Averroes’ Decisive Treatise (Faṣl al-maqāl) and Exposition (Kashf) as Dialectical Works

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Abstract

Perhaps the most famous text from the Islamic world that combines the themes of philosophy and law is the Decisive Treatise (Faṣl al-Maqāl) by Averroes (Ibn Rushd, d. 1198). As is routinely noted by scholars, the Treatise is a legal determination of the role of philosophy within Islam: it argues that Muslims are enjoined to do philosophy insofar as they are capable of doing so. In making this case, Averroes sets out a famous distinction between three levels of discourse, inspired by Aristotle’s logical corpus: demonstration, dialectic, and rhetoric. The central question of my chapter is what sort of discourse is being used in the Treatise itself. Discussing this work alongside the closely related Kashf (Exposition), I argue that Averroes is consciously adopting a dialectical mode of argumentation. This may seem strange, since Averroes often seems to use “dialectic” as a term of abuse, as when he convicts the mutakallimūn of engaging in dialectical argumentation. I argue, however, that he sees an important positive role for dialectic in clearing the ground for proper, demonstrative, philosophical discourse, and that techniques recommended in Aristotle’s Topics are being put to good use in both the Treatise and the Exposition.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationContextualizing Premodern Philosophy
Subtitle of host publicationExplorations of the Greek, Hebrew, Arabic, and Latin Traditions
EditorsKatja Krause
PublisherTaylor and Francis Inc.
Pages326-340
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781000827910
ISBN (Print)9781032314686
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - 2023

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