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Averroes (also Ibn Rushd) (b.
1162, Córdoba; d. 1198, Marrakech) is best known for his numerous commentaries
on Aristotle and Plato. Born into a good family with a distinguished history
as jurists, Averroes was also a legal scholar of great renown in the Almohad
Empire of Islamic Spain and northern Africa. He served as chief judge of Córdoba
under the protection of both Caliph Abu Yaquub Yusuf and his son. He was chastised,
even once exiled, for heretical questioning of the Koran, but was always forgiven.
Often considered to be the Islamic equivalent of Spinoza, Averroes is credited
with arguing that religion belongs to the masses, while philosophy is the way
of the enlightened. In fact, Averroes believed religion to be the wellspring
of all belief and essential to all classes, but he defended reason against
Al Ghazali's insistence on mysticism as a legitimate undertaking of the learned.
Worried about the bad uses to which philosophy might be put by those unable
to reason properly, Averroes contended that philosophy was to be practiced
by the learned and was not for general consumption. This did not mean that
he denied the validity of religion to the elite; he felt that their religious
faith could be strengthened by their reason. Averroes was thus an important
defender of philosophy, and his works were a primary source for those interpreting
the works of Aristotle, even later Christian thinkers.
Averroes wrote at a time when philosophical inquiry was being discouraged
in the face of growing challenges to Islamic authority by the Christians in
northern Iberia. As a consequence, his writings were not as influential in
Islam during his lifetime as they later became in the Christian world.
Works by the Author
Averroes. Averroes' Commentary on 'Plato's Republic', Translated
by E. I. J. Rosenthal. Cambridge: Cambridge at the University Press, 1956.
Averroes. Averroes' Tahafut Al-Tahafut (The Incoherence of the Incoherence).
2 vols. Translated by Simon Van Den Bergh. Oxford: University Press, 1954.
The biographical material about the author originally appeared on The
Goodrich Room: Interactive Tour website.