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The Challenge of Al-Ghazālī’s Scepticism

  • Zain Ali
Part of the Palgrave Frontiers in Philosophy of Religion book series (PFPR)

Abstract

We have engaged with James’s account of faiths in three distinct ways. First, I articulated James’s argument which suggests that a person can, under certain conditions, be entitled to believe beyond the evidence. Second, we engaged with Cliffordian evidentialism, which maintains that it is always wrong to believe anything based upon insufficient evidence. This absolutist form of evidentialism was found to be weak. There were three considerations in support of this conclusion: (a) it begs the question against the example of the mountaineer and courtship which suggest the justifiability of venturing beyond the evidence; (b) the case of the mountaineer suggests that in some cases, Cliffordian evidentialism and the Jamesian account are on a par with respect to grasping truth and avoiding error, i.e., in the case of the mountaineer, when a choice is made, be it in accordance with Clifford’s maxim, or with the Jamesian account, the mountaineer cannot avoid the risk of error; and (c) it does not seem possible to justify Clifford’s maxim on the basis of evidence without begging the question. Third, we considered and responded to three distinct challenges which questioned the applicability of James’s account to the case of religious belief. In response to these challenges, I argued that: (a) acceptance of the ambiguity thesis is consistent with an attitude of non-dogmatic commitment and does not require tentative commitment; (b) it is also possible to accept ambiguity yet continue to view faith commitment as being momentous and important; and (c) ambiguity, uncertainty and the risk of error do not undermine the right to exercise trust; instead, we need a form of trust which is reflective in nature.

Keywords

Religious Belief Cognitive Capacity Sense Perception Human Reason Religious Commitment 
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. 8.
    For a Muslim defence of philosophical reasoning, see Abd Al-Jabbar, ‘The Book of the Five Fundamentals’, trans, by R. C. Martin, M. R. Woodward and D. S. Atmaja, Defenders of Reason in Islam: Mutazilism from Medieval Schools to Modern Symbol (Oneworld, 1997); Abu Hamid al-Ghazālī, The fust Balance: al-Qistas al-Mustaqim. Trans, by D. P Brewster (Ashraf Printing Press. Lahore. 1978)Google Scholar
  2. Abu al-Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad Ibn Rushd, Decisive Treatise Si Epistle Dedicatory, trans, by Charles E. Butterworth (Provo, Utah: Bringham Young University Press, 2001).Google Scholar
  3. 14.
    A. N. Whitehead, Religion in the Making (New York: The Macmillan Co., 1930), p. 85.Google Scholar
  4. 15.
    Abdullah Yusuf Ali, The Meaning of Holy Quran (Brentwood, MD., USA: Amana Corp., 1993)Google Scholar
  5. 16.
    ‘O you who have attained to faith! If you will remain conscious of God, he will endow you with a standard (furqan) by which to discern the true from the false...’. Ali, The Meaning of Holy Quran, Chapter 8, Verse 29. In a footnote on the Quranic use of the term furqan, Muhammad Asad writes: ‘Muhammad Abduh amplifies the interpretation...of al-furqan (adopted by Tabari, Zamakshari and other great commentators) by maintaining that it applies also to ‘human reason’, which enables us to distinguish the true from the false...While the term furqan is often used in the Quran to describe one or another of the revealed scriptures...it has undoubtedly also the connotation pointed out by Abduh for instance, in (8:29), where it clearly refers to the faculty of moral valuation...’ See, The Message of the Quran (Dar Al-Andalus, 1980), fn. 38, p. 12. The precise meaning of the Arabic term furqan is varied and at times contentious; see Fred M. Donner, ‘Quranic Furqan’, journal of Semitic Studies, 2007, 55(2): 279–300.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. 39.
    A full defence of fallibilism is beyond the scope of this study, although it is a view that is endorsed by a majority of epistemologists. See Baron Reed, ‘How to Think About Fallibilism’, Philosophical Studies, 2002, 107(2): 143–157.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Zain Ali 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zain Ali
    • 1
  1. 1.University of AucklandNew Zealand

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