Ibn Rushd (Averroes)
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|Ibn Rushd (Averroes)|
Cordoba, al-Andalus (Spain)
Marrakesh, Maghreb (Morocco)
|Other names||The Commentator|
|Employer||chief judge and a court physician for the Almohad Caliphate|
|Notable works||Incoherence of the Incoherence|
On the Harmony of Religions and Philosophy
The Decisive Treatise
ʾAbū l-Walīd Muḥammad bin ʾAḥmad bin Rušd (أبو الوليد محمد بن احمد بن رشد), commonly known as Ibn Rushd (ابن رشد) or by his Latinized name Averroës (April 14, 1126 – December 10, 1198), was (with Ibn Sina) the most famous of the medieval Islamic philosophers. He was born in Cordoba, Spain. He wrote commentaries on the Greek philosopher Aristotle, as well as works on jurisprudence and medicine.
His main works survive in Hebrew and Latin, consisting of commentaries on Aristotelian texts and on Plato's Republic. Averroes held that theologians are cannot reach the highest demonstrative knowledge and are therefore unfit to interpret divine law correctly. The main purpose of his Aristotelian commentaries was to recover the true ideas of the philosophers by separating them from the theological arguments of earlier Islamic philosophers such as al-Farabi and Ibn Sina.
His work had little impact in the Islamic world, and there is no Islamic 'school of Averroism'. In 1185 he was banished in disgrace (for reasons now unknown) and many of his works were burnt. Of his thirty-eight commentaries, only twenty-eight survive in the original Arabic: the rest are in Latin and Hebrew translations made by philosophers from the Christian and Jewish tradition. His impact was on these traditions, particularly in the Latin West in the thirteenth century, when he was known simply as 'The Commentator'. His work marked the climax of Aristotelian thought in the Islamic world and, to a large extent, its end.
Much later, beginning in the nineteenth century, his work was rediscovered first by Arab nationalists for political purposes, and adopted by secular or liberal Islamic apologists to show the compatibility of Islam and modern science. Today, in order to counter the image of Islam as a repressive and reactionary faith, Ibn Rushd is held up as a model for the reconciliation of religion, philosophy and science. However, Butterworth has argued that this 'Enlightenment' view of Ibn Rushd does not correctly relate his thought to that of the European enlightenment.
Ibn Rushd was born in 1126 to a family with a legacy of public service, and was received instruction in all the major subjects of traditional Islamic thought under the tutelage of reputable scholars. His biographer from the 13th century, Ibn al-Abbar, noted that Ibn Rushd was particularly interested in matters of Islamic law and the natural philosophy of the Ancient Greeks.
By the age of 27, in 1153, Ibn Rushd was working in Marrakesh as an astronomer, attempting to derive the laws of nature that goverened the movement of the celestial bodies. Though he ultimately failed in this endeavor, he was also working at the time to help the Almohad Caliphate establish new colleges in the area.
Shortly thereafter, he joined a circle of philosophers comprised of several notables, including the Ibn Tufayl, with whom he established a particularly close relationship, despite their philosophical disagreements.
At the age of 43, in 1169, Ibn Rushd was introduced to the Almohad caliph Abu Yaqub Yusuf by Ibn Tufayl. At his meeting with the caliph, Ibn Rushd was entirely surprised by Abu Yaqub's philosophical learning, and thus felt comfortable enough to share some of his more controversial views. Abu Yaqub, likewise impressed by Ibn Rushd, decided, on the advice of Ibn Tufayl, to commission Ibn Rushd to work on explanatory commentaries of Aristotle's writings. Ibn Rushd would stay a close friend of the Abu Yaqub's until Abu Yaqub's death in 1184.
Between 1169 and his death in 1198, he would continue publishing and, being appointed a judge in Seville in 1169 and again in 1179, would continue working for the state.
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- Butterworth, Charles E. (1996) "Averroes, precursor of the enlightenment", Alif 16, pp. 6-18.
- Von Kuglegen, Anke, (1994) Averroes und die Arabische Moderne. Ansatze zu einer Neubegrundung des Rationalismus im Islam, Leiden: Brill.
- Butterworth 1996
- Arnaldez 1986, p. 909-910.
- Wohlman 2009, p. 16.
- Iskandar 2008, p. 1116.
- Fakhry 2001, p. 1-2.
- Dutton 1994, p. 190.