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Averroism is the term applied to either of two philosophical trends among scholastics in the late 13th century, the first of which was based on the Arab philosopher Averroës or Ibn Rushd's interpretations of Aristotle and his reconciliation of Aristotelianism with the Islamic faith. European philosophers in turn applied these ideas to Aristotle's writings and their relation to the Christian faith. Besides Averroes, the main philosophers involved in the movement were Siger of Brabant and Boetius of Dacia.

The main ideas of the earlier philosophical concept of Averroism — found in Averroës' commentaries to Aristotle — were:

  • there is one truth, but there are (at least) two ways to reach it: through philosophy and through religion;
  • the world is eternal;
  • the soul is divided into two parts: one individual, and one divine;
  • the individual soul is not eternal;
  • all humans at the basic level share one and the same intellect (a form of monopsychism)[1]
  • resurrection of the dead is not possible (this was put forth by Boëtius);

This standpoint resulted in two condemnations in 1270 and 1277 by bishop Etienne Tempier of the Roman Catholic Church. Tempier specified 219 different unacceptable Averroist theses. It has been pointed out[2] that Tempier's main accusations are almost identical to those brought by Al-Ghazali against philosophers in general in his Incoherence of the Philosophers, which Averroës had tried to demonstrate to be unjustified.

To resolve the problem, Siger tried to claim that there existed a "double truth": a factual or "hard" truth that is reached through science and philosophy, and a "religious" truth that is reached through religion. This idea had not originated in Averroës; his idea was that there was one truth reached in different ways, not two truths. He did however believe that Scripture sometimes uses metaphorical language, but that those without the philosophical training to appreciate the true meaning of the passages in question were obliged to believe the literal meaning.

Giovanni di Paolo's St. Thomas Aquinas Confounding Averroës.

The later philosophical concept of Averroism was the idea that the philosophical and religious worlds are separate entities. However, upon scrutinizing the 219 theses condemned by Tempier, it was obvious that not many of them originated in Averroës. Radical Aristotelianism and heterodox Aristotelianism were the terms commonly used for a while to refer to the actual philosophical movement started by Siger and Boëthius and differentiate it from Averroism; nowadays most scholars just call it Averroism as well.

Thomas Aquinas specifically attacked the doctrine of monopsychism in his book De unitate intellectus contra Averroistas. In this context, the term Averroism is used correctly.

Although condemned in 1277, many Averroistic theses survived to the 16th century and can be found in the philosophies of Giordano Bruno, Pico della Mirandola, and Cesare Cremonini.These theses talk about the superiority of philosophers to the common people and the relation between the intellect and human dignity.

Benedict Spinoza was also notably influenced by Averroism, his panentheism flowing from Averroistic monopsychism, as was Spinoza's belief in the higher state of the philosophers and tendencies toward secularism.

The ideas on the separation of philosophy and religion found in Averroism were influential in the development of modern secularism.[3][4] As a result, some Muslim scholars consider Averroes the founding father of secular thought in Western Europe.[5]

See also


  1. ^
  2. ^ Alain de Libera, introduction to L'Islam et la raison.
  3. ^ Abdel Wahab El Messeri. Episode 21: Ibn Rushd, Everything you wanted to know about Islam but was afraid to Ask, Philosophia Islamica.
  4. ^ Fauzi M. Najjar (Spring, 1996). The debate on Islam and secularism in Egypt, Arab Studies Quarterly (ASQ).
  5. ^ Majid Fakhry (2001). Averroes: His Life, Works and Influence. Oneworld Publications. ISBN 1851682694.

External links



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary



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Averroism (plural Averroisms)

  1. (philosophy) The tenets of the Averroists, having to do with the doctrine of monopsychism.


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