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Reason, Faith, and Politics

A Journey to Muslim Andalusia
  • Fred Dallmayr
Part of the Culture and Religion in International Relations book series (CRIR)

Abstract

As many times before in human history, reason and faith are at loggerheads today. What renders our contemporary situation distinctive, however, is the intensity of the confrontation and the radicality of opposing claims. Ever since the Enlightenment, modern philosophy—trusting in “unaided” reason alone—has launched an assault on traditional dogmas and all kinds of rationally unvalidated premises and beliefs. The situation is further aggravated by the steady advances of modern science and the premium placed in our time on scientific and technological expertise—a premium that militates against any reliance on untested assumptions (thereby equating faith with ignorance). Unsurprisingly, the modern assault on faith has engendered a vigorous counter-offensive against modern rationality, an offensive operating both inside and outside of academia. In academic and literary circles, this offensive tends to take the form of a radical fideism (sometimes curiously allied with philosophical agnosticism)—a posture bent on debunking philosophical reasoning as such in favor of an untrammeled spirituality or self-styled transcendentalism. In more concrete social contexts, anti-rationalism often surfaces as a wholesale attack on modern forms of public life, an attack drawing inspiration from premodern autocratic or “theocratic” conceptions of politics.

Keywords

Muslim World Islamic World Muslim Society Philosophical Reasoning Islamic Society 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.

