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Ibn Rushd, Abu’l Walid Muhammad (1126–98)

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-H025-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 25, 2024, from

Article Summary

Ibn Rushd (Averroes) is regarded by many as the most important of the Islamic philosophers. A product of twelfth-century Islamic Spain, he set out to integrate Aristotelian philosophy with Islamic thought. A common theme throughout his writings is that there is no incompatibility between religion and philosophy when both are properly understood. His contributions to philosophy took many forms, ranging from his detailed commentaries on Aristotle, his defence of philosophy against the attacks of those who condemned it as contrary to Islam and his construction of a form of Aristotelianism which cleansed it, as far as was possible at the time, of Neoplatonic influences.

His thought is genuinely creative and highly controversial, producing powerful arguments that were to puzzle his philosophical successors in the Jewish and Christian worlds. He seems to argue that there are two forms of truth, a religious form and a philosophical form, and that it does not matter if they point in different directions. He also appears to be doubtful about the possibility of personal immortality or of God’s being able to know that particular events have taken place. There is much in his work also which suggests that religion is inferior to philosophy as a means of attaining knowledge, and that the understanding of religion which ordinary believers can have is very different and impoverished when compared with that available to the philosopher.

When discussing political philosophy he advocates a leading role in the state for philosophers, and is generally disparaging of the qualities of theologians as political figures. Ibn Rushd’s philosophy is seen to be based upon a complex and original philosophy of languages which expresses his critique of the accepted methods of argument in Islamic philosophy up to his time.

Citing this article:
Leaman, Oliver. Ibn Rushd, Abu’l Walid Muhammad (1126–98), 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-H025-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
Copyright © 1998-2024 Routledge.

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