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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 82, Issue 3, Summer 2008

M. V. Dougherty
Pages 391-409

Ghazālī and Metaphorical Predication in the Third Discussion of the Tahāfut al-Falāsifa

Ghazālī’s The Incoherence of the Philosophers is an unusual philosophical work for a number of reasons, not the least of which is the author’s explicit disavowal of any of the conclusions contained within it. The present essay examines some of the hermeneutical challenges that face readers of the work and offers an exegetical account of the much-neglected Third Discussion, which examines a key point of Neoplatonic metaphysics. The paper argues that Ghazālī’s maintaining of the incompatibility of metaphysical creationism and Neoplatonic emanationism should not be viewed as simply a rhetorical or dialectical argument, but rather is best understood, to use Ghazālī’s words, as a philosophical “proof.” Essential to this proof in the solution to the argument of the Third Discussion is an implicit theory of metaphorical predication that can be pieced together from several of Ghazālī’s remarks as well as a reductio ad absurdum argument about the very possibility of ethical discourse.