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Notes

  1. 2.
    For some of this literature compare, e.g., Paul Helm, ed., Faith and Reason (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)Google Scholar
  2. Robert Sokolowski, The God of Faith and Reason (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1982)Google Scholar
  3. Alvin Plantinga and Nicholas Wolterstorff, eds., Faith and Rationality: Reason and Belief in God (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 1983)Google Scholar
  4. Richard Swinburne, Faith and Reason (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1981). In modern Western philosophy, the most famous text is Hegel’s “Glauben und Wissen” (1802); for an English rendition seeGoogle Scholar
  5. Walter Cerf and H. S. Harris, eds. and trans., Faith and Knowledge (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1977).Google Scholar
  6. 3.
    See Oliver Leaman, Averroes and His Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), p. 5.Google Scholar
  7. Roger Arnaldez, Averroes: A Rationalist in Islam, trans. David Streight (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2000).Google Scholar
  8. 4.
    Nasir-e Khosraw, Kitab jami’ al-hikmatayn as translated by A. J. Ar-berry in Revelation and Reason in Islam (London: Allen Unwin, 1957), pp. 72–73 (translation slightly altered). Nasir himself aspired toward a genuine “unification” of reason and religion under the auspices of Neo-platonic mysticism—a solution that Ibn Rushd found unattractive (as will be shown).Google Scholar
  9. 6.
    See Simon van den Bergh, ed. and trans., Averroes’ Tahafut al-tahafut (The Incoherence of the Incoherence), 2 vols. (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1954).Google Scholar
  10. 7.
    George F. Hourani, ed. and trans., Averroes on the Harmony of Religion and Philosophy (London: Luzac & Co., 1961), pp. 1, 49, 51, 82 note 1. As one may note, Ibn Rushd in these statements does not postulate a diversity of “truths,” but a differential understanding of and “assent to” truth.Google Scholar
  11. 8.
    Hourani, Averroes on the Harmony of Philosophy and Religion, pp. 45–46, 64–65. Compare also Majid Fakhry A History of Islamic Philosophy (2nd ed.; New York: Columbia University Press, 1983), pp. 279–280. Given his Aristotelian leanings, it is surprising that (in this context) Ibn Rushd does not mention the differentiation between “theoretical” and “practical” reasoning in philosophy As one might add, the relation between philosophy (burhan) and mysticism might perhaps also be seen as differential and non-antithetical—provided the latter keeps within its proper bounds. Such an approach could explain Ibn Rushd’s occasionally favorable comments on Ghazali and on Sufism in general.Google Scholar
  12. 10.
    For arguments propounding the need of “esoteric” reading compare, e.g., Leo Strauss, Persecution and the Art of Writing (Glencoe, IL: Free Press, 1952)Google Scholar
  13. Ralph Lerner, “Introduction” to Averroes’ Commentary on Plato’s Republic (Ithaca, NY Cornell University Press, 1974), pp. xiii–xxviii. Leaman strongly rebuts the allegation of deliberate dissimulation (taqiya) in Ibn Rushd’s work and hence the need for eso-tericism; see Averroes and His Philosophy, pp. 10,124.Google Scholar
  14. 29.
    Leaman, Averroes and His Philosophy, p. 14. To some extent the decline of Ibn Rushd’s influence seems to have been due not only to the resurgence of clerical orthodoxy but also to the upsurge of Eastern-style mysticism and Sufism—represented in the West by the “Great Sheikh” Ibn Arabi (1165–1240). According to his own report, Ibn Arabi as a young man visited Ibn Rushd in Cordoba, attracted by the latter’s reputation. Unfortunately, the report is not very flattering to the young mystic as it discloses a certain arrogance (or know-it-all attitude) unbecoming a young man in this encounter with the aging philosopher. For English translations of this report see, e.g., Sufis of Andalusia, trans, with Introd. R. W. J. Austin (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971), pp. 23–24; H. Corbin, Creative Imagination in the Sufism of Ibn Arabi (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1969), pp. 41–42.Google Scholar
  15. 32.
    Ernest Renan in his Averroes et l’Averroisme (3rd. ed. Paris, 1860), p. 439, mentions the incident, though without drawing inferences. See Leaman, Averroes and His Philosophy, p. 177; Hourani, Averroes, pp. 38–39. Charles E. Butterworth seems quite correct when he writes: “So intent was he upon discerning the roots of the break with ancient political philosophy that Leo Strauss paid little attention to the way the falasifa, and Averroes in particular, seek to defend their teachings from the charge of Vorldly wisdom’… not to mention the more damning one of materialism imputed by Renan.” He also seems to be on target when he adds: “What is ever present among the writings of the falasifa within the Islamic tradition is constant attentiveness to the political context.” See Butterworth, “What is Political Averroism?” in Friedrich Niewöhner and Loris Sturlese, eds., Averroismus im Mittelalter und der Renaissance (Zürich: Spur Verlag, 1994), pp. 246–247. Compare also his “New Light on the Political Philosophy of Averroes,” in George F. Hourani, ed., Essays on Islamic Philosophy and Science (Albany: State University of New York Press, 1975), pp. 118–127.Google Scholar
  16. 33.
    To obtain a flavor of these disputes compare, e.g., Mourad Wahba and Mona Abousenna, eds., Averroes and the Enligtenment (Amherst, NY Prometheus Books, 1996). As A. El Ghannouchi writes there: Ghazali “advocated a strict religious integrality The dawn of secular thought, revindicating the distinction between religion and philosophy, represented by Ibn Tufayl and Averroes, was the answer to that. But Ibn Taymiyya, the most reactionary theologian, condemned Averroes and all who followed his example as practicing the pagan sciences of the Ancients. Since then the Islamic world has been drowned in obscurantism” (p. 229).Google Scholar
  17. 35.
    See Martin Heidegger, Phänomenologische Interpretationen zu Aristoteles: Einführung in die phänomenologische Forschung, eds. Walter Bröcker and Käte Bröcker-Oltmans (Gesamtausgabe, vol. 61; Frankfurt-Main: Klostermann, 1985) where Heidegger argues that philosophical questioning should not pretend to have knowledge of God and thus stay clear of theology—without being anti-religious: “The trick is to philosophize and be religious in doing so” (p. 197). Compare alsoGoogle Scholar
  18. Jacques Derrida, “Faith and Knowledge: The Two Sources of ‘Religion’ at the Limits of Reason Alone,” in Derrida and Gianni Vattimo, eds., Religion: Cultural Memory in the Present (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1998), pp. 1–78.Google Scholar
  19. 36.
    Anke von Kügelen, Averroes und die arabische Moderne: Ansätze zu einer Neubegründung des Rationalismus im Islam (Leiden: Brill, 1995), pp. 17,161–167.Google Scholar
  20. 38.
    von Kügelen, Averroes und die arabische Moderne, pp. 260–288. Compare in this context also Muhammed Abed al-Jabri, Arab-Islamic Philosophy: A Contemporary Critique, trans. Aziz Abassi (Austin: University of Texas, 1999).Google Scholar

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© Fred R. Dallmayr 2002

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  • Fred Dallmayr

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