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Averroës

Averroës


The Aristotleanism of Ibn Rushd (Averroës), combined with his thorough training in various aspects of Islamic scientific and philosophical traditions, contributed to the evolution of his discourse on the relationship between science and religion. He lived at a moment in time particularly suited to synthesizing a broad understanding of philosophy and the philosophical sciences in which religion had a central position. Ibn Rushd's dialectical treatment of the role of religion and philosophy in human affairs and his theory of knowledge remain relevant to the contemporary science and religion discourse.


Life and writings

Averroës, whose real name was Abu'l Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Rushd, was an Arab philosopher known as "The Commentator" to the medieval West because of his commentaries on Aristotle. Ibn Rushd was born in Córdoba, Spain, in 1126 c.e. to an eminent family of jurists. His grandfather had been a Qadi (judge) and Imam (Muslim leader of the congregational prayers) of the mosque of Córdoba. Ibn Rushd's early education was in the traditional pattern of Islamic education. He studied Arabic, the Qur'an, traditions of the Prophet and, later, natural sciences.

In 1153, Ibn Rushd traveled to Marrakash in Morocco where he helped the Almohad ruler 'Abd al-Mu'min to establish colleges. In 1169 or slightly earlier, Ibn Rushd was introduced to the learned prince Abu Yaqub Yusuf by the philosopher Ibn Tufayl. When Abu Yaqub succeeded 'Abd al-Mu'min, Ibn Rushd found great favor with him throughout his rule (11631184). Ibn Rushd was made the Qadi of Seville in 1169. Two years later, he returned to his favorite Córdoba as Qadi. He traveled to various parts of the country, including longer sojourns in Seville, from where he dates several of his works between 1169 and 1179. In 1182, while in Marakash, Ibn Rushd succeeded Ibn Tufayl as the chief physician to Abu Yaqub Yusuf. Ibn Rushd remained in favor during the reign of Abu Yaqub's successor, Yaqub al-Mansur, except for a short period when his rivals were able to convince the ruler that his philosophical works were against the teachings of Islam. But al-Mansur called him back to his court as soon as he moved to Marrakash, where Ibn Rushd died in1198. He was buried in Marrakash outside the gate of Taghzut but later his body was taken to Córdoba where the young mystic Ibn ' was present at his funeral.

Ibn Rushd's commentaries on Aristotle can be divided into short (jawami' ), middle (talkhis ) and great (tafsir ); the first two types were written between 1169 and 1178. His greatest medical work, the Colliget (al-Kulliyyat, Book of generalities), also belongs to this period. He wrote most of his original works between 1174 to 1180. These include Kitab al-'aql (Treatises on the intellect), De substantia orbis (Nature of heavens), Fasl al-maqal (The Decisive chapter), Kashf al-manahij al-adillah (Discovery of the methods of proof), and Tahfut al-Tahafut (Incoherence of the incoherence).


Philosophy

Ibn Rushd's philosophy was strongly influenced by his training in the principles of jurisprudence (Usul ) on the one hand and by Aristotle and certain Muslim philosophers ( falasifa ), especially al-Farabi, Ibn Bajja and Ibn Tufayl, on the other hand. He criticized Ibn Sina's (Avicenna) philosophy but respected his medical works (indeed, he wrote a commentary on Ibn Sina's medical poem, al-Urjuza fi h l tibb [Recompense for medicine]). Ibn Rushd's relationship with Ibn Tufayl was one of deep respect for the elder philosopher who was also his mentor. But while Ibn Tufayl was mystically inclined, Ibn Rushd was not. The two philosophers recognized the convergence of philosophy and revelation but whereas Ibn Tufayl leads Absal, the second main character of his celebrated narrative Hayy ibn Yaqzan (The Living son of the awake), to a mystic vision of knowledge, Ibn Rushd remains strictly within the philosophical realm.

In his Fasl al-makal wa-takrib ma bayn alsharia' wa' l hikma min al-ittisal (Authoritative treatise and exposition of the convergence of religious law and philosophy), written before 1179, Ibn Rushd formulated a conception of philosophy that was in accordance with the Qur'anic teachings. For him, philosophy was a rational view of creation that leads to the knowledge of the creator. Thus formulated, philosophy becomes a valid path for discovery of truth, which is also to be found in revealed texts. Because different individuals have different levels of comprehension, God speaks to humans through three kinds of discourses: dialectical (al-aqawil al-jadaliyya); rhetorical (al-aqawil al-khitabiyya) and demonstrative syllogism (alaqawil al-burhanniyah). This validation of philosophy led Ibn Rushd to formulate his theory of knowledge, in which the findings of rational research are collaborated with the revealed text through a reinterpretation of the text in accordance with the established rules of the Arabic language. This interpretation (Ta'wil), Ibn Rushd points out, is in accordance with the Qur'an because the Qur'an itself distinguishes between those verses that have fixed and clear meanings (ayat almuhkamat) and those that are open to several interpretations (ayat al-mutashabihat).

Ibn Rushd cherished the honor given to scholars by the Qur'an and used this to demonstrate that scholars have the right to interpret those verses that lend themselves to rational speculation, but such interpretation, he held, should remain in the scholarly circles; it should not be passed on to the common folk who do not have the capacity to understand it. He criticized Muslim philosopher al-Ghazali for not following this rule. This criticism is present in many works of Ibn Rushd, in various forms and degrees, but it is in his master piece, Tahafut al-Tahafut (The Incoherence of the incoherence), that he forcefully attacks not only al-Ghazali but also all those neo-Platonic philosophers who had distorted Aristotle's teachings, including Ibn Sina and his followers.

Tahafut al-Tahafut deals with some of the basic problems of philosophy and it reconstructs Ibn Rushd's conclusive ideas about time, eternity, creation, divine action, causality, and other fundamental issues. Using al-Ghazali's Tahafut al-Falasifa (Incoherence of the Philosophers) as the lynchpin for his attack, Ibn Rushd attempts to prove the eternity of the world. Ibn Rushd rejects the emanationist doctrine that the "One" can give birth only to one. He also criticizes Ibn Sina's notion of "Necessary Being" on the grounds that it is not possible to separate essence and existence; the distinction is made only in thought. Ibn Rushd's God is conceived as the One who is part of the universe. Unlike Ibn Sina for whom God is transcendent and is situated beyond the moving intelligences, divinity is the cause of the physical order for Ibn Rushd. Thus Ibn Rushd conceives God in purely Qur'anic terms, but through Aristotelian method. He refuses to separate divinity from its attributes. It is only human thinking that distinguishes between the two according to what people consider to be one or another of the infinite divine perfections.


Influence

Ibn Rushd's influence on the Western scholars is well known. In canto four of the Inferno, Dante called him "che'l gran comento " (the great commentator) and gave him the place of honor along with Euclid, Ptolemy, Hippocrates, Avicenna, and Galen. In Europe, the University of Padua became the main center of Averroism, though the Universities of Paris and Bologna were not far behind. But it is his masterly and clear exposition of Aristotelian thought that earned Ibn Rushd the title of "The Commentator," not his original ideas. His originality was, in fact, belittled by nineteenth-century French philosopher Ernest Renan and those who followed him. However, a more correct appreciation of Ibn Rushd is slowly emerging.


See also Aristotle; Avicenna; Islam; Islam, Contemporary Issues in Science and Religion; Islam, History of Science and Religion


Bibliography

brockelmann, carl. geschichte der arabischen litteratur, vol.1. leiden, netherlands: e. j. brill, 1943.

bello, iysa, a. the medieval islamic controversy between philosophy and orthodoxy: ijma' and ta'wil in the conflict between al-ghazali and ibn rushd. leiden, netherlands: e. j. brill, 1989.

el-ehwany, ahmed fouad. "ibn rushd." in history of muslim philosophy (1963), ed. m. m. sharif. karachi, pakistan: royal book, 1983.

hourani, george. the life and thought of ibn rushd. cairo, egypt: american university press, 1947.

ibn rushd. tahafut al-tahafut, trans. simon van den bergh. london: luza, 1954.

ibn rushd. metaphysics, trans. charles genequand. leiden, netherlands: e. j. brill, 1986.

wahba, mourad, and abousenna, mona, eds. averroës and the enlightenment. amherst, n.y.: prometheus, 1996.

muzaffar iqbal

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Averroës

Averroës

The Spanish-Arabic scholar Averroës (1126-1198), also known as Ibn Rushd, was a leading philosopher of the Middle Ages. His commentaries on Aristotle became a major source for understanding the work of that thinker in the 13th and 14th centuries.

The tradition of Arabic philosophy, one of the monuments of medieval Islamic civilization, culminated in the work of Avicenna (980-1037), Avempace (died 1138), and Averroës. Avicenna expanded upon the work of such earlier Arab philosophers as al-Kindi (died 873) and al-Farabi (870-950) to form a more unified system based on Aristotelian and Neoplatonic concepts. Averroës defended that achievement against the criticism of the more conservative al-Ghazali (died 1111) and provided, through his commentaries on Aristotle's works, a view of man and the universe that conflicted with various theological dogmas of Islam and Christianity.

Averroës was a Spanish Arab. He was born in Cordova, Spain, and was educated there in mathematics, philosophy, theology, law, and medicine. He came from a family prominent in law, a profession that in Islamic society was closely associated with religion and theological concepts.

In 1153 Averroës visited Marrakesh in Morocco and caught the attention of the sultan, a noted patron of scholarship. It may have been at the sultan's suggestion that Averroës planned a commentary on all the works of Aristotle. While there Averroës observed the star Canope, which was not visible from Spain. This confirmed, for him, Aristotle's belief that the world was round.

Judge and Physician

Through the sultan's support Averroës became a judge in Seville in 1169. Later he returned to Cordova, where he became the chief judge. During this period he wrote the commentaries on Aristotle that became so important in the development of philosophy and science in Europe. These commentaries are of three types: short summations, or epitomes; long, elaborate explanations of the text; and a group intermediate in length. Their purpose was to present the true Aristotle without the accretions and misinterpretations of earlier generations.

In 1182 Averroës went to Marrakesh as physician to the sultan. He composed a medical handbook and urged other specialists to write on the subject of medicine.

In 1195, seemingly under attack by conservative theologians, Averroës retired from public life. He lived for a short time near Seville and then returned to Marrakesh, where he died in 1198.

Thought of Averroës

Only a portion of the works of Averroës were known to the Latin West in the 13th century, as many of his works were not translated until the second quarter of the 14th century. Consequently the Averroës that was known in the 13th century, on whom Latin Averroism was based, is different from the Averroës revealed through a fuller examination of his works.

On the basis of 13th-century interpretation, Averroës was held to affirm the following doctrines, which were the foundation of the school of Latin Averroism: the world was eternal rather than created; God was impersonal and, consequently, there was no divine intervention; there was one active reason, or Agent Intellect, for all mankind; there was no personal survival after death; and some truths of philosophy and theology could contradict each other and still be valid or true in their respective domains. Inasmuch as these doctrines were in direct opposition to Christian belief, Western theologians rejected them and the philosopher to whom they were attributed.

During the 14th century several other works of Averroës were translated into Latin. They indicated a more balanced, sometimes theologically conservative, thinker who seldom, if ever, denied the accepted Moslem dogma. From these works it is clear that Averroës never affirmed the possibility of double truth. Truth was one, and where philosophy contradicted religious dogma as revealed in the Koran, truth lay with the Moslem scriptures. Although there was one Agent Intellect for all men, Averroës seems to have continued to affirm personal survival, reinforced by the doctrine of the resurrection of the body. The world is eternal, for Averroës, because it depends on God, the creator, who is eternal. Averroës's God remained a personal deity who knew particular things in creation, because he knew himself and thus his creation.

Averroës's philosophical writing had a twofold purpose. First, writing after al-Ghazali, who had attacked Avicenna and all philosophy, and living in a society where conservative religious forces threatened his personal safety, Averroës defended Avicenna and Islamic philosophy. Second, within the context of philosophy itself, Averroës attempted to reconstitute a pure Aristotle, free from the corruptions of all earlier commentators and interpreters, including Avicenna.

Apart from those ideas associated with Averroës that conflicted with Christian doctrine and caused a series of theological crises during the 13th century, some aspects of Averroës's thought contributed directly to the development of Western philosophy in that period. It was largely through the work of Averroës that the Latin West became familiar with the ideas of Aristotle, ideas that had great importance for the development of medieval philosophy and science. Averroës's emphasis on logical demonstration as the major tool of scientific and philosophical inquiry was generally accepted. His emphasis on the concept of motion and the Prime Mover shaped the development of metaphysics and the conception of God in 13th-century European thought. Finally, Averroës's description of the way in which the human mind receives knowledge of the sensible world around it was generally accepted up to the 14th century. Through his association with Aristotle and the establishment of a school of Averroism, the name and thought of this Islamic philosopher were kept alive well into the 17th century.

Further Reading

The two most important studies on the life and thought of Averroës are in French: Ernest Renan, Averroës et l'averroisme: Essai historique (1852; 13th ed. 1866; repr. 1949), and Léon Gauthier, Ibn Rochd (1948). Étienne Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (1955), provides a good survey of the thought of Averroës. The distinction between the 13th-century view of Averroës and the view based on a fuller examination of his writings is described in Julius Weinberg, A Short History of Medieval Philosophy (1964). For an examination of the metaphysics of Averroës see étienne Gilson, Being and Some Philosophers (1949: 2d ed. 1952).

Additional Sources

Leaman, Oliver., Averroes and his philosophy, Oxford: Clarendon Press; New York: Oxford University Press, 1988. □

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Averroës

Averroës (əvĕr´ōēz), Arabic Ibn Rushd, 1126–98, Spanish-Arab philosopher. He was far more important and influential in Jewish and Christian thought than in Islam. He was a lawyer and physician of Córdoba and lived for some time in Morocco in favor with the caliphs. He was banished for a period, probably for suspected heresy. Averroës's greatest work was his commentaries on Aristotle. The Averroistic interpretation of Aristotle remained influential long after his death and was a matter of intellectual speculation well into the Renaissance. He attempted to delimit the separate domains of faith and reason, pointing out that the two need not be reconciled because they did not conflict. He declared philosophy the highest form of inquiry. He had the same Neoplatonic cast to his metaphysics as Avempace, to whom he was certainly indebted for his ideas on the intellect. Averroist doctrines on personal immortality and the eternity of matter were condemned by the Roman Catholic Church. St. Thomas Aquinas was respectful of Averroës, but he attacked the Averroist contention that philosophic truth is derived from reason and not from faith. See scholasticism. Averroës's works in English translation include Incoherence of the Incoherence, ed. by Simon Van Den Bergh (1955); On Aristotle's De Generatione et Corruptione, ed. by Samuel Kurland (1958); Commentary on Plato's Republic, ed. by E. I. J. Rosenthal (1956, repr. 1966); and On the Harmony of Religion and Philosophy, ed. by G. F. Hourani (1961).

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Averroism

Averroism. The views associated with Averroes (Ibn Rushd), which became influential in Jewish and Christian philosophy from 1230 onward. Since these attributed views included the absolute separation of God from his creation, the eternity of matter and its potentiality, and the notion of ‘double truth’, one (literal in relation to revelation) for the uneducated and the other allegorical, much of the Christian response became hostile: Averroism was condemned in 1270 and 1277, and was strongly criticized by Aquinas. Nevertheless, Averroist philosophers continued to defend this outlook, the most prominent being Siger of Brabant (c.1235–1284).

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Averroes (1126-1198)

Averroes (1126-1198)

Name generally used for Abul-Walid Mohammed ibn-Ahmad ibn-Mohammed ibn-Rushd, one of the greatest Arabian philosophers, and a commentator on the works of Aristotle. He was born at Cordova and studied theology, mathematics, medicine, jurisprudence, and philosophy. He traveled widely and died in Morocco.

His writings greatly influenced Christian theologians, especially Thomas Aquinas, who obtained copies of his writings as a result of the Crusades. Averroes followed the concept of God as the source of emanation of intelligence and suggested that religious and philosophical truth may be in contradiction.

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Averroës

Averroës (Abu al-Walid ibn Rushd) (1126–98) Leading Islamic philosopher in Spain. He became physician to the caliph of Marrakesh in 1182, but was banished to Spain in 1195 for advocating reason over religion. His major work, Incoherence of the Incoherence, defends Neoplatonism and Aristotle. He exercised a powerful influence on Christian thought that persisted into the Renaissance. See also Aquinas; scholasticism

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Averroës

Averroës (c.1126–98), Spanish-born Islamic philosopher, judge, and physician. His extensive body of work includes writings on jurisprudence, science, philosophy, and religion. His highly influential commentaries on Aristotle sought to reconcile Aristotle with Plato and the Greek philosophical tradition with the Arabic.

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Averroes

Averroes (Spanish Muslim theologian): see IBN RUSHD.

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Averroës

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