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This blog is primarily for me to blog my responses to books that I'm reading. Sometimes I blog about other stuff too, though.

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Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Quick thoughts on Averroes

This book didn't make a strong impression on me.  He starts by noting some places where the Koran proclaims that some fact of religion is apparent from observation of the world, and from that concludes that reasoning from those facts is also commanded. Commanding people to embrace a lesson that is easily apparent from observation is different from commanding them to engage in subtle reasoning and laborious deduction.  To be fair, he concedes that people can err in long chains of deduction, and thereby be led astray.  Consequently, he argues that literalism is fine and even best for the ordinary masses, and philosophical inquiry is only for those who are skilled enough to not be led astray.

In this regard he is making an argument similar to that of Galileo's critics--the Church was unperturbed when Copernicus published heliocentric theory in Latin and as a hypothesis, but they were quite upset when Galileo published heliocentric theory in vernacular Italian and proclaimed it as a truth that he could expound without clerical permission.  So I am unlikely to assign Averroes for a comparative perspective on science/religion debates if I ever teach the Galileo affair.  OTOH, I do understand now why the faculty at Paris cited arguments by Averroes 400 years earlier when the Church was upset about Aristotelian philosophy: Averroes only defended the right of the intellectuals to pursue truth in scholarly debate, not indiscriminate dissemination to the masses.  And the faculty at Paris were seeking similar rights.

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