Averroes or Abu'l-Walid Ibn Rushd

1126 - 1198

Averroes was an Islamic physician and religious philosopher. His best-known book on philosophy was called Culliyyat. Averroes also produced a series of influential commentaries on most of Aristotle's works (1169 - 1195) and on Plato's Republic. Between 1179 - 1180 he wrote several studies defending philosophical approaches to the study of religion. They include: Decisive treatise on the agreement between religious law and philosophy, Examination of the methods of proof concerning the doctrines of religion, and The incoherence of the incoherence.

Averroes' commentaries on Aristotle as well his treatises on philosophy theology exist were translated into Latin or Hebrew, indicating its judged value and impact. In the commentaries on Aristotle he translated and commented on various aspects of Aristotlean philosophy.

Averroes' philosophy included ideas about the eternity of matter as a positive principle of being; the concept that spirits are arranged hierarchically between God and matter and mediate between them; the denial of Providence, and the idea that rational knowledge is the ultimate aspiration of the human soul.

Averroes believed that every human mind was in contact with an intelligence greater than itself. This commanding intelligence not only formed universal concepts for all mankind but also stored and kept the concepts when made. Thus man could neither form intellectual concepts for himself nor keep them in himself when formed. His act of understanding, in fact, was done for him, and put into him from without. Man by himself was highest of sentient natures, but a sentient nature in contact with an even higher intelligence. By his senses man gets impressions that are stored in him as sensory images, or phantasms. The external intelligence then joins a corresponding idea with the mind's phantasm. Once his own phantasm is conjoined with an idea belonging to another, man has an intelligent view of what the phantasm represents, and thus understands it.

This doctrine, called the doctrine of the 'Unity of the intellect' and consequently of the will, created immense excitement in its time. It freed individuals from responsibility, argued against individual rational souls, and, in so doing, led to arguments in favor of universal mortality.

Writings by Averroes

Averroes' commentary on Plato's Republic, 3rd ed. (1969), Hebrew text, Eng. trans.

Hourani, G. F. (1961, English translation) (Averroes) On the Harmony of Religion and Philosophy.

van den Bergh, S. translator (1954), Averroes' The incoherence of the incoherence, 2 vol. Eng. trans.

Writings about Averroes

Islamic Philosophy online. (2009). Averroes. Retrieved on April 29, 2010 from http://www.muslimphilosophy.com/ir/index.html

Rosenthal, E. (1953, 1971). The place of politics in the philosophy of Ibn Rushd. Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, vol. 15, no. 2 (1953). Reprinted in Studia Semitica et Orientalia II (1971).

Rosenthal, E. (1968). Political thought in Medieval Islam: An introductory outline. Cambridge University Press. Retrieved on January 31, 2010 from http://www.questia.com/library/book/political-thought-in-medieval-islam-an-introductory-outline-by-erwin-i-j-rosenthal.jsp.