Averroism

Averroism refers to a school of medieval philosophy based on the application of the works of 12th-century Andalusian Islamic philosopher Averroes, a Muslim commentator on Aristotle, in 13th-century Latin Christian scholasticism.

Latin translations of Averroes' work became widely available at the universities which were springing up in Western Europe in the 13th century, and were received by scholasticists such as Siger of Brabant, Boetius of Dacia who examined Christian doctrines through reasoning and intellectual analysis.[1][2]

The term Averroist was coined by Thomas Aquinas in the restricted sense of the Averroists' "unity of the intellect" doctrine in his book De unitate intellectus contra Averroistas.[3] Based on this, Averroism came to be near-synonymous with atheism in late medieval usage.[4]

As a historiographical category, Averroism was first defined by Ernest Renan in Averroès et l'averroïsme (1852) in the sense of radical or heterodox Aristotelianism.[5]

The reception of Averroes in Jewish thought has been termed "Jewish Averroism". Jewish Averroist thought flourished in the later 14th century, and gradually declined in the course of the 15th century. The last representative of Jewish Averroism was Elia del Medigo, writing in 1485.

AverroesColor
Averroes depicted in a painting by Italian artist Andrea di Bonaiuto. Florence, 14th century.

Averroism and scholasticism

The standpoints listed above resulted in two condemnations in 1270 and 1277 by bishop Etienne Tempier of the Roman Catholic Church. Tempier specified 219 different unacceptable Averroist theses.[6] It has been pointed out[7] that Tempier's main accusations are almost identical to those brought by Al-Ghazali against philosophers in general in his Incoherence of the Philosophers, which Averroës had tried to demonstrate to be unjustified in The Incoherence of the Incoherence.

To resolve the problem, Siger of Brabant claimed that there existed a "double truth": a factual or "hard" truth that is reached through science and philosophy, and a "religious" truth that is reached through religion. This idea differed from that of Averroës: he taught that there is only one truth, but reached in two different ways, not two truths. He did however believe that Scripture sometimes uses metaphorical language, but that those without the philosophical training to appreciate the true meaning of the passages in question were obliged to believe the literal meaning.

Giovanni di Paolo St. Thomas Aquinas Confounding Averroës
Giovanni di Paolo's St. Thomas Aquinas Confounding Averroës.

The later philosophical concept of Averroism was the idea that the philosophical and religious worlds are separate entities. However, upon scrutinizing the 219 theses condemned by Tempier, it was obvious that not many of them originated in Averroës. Radical Aristotelianism and heterodox Aristotelianism were the terms commonly used for a while to refer to the actual philosophical movement started by Siger and Boëthius and differentiate it from Averroism; nowadays most scholars just call it Averroism as well.

Thomas Aquinas specifically attacked the "unity of the intellect" doctrine held by the Averroists in his book De unitate intellectus contra Averroistas.[3]

Although condemned in 1277, many Averroistic theses survived to the sixteenth century, particularly in the University of Padua, and can be found in the philosophies of Giordano Bruno, Pico della Mirandola, and Cesare Cremonini. These theses talk about the superiority of philosophers to the common people and the relation between the intellect and human dignity.

Jewish Averroism

In the centuries following Averroes' death there were many Jewish Averroist philosophers, notably Elijah Delmedigo; Gersonides wrote a supercommentary on Averroes' Aristotelian commentaries.[8] Some Averroist influence has been traced in Leone Ebreo's Dialoghi d'Amore, and Baruch Spinoza was likely influenced by Averroes' commentaries on Aristotle.[9]

Reception of Averroes in Islam

There was no formal school or movement of Rushdiyya ("Averroism") in the Islamic tradition. The decline of Kalam or "Islamic scholastic theology" and Muʿtazila or "Islamic rationalism" has precluded a reception of Aveorres in Islamic thought that would parallel that in Christian or Jewish philosophy. Nevertheless, a revival of rationalist traditions in medieval Islamic philosophy has been called for in modern Arab nationalism.[10] Averroes became something of a symbolic figure in the debate over the decline and proposed revitalization of Islamic thought and Islamic society in the later 20th century. A notable proponent of such a revival of Averroist thought in Islamic society was Mohammed Abed al-Jabri with his Critique de la Raison Arabe (1982).[11]

References

  1. ^ Sonneborn, Liz (2006). Averroes (Ibn Rushd): Muslim Scholar, Philosopher, and Physician of the Twelfth Century. The Rosen Publishing Group. p. 89. ISBN 1-40-420514-4. Retrieved November 3, 2012.
  2. ^ More, Alexander (2010). "Averroës" in Oxford Dictionary of the Middle Ages. Oxford University Press. p. 211-212. ISBN 9780198662624. Retrieved January 14, 2017.
  3. ^ a b Hasse 2014, Averroes' Unicity Thesis
  4. ^ Averroes "was probably the most widely condemned thinker in the medieval Christian world... Averroism became virtually synonymous with atheism in the late Middle Ages and early Renaissance." Cantor, Paul A., "The Uncanonical Dante: The Divine Comedy and Islamic Philosophy", Philosophy and Literature, 20.1 (1996), pp. 138-153.
  5. ^ He says that "the history of Averroism is the history of a misunderstanding" (referring to misleading Latin translations of the Arabic; for example, the word mutakallamin (literally "speakers"), which in Arabic was the normal term for theologians in general, was translated in the Latin versions of Averroes' works as loquentes, giving rise to the accusation that Averroes dismissed all theologians as "chatterboxes".
  6. ^ Medico More, Alexander (2010). "Averroismo" in Dizionario Storico Dell'Inquisizione. Pisa: Scuola Normale Superiore. p. 126. ISBN 8876423230. Retrieved January 14, 2017.
  7. ^ Alain de Libera, introduction to L'Islam et la raison.
  8. ^ Klein-Braslavy, S. (2011). "Gersonides As Commentator On Averroes". Without Any Doubt. Brill. p. 181-220. ISBN 9789004206991.
  9. ^ Scruton 2002, "Through the works of Moses Maimonides and the commentaries of the Arab Averroës, Spinoza would have become acquainted with Aristotle".
  10. ^ Anke von Kuelgegen, Averroes Und Die Arabische Moderne: Ansaetze Zu Einer Neubegruendung Des Rationalismus Im Islam
  11. ^ Nicola Missaglia, "Mohamed Abed Al-Jabri's new Averroism"

Bibliography

External links

Australian philosophy

Australian philosophy refers to the philosophical tradition of the people of Australia and of its citizens abroad.

Averroes

Ibn Rushd (Arabic: ابن رشد‎; full name Arabic: أبو الوليد محمد ابن احمد ابن رشد‎, romanized: Abū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rušd; 1126 – 11 December 1198), often Latinized as Averroes (English pronunciation: ), was a Muslim Andalusian philosopher and thinker who wrote about many subjects, including philosophy, theology, medicine, astronomy, physics, Islamic jurisprudence and law, and linguistics. His philosophical works include numerous commentaries on Aristotle, for which he was known in the West as The Commentator. He also served as a judge and a court physician for the Almohad caliphate.

He was born in Córdoba in 1126 to a family of prominent judges—his grandfather was the chief judge of the city. In 1169 he was introduced to the caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf, who was impressed with his knowledge, became his patron and commissioned many of Averroes' commentaries. Averroes later served multiple terms as a judge in Seville and Córdoba. In 1182, he was appointed as court physician and the chief judge of Córdoba. After Abu Yusuf's death in 1184, he remained in royal favor until he fell into disgrace in 1195. He was targeted on various charges—likely for political reasons—and was exiled to nearby Lucena. He returned to royal favor shortly before his death on 11 December 1198.

Averroes was a strong proponent of Aristotelianism; he attempted to restore what he considered the original teachings of Aristotle and opposed the Neoplatonist tendencies of earlier Muslim thinkers, such as Al-Farabi and Avicenna. He also defended the pursuit of philosophy against criticism by Ashari theologians such as Al-Ghazali. Averroes argued that philosophy was permissible in Islam and even compulsory among certain elites. He also argued scriptural text should be interpreted allegorically if it appeared to contradict conclusions reached by reason and philosophy. His legacy in the Islamic world was modest for geographical and intellectual reasons.

In the West, Averroes was known for his extensive commentaries on Aristotle, many of which were translated into Latin and Hebrew. The translations of his work reawakened Western European interest in Aristotle and Greek thinkers, an area of study that had been widely abandoned after the fall of the Roman Empire. His thoughts generated controversies in Latin Christendom and triggered a philosophical movement called Averroism based on his writings. His unity of the intellect thesis, proposing that all humans share the same intellect, became one of the most well-known and controversial Averroist doctrines in the West. His works were condemned by the Catholic Church in 1270 and 1277. Although weakened by the condemnations and sustained critique by Thomas Aquinas, Latin Averroism continued to attract followers up to the sixteenth century.

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Perhaps the most influential Danish philosopher was Søren Kierkegaard, the creator of Christian existentialism, which inspired the philosophical movement of Existentialism. Kierkegaard had a few Danish followers, including Harald Høffding, who later in his life moved on to join the movement of positivism. Among Kierkegaard's other followers include Jean-Paul Sartre who was impressed with Kierkegaard's views on the individual, and Rollo May, who helped create humanistic psychology.

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