Encyclopedia of Philosophy: al-Ghazali, Abu Hamid
Publié le 11/01/2010
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Al-Ghazali's relationship with philosophy is subtle and complicated. The philosophy represented by al-Farabi and Ibn Sina (Avicenna) is, for al-Ghazali, not simply an object of criticism but also an important component of his own learning. He studied philosophy intensively while in Baghdad, composing Maqasid al-falasifa (The Intentions of the Philosophers), and then criticizing it in his Tahafut al-falasifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers). The Maqasid is a precise summary of philosophy (it is said to be an Arabic version of Ibn Sina's Persian Danashnamah-yi ala'i (Book of Scientific Knowledge) though a close comparative study of the two works has yet to be made). In the medieval Latin world, however, the content of the Maqasid was believed to be al-Ghazali's own thought, due to textual defects in the Latin manuscripts. As a result, the image of the 'Philosopher Algazel' was created. It was only in the middle of the nineteenth century that Munk corrected this mistake by making use of the complete manuscripts of the Hebrew translation. More works by al-Ghazali began to be published thereafter, but some contained philosophical ideas he himself had once rejected.
seen in the theological thought of his later works, written under the influence of philosophy and Sufism.
As Ash'aritetheology came into being out of criticism of Mu'tazilite rationalistic theology, the two schools have much in commonbut they are also not without their differences.
There is no essential difference between them as to God's essence(dhat Allah ); al-Ghazali proves the existence of God (the Creator) from the createdness ( hadath ) of the world according to the traditional Ash'arite proof.
An atomistic ontology is presupposed here, and yet there are alsophilosophical arguments to refute the criticism of the philosophers.
As for God's attributes ( sifat Allah ), however, al- Ghazali regards them as 'something different from, yet added to, God's essence' ( al-Iqtisad : 65 ), while the Mu'tazilites deny the existence of the attributes and reduce them to God's essence and acts.
According to al-Ghazali, God has attributes such as knowledge, life, will, hearing, seeing and speech, which are included in God'sessence and coeternal with it.
Concerning the relationship between God's essence and his attributes, both are saidto be 'not identical, but not different' ( al-Iqtisad : 65 ).
The creation of the world and its subsequent changes are produced by God's eternal knowledge, will and power, but this does not necessarily mean any change in God'sattributes in accordance with these changes in the empirical world.
One of the main issues of theological debatewas the relationship between God's power and human acts.
The Mu'tazilites, admitting the continuation of anaccident ( 'arad ) of human power, asserted that human acts were decided and produced (or even created) by people themselves; thus they justified human responsibility for acts and maintained divine justice.
In contrast,assuming that all the events in the world and human acts are caused by God's knowledge, will and power, al-Ghazaliadmits two powers in human acts, God's power and human power.
Human power and act are both created by God,and so human action is God's creation ( khalq ), but it is also human acquisition ( kasb ) of God's action, which is reflected in human volition.
Thus al-Ghazali tries to harmonize God's omnipotence and our own responsibility for ouractions.
As for God's acts, the Mu'tazilites, emphasizing divine justice, assert that God cannot place any obligationon people that is beyond their ability; God must do what is best for humans and must give rewards and punishmentsaccording to their obedience and disobedience.
They also assert that it is obligatory for people to know God throughreason even before revelation.
Al-Ghazali denies these views.
God, he says, can place any obligations he wishesupon us; it is not incumbent on him to do what is best for us, nor to give rewards and punishments according to ourobedience and disobedience.
All this is unimaginable for God, since he is absolutely free and is under no obligation atall.
Obligation ( wujub ), says al-Ghazali, means something that produces serious harm unless performed, but nothing does harm to God.
Furthermore, good ( hasan ) and evil ( qabih ) mean respectively congruity and incongruity with a purpose, but God has no purpose at all.
Therefore, God's acts are beyond human ethical judgment.
Besides, says al-Ghazali, injustice ( zulm ) means an encroachment on others' rights, but all creatures belong to God; therefore, whatever he may do to his creatures, he cannot be considered unjust.
The Mu'tazilites, inferring the hereafter fromthe nature of this world, deny the punishment of unbelievers in the grave from their death until the resurrection,and also the reality of the various eschatological events such as the passing of the narrow bridge and the weighingon the balance of human deeds.
Al-Ghazali, on the other hand, rejecting the principle of analogy between the twoworlds, approves the reality of all these events as transmitted traditionally, since it cannot be proven that they arerationally or logically impossible.
Another important eschatological event is the seeing of God ( ru'ya Allah ).
While the Mu'tazilites deny its reality, asserting that God cannot be the object of human vision, al-Ghazali approves it as akind of knowledge which is beyond corporeality; in fact, he later gives the vision of God deep mystical andphilosophical meaning.
In short, the Mu'tazilites discuss the unity of God and his acts from the viewpoint of humanreason, but al-Ghazali does so on the presupposition that God is personal and an absolute reality beyond humanreason.
3 Refutation of philosophy Al-Ghazali's relationship with philosophy is subtle and complicated.
The philosophy represented by al-Farabi and Ibn Sina (Avicenna) is, for al-Ghazali, not simply an object of criticism but also an important component of his own learning.
He studied philosophy intensively while in Baghdad, composingMaqasid al-falasifa (The Intentions of the Philosophers) , and then criticizing it in his Tahafut al-falasifa (The Incoherence of the Philosophers) .
The Maqasid is a precise summary of philosophy (it is said to be an Arabic version of Ibn Sina's Persian Danashnamah-yi ala'i (Book of Scientific Knowledge) though a close comparative study of the two works has yet to be made).
In the medieval Latin world, however, the content of the Maqasid was believed to be al-Ghazali's own thought, due to textual defects in the Latin manuscripts.
As a result, the image of the'Philosopher Algazel' was created.
It was only in the middle of the nineteenth century that Munk corrected thismistake by making use of the complete manuscripts of the Hebrew translation.
More works by al-Ghazali began tobe published thereafter, but some contained philosophical ideas he himself had once rejected.
This made al-Ghazali'srelation to philosophy once again obscure.
Did he turn back to philosophy late in life? Was he a secret philosopher?From the middle of the twentieth century there were several attempts to verify al-Ghazali's authentic works throughtextual criticism, and as a result of these works the image of al-Ghazali as an orthodox Ash'arite theologian beganto prevail.
The new trend in the study of al-Ghazali is to re-examine his relation to philosophy and to traditionalAsh'arism while at the same time recognizing his basic distance from philosophy.
Al-Ghazali composed three workson Aristotelian logic, Mi'yar al-'ilm (The Standard Measure of Knowledge) , Mihakk al-nazar fi'l-mantiq (The Touchstone of Proof in Logic) and al-Qistas al-mustaqim (The Just Balance) .
The first two were written immediately after the Tahafut 'in order to help understanding of the latter', and the third was composed after his retirement.
He also gave a detailed account of logic in the long introduction of his writing on legal theory, al-Mustasfa min 'ilm al- usul (The Essentials of Islamic Legal Theory) .
Al-Ghazali's great interest in logic is unusual, particularly when most Muslim theologians were antagonistic to it, and can be attributed not only to the usefulness of logic in refutingheretical views ( al-Qistas is also a work of refutation of the Isma'ilis), but also to his being fascinated by the exactness of logic and its effectiveness for reconstructing the religious sciences on a solid basis.
There is afundamental disparity between al-Ghazali's theological view and the Neoplatonic-Aristotelian philosophy ofemanationism.
Al-Ghazali epitomizes this view in twenty points, three of which are especially prominent: (1) thephilosophers' belief in the eternity of the world, (2) their doctrine that God does not know particulars, and (3) theirdenial of the resurrection of bodies.
These theses are ultimately reducible to differing conceptions of God andontology.
Interestingly, al-Ghazali's criticism of philosophy is philosophical rather than theological, and is undertaken. »
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