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Averroës or Abu L-Walid Muhammad Ibn Rushd 

On Aristotle's 'Metaphysics': An Annotated Translation of the So-called 'Epitome'  by Averroës and edited translated by Rudiger Arnzen (Scientia Graeco-Arabica: De Gruyter) The Arab philosopher Abu L-Walid Muhammad Ibn Rushd (1126-98), among western historians of philosophy better known by his Latinized name Averroës, composed more than thirty commentaries and studies on the works of Aristotle. Although these commentaries had an enormous influence on medieval Latin and Hebrew philosophy in general as well as on the reception and transformation of Aristotelian doctrines in particular, a lot of them are still in need of reliable critical editions, and an even greater number still await complete modern translations in order to be readily accessible to students and scholars of medieval philosophy unable to read the original Arabic texts.

This applies also to the work presented here for the first time in a complete English translation for which there is no definitive critical edition of the Arabic text available. As a matter of fact, the translation was originally supposed to be accompanied by a critical edition of the Arabic text itself—a plan that had to be postponed for the time being because it was impossible to obtain copies of all extant medieval and early modern manuscripts of the work. However, the translation is based not only on the previous editions of the text, but also on a number of thoroughly collated Arabic manuscripts not taken into consideration in these editions. Thus, the present translation is not only of interest to those engaged in medieval philosophy yet unable to examine the Arabic documents, but it might also be helpful for exploring the Arabic manuscripts and assaying Averroes' intentions more comprehensively and accurately than this has been possible on the basis of the previous Arabic editions.

The treatise presented here is commonly referred to as Ibn Rushd's "Epitome of Aristotle's Metaphysics". Adopting this denomination for the sake of convenience, we must be aware of the following two facts. First, the majority of the Arabic manuscripts (including the oldest manuscripts Madrid, Biblioteca Nacional, ms. ar. 5000, Cairo, Dar al-Kutub, al-Hikma wa-l-Falsafa 5, and Cairo, Dar al-Kutub, Coll. Taymur Pasha, Hikma 117) contain the treatise without displaying any title whatsoever. Ibn Rushd himself does not refer to the present treatise by any title in his other works. Hence, we cannot be sure what title Ibn Rushd chose for this work or whether he intended a separate entitlement in its own right at all'. On the other hand, there can be no doubt that Ibn Rushd himself conceived this treatise as a kind of exegetical work on Aristotle's Metaphysics, as he states right at the beginning that "in this treatise, we wish to present scientific doctrines gathered from the treatises Aristotle devoted to the science of metaphysics". Secondly, the content and structure of the treatise show certain peculiarities not displayed by the other works usually classified as epitomes (Jawami` or Mukhtasar in the Arabic); and even those Arabic manuscripts which do display a separate title of the work, do not depict it as an epitome, but simply call it 'Book of Metaphysics' (Kitab Ma ba'd al-tabi'a).

However, we are relatively safe in grouping together the present treatise with the other epitomes Ibn Rushd composed on various Aristotelian works. Basically, Ibn Rushd dealt with Aristotle's works in writings of four different literary genres: (i) literal or so-called 'long commentaries' (Sharh or Tafsir) quoting and commenting upon the authoritative work section by section in a complete and exhaustive manner; (ii) paraphrases (Talkhis), the so-called 'middle commentaries', i.e. rewordings of the Aristotelian text which avoid for the most part raising any textual problems or dogmatic inconsistencies and are characterized by the highest degree of approval to and coherent representation of the Aristotelian doctrines; (iii) epitomes, i.e. abridged introductions or summaries, in which Ibn Rushd breaks away from the authoritative work at a remarkably higher degree than in the two aforementioned literary forms, secludes any non-demonstrative sections or excursions he encountered in the Aristotelian work or in the commentaries thereon he had at his disposal, and presents what he conceives as the gist of this work in his own words; and (iv) questions or problems (usually entitled "Treatise on...", Maqala fi..., followed either by the problem to be discussed or by the title of the Aristotelian work in which the relevant question occurs), i.e. treatises focusing on well-delimited problems raised in a particular Aristotelian writing, which take into consideration all ancient and "modern" Arabic positions regarding this question.

That the present work pertains neither to the class of literal commentaries nor to`that of the paraphrases is clear from the fact that both Ibn Rushd's literal commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics as well as his paraphrase are extant and differ substantially from the present text'.

Furthermore, it is certainly not an inquiry into a particular topic or problem of Aristotle's Metaphysics adhering to the genre of Maqalat. In the introduction to the work, Ibn Rushd states repeatedly that he is addressing here the discipline of metaphysics in its entirety'. Also, the structure of the work, and especially of the introduction, leaves no doubt that Ibn Rushd does not focus on a particular metaphysical question, but rather approaches this discipline as such in a systematic and comprehensive manner. As in the other epitomes, Ibn Rushd's diction is rather independent from the Aristotelian work dealt with; there are no literal quotations of the Metaphysics, only seldom do paraphrases occur.

Apart from this determination ex negativo, there are certain positive indicators corroborating the assumption that we are faced with Ibn Rushd's Epitome of the Metaphysics. Above all, we may adduce Ibn Rushd's own statements in this work and in other epitomes. In 1159, Ibn Rushd completed his epitomes of four Aristotelian treatises on natural philosophy (Physics, De caelo, De generations et corruptione, and Meteorologica), which he conceived as a literary unit. In his introduction to this four-part work, which has been preserved in two different versions, Ibn Rushd describes the aim of these epitomes as presenting the "necessary doctrines" (al-aqawil al-daruriyya) or the "scientific doctrines which render Aristotle's method a necessary method" (al-aqawil al-'ilmiyya allati taqtadr madhhabahu). This seems to be exactly what Ibn Rushd is referring to at the beginning of the treatise presented here, when he says: "In this treatise, we wish to present scientific doctrines (al-aqawil al-'ilmiyya) gathered from the treatises Aristotle devoted to the science of metaphysics in the manner we have practised generally in the preceding books." That these "preceding books" alluded to here are none other than these four epitomes is further confirmed by another methodological remark which refers again to "the other [theoretical] sciences" dealt with there and is found in almost identical form in the present work and in the Cairo version of the introduction to the four epitomes on natural philosophy. It says that the appropriate method for the acquisition of these sciences is the method of instruction (nahw al-ta'lim/jihat al-ta'alim), that is the method which "proceeds from things better known-to-us to things better known-by-nature". Remarks of this type are, as far as I can see, not found at the beginning of any of Ibn Rushd's 'middle commentaries' .

Furthermore, there is certain bibliographical evidence for the fact that the treatise presented here indeed was conceived as an epitome shortly after Ibn Rushd's death. In his 'Uyan al-anba' fi tabaqat al-atibba', Ibn Abi Usaybi'a (d. 1270) mentions Ibn Rushd's "Epitomes of Aristotle's Books on Natural Sciences and Metaphysics" (Jawami' ku-tub Aristutalis fi l-tabriyyat wa-l-ilahiyyat), in all likelihood referring to the present work and the four epitomes on Aristotle's physical works'. Being independent from these biographies two medieval catalogues of Ibn Rushd's writings mention his "Epitomes on Philosophy" (Jawami' fa l-falsafa). Taking into consideration that Ibn Rushd conceived and introduced the four epitomes on natural sciences as one work of four parts and that this work is commonly entitled, not as Epitomes on Philosophy, but rather as Epitomes on Natural Sciences, this title may be regarded as further evidence for the fact that the present treatise was grouped together with the epitomes on natural sciences by Ibn Rushd himself or in an early stage of its transmission. This is additionally confirmed by the fact that the work has been transmitted in almost all Arabic manuscripts together with these four epitomes.

As for the above-mentioned peculiarities of the present treatise regarding the genre of Ibn Rushd's epitomes, this concerns primarily the following two features. All other epitomes of Aristotelian works composed by Ibn Rushd follow the textual order of the authoritative writing by Aristotle. Not so the present work, which re-arranges the materials found in the Metaphysics in an entirely new way. Secondly, while the other epitomes cover the contents of the relevant Aristotelian works more or less completely, this is not the case with the present work, and this in a deliberate manner. As Ibn Rushd explains right at the outset of the writing, he intends, not to provide a complete synopsis of the Aristotelian work, but "to present scientific doctrines gathered from (naltaqita min) the treatises Aristotle devoted to the science of metaphysics". In other words, Ibn Rushd does not claim completeness and proceeds rather selectively.

The most striking evidence for the re-arrangment of the Aristotelian work is supplied by the fact that the latter is divided into fourteen books, whereas Ibn Rushd explains that its contents can be arranged in three main parts, and divides his treatise into five chapters. In the introduction, he says:

"We find this [science] unfolded in the [single] treatises [of the Metaphysics] attributed to Aristotle. However, it can be reduced to three [major] parts [as follows]. [(I)] In the first part [Aristotle] takes into consideration [(I.a)] sensible things inasmuch as they are existents, all their genera which form the ten categories, and [(I.b)] all their concomitants which adhere to them, and relates [all] this to what is first in them, as far as this is possible in this part [of metaphysics]. [(II)] In the second part he takes into consideration the principles of substance—these are the separate things—, explains their mode of existence, relates them likewise to their first principle, which is God (exalted is He), explains His specific attributes and acts, and shows also the relationship between Him and the remaining existents and [the fact] that He is the utmost perfection, the first form, and the first agent [...].

[(III)] In the third part he takes into consideration the subject matters of the departmental sciences and eliminates the mistakes committed by the ancients on this [subject], namely in the discipline of logic and in the two departmental disciplines, that is physics and mathematics."

From internal references to this division and the following discussion of the Aristotelian doctrines it becomes clear how these three main parts relate to the Aristotelian text. Part La comprises Books VII (Z) and VIII (H) of the Metaphysics. In his discussion of these books, Ibn Rushd proceeds here and there rather independently by grouping together what in his view belongs together (such as VII [Z] 12 and VIII [H] 6, both of which deal with the unity of definition) or by postponing questions because they require the previous consideration of subsequent sections of these books (such as the question whether the three corporeal dimensions are substances raised in VII [Z] 2, 1028 b 16 sqq., yet explicitly postponed by Ibn Rushd to the end of this part).

Part Lb falls into three sections. The first section contains most of Book IX (0) to be discussed by Ibn Rushd in the following order: Chs. 1-3 (kinds of potencies, the Megarian position), Chs. 5-8 (actualization of potencies, actuality, priority of actuality) including a short excursion on Book II (a) 1, 993 b 23-31, first half of Ch. 9 (good and evil in actuality and potentiality), Ch. 10 (truth). In the second section, Ibn Rushd treats the contents of Book X (I) as follows: Chs. 1-4 (the one and the many, contrariety), Chs. 7-10 (intermediates in contrariety, contrariety in species and genus), Ch. 6 (aporia regarding the opposition of the one and the many), Ch. 5 (aporia regarding the opposition of small, great and equal). The third section comprises Aristotle's discourse on the finiteness of causal chains provided in Metaphysics II (a) 2.

Ibn Rushd's explanations on Part II start with a section on Metaphysics XII (A) 6-7, which draws intensely on Aristotle's Physics VIII 1-3, and 7-8. The second section of this part is constituted by Book XII (A) 8-10, which is discussed in much greater detail than the preceding section and by taking into account various works by Alexander of Aphrodisias, al-Farabi, Ibn Sind, and others. References to Chs. 1-5 of this Book occur only incidentally and very briefly.

The contents of Part III can only be reconstructed on the basis of internal references and of Ibn Rushd's statements on the structure of the
Metaphysics propounded in his Literal Commentary on this work, be-
cause the relevant chapter of the present treatise is not extant. In Ibn Rushd's conception, this part comprises Book IV (F) 4-8 (possibly also
the correlate Chs. 4-7 of Book XI [IQ), Aristotle's defense of the
validity of the first principles of demonstration, and Books XIII (M) and XIV (N) which, in Ibn Rushd's view, deal primarily with the subject matters of mathematics and physics and errors committed by the ancients (i.e. Plato and the Pythagoreans) on this subject.

These three major parts of the Metaphysics relate to the subdivision of the present treatise as follows.

Part Chapter Section of Aristotle's 'Metaphysics'

Ia Two VII (Z) and VIII (H)

Ib Three IX (D), 1-3, 5-8; II (a) 1; IX (0), 9-10; X (I) 1-4, 7-10, 6, 5; II (a) 2

II Four XII (A) 6-10 (occasional ref. to XII [A] 1-5)

III [Five] IV (F) 4-8 (possibly XI [K] 4-7); XIII (M) and (not extant) XIV (N) (partially?)

Chapter One of our treatise, which has no correspondence to any of the three main parts, is divided into two sections: (A) an introduction which deals, following the commentary tradition of late antiquity, with the subject matter, aim, and usefulness of metaphysics, and (B) a glossary of twenty-eight fundamental terms of metaphysics. The purpose of both sections is described as introductory and preparatory. In the introduction (A), Ibn Rushd considers, in addition to his own contributions to the topics in question, the following sections of the Metaphysics (in this order): 1. Book IV (F) 1 (there is a universal science which studies being qua being). 2. Book VI (E) 1 (metaphysics is one of three theoretical sciences, besides physics and mathematics). 3. Book IV (F) 2 (there are universal concomitants of all existents which cannot be considered by any other science except the one which has being as such as its subject matter). 4. Book IV (F) 3 (the principles [and subject matters, as Ibn Rushd adds] of the departmental sciences must be studied and verified by metaphysics). 5. Book VI (E) 1 (metaphysics is the supreme science because it deals with most remote causes the knowledge of which is the end and completion of the theoretical sciences).

The following glossary (B) deals with twenty-five notions explained in the thirty chapters of Book V (A). In addition, Ibn Rushd includes three paragraphs on notions not discussed in this book of the Metaphysics, namely 'thing', 'matter', and 'form'. The paragraph on 'being' of this section is the only part of the treatise which draws additionally on Metaphysics VI (E) 2-4.

In view of the fact that what Ibn Rushd calls Part I of the Metaphysics is not dealt with until Chapter Two of the treatise, and that the contents of Chapter One are characterized as preliminary, we are thus quite safe in judging that Books IV (r) 1-3, V (A), and VI (E) were conceived by Ibn Rushd as a sort of logical and epistemological propaedeutics and introduction to the major concepts of what he considered as metaphysics proper". The selective and independent approach to the contents and structure of the Metaphysics comes also to the fore in the way Ibn Rushd deals with Book III (B). Obviously, Ibn Rushd did not consider the catalogue of metaphysical aporiae presented there as a map or program for the Metaphysics. He follows Ibn Sind" in transposing selected aporiae into the relevant contexts of his discussion. The dialectical character of this book did not fit into Ibn Rushd's program of the purely demonstrative structure of the epitomes.

2. Transmission, revision, and completeness of the treatise

The present treatise is preserved in 17 Arabic manuscripts dating from the thirteenth to the nineteenth centuries. During the first half of the thirteenth century it was translated into Hebrew twice: the translation prepared by Moses Ibn Tibbon is preserved in at least 14 manuscripts, while another, anonymous, translation is quoted in books IX and X of Ibn Falaquera's De'ot ha-filosofim, of which we have two manuscripts. The Hebrew version by Ibn Tibbon was translated into Latin by the famous Italian physician and translator Iacob Mantino ben Samuel and printed for the first time in 1523 in Bologna.

As mentioned above, the treatise as we have it today is incomplete. All versions transmit unanimously Ibn Rushd's declaration in the introduction that he had divided the work into five chapters, as well as his repeated references to the fifth chapter. However, all versions break off after the end of the fourth chapter. It is not clear whether the absence of Chapter Five was caused by a codicological mishap in an early stage of the transmission or by Ibn Rushd's—unrealized—plan to revise or entirely re-write this chapter. What can be excluded with certainty is that its absence was caused by Ibn Rushd's deliberate decision either never to compose it or to delete an early version without any substitute, as claimed in the colophon of some manuscripts'.

That Ibn Rushd indeed revised the present treatise—presumably several times—can be inferred from the following observations. First, in all probability he began working on it shortly after having completed the "Epitomes on Natural Philosophy'', that is in the early sixties of the twelfth century. As already recognized by al-'Alawi the treatise as we have it today contains a reference to Ibn Rushd's Long Commentary on the Metaphysics. This reference occurs in a section transmitted in two versions the earlier of which lacks the reference'. Accordingly, the second version including the reference must have been added during or after the composition of the literal commentary on the Metaphysics, which dates from a late period, probably from the years 1192-9417.

Provided the above assumptions are correct, the extant manuscripts thus reflect at least three different stages of Ibn Rushd's work on the present treatise, namely the initial period of the original composition in the early sixties of the twelfth century, the first stage of revision up to around 1180, and a second stage of revision contemporaneous with the composition of the Long Commentary on the Metaphysics. The absence of Chapter Five even points to a third stage of revision, now devoted to the intense revision or complete re-writing of this chapter. Obviously, Ibn Rushd could not complete this final stage of revision, probably due to the political and biographical turbulences that marked the last years of his life and, finally, his death in 1198.

Other references point in the same direction, e.g. two references to "the natural sciences" seem to relate to the paraphrase (Talkhrs) of De caelo composed in 117118. Again another reference, now to what "has been discussed elsewhere" very likely directs us to Ibn Rushd's Tahafut al-tahafut, a work he wrote after 1170, in all probability after 118019.

Unlike the above-mentioned reference to the Long Commentary on the Metaphysics, these references do not occur in sections transmitted in more than one version. This may possibly point to the fact that the splitting of the transmission testified by sections transmitted in more than one version is to be dated after approximately 1180. The manuscripts I had at my disposal contain eight sections of varying length transmitted in more than one version'. In most of these cases, the manuscripts display two versions, in some cases even three, where the third version consists either in subsequent copies of the two versions transmitted in the other manuscripts or in a hybrid combination of these.

In all cases, these sections fit coherently in the overall context. As their contents concern topics which are known to have posed a problem to Ibn Rushd and to have caused constant grappling and modification of his approach, such as the role of universal forms in the generation of living beings, the spontaneous generation of animals, or the one qua principle of numbers, there can be little doubt that we are faced with authentic revisions by Ibn Rushd himself'. This assumption is further born out by passages transmitted in one branch of the manuscripts, yet omitted in the other. As far as the absence of such passages cannot be explained through omission by homoioteleuton, these passages may be considered as later additions by Ibn Rushd.

The present translation is based on a complete collation of eight Arabic manuscripts and edition # 3, which represents a ninth manuscript, otherwise not accessible to me'. Additionally, the Arabic manuscripts have been completely collated with I. Mantino's Latin translation. It goes without saying that a definitive constitutio textus is not possible until the remaining Arabic manuscripts, not available to me, have been collated and considered regarding their filiation. However, the text reconstructible on the basis of these ten testimonies is considerably more reliable than the versions accessible in the previous editions.

For the constitution of the text, one has to keep separate, in general, sections revised by Ibn Rushd and transmitted in more than one version from the remaining text. Sections of this type are printed in the translation in two columns, and their manuscript transmission is explained in the relevant footnotes. In some cases, one of the two reconstructible versions has been transmitted in one manuscript only. Accordingly, the degree of uncertainty inherent in such a unique transmission is remarkably higher than in the second version. In view of the intense contamination of the transmission, I refrained from attempting to identify and present the other stages of revision as well by specific modes of layout. Instead of this, problems of different versions and revisions are discussed in the endnotes.

Averroës: His Life, Work by Majid Fakhry (Great Islamic Thinkers: Oneworld Publications) provides a comprehensive overview of the life, times, and achievements of Averroes, a twelfth-century Muslim philosopher whose ideas were so controversial that his books were burnt not once, but twice. This is a fascinating introduction that covers all the key issues and underlines the importance of Islamic philosophy as a vital component in contemporary Western culture.  Without Averroes, Thomas Aquinas would not have known Aristotle and a great Christian synthesis of Aristotelian realism with Christian theology would never have been completed. 

Averroës ("ibn-Rushd" is a more exact transliteration of the Arabic, while "Averroës" is the medieval Latin version) (c. 1126 –c. 1198), was the foremost figure in Islamic philosophy's period of highest development (700-1200). His pre-eminence is due to his own immense philosophical acuity and power and to his enormous influence in certain phases of Latin thought from 1200 to 1650.

Averroës was born in Córdoba into a family of prominent judges and lawyers; his grandfather, bearing the same name, served as the chief qadi (judge) of Córdoba, and there is a tradition that his father carried out the same duties. (In Muslim society a qadi's professional concepts and practical duties were simultaneously civil and religious. Thus, a "lawyer" had expert knowledge of divine law.)

There are, however, few other specific details about his life and career. Ernest Renan and Salomon Munk mention that he studied under the most learned teachers in theology and law (in the Muslim world the two disciplines are effectively the same). It has been suggested that he studied with such scientists and philosophers as ibn-Tufail (d. 1185) and ibn-Bajja (or Avempace, d. 1138), but the tenuous evidence would indicate that he became acquainted with the former only when he was past forty and that the death of the latter occurred when Averroës was only 11 or12 years of age. Thus, significant pedagogical influence by these personalities upon Averroës is doubtful..

There remain, nevertheless, scattered pieces of evidence and suggestions of dates delineating his career. Averroës himself mentions that he was in Marrakesh in 1153, on which occasion he observed the star Canope, not visible in Spain at that time. This sighting confirmed for him the truth of Aristotle's claim that the world was round. Some years later he seems to have been associated with the family of the Ibn Zuhr, traditionally physicians and scholars of medicine. He is reported to have been well acquainted with Alma Marwan ibn-Zuhr, perhaps the most outstanding member of the family, and when Averroës composed his medical handbook entitled Kulliyat (literally, "generalities," which became latinized to Colliget), he encouraged Alma Marwan to write a companion text concerned with the details of specific ailments.

Tradition next reports that Averroës came into the favor of the sultan of Marrakesh, a notable patron of scholarship and research, through the personal recommendation of his friend and presumed mentor, ibn-Tufail. His ready intelligence seems to have pleased the calif, who, according to a student of Averroes, subsequently encouraged the vast series of commentaries on Aristotle which became known in the West around 1200. It is generally conjectured that the association among ibn-Tufail, the calif, and Averroës can be dated between 1153 and 1169.

Through the califs offices, Averroës was appointed qadi of Seville in 1169, and he began his array of commentaries on Aristotle about that time. In 1171 he returned to Córdoba, probably as qadi, and eventually became chief qadi. He was, however, continually traveling to Seville and to Marrakesh, as the colophons of various of his writings attest. In 1182 he became physician to the calif of Marrakesh, continuing as a court favorite until about 1195. At that time he is supposed to have retired, possibly under a cloud as the result of religious controversy, or perhaps to be protected from conservative theologians, to a village outside Seville; details are not available. In any case, he soon returned to Marrakesh, where he died.

His death coincided with the virtual disappearance of the dynamic speculative tradition evidenced in Arabic thinking for the several centuries after 700. Interestingly, it also coincided with the bursting forth of a similarly active tradition in the Latin West, which was greatly stimulated by the translations of Aristotle and Greek science from Arabic and Hebrew manuscripts. All these events—the death of Averroës, the abrupt decline of Arab intellectual dynamism, the translation into Latin of Aristotle (notably the Metaphysics and De Anima about 1200), and the exponential acceleration of Western philosophizing—occurred virtually within two decades. These are perhaps neither radically causative nor dependent events, but their close association is historically remarkable.

Writings. During the course of his active professional life as qadi, physician, scientist, and philosopher, Averroës found time to compose an impressive number of scientific, philosophical, and religious writings. It is possible that some of his appointments may have been, in part, preferments for the purpose of sustaining scholarship. Certainly in the medieval Latin West, many a Sorbonne scholar formally designated "canon of Rheims," for example, could rarely be found at Rheims fulfilling his canonic responsibilities.

Most of Averroës' writings that can be dated fall between 1159 and 1195. There is the medical encyclopedia Kulliyat (composed before 1162), along with expositions of and commentaries on such medical writers as the Greek Galen and the Eastern Islamic ibn-Sina (normally latinized as Avicenna). There are writings on astronomy. In religious philosophy there is the famous reply to the philosopher al-Ghazzali's attack on the pretensions of rationalism in matters of divine law (The Incoherence of the Philosophers); Averroës' response is titled The Incoherence of the Incoherence, in which he strongly affirms the solid adequacy of natural reason in all domains of intellectual investigation. There are many lesser writings, on problems of divine law, on logic, on natural philosophy, and on medicine. Finally, there is the massive set of commentaries on the Aristotelian corpus, which profoundly affected medieval Latin thought—sometimes with official ecclesiastical approbation, sometimes not.

Commentaries on Aristotle. The commentaries on Aristotle are of three kinds: short, often called paraphrases or epitomes; intermediate; and long, usually meticulous and detailed explications. These different versions may well correspond to stages in the educational curriculum.

The commentaries survive in many forms. For some writings of Aristotle, all three commentaries are available, for some two, and for some only one. Since Aristotle's Politics was not accessible to him, Averroës wrote a commentary on Plato's Republic, under the assumption that Greek thought constituted a coherent philosophical whole. He believed that the Republic contributed to this total philosophical construction. In still a further attempt to complete the presumed integrity of all Greek natural philosophy, Averroës supplemented Aristotle's Physics and De Caelo with a treatise of his own entitled De Substantia Orbis.

In supplementing Aristotle in this fashion, Averroës did violence to the original methodology of the Stagirite. For Aristotle the Physics and De Caelo investigated motions and processes according to two different perspectives—Physics, motion as such; De Caelo, motion in the particular context of the activities of the heavenly bodies. These investigations were not conceived as standing in any hierarchical order, reflecting any vertical order of being or reality; they were simply different investigations and must not be taken, as did many ancient and medieval commentators, in terms of category and subcategory. Averroës, with methodological dispositions akin to the Platonic, did take them in this way, and thus eventually he found it necessary to provide an all-comprehensive celestial physics—hence, the De Substantia Orbis.

Textual tradition. The actual textual tradition of Averroës' works is extremely complex. Some of the commentaries remain in Arabic versions, some in Hebrew translations from the Arabic, some in Arabic texts recorded in Hebrew script, and many in Latin translations. These categories are not mutually exclusive. Beginning in 1472 there appeared numerous printed editions of some, but by no means all, of the commentaries; the format usually consists of a paragraph of Aristotelian text followed immediately by Averroës' comments on and interpretation of that text. This was no doubt an apparatus designed for the practical needs of the teaching of natural philosophy in the Western Latin universities, for it is clear that Averroës' analyses had become influential by the first quarter of the thirteenth century, accompanying as they did the translations of Aristotle, and they remained influential in the traditions of the universities well into the seventeenth century.

Averroes' Philosophy

Averroës' own philosophical position can best be characterized as Aristotle warped onto a Platonic frame. He inherited Greek thought as a literary corpus and, like his Islamic philosophical predecessors, viewed this corpus as an intellectually integrated totality. Aristotle, his commentators (such as Alexander of Aphrodisias and Simplicius) and such thinkers as Plotinus and Proclus were all understood as parts dovetailing into a single coherent philosophical system. Al-Farabi (died c. 950) is an eminent example of this syncretism: he composed a work entitled The Harmony between Plato and Aristotle, and Averroës himself, lacking Aristotle's Politics, found little difficulty in incorporating Plato's Republic within his compass of speculation.

Reliance on Neoplatonism. The doctrinal positions of Greek and Alexandrian thinkers were, in fact, often quite divergent and even incompatible, and to complete the final union of their philosophies into a single intellectual system the Arab philosophers made use of a writing called the Theology. Late ancient tradition attributed this treatise to Aristotle, but modern scholarship has established that the Theology is fundamentally a compendium based on Plotinus' writings. This work was taken uncritically by Arabic philosophers as the capstone of all Greek speculative thought and, as such, was employed by them to effect the unity of ancient philosophy.

"Mystical" knowledge. There were at least two reasons for the eager Islamic approval of the Theology. First, it strongly reflected the Neoplatonic emphasis especially evident in Plotinus' Enneads, on the culminating "mystical" experience at the apex of human knowledge. This experience involved a passing from a condition of ordinary logical ratiocination over into a condition of nondiscursive (although quasi-rational) grasp of ultimate reality. Such an attitude is strongly sympathetic to the Islamic conception of ultimate religious experience, in which there is an analogous passing from individuality into an impersonal fusion with a Whole or Divine Essence.

Hierarchy of reality. Correlative to its reflection of Neoplatonic "mystical" knowledge, the Theology reflected the Neoplatonic methodological conception that is ordered in an organic hierarchy, with interlocking levels indicating superordinate and subordinate dependency. Such relationships involve levels of being and, concomitantly, sources and receivers of being. Such an intellectual structure might be visualized as a series of pyramids successively superimposed, with the pre-eminent pyramid pointing to an ultimate One which simultaneously comprehends being as such and is the culmination of human reflective experience. This structure is, moreover, dynamic and not static, with a continuing flow of creativity downward and a continuing activity of noetic discovery upward.

Analysis of the soul. The general methodology described above is evident in many specific places in Averroës' philosophy. In his analysis of the soul, for example, Aristotle's original doctrine undergoes a transformation. Whereas Aristotle's insistence on the physical principle that every form separate from matter is one in species leads to a presumption against the possibility of individual immortality, Averroës takes the obverse: separate forms or substances can subsist in the general hierarchy of being, and thus immortality, in a purely impersonal sense, is possible.

Scientific knowledge. The case in natural science is similar to that of the soul. In Aristotle the various sciences are diverse and not necessarily reducible to one another in any formal sense: the Physics views natural behavior from one perspective and in accordance with one set of working principles, while the De Caelo, in contrast, uses another perspective and another set of principles. Aristotle's natural sciences are irrefragably diversified. In the Metaphysics he goes so far as to say that similar terminology is employed in the several sciences; however, this apparent unity of the sciences is qualified by his insistence that the use of the most general metaphysical language is, in disparate domains, only analogous and not semantically equivalent. The particular subject matter that a science encompasses controls the precise significance of the terms and logic used in the analysis and description of that science; the term "being" as it is used in the Physics does not possess the same meaning as "being" used in De Anima.

For Averroës, however, such differentiations among the sciences were not the case. "Being" had a univocal significance, not equivocal, as it had for Aristotle; and Averroës viewed nature and reality as exhibiting a single coordinated and coherent structure, proceeding in orderly hierarchical fashion from levels that are lesser (both metaphysically and noetically) to greater and richer levels of being. Aristotle's horizontal and discrete conglomeration of sciences became a harmonious order of vertically structured science with dependent and causative relationships.

Active and passive intellects. From Aristotle, Averroës understood that the knowing process in man comprised a passive aspect—adumbrant concepts capable of being fully activated—and an active aspect—a power of dynamically activating such concepts. This power, termed during the medieval period the "active intellect," was taken to operate against a "passive intellect" to actualize concepts and thus constituted the thinking activity; and the resulting fusion of function was termed the "acquired intellect." This terminology applicable to the noetic process was based on Aristotle's De Anima, and appears, with minor variations, in Greek and Arabic thought down to the time of Averroës. God, as the First Intelligence, provides through the next subordinate level of intelligences—the celestial bodies, upon which he exercises immediate control—activating power for the active intellect controlling man's thought.

However, the active intellect is not personalized because it is Aristotelian form, and each such form is a species and never an individual. Nor is the passive intellect, in its nonnoetic status apart from participation in the acquired intellect—a further pressing of Aristotle impelled by Platonic dispositions. In Averroës' philosophy, consonant with Muslim theology, it is thus a domain of reality which looks upward to God for its sustaining power and with which individual souls strive to fuse impersonally, in knowledge and ultimately in immortality. Thus Averroës, and certainly his medieval interpreters, believed in the unlikelihood of individual immortality—the active intellect with which man hopes to unite at death being a single undifferentiated form—and the soul, as individuated in this life, cannot subsist without the body.

Metaphysics, natural philosophy, science. Averroes' metaphysics, natural philosophy, and science can be classified as a moderate Platonism, tempered with a profound appreciation of Aristotle. Unlike many of his Islamic predecessors, Averroës accepted Aristotle's rigorous rationalism wholeheartedly, although at various crucial points his renderings of Aristotle's laconic texts are governed by his own Platonic methodological predispositions. Against the latter, he held the principle of the univocality of being, flowing downward from a Supreme Principle. God's existence is established from the Physics, in that the eternity of motion demands an unmoved mover, which is in itself pure form. In addition to being the source of motion, such pure form is also Intelligence as such, operating not only as the source of the celestial bodies and all subordinate motions but also as the creative originator and sustaining force behind all lesser intelligences.

Theology and natural philosophy. In the Christian intellectual environment of the thirteenth century, apparent conflicts between argumentation in natural philosophy and argumentation in matters of theological doctrine became exceptionally acute. The newly introduced writings from the ancients—Greek philosophy and science, accompanied by Arabic and Hebrew commentary—rigorously set forth propositions alien to fundamental dicta of Christian faith: for example, the eternity of the world, the impossibility of individual immortality, and the radical noncontingency of existence as such. Averroës' rendering of the Aristotelian writings contributed heavily to these conflicts. Aristotle was read in the medieval faculties of arts as the staple of natural philosophy and science, and Averroës was read as his primary interpretive adjunct. In fact, in later medieval writings Averroës is merely referred to as "the Commentator." Thus, since he put forward analyses understanding Aristotle to deny the creation of the world in time, personal immortality, and the contingency of existence, such views attained wide currency among masters of arts.

The response from the theological side was early and direct. "Arabic" commentary was forbidden to be read in 1210 and 1215, and permitted only with censoring in 1231, at the University of Paris. Albert the Great published a treatise, Contra Averroistas, and Thomas Aquinas wrote about 1269, at a time of great intellectual controversy at Paris, a Tractatus de Unitate Intellectus Contra Averroistas.

"Double-truth" doctrine. The replies to Averroës were reasoned and moderate, but they seem to have been accompanied by many contemporary declarations that the

"Averroists" were actually maintaining a doctrine of "double truth," according to which conclusions in natural philosophy were said to be true, while simultaneously conclusions affirming the contrary in theological argument were held true—presumably an intolerable intellectual situation. Thus there were official condemnations of "unorthodox" doctrines at the University of Paris in 1270 and 1277, including specific injunctions against two standards of truth. It is not, however, clear that any philosophers in the thirteenth century explicitly held such a theory of "double truth"; in the writings that survive, philosophers faced with these conflicts take great pains to concede truth itself to the declarations of faith and say of Aristotelian writings only that they have been properly arrived at according to Aristotle's methods.

Averroës himself composed the short treatise On the Harmony Between Religion and Philosophy; his main effort in this work was to establish that there is but one truth to which there are several modes of access—the rhetorical, open to any man through the persuasions of teachers; the dialectical, available for some to explore the probability of truths of divine law; and the philosophical, to be used only by those few capable of exercising pure ratiocination with the fullest competence. Such a variety of methods insures for each man, depending on his individual capability, the possibility of grasping ultimate realities. The fact that in this work Averroës distinguishes between such modes of access to truth has, by many historians, been taken to adumbrate the theory of the "double truth," as attributed to many thinkers in the thirteenth century, but this is not probable. First, this work of Averroës was not available to medieval Latin scholars and thus obviously cannot have been directly influential; second, the doctrine of alternative modes of access to truth is hardly the same as that of maintaining incompatible truths in disparate domains.

Thus, the attribution of a doctrine of "double truth" to medievals cannot be sustained by any writings of Aristotle accompanied by Averroistic commentaries, nor can it be justified explicitly from any Christian medieval master. The oppositions between Aristotelian – Averroist argument and basic Christian doctrine constituted a fundamental intellectual dilemma within Christian speculation—one never resolved by the masters of arts in an explicit proclamation of a logical contradiction between two domains of reflection but always by an absolute accession of truth to faith. Averroës did not contribute specifically to the discussion arising from this dilemma, except insofar as his rigorous analysis of Aristotle made necessary certain conclusions in natural philosophy.

Averroës stands as a philosopher in his own right, but his influence was felt essentially in Western Latin philosophy from 1200 to 1650. His commentaries on Aristotle, an integral part of the educational curriculum in the faculties of arts of western European universities, shaped several centuries of Latin philosophy and science. Despite institutional criticism and even formal condemnation, his powerful statements of Aristotelian doctrine were sustained among Latin scholars and thinkers well into the mid-seventeenth century.          

Faith And Reason In Islam by Averroes (Abu’l-Walid ibn Rushd), translated by Ibrahim Y. Najjar, introduction by Majid Fakhry (OneWorld) Available for the first time in a complete English language edition, this is first annotated translation of a key work by the twelfth-century Muslim philosopher, Averroes (Ibn Rushd), whose translations and interpretations of Aristotle led to the flourishing of high scalasticism in Europe.

Acknowledged as the leading transmitter of Aristotelian thought, Averroes also held controversial views about the relationship between faith and reason, arguing that religion should not be allowed to impose limits on the exercise of rational thought. His theory of rationality, along with others on language, justice and the interpretation of religious texts, is clearly presented here, in a work that provides the most comprehensive picture available of Averroes' great intellectual achievements. His views were not as widely disseminated in the East and in many ways his adoption by western intellectuals helped set the groundwork for western secular rationalism. This work gives us his views how the existence of God can be demonstrated by reason. Proving conclusively that the dispute between reason and religion is a far from new phenomenon, this important book is essential reading for scholars, students, and all those interested in the development of Islamic philosophy and its effect on the modern intellectual world.

Author introduction: Ibn Rushd's Exposition of Religious Arguments contains sufficient evidence to motivate the reader to reexamine many popular views about Ibn Rushd. I will briefly draw the attention to some of the issues in the book where such a re‑examination is called for. Some believe that Averroes is an Aristotelian rationalist who was bent on undermining or subverting religion, albeit while upholding the harmony between religion and philosophy or faith and reason. It is also believed that having accepted the Aristotelian metaphysics and the place of the Unmoved Mover in it Ibn Rushd could not believe in the creation of the world, revealed religions and the hereafter. The reader of The Exposition, however, will be surprised to find Ibn Rushd offering one argument after another in support of a different position. While maintaining the harmony between religion and philosophy, Averroes shows that neither discipline is in need of subverting the other. They are both legitimate human endeavors with clear lines of demarcation. They work in harmony with each other rather than in conflict. This is evident in the crucial issue of the separation between clear religious texts and vague or ambiguous ones. While no disagreement arises about clear religious texts and their acceptance is required of all believers upon faith, ambiguous texts call for interpretation and the interference of reason. One obvious requirement is that interpretations cannot come into conflict with clear and unambiguous texts. Reason is necessary, and without it the understanding of religious texts remains incomplete.

Another issue dealt with in The Exposition is the central belief in the existence of God and the related problem of the creation of the world. Ibn Rushd's position on both counts is clear and his arguments are quite elaborate, simple and straightforward. He takes the theologians to task, especially the Ash'arites, scrutinizing their arguments and maintaining that their attempt to prove the creation of the world is flawed. He distinguishes two proofs offered by this school: the first is adhered to by the majority of this group and the second is held by Abu al-Ma'ali alJuwayni, the illustrious teacher of Abn Hamid al-Ghazali. The first argument rests on three premises: that substances are always found inseparable from accidents, that accidents are created; and that what cannot exist separately from created accidents is itself created. The crux of Averroes' criticism of this argument is that it fails to apply to the world as a whole, even though it might apply to individual substances in it. As far as Abu al-Ma'ali s argument is concerned, it is based on two premises: that the world with everything in it is contingent, i.e., it could have been other than what it is, and that whatever is contingent is created. Ibn Rushd rejects this argument, pointing to its Avicennian origins and maintaining that its first premise is merely rhetorical and factually incorrect, and that its second premise is not demonstrable; the two great philosophers Plato and Aristotle took opposite views regarding it. Abu al-Ma'ali's proof misses its point; instead of pointing to the wise creator of the world, it repudiates the principles of causality, thus abandoning the world to the vagaries of coincidence.

According to Ibn Rushd, there are two arguments that prove the existence of God and that everyone accepts: the argument from invention, Dalal al-Ikhtira` and the argument from design, Dalil al-'Inaya. Observation shows that everything in the world is ordered according to a fixed causal pattern which is conducive to serving the universal goal of the existence and well‑being of mankind, as the Qur'an itself asserts in a series of verses. Likewise, observation, supported by many verses in the Qur'an, shows that there are created or invented substances in the world, like the coming of life out of inanimate objects and the creation of sensations and cognitions. The Precious Book (the Qur'an) also contains many verses that refer to the two arguments combined. Averroes maintains that when rational beings find objects in nature possessing the definite characteristics referred to by these two arguments ‑ namely the utility and purposefulness of their parts to human purposes ‑ they infer the existence of a wise Maker or manufacturer behind them. Similarly, when one contemplates the world with its existing entities and sees how well they are ordered and causally related, and observes their conduciveness to life and the well‑being of mankind, it becomes rather impossible not to attribute the existence of the world to a wise Maker who is God. Ibn Rushd does not believe that there are deductive arguments that can prove the existence of God, but his two inductive arguments are the only arguments the human mind is capable of offering to prove the existence of God. Chapter one and the first part of chapter five of this translation offer a full discussion of these two arguments.

As for the widespread belief that Averroes held a position maintaining the superioritv of philosophers to the ordinary people and the dialectic theologians, Ibn Rushd provides a detailed argument to show that in The Exposition he does not subscribe to this position. All people, he maintains, are equal in their rationality and capacity for understanding. Where they differ is in the degree to which they are prepared to deal with highly abstract issues and detailed arguments that could not be understood except after a long period of arduous study. Unlike the common people and the theologians, the philosophers take the needed time and acquire the appropriate skills for understanding such arguments. What sets the philosophers apart is not the superiority of their intellect and innate competence, but rather their preoccupation with such matters over a long period of time. Philosophers are experts in their field like physicians in the field of health; the common people and the theologians are like patients who receive treatment and follow the advice of the expert doctors. The philosophers differ from other people in the degree and detail of their knowledge, but not in intellectual ability. The concluding part of chapter one offers support for this position.

On the issue of life after death, Ibn Rushd's discussion in section five of chapter five is very interesting, but basically he holds it upon faith, allowing himself to speculate only on the manner in which people survive after death. His discussion of God's attributes in chapter three is refreshing and the theory that he proposes for understanding religious texts is illuminating. Particular attention should be given to Ibn Rushd's discussions of God's unity in chapter two and God's justice in section four of chapter five.


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