Statue of Ibn Rushd in Córdoba, Spain
|Born||14 April 1126
Córdoba, Al-Andalus, Almoravid emirate (in present-day Spain)
|Died||10 December 1198
(aged 72 years)
Marrakesh, Maghreb, Almohad Caliphate (in present-day Morocco)
|Era||Medieval philosophy (Islamic Golden Age)|
|Islamic theology, Philosophy, Islamic Jurisprudence, Mathematics, Medicine, Physics, Astronomy|
|Reconciliation of Aristotelianism with Islam|
Ibn Rushd (Arabic: ابن رشد; full name Arabic: أبو الوليد محمد ابن احمد ابن رشد, translit. ʾAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rushd; 14 April 1126 – 10 December 1198), often Latinized as Averroes (//), was a medieval Andalusian Arab polymath. He wrote on logic, Aristotelian and Islamic philosophy, Islamic theology, the Maliki school of Islamic jurisprudence, psychology, political theory, the theory of Andalusian classical music, geography, mathematics, as well as the medieval sciences of medicine, astronomy, physics, and celestial mechanics. Ibn Rushd was born in Córdoba, Al Andalus (present-day Spain), and died at Marrakesh in present-day Morocco. His body was interred in his family tomb at Córdoba. The 13th-century philosophical movement in Latin Christian and Jewish tradition based on Ibn Rushd's work is called Averroism.
Ibn Rushd was a defender of Aristotelian philosophy against Ash'ari theologians led by Al-Ghazali. Although highly regarded as a legal scholar of the Maliki school of Islamic law, Ibn Rushd's philosophical ideas were considered controversial in Ash'arite Muslim circles. Whereas al-Ghazali believed that any individual act of a natural phenomenon occurred only because God willed it to happen, Ibn Rushd insisted phenomena followed natural laws that God created.
Ibn Rushd had a greater impact on Christian Europe, being known by the sobriquet "the Commentator" for his detailed emendations to Aristotle. Latin translations of Ibn Rushd's work led the way to the popularization of Aristotle.
Ibn Rushd's full, transliterated Arabic name is "ʾAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad Ibn ʾAḥmad Ibn Rushd". "Averroes" is the Medieval Latin form of "Ibn Rushd", derived from the Spanish pronunciation of the original Arabic name, wherein "Ibn" becomes "Aben" or "Aven". The Latinized name is also spelled in some instances as "Averroës", "Averrhoës", or "Averroès", with the varying accents to mark that the "o" and "e" are separate vowels and not an "œ" diphthong. Other forms of the name include: "Ibin-Ros-din", "Filius Rosadis", "Ibn-Rusid", "Ben-Raxid", "Ibn-Ruschod", "Den-Resched", "Aben-Rassad", "Aben-Rasd", "Aben-Rust", "Avenrosdy", "Avenryz", "Adveroys", "Benroist", "Avenroyth", and "Averroysta".
Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Rushd was born in 1126 in Córdoba to a family with a long and well-respected tradition of legal and public service. His grandfather, Abu al-Walid Muhammad (d. 1126) was the chief judge (qadi) of Córdoba as well as the imam of the Great Mosque of Córdoba under the Almoravids. His father, Abu al-Qasim Ahmad, was not as celebrated as his grandfather, but was also qadi until the Almoravids were replaced by the Almohads in 1146.
Ibn Rushd's education was, according to his traditional biographers, "excellent", beginning with studies in hadith (traditions of Prophet Muhammad), fiqh (jurisprudence), medicine and theology. He learned Maliki jurisprudence under al-Hafiz Abu Muhammad ibn Rizq, and hadith with Ibn Bashkuwal, a student of his grandfather. His father also taught him about jurisprudence, including on Imam Malik's magnum opus the Muwatta. He studied medicine from Abu Jafar Jarim al-Tajail, who probably taught him philosophy too. He also knew the works of the philosopher Ibn Bajjah (also known as Avempace), and might have known him personally or been tutored by him. He also studied the kalam theology of the Ashari school, which he would criticize later in life. His 13th century biographer Ibn al-Abbar mentioned that he was more interested in the study of law and its principles (usul) that that of hadith, and he was especially competent in the field of khilaf (disputes and controversies in the Islamic jurisprudence). Ibn al-Abbar also mentioned his interests in "the sciences of the ancients", probably in reference to Greek philosophy and sciences.
By 1153, he was in Marrakesh (in present-day Morocco), the capital of the Almohad caliphate to perform astronomical observations, in order to find physical laws of astronomical movements instead of just mathematical laws known at the time, but this research was unsuccessful. During his stay in Marrakesh he likely met Ibn Tufayl, a renowned philosopher and the author of Hayy ibn Yaqdhan who was also the court physician in Marrakesh. Despite the differences in their philosophy, Averroes and ibn Tufayl became friends.
