April 14, 1126 - Averroës

By: Caroline DiPaola

Ignorance leads to fear, fear leads to hate, and hate leads to violence. This is the equation.” — Averroës

Ibn Rushd, also known as Averroës, was one of the most well-known influential Islamic religious philosophers who integrated Islamic traditions with ancient Greek thought during the Dark Ages. For centuries, he became a significant influence with his many Islamic and European summaries on most of Aristotle’s works.  Despite the criticism for trying to blend Aristotle’s and Plato’s views with those of Islam,  he obtained notoriety for his argument that both Islam and Greek philosophy had the same goal – to find the truth.

Averroës was born in 1126 in Córdoba Spain. Throughout his early life, he was said to be thoroughly versed in the traditional Muslim sciences, those including exegesis of the Quran, Islamic Scripture and Hadith. He was also trained in medicine and a very accomplished philosopher. Averroës then became the chief judge or qādī of Córdoba. After the death of the philosopher Ibn Tufayl, Averroës became a personal physician to the caliph Abū Yaʿqūb Yūsuf in the year 1182. Prior to this role, at some point between 1153 and 1169, philosopher Ibn Tufayl introduced Averroës to Abū Yaʿqūb who posed Averroës a perplexing question. The question concerned whether or not the heavens were created. The caliph had actually answered the question himself, Averroës disagreed with the caliph so he then sent Averroës away after a very long conversation that made issues regarding Averroës’ career.

Soon afterward, Averroës received the request from his ruler, a needed correction of interpretations of the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle’s philosophy. This task was the starting point of  Averroës’s devotion of many years of his incredibly busy life as a judge to study of philosophy. For more than thirty years, Averroës wrote a series of commentaries on most of Aristotle’s works, including The OrganonDe animaPhysicaMetaphysicaDe partibus animaliumParva naturaliaMeteorologicaRhetoricaPoetica and many more. At times he would write summaries, middle commentaries and long commentaries on the same work. All of Averroes’s commentaries included the Latin version of Aristotle’s complete works. Some of his translations serve to replace some of the lost Arabic originals.

All of Averroës’s commentaries and summaries served to influence many different religions in the following centuries. His clear and understanding mind made his writings regarding Aristotle’s thought make philosophical sense. His insightful comments on the natural sciences conveyed his considerable power of observation. He wrote in support of Aristotle’s visions concerning the natural sciences and their applications in the religious world. In particular, he outlined the three ways that humans were thought to discover the truth through philosophy –  demonstrative (or the proof), dialectical (or through different opinions) and the rhetorical (through the ability to persuade).  Averroës thought these three modes of discovery would divide humanity into philosophers, theologians and the common masses. Additionally, he gave the Muslims the truth that both God and natural sciences can be relevant in life. Prior to Averroës’ s comments on natural sciences, the Muslims were very passionate that the cause of all things was God’s will. Averroës explained that even though God created the natural laws, He is not the primary agent in determining all of the happenings in the world.  Averroës’s explanation led him down a very dangerous path, filled with  many life changing challenges.

The summaries of Averroës on Aristotle in combination with his own ideas shaped Western philosophy as we still know it today. His writings were reliable sources in the studies of Aristotle’s work. He shaped what we know as modern day philosophy and risked his life by writing and supporting the thoughts of the famous Greek philosopher Aristotle. The Islamic people’s general attitude about life changed as a result of his interpretations, eventually spurring a new cultural atmosphere for northern Spainards, Latinates, and Christians who all traditionally shared the vision that religion was the base of all philosophical thinking. Averroës made philosophy the core of the European academic curriculum.

 

Sources

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Averroes

Crabb, Jon. “Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and his Impact in the West.”
theculturetrip.com. Last modified December 16, 2016. Accessed May 26, 2020.
https://theculturetrip.com/europe/spain/articles/
ibn-rushd-averroes-and-his-impact-in-the-west/.

Fieser, James, ed. “Ibn Rushd (Averroes) (1126—1198).” iep.utm.edu. Accessed
May 26, 2020. https://www.iep.utm.edu/ibnrushd/.

Rosenthal, Erwin I.J., ed. “Averroës.” Encyclopædia Britannica. Last modified
January 1, 2020. Accessed May 26, 2020. https://www.britannica.com/
biography/Averroes.

Aristotle — https://www.britannica.com/biography/Aristotle

Plato — https://www.britannica.com/biography/Plato

Cordoba — https://www.britannica.com/place/Cordoba-Spain

Quran — https://www.britannica.com/topic/Quran

Hadith– https://www.britannica.com/topic/Hadith

Ibn-Tufayl  — https://www.britannica.com/biography/Ibn-Tufayl