Monday, December 28, 2015


Averroes and the EnlightenmentAverroes and the Enlightenment 
by Mourad Wahba

"After logic we must proceed to philosophy proper. Here too we have to learn from our predecessors, just as in mathematics and law. Thus it is wrong to forbid the study of ancient philosophy. Harm from it is accidental, like harm from taking medicine, drinking water, or studying law."   - Averroes

Abu'l-Walid Ibn Rushd, better known as Averroes (1126-1198), stands out as a towering figure in the history of Arab-Islamic thought, as well as that of West-European philosophy and theology. In the Islamic world, he played a decisive role in the defense of Greek philosophy against the onslaughts of the Ash'arite theologians (Mutakallimun), led by al-Ghazali (d. 1111), and the rehabilitation of Aristotle.

A common theme throughout his writings is that there is no incompatibility between religion and philosophy when both are properly understood. His contributions to philosophy took many forms, ranging from his detailed commentaries on Aristotle, his defense of philosophy against the attacks of those who condemned it as contrary to Islam and his construction of a form of Aristotelianism which cleansed it, as far as was possible at the time, of Neoplatonic influences.

In the Western world, he was recognized, as early as the thirteenth century, as the Commentator of Aristotle, contributing thereby to the rediscovery of the Master, after centuries of near-total oblivion in Western Europe. That discovery was instrumental in launching Latin Scholasticism and, in due course, the European Renaissance of the fifteenth century. Notwithstanding, there has been very little attention to Averroes' work in English, although greater interest has been shown in French, since the publication of Ernest Renan's Averroes et l'averroisme in 1852.
(More to follow.)

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Anonymous said...

This sounds like an interesting book. I look forward to reading the rest of your review. I knew that Averroes was the Aristotle commentator used by Thomas Aquinas. I don't know anything about his thought though.

James said...


Thanks for your comment. I am a student of Aristotle and was drawn to Averroes' story by his defense of Aristotle. I hope to add to the review sometime early next year.
You might find my brief comments on Maimonides interesting as well.

Brian Joseph said...

Thanks for this James.

I had never heard of Averroes and I feel that I should have. Those of us in the West should be paying more attention to non Western thinkers.

James said...


Thanks for your comment. Averroes and other Arab philosophers played an important role in preserving, commenting on, and sharing the thought of Aristotle. Unfortunately Averroes was the last of his kind as the Muslim world turned inward, just as Jewish thinkers criticized Maimonides' Guide to the Perplexed as heretical.