In 1169, Ibn Tufayl introduced Averroes to the Almohad caliph, Abu Yaqub Yusuf. In a famous account reported by historian Abdelwahid al-Marrakushi, the caliph asked Averroes about whether the heavens had existed since eternity, or if it had a beginning. Knowing that this question was controversial and worried that a wrong answer could put him in danger, Averroes was did not answer. The caliph then elaborated the views of Plato, Aristotle and Muslim philosophers on the topic, and discussed them with Ibn Tufayl. This display of knowledge Averroes at ease, and who then explained his own views on the issue, which impressed the caliph. Averroes was similarly impressed by Abu Yaqub, and later said that the caliph had "a profuseness of learning I did not suspect".
After the introduction, Averroes remained in the Abu Yaqub's favor up until the caliph's death in 1184. When the caliph complained about the difficulty in understanding Aristotle's work to ibn Tufayl, the philosopher recommended that Averroes to work on explaining it. This was the beginning of Averroes' massive commentaries on Aristotle. His very first works on Aristotle were written in 1169.
In the same year, he was appointed qadi (judge) in Seville. In 1171, he became qadi in his hometown Córdoba. As qadi his day-to-day job was to decide cases and give fatwas (legal opinion) based on the Islamic law. The rate of his writing increased during this time, despite other obligations and his travels within the Almohad empire. Many of his works between 1169 and 1179 were dated in Seville rather than Córdoba. In 1179 he was appointed qadi in Seville again. In 1182 he succeeded his friend Ibn Tufayl as court physician, and later in the same year he was appointed the chief qadi of Córdoba, a prestigious office once held by his grandfather.
In 1184 Caliph Abu Yaqub died and was succeeded by Abu Yusuf Yaqub al-Mansur. Initially, Averroes remained in royal favor, but in 1195 his fortune reversed. Various charges were made against him and he was then tried by a tribunal in Córdoba. The tribunal condemned his teachings, ordered his works burned and banished Averroes to the nearby Lucena. Early biographers gave various reasons for this fall from grace, including a possible insult to the caliph in his writings, but modern scholars attributed it to political reasons. The Encyclopaedia of Islam argued that the caliph distanced himself from Averroes to gain support from more orthodox ulema, who opposed Averroes and whose support al-Mansur needed for his war against Christian kingdoms. Historian of Islamic philosophy Majid Fakhry also argued that this was due to public pressure from traditional Maliki jurists opposed to Averroes.
After a few years, he returned to court in Marrakesh and was again in the caliph's favor. However, he died shortly after, on 11 December 1198 (9 Safar 595 in the Islamic calendar). He was initially buried in North Africa, but his body was later moved Córdoba for another funeral. Future Sufi mystic and philosopher Ibn Arabi (1165–1240) was present at the Córdoba funeral.
Ibn Rushd's first writings date from his age of 31 (year 1157). His works were spread over 20,000 pages covering a variety of different subjects, including early Islamic philosophy, logic in Islamic philosophy, Islamic medicine, mathematics, astronomy, Arabic grammar, Islamic theology, Sharia (Islamic law), and Fiqh (Islamic jurisprudence). In particular, his most important works dealt with Islamic philosophy, medicine and Fiqh. He wrote at least 80 original works, which included 28 works on philosophy, 20 on medicine, 8 on law, 5 on theology, and 4 on grammar, in addition to his commentaries on most of Aristotle's works and his commentary on Plato's The Republic.
Ibn Rushd commentaries on Aristotle were the foundation for the Aristotelian revival in the 12th and 13th centuries. Ibn Rushd wrote short commentaries on Aristotle's work in logic, physics, and psychology. Ibn Rushd long commentaries provided an in depth line by line analysis of Aristotle's "Posterior Analytics," "De Anima," "Physics," "De Caelo," and the "Metaphysics."
His most important original philosophical work was The Incoherence of the Incoherence (Tahafut al-tahafut), in which he defended Aristotelian philosophy against al-Ghazali's claims in The Incoherence of the Philosophers (Tahafut al-falasifa).
In Fasl al-Maqal fi ma bayn al-Hikma wa al-Shariah min Ittisal (فصل المقال في ما بين الحكمة و الشريعة من إتصال translated as The Harmony of Religion and Philosophy, or The Decisive Treatise, Determining the Nature of the Connection between Religion and Philosophy), Ibn Rushd argues that philosophy and revelation do not contradict each other, and are essentially different means of reaching the same truth. However, he warns against teaching philosophical methods to the general populace.
