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Proceedings of the XXIII World Congress of Philosophy

Volume 17, 2018

Islamic Philosophy

Theodora Zampaki
Pages 53-61

Debating Attributes
Ibn Rushd (Averroes) vs. al-Ghazālī

The paper aims at analyzing the arguments put forward by al-Ghazālī and Ibn Rushd on the question of the divine attributes in the sixth chapter of their respective works, the Tahāfut al-Falāsifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers) and the Tahāfut al-Tahāfut (The Incoherence of the Incoherence). By comparing these two works, it appears that Ibn Rushd’s intention is to defend philosophy against the assumed misunderstandings of al-Ghazālī. The Arabic philosophical texts of the sixth chapter constitute a debate over the proper understanding of the divine attributes, their origination and evolution from its roots in Greek thought to its development by the Mu‘tazilites, Ash‘arites and the Muslim philosophers. Distinct from the doxological “names” of God, the matter of the attributes was a subtle point of doctrine that belonged largely to the realm of intellectuals. For them, however, it carried a great deal of weight: having to do with the relation of God’s essence to such qualities ascribed to Him in the Qur’an as knowledge, power and will. In the final analysis, the attributes discussion was effectively over the nature of the God. It furthermore came to bear on other such significant points as the oneness of God and His relationship to creation. God’s knowledge is discussed by al-Ghazālī and Ibn Rushd respectively. Becoming familiar with the implications behind our authors’ references to various religious groups helps us appreciate their interactions and understand where within the disciplines of kalām and falsafa they themselves stand. It appears that Ibn Rushd’s concerns lie primarily with upholding the Greek tradition and showing its compatibility with Islamic doctrine, a task that sometimes prompts him to break with his own Muslim predecessors in falsafa.

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