Al-Ghazali’s View of Philosophy

Al-Ghazali’s View of Philosophy

June 26, 2021 Off By Felso

Considered as one of the greatest religious scholars of his time, Ghazali’s views of thought had positive and negative effects both in his own time and for centuries after him.

While he caused the decline of those who believed in this belief with his work on esotericism, his opposition to philosophy prevented the development of philosophical thought. As a result of his refusals against Greek philosophy, thinkers such as Ibn Rushd, Ibn Tufayl and Ibn Bacce felt the need to defend philosophy against him. Ghazali, who gave more importance to the akaid part of Kalam, kept reason in the foreground. He used the principles of logic and debating. However, the science of Kalam did not satisfy Ghazali. Thereupon, he put judgment instead of reason.

Ghazali also struggled with the sects that opposed the Ahl as-Sunnah. He especially clashed with Mutezile and Bâtinîlik. What the Batinis did against the Ahl as-Sunnah encouraged Ghazali to write a refutation against this community. Ghazali wrote six works to criticize them. When we look at his struggle with philosophers who have Western thought, Ghazali researched philosophy thoroughly and learned all its principles. Then he directed his harsh criticisms towards Aristotle and his followers, Avicenna and Farabi, by writing rebuttals. Because these people were against the belief of Ahl as-Sunnah. In response to this negative attitude towards philosophy, al-Ghazali made an important contribution to introducing many aspects of logic into Islamic theology. He succeeded in reconciling Sufism and sharia, and enabled Sufism to survive for a long time. Ghazali’s ideas in the field of Kalam constitute a turning point in the history of Islamic thought.

In the light of all these principles, al-Ghazali wrote various works in which he examined and criticized the methods and teachings of theologians, Bâtinîs, philosophers and Sufis, whom he described as “four groups seeking the truth”. In this context, Tehâfütü’l-felâsife, which he wrote to criticize the views of philosophers, is one of his works and the most resonant one.

With the recognition of philosophy in the Islamic world, it begins to attract the attention and reaction of the kalam movements that continue to exist as a movement of thought. This was natural because most of the theoretical problems that the theologians discussed among themselves were also on the agenda of philosophers. As a matter of fact, Kindi, the first philosopher of the Islamic world, speaks of some circles that oppose philosophy and philosophers in the name of religious thought. (Kindi, 2006: ) However, these anti-philosophical attitudes and reactions that manifested from the very beginning, the views put forward in heated debates and the expressions in the books of the theologians are beyond being “some complex and scattered words for the purpose of rejecting the philosophers”, as Ghazali puts it. it doesn’t go. The most serious, systematic and effective criticism of philosophers in the Islamic world was undoubtedly put forth by Ghazali (d. 1111) in his work called The Inconsistency of Philosophers (Tehâfütü’l-felâsife), and the answer to this was the Inconsistency of Inconsistency (Tehâfütü’t-Tehâfüt). ) came from Ibn Rushd (d. 1198).

While criticizing philosophers, Ghazali relies on religious as well as epistemological, psychological, methodological and sociological reasons. He states that during his lifetime, some people considered themselves superior to other people in terms of intelligence and understanding, and even disregarded religious rules and practices. According to him, behind this attitude lies two factors, one epistemological and the other psychological. First of all, these people got false and false information that physicians and philosophers such as Socrates, Hippocrates, Plato and Aristotle, despite having mature minds and many virtues, denied religion and beliefs and viewed them as fabricated laws and deceptive tricks. The second factor is that these people have a passion or a sense of inferiority to look privileged, distinguished and elegant.

According to al-Ghazali, philosophers are in a deception. Because, especially when they have difficulty in grounding their views on metaphysical issues, in order to convince their interlocutors, this discipline is a complex, closed and inextricable science that even intelligent people have difficulty in understanding; therefore, they claim that those who do not know mathematics and logic cannot understand these subjects. However, according to al-Ghazali, mathematics has nothing to do with metaphysics. When someone says “Mathematics is necessary to understand metaphysics”, someone else says “Medicine is necessary for arithmetic”. While philosophers were examining metaphysical subjects, they did not adhere to the principles and rules of logic, which they said were their methods. They hide behind their achievements in mathematics and logic and claim that the views they put forward based on conjecture and guesswork in the field of metaphysics are correct, which is deception. Based on these reasons, Ghazali expresses his purpose in writing The Incoherence of the Philosophers as follows: “My aim is to show that the previous philosophers’ beliefs about metaphysics