Published On: Wed, Oct 16th, 2019

Islamic Philosophy – Averroes or Ibn Rushd

Ibn Rushd, known as Averroes in the western world, was an Islamic philosopher, logician, mathematician, astronomer, master in psychology and theology. Born in Cordoba in 1126, he was tutored by Ibn Bajjah (Avempace in the west), a philosopher known for his ideas about the soul phenomenology and his popularity among Islamic Gnostics. Sometimes regarded as a mystic, Ibn Bajjah’s thought influenced Averroes although Averroism took a more rational direction.

Averroism – Religion and Philosophy

Averroes is known in the west for commenting on the Aristotelian philosophy in an attempt to reconcile it with the Islamic faith. At that time (and until today) some scholars believed that philosophy and religion were opposite to each other and Averroes theorized that philosophy and religion were two different paths that lead to the same truth.

The Incoherence of the Incoherence

The Incoherence of the Incoherence is an Islamic philosophical treatise written by Averroes as an answer to Al-Ghazali’s The Incoherence of the Philosophers, in which the author accused the Muslim Neoplatonic thought of heresy and irreligious ideas.

Al-Ghazali was against the concept of pre-existence of the world (the idea that the world is eternal and was never created) and did not accept the philosophical system that denied the possibility of annihilation of the soul, the bodily resurrection, hellfire and heavenly rewards, among many other statements made by the Avicennian school of thought.

As a reaction to Al-Ghazali’s beliefs, Averroes writings defended the eternity of the world and the idea that the soul was divided in two parts, one which is eternal and the other which is mortal. The eternity of the world as well as the eternity of a part of the soul was considered in their archetypical aspects rather than physical aspects, as asserted by Neoplatonic philosophers.

Monopsychism and Pantheism

Islamic Philosophy – Averroes or Ibn Rushd

Monopsychism refers to the ancient doctrine which says that all human beings share a common mind, and that in a higher instance of consciousness, every person is connected through the same principle. So, from this perspective, people only are individuals in lower levels of consciousness but are one in higher degrees. This concept is present in many different philosophies, such as Hindu, Buddhist, Greek and even Sufi, and was also defended by Averroes.

When Averroes argued that the soul is divided in two parts, one mortal and one eternal, he separated the Unity (eternal) from the lower levels of consciousness (mortal) concluding that after death, the soul loses its individual part merging with the One, the eternal source. This was seen as Pantheism and provoked the rage of the Church and Christian thinkers like Thomas Aquinas, who opposed to Averroism. Christians as well as Muslims believed that creator and creature could not be confused, as they are two separate things, and Averroes was accused of saying that God and His creation are one.

Such was the trouble that Averroes statements caused that he was condemned two times by the Catholic Church.

Ibn Rushd – Pagan Philosophy

In Dante Alighieri’s Divine Comedy, an epic poem that depicts the Christian afterlife, Averroes appears in the limbo among the greatest pagan philosophers. Later, he was portrayed by Raphael Sanzio in his wonderful painting The School of Athens side by side with great thinkers such as Plato, Aristotle, Pythagoras, Zeno of Cyntium and even Hypatia of Alexandria, in perfect harmony with them, attesting Averroes’ relevance to philosophy.

About the Author

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