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Averroes (1126 - December 10, 1198) was an Andalusi philosopher and physician, a master of philosophy and Islamic law, mathematics and medicine. He was born in Cordoba, Spain, and died in Marrakesh, