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Table of contents
- Philosophy & Theology
- The School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies
- Philosophy and Religion | Palgrave Macmillan
Ibn Rushd maintained that the deepest truths must be approached by means of rational analysis and that philosophy could lead to the final truth. He accepted revelation and attempted to harmonize religion with philosophy without synthesizing them or obliterating their differences. He believed that the Qur'an contained the highest truth while maintaining that its words should not be taken literally.
To Ibn Rushd, the supremacy of the human intellect did not allow for the possible contradiction between science and revelation. He gives religion an important role in the life of the state, considering that the scriptures when philosophically understood are far more superior to the religion of pure reason. Striving to bring the two together, he wrote that in case of differences, provided scriptural language does not violate the principles of reason, that is, it does not commit a contradiction, science should give way.
Ibn Rushd is also noted for developing a theory of the intellect, which greatly influenced the history of Aristotelian scholarship. Many Aristotelian scholars, past and present, believe that it represents a correct understanding of Aristotle. It, however, goes beyond Aristotle and is rightly identified with Ibn Rushd. The theory is difficult and there has been controversy in interpreting it. It has been understood, in a general way, to mean that he envisaged the human soul as part of an all-embracing divine soul. Hence, revelation dictates the study of philosophy. Ibn Rushd tried to reconcile the Aristotelian precept of the eternity, which seemingly denied the creation of the world, to the creationism in Jewish, Christian and Muslim theology.
Ibn Rushd believed that God was timeless and His creative effort is continuous. He theorized that the world is continuously developing on what existed before and taking on new shape. According to Ibn Rushd, God created time as well as the world, and He may have created it from all eternity inasmuch as He is Himself without cause. He writes:. Matter and form are inseparable except in the mind; there is a hierarchy of existing beings and forms.
Matter is always in motion, whereas the intellect is motionless and perceives itself. The soul is one in all men, but is maintained separately by bodies, and its relation to the body is like the relation between form and matter.
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Better still, the views of Ibn Rushd are best expressed by himself:. Informed by the active intelligence of the deity, they could be scarcely be otherwise. The fantastic flight of the mind into a realm of the ultimate, immaterial reality was thereby arrested. A world which had to be could not be at the bottom of the scale of being. The qualities which were the laws of its nature were realized in the physical objects they found from the matter of the elements.
Seen by the eye as fleeting individual shapes, perceived by the intellect as permanent generalizations, they remained locked into these things as the stamp of the die in the metal was locked in an Almohad coin.
Philosophy & Theology
Here lay knowledge, for the mind, being itself a necessary part of the natural order, could be absolutely sure of its logic was that of creation, and that it could in consequence learn the final truth. The disclosures of revelation, the highest secrets of God, were susceptible to rational explanation. In a law-abiding universe, that was as much an article of faith as the converse, that rational explanation must be believed.
On the other hand, Ibn Rushd believed that the words of God express truth in imaged symbolic language that the non-philosopher majority can understand. Aware of the inconsistency between those who believed through religious faith and others who believed by use of reason, Ibn Rushd held that both philosophy and revealed religion were true, arguing that truth is comprehended on different levels.
He contended that even if philosophers were mistaken in their interpretation of scriptures, their error is permissible. One of the greatest exponent of Arab philosophy, he tried to modify philosophical ideas to harmonize with those of religion.
Ibn Rushd proposed a dual method of expounding theology, one for intellectuals and another for the masses in general. Further, he wrote that Muslim leaders should prohibit books of religious science for those not versed in these works. To him, the holy texts are clothed in perceivable images and their truths can be reached by exercising the process of thought.
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Ibn Rushd explains that there are three types of men: the first and largest in number, is receptive to ideas that can be expressed logically; the second is amenable to persuasion and the third, few in numbers, will only be convinced by conclusive evidence. He believed that to the simple masses, one must speak of religion, but to the enlightened few one may disclose scientific truth. In his daily life Ibn Rushd did not like power or possessions and was humble and generous, believing that a virtuous person is one who gives to an enemy.
A compassionate and tender human being, he decried the position of women in society, who he said only lived for childbearing and suckling.
Moved to compassion for their misery, he wrote that women were so reduced in servitude that all their capacity for higher pursuits had been destroyed. He was saddened by their fate, stating that they only live like plants, looking after their men.
This compelled him to write:. They seem to be destined exclusively to childbirth and the care of children, and this state of servility has destroyed their capacity for larger matters. It is thus that we see no women endowed with moral virtues; they live their lives like vegetables, devoting themselves to their husbands. From this stems the misery that pervades our cities, for women outnumber men by more than double and cannot procure the necessities of life by their own labours.
The volumes were translated, in A. This work was reprinted several times and surpassed all other medical works in the Middle Ages. He goes on to say that the only acceptable way would be to show the entire system in question contradicting reality as it is. These had an important hand in paving the way for the European Renaissance.
Many of his commentaries have been lost. The only ones which still exist are a number of his translated works which have survived in Latin. Yet, even these few give us an idea of how outstanding were the thoughts of that renowned Muslim philosopher. In the ensuing years, Ibn Rushd was prolific in his literary output. The upper classes appreciated his controversial writings, but to the masses he was an enemy. He came under attack by fundamentalists for his vigorous defence in reconciling the tradition of Greek philosophy with the teachings of Islam.
His views were so offensive to the zealots that once they had him stoned in the Great Mosque of Cordova. He needed the support of the Malikite jurists in his fight against the Castilians. This is supposed to have greatly displeased the caliph and was the reason for his exile.
While Russell argues as if his rejection of fearful belief and fear-inducing dogma comes from an atheistic perspective, the Christian tradition itself contains a vigorous critique of fear. The First Letter of John, for example, puts forth the basic tenet that "Whoever does not love does not know God, for God is love", and suggests that fear and love are incompatible with one another: "There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear; for fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not reached perfection in love.
In the 17th century, Spinoza — whom Russell described as "the noblest and the most lovable of the great philosophers" — invoked the First Letter of John to attack the persecution of non-conformists by the Dutch Reformed church. The violent dogmatism witnessed by Spinoza is exactly the sort of thing emphasised by modern atheists who claim, like Russell, that religion is a harmful force in the world. But Spinoza attacked "superstitious" forms of religious belief, which are characterised by fear, as a dangerous perversion of a purer Christian teaching found in the New Testament.
The School of Historical, Philosophical and Religious Studies
Prefacing his Theological-Political Treatise with a verse from the First Letter of John, Spinoza implied that the church was failing by precisely those Christian ethical standards which it claimed as its own. Another example of a Christian critique of fear can be found in Kierkegaard's analysis of the theological concept of sin.
Traditionally, pride has been identified as the fundamental form of sinfulness, but Kierkegaard argued that human psychology is darkened by an inseparable combination of pride and fear, which both get in the way of love. This means that the Christian ideal of love requires us to battle against both pride and fear, to combine humility with courage. According to Kierkegaardian theology, fearful religion is sinful religion. These two brief examples suggest that the Christian tradition has the resources not only to recognise the dangerous consequences of fear, but to scrutinise them closely and provide a spiritual response to them.
However, this is not the sort of perspective that Russell was prepared to explore in his philosophical work.
Philosophy and Religion | Palgrave Macmillan
He was certainly unwilling to invoke the Christian doctrine of original sin — presumably because it was closely associated with the Victorian moralism that, to Russell's disgust, lingered long into the 20th century. But his atheist disciples may be surprised to discover that privately Russell found some meaning in the concept of sin. In his autobiography he describes a visit in to a small Greek church, where he became aware within himself of "a sense of sin" which, to his astonishment, "powerfully affected" him in his feelings, though not in his beliefs.
If Russell had followed Kierkegaard in paying more heed to such "feelings", he might have come closer to understanding that fear is a religious problem, and not just a problem with religion. Topics Philosophy How to believe. Philosophy books Religion Books Religion World news comment.