Averroes (1126-1198)

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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.

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