Reason, Faith, and Politics

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


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.


Muslim World Islamic World Muslim Society Philosophical Reasoning Islamic Society 
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  1. 2.
    For some of this literature compare, e.g., Paul Helm, ed., Faith and Reason (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1999)Google Scholar
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    See Oliver Leaman, Averroes and His Philosophy (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1988), p. 5.Google Scholar
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    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
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    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
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© Fred R. Dallmayr 2002

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  • Fred Dallmayr

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