose doctrine, referred to as Occasionalism, is clearly influenced by the medieval Arabic tradition.
I am reminded of something Hannah Arendt once said to me – a story I am sure I have told before. In the late 1960s I had given a talk at a Columbia University gathering in which I laid into John Stuart Mill pretty vigorously. After the talk, Arendt came up to say hello. She was pretty obviously not thrilled with my talk, but she politely asked me what I was working on then. I replied that I was writing a book on the Groundwork of the Metaphysics of Morals. “Ah,” she replied, her face breaking into a broad smile, “it is always more pleasant to spend time with Kant!”