The Incoherence of Philosophers


Abu-Hamid Al-Ghazali (also known by the Latinized version of his name, Algazel, 1058–1111 AD, 450–505 AH) was born into a modest family in Tus, Khorasan, in present-day Iran. He went on to become one of the most prominent Sunni religious scholars of all time. His main fields were jurisprudence, philosophy, theology, and mysticism. Tahafut al-falasifa (The incoherence of the philosophers) is one of his major works. In this book, he opines that philosophers, both Greek and Muslim, should not try to prove metaphysical knowledge through logic, as the two areas of scholarship have different epistemological bases. He denounces the views of Greek and some earlier Muslim philosophers, particularly those of Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Al-Farabi (Alpharabius). Al-Ghazali focuses his criticism on the area of metaphysics, leaving unchallenged the pure sciences of physics, logic, astronomy, and mathematics. The book is organized in 20 chapters, in each of which Al-Ghazali endeavors to refute an Avicennian doctrine. The book found great success and helped to propel to further prominence the Asharite school of thought within Sunni Islam, to which Al-Ghazali belonged. The work itself was the subject of a rebuttal written a century later by Andalusian Muslim philosopher Ibn Rushd (Averroes) and sarcastically entitled Tahfut al-Tahafut (The incoherence of the incoherence). But Al-Ghazali’s work had by then already established the importance of religion in Islamic philosophy.

Last updated: August 12, 2016