Other works include Kitab al-Kashf an Manahij al-Adilla كتاب الكشف عن مناهج الادلة .
Ibn Rushd is also a highly regarded legal scholar of the Maliki school. Perhaps his best-known work in this field is Bidāyat al-Mujtahid wa Nihāyat al-Muqtaṣid ( بداية المجتهد و نهاية المقتصد), a textbook of Maliki doctrine in a comparative framework.
Jacob Anatoli translated several of the works of Ibn Rushd from Arabic into Hebrew in the 13th century. Many of them were later translated from Hebrew into Latin by Jacob Mantino and Abraham de Balmes. Other works were translated directly from Arabic into Latin by Michael Scot. Many of his works in logic and metaphysics have been permanently lost, while others, including some of the longer Aristotelian commentaries, have only survived in Latin or Hebrew translation, not in the original Arabic. The fullest version of his works is in Latin, and forms part of the multi-volume Juntine edition of Aristotle published in Venice 1562–1574.
Ibn Rushd wrote commentaries on most of the surviving works of Aristotle working from Arabic translations. He wrote three types of commentaries. The short commentary (jami) is generally an epitome; the middle commentary (talkhis) is a paraphrase; the long commentary (tafsir) includes the whole text with a detailed analysis of each line.
Not having access to Aristotle's Politics, Ibn Rushd substituted against Plato's Republic. He advances an authoritarian ideal, following Plato's paternalistic model. Absolute monarchy, led by a philosopher-king, creates a justly ordered society. This requires extensive use of coercion, although persuasion is preferred and is possible if the young are properly raised. Rhetoric, not logic, is the appropriate road to truth for the common man. Demonstrative knowledge via philosophy and logic requires special study. Rhetoric aids religion in reaching the masses.
Following Plato, Ibn Rushd accepts the principle of women's equality. They should be educated and allowed to serve in the military; the best among them might be tomorrow's philosophers or rulers. He also accepts Plato's illiberal measures such as the censorship of literature. He uses examples from Arab history to illustrate just and degenerate political orders.
Ibn Rushd wrote a medical encyclopedia called Kulliyat ("Generalities", i. e. general medicine), known in its Latin translation as Colliget. He also made a compilation of the works of Galen, and wrote a commentary on The Canon of Medicine (Al-Qanun fi 't-Tibb) of Avicenna (Ibn Sina) (980–1037).
Ibn Rushd also authored three books on physics namely: Short Commentary on the Physics, Middle Commentary on the Physics and Long Commentary on the Physics. Ibn Rushd defined and measured force as "the rate at which work is done in changing the kinetic condition of a material body" and correctly argued "that the effect and measure of force is change in the kinetic condition of a materially resistant mass". He took a particular and keen interest in the understanding of "motor force".
Ibn Rushd also developed the notion that bodies have a (non-gravitational) inherent resistance to motion into physics. This idea in particular was adopted by Thomas Aquinas and subsequently by Johannes Kepler, who referred to this fact as "Inertia".
Regarding his studies in astronomy, Ibn Rushd argued for a strictly concentric model of the universe, and explained sunspots and scientific reasoning regarding the occasional opaque colors of the moon. He also worked on the description of the spheres, and movement of the spheres.
Ibn Rushd is also a highly regarded legal scholar of the Maliki school. Perhaps his best-known work in this field is "Bidāyat al-Mujtahid wa Nihāyat al-Muqtaṣid, "a textbook of Maliki doctrine in a comparative framework, which is rendered in English as The Distinguished Jurist's Primer. He is also the author of "al-Bayān wa'l-Taḥṣīl, wa'l-Sharḥ wa'l-Tawjīh wa'l-Ta`līl fi Masā'il al-Mustakhraja, "a long and detailed commentary based on the "Mustakhraja" of Muḥammad al-`Utbī al-Qurtubī.
Ibn Rushd furthered the tradition of Greek philosophy in the Islamic world (falsafa). His commentaries removed the neo-Platonic bias of his predecessors. Criticizing al-Farabi's attempt to merge Plato and Aristotle's ideas, Ibn Rushd argued that Aristotle's philosophy diverged in significant ways from Plato's. Ibn Rushd rejected Avicenna's Neoplatonism which was partly based on the works of neo-Platonic philosophers, Plotinus and Proclus, which were mistakenly attributed to Aristotle.
In metaphysics, or more exactly ontology, Ibn Rushd rejects the view advanced by Avicenna that existence is merely accidental. Avicenna holds that "essence is ontologically prior to existence". The accidental are attributes which are not essential, but rather are additional contingent characteristics. Ibn Rushd, following Aristotle, holds that individual existing substances are primary. One may separate them mentally; however, ontologically speaking, existence and essence are one. According to Fakhry, this represents a change from Plato's theory of Ideas, where ideas precede particulars, to Aristotle's theory where particulars come first and the essence is "arrived at by a process of abstraction."
His most important original philosophical work was The Incoherence of the Incoherence (Tahafut al-tahafut), in which he defended Aristotelian philosophy against al-Ghazali's (AD 1058–1111) claims in The Incoherence of the Philosophers (Tahafut al-falasifa). Al-Ghazali had argued that Aristotelianism, especially as presented in the writings of Avicenna, was self-contradictory and an affront to the teachings of Islam. In particular he argued that three philosophical points (viz. a pre-eternal world, God only knowing universal—that is to say, Platonic—characteristics of particulars, and a spiritual rather than physical resurrection) constituted not just heresy, but rather disbelief in Islam itself. Ibn Rushd's rebuttal was two-pronged: First, he contended that al-Ghazali's arguments were mistaken, arguing that the Qur'an actually commanded devout Muslims to study of philosophy. Second, Ibn Rushd contended that he actually agreed with al-Ghazali in regards to a number of the latter's criticisms of Avicenna; Ibn Rushd argued that the system of Avicenna was a distortion of genuine Aristotelianism, and as a result, al-Ghazali was effectively aiming at the wrong target. Ibn Rushd thus argues that his own system is, as Roger Arnaldez notes, "a reconstruction of the true philosophy, that of Aristotle himself, against the false, that of the neo-Platonic falāsifa, which distorted the thinking of Aristotle".
Whereas al-Ghazali believed that phenomenon such as cotton burning when coming into contact with fire happened each and every time only because God willed it to happen: "all earthly occurrences depend on heavenly occurrences." Ibn Rushd, by contrast insisted while God created the natural law, humans "could more usefully say that fire cause cotton to burn—because creation had a pattern that they could discern."
In Fasl al-Maqal (Decisive Treatise), Ibn Rushd argues for the legality of philosophical investigation under Islamic law, and that there is no inherent contradiction between philosophy and religion
In Kitab al-Kashf, which argued against the proofs of Islam advanced by the Ash'arite school and discussed what proofs, on the popular level, should be used instead.
In the treatise Al-Kashf 'an Manahij al-Adilla fi ‘Aqaid al-Milla (The Exposition of the Methods of Proof Concerning the Beliefs of the Community), Ibn Rushd examined and critiqued the doctrines of four sects of Islam: the Asharites, Mutazilites, the Sufis and the those whom he deems "literalists." While his work focuses on many topics, part of it examines the various sects' proofs for the existence of God, many of which Ibn Rushd finds objectionable. After considering and critiquing the various argument, he argues that there are only two arguments that are worth upholding: the arguments from "providence" and "invention". The first argument considers the fact that the world and the universe seem fine-tuned to support human life. According to Ibn Rushd, given the fact that the universe seems to have been made just for humans, this suggests a creator who set the parameters of the universe in the first place. The second argument, also known as the teleological argument, contends that everything in the world appears as if it were invented. This leads to the conclusion that there is a designer behind creation.
In his philosophical treatises, Ibn Rushd affirms the doctrine of divine unity. Ibn Rushd also argues that God has seven divine attributes: knowledge, life, power, will, hearing, vision, and speech. In regards to the first, the philosopher argued that "God, being the cause of the universe, has knowledge based on being its cause; while humans have knowledge based on the effects of such causes." Thus human knowledge and divine knowledge, while related, are different attributes. Given that life necessarily results from the natural world, and God is the creator of said world, Ibn Rushd thus contends that life is by necessity the second attribute of the divine. The attributes of will and power are essential aspects of what it means to be "God", and given that God exists (per the arguments given in the above paragraph), Ibn Rushd logically concludes that he must also have these attributes by definition. As to speech, Ibn Rushd argues that knowledge and power inevitably give rise to speech, and given that God has the first two, he thus has the third. Finally, in regards to vision and speech, Ibn Rushd points out that because God created the world, he necessarily knows every part of it, just like an artist that understands their work intimately. Given that two elements of the world are the visual and the auditory, God must necessarily possess the vision and speech.
Ibn Rushd looked to Aristotle as to whether the world was eternal. In his Physics, the Greek philosopher argues that everything that comes into existence does so from a substratum. Therefore, if the underlying matter of the universe came into existence, it would come into existence from a substratum. But the nature of matter is precisely to be the substratum from which other things arise. Consequently, the underlying matter of the universe could have come into evidence only from an already existing matter exactly like itself; to assume that the underlying matter of the universe came into existence would require assuming that an underlying matter already existed. As this assumption is self-contradictory, Aristotle argued, matter must be eternal. Because in his eyes, "Aristotle demonstrated the eternity of matter", Ibn Rushd "abandon[ed] belief in the creation out of nothing."
This is not to say that Ibn Rushd denied the Creation; rather, he proposed an eternal creation. Oliver Leaman explains Ibn Rushd's argument as such:
We [as humans] can decide to do something, we can wait for a certain time before acting, we can wonder about our future actions; but such possibilities cannot arise for [an eternal, omnipotent, omnipresent] God. In his case there is no gap between desire and action, nothing stands in the way of his activity; and yet we are told by al-Ghazali that God suddenly created the world. What differentiates one time from another for God? What could motivate him to create the world at one particular time as opposed to another? For us, different times are different because they have different qualitative aspects, yet before the creation of the world, when there was nothing around to characterize one time as distinct from another, there is nothing to characterize one time over another as the time for creation to take place.
Ibn Rushd is most famous for his commentaries of Aristotle's works, which had been mostly forgotten in the West. Before 1150, only a few of Aristotle's works existed in translation in Latin Europe, although the tradition of great philosophers and poets of antiquity continued to be studied and copied in the Greek Byzantium. It was to some degree through the Latin translations of Ibn Rushd's work beginning in the thirteenth century, that the legacy of Aristotle was recovered in the Latin West.
Ibn Rushd's work on Aristotle spans almost three decades, and he wrote commentaries on almost all of Aristotle's work except for Aristotle's Politics, to which he did not have access. Hebrew translations of his work also had a lasting impact on Jewish philosophy. Moses Maimonides, Samuel Ben Tibbon, Juda Ben Solomon Choen, and Shem Tob Ben Joseph Falaquera were Jewish philosophers influenced by Ibn Rushd. In regards to Muslim philosophy, in his work Fasl al-Maqāl (often translated into English as The Decisive Treatise), he stresses the importance of analytical thinking as a prerequisite to interpret the Qur'an. However, because his death coincided with a change in the culture of Al-Andalus, Ibn Rushd had no major influence on Islamic philosophic thought until modern times. Those Islamic philosophers who did comment on his work often condemned his writings as unorthodox.
In the Christian West, Ibn Rushd's ideas were assimilated by Siger of Brabant and Thomas Aquinas and others (especially those from the University of Paris) who situated themselves in the Christian scholastic tradition, which valued Aristotelian logic. With that said, famous scholastics such as Aquinas did not refer to Ibn Rushd by name, instead choosing to refer to him simply as "The Commentator" (with Aristotle in turn being given the sobriquet "The Philosopher"). Ultimately, Ibn Rushd received a mixed reception from Christian Europe: while he was regarded fairly highly for his detailed commentaries on the works of Aristotle, his person philosophy—which came to be known as Averroism—was criticized for not being compatible with Christian doctrine. The Catholic Encyclopedia, for instance, notes:
His doctrines had a varying fortune in Christian schools. At first they secured a certain amount of adherence, then, gradually, their incompatibility with Christian teaching became apparent, and finally, owing to the revolt of the Renaissance from everything Scholastic, they secured once more a temporary hearing. His commentaries, however, had immediate and lasting success. St. Thomas Aquinas used the "Grand Commentary" of Averroes as his model, being, apparently, the first Scholastic to adopt that style of exposition ... he always spoke of the Arabian commentator as one who had [in his view] perverted the Peripatetic tradition, but whose words, nevertheless, should be treated with respect and consideration.
Indeed, Aquinas considered Ibn Rushd to be the premiere commentator on Aristotle, but he disagreed with his religious and theological arguments. In regards to this point, Norman Kretzmann argues that, through the use of the title "The Commentator", Aquinas was able to convey Ibn Rushd's understanding of Aristotle without having to accept or condone Ibn Rushd's personal understanding of philosophy.
Thomas Aquinas admitted relying heavily on Averroes to understand Aristotle.
Le nom latin d' Averroès s'est formé d'Ibn-Roschd par l'effet de la prononciation espagnole, où Ibn devient Aben ou Aven.
Peu de noms ont subi des transcriptions aussi variées : Ibin-Rosdin, Filius Rosadis, Ibn Rusid, Ben-Raxid, Ibn Ruschod, Ben-Resched, Aben Rassad, Aben-Rois, Aben-Rasd. Aben-Rust, Avenrosd, Avenryz, Adveroys, Benroist, Avenroyth, Averroysta, etc.
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