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Islamic Philosophy

Islamic Philosophy

3 Mins
September 10, 2018

“Islamic Philosophy: The Good, the Bad, and the Dangerous” is a two-part lecture about the philosophical roots of Islamic terrorism. I gave these lectures at The Atlas Society’s Summer Seminar in 2004. They were my homage to the victims of 9/11.

For everyone who witnessed the event, September 11, 2001, stands out as a moment in memory. I remember almost every detail of that day. I was in an early meeting that morning in our office in Poughkeepsie, NY. When I came out, the receptionist showed the photo of a plane hitting the north tower of the World Trade Center. The plane looked tiny—I thought it was a civil aviation accident—and I went into another meeting. When I came out, the second plane had hit and we all knew it was war.

I sensed that this was the most significant, world-changing event I would experience in my life, with the possible exception of the fall of the Soviet Union. I worked late into the night thinking and researching, and by the next day I knew the essence of the event: It was an assault on civilization—and specifically an act motivated by what Ayn Rand called “the hatred of the good for being good.” I wrote my analysis and we published it September. 13: “The Assault on Civilization.”

But it’s one thing to grasp the moral essence of an event. It’s another thing to understand what lay behind it. As an Objectivist, I believe that philosophical ideas are the ultimate driving force in any culture. I realized, however, that despite all my studies in the history of philosophy as an undergraduate and graduate student, I knew nothing about the history of Islamic philosophy. I made it my business to catch up. My thanks to Andrei Volkov for adapting the slides in this video from my origionals.

These lectures are the result. You will learn about

  • The early centuries of Islamic thought, when it was open to new ideas in a tolerant vein and made new discoveries;
  • The influence of Aristotle and other ancient Greek thinkers (knowledge passed along to the West during the Renaissance)
  • The major thinkers who anticipated later Western ideas by centuries;
  • The battle between reason and mysticism;
  • The centuries-long stagnation under the rule of mysticism and authority; and
  • The recent, fitful efforts to revive previous glory by embracing the worst ideas from the West.
David Kelley


David Kelley

David Kelley is the founder of The Atlas Society. A professional philosopher, teacher, and best-selling author, he has been a leading proponent of Objectivism for more than 25 years.

David Kelley Ph.D
About the author:
David Kelley Ph.D

David Kelley founded The Atlas Society (TAS) in 1990 and served as Executive Director through 2016. In addition, as Chief Intellectual Officer, he was responsible for overseeing the content produced by the organization: articles, videos, talks at conferences, etc.. Retired from TAS in 2018, he remains active in TAS projects and continues to serve on the Board of Trustees.

Kelley is a professional philosopher, teacher, and writer. After earning a Ph.D. in philosophy from Princeton University in 1975, he joined the philosophy department of Vassar College, where he taught a wide variety of courses at all levels. He has also taught philosophy at Brandeis University and lectured frequently on other campuses.

Kelley's philosophical writings include original works in ethics, epistemology, and politics, many of them developing Objectivist ideas in new depth and new directions. He is the author of The Evidence of the Senses, a treatise in epistemology; Truth and Toleration in Objectivism, on issues in the Objectivist movement; Unrugged Individualism: The Selfish Basis of Benevolence; and The Art of Reasoning, a widely used textbook for introductory logic, now in its 5th edition.

Kelley has lectured and published on a wide range of political and cultural topics. His articles on social issues and public policy have appeared in Harpers, The Sciences, Reason, Harvard Business Review, The Freeman, On Principle, and elsewhere. During the 1980s, he wrote frequently for Barrons Financial and Business Magazine on such issues as egalitarianism, immigration, minimum wage laws, and Social Security.

His book A Life of One’s Own: Individual Rights and the Welfare State is a critique of the moral premises of the welfare state and defense of private alternatives that preserve individual autonomy, responsibility, and dignity. His appearance on John Stossel’s ABC/TV special "Greed" in 1998 stirred a national debate on the ethics of capitalism.

An internationally-recognized expert on Objectivism, he has lectured widely on Ayn Rand, her ideas, and her works. He was a consultant to the film adaptation of Atlas Shrugged, and editor of Atlas Shrugged: The Novel, the Films, the Philosophy.


Major Work (selected):

Concepts and Natures: A Commentary on The Realist Turn (by Douglas B. Rasmussen and Douglas J. Den Uyl),” Reason Papers 42, no. 1, (Summer 2021); This review of a recent book includes a deep dive into the ontology and epistemology of concepts.

The Foundations of Knowledge. Six lectures on the Objectivist epistemology.

The Primacy of Existence” and “The Epistemology of Perception,” The Jefferson School, San Diego, July 1985

Universals and Induction,” two lectures at GKRH conferences, Dallas and Ann Arbor, March 1989

Skepticism,” York University, Toronto, 1987

The Nature of Free Will,” two lectures at The Portland Institute, October 1986

The Party of Modernity,” Cato Policy Report, May/June 2003;and Navigator, Nov 2003; A widely cited article on the cultural divisions among pre-modern, modern (Enlightenment) and postmodern views.

"I Don't Have To" (IOS Journal, Volume 6, Number 1, April 1996) and “I Can and I Will” (The New Individualist, Fall/Winter 2011); Companion pieces on making real the control we have over our lives as individuals.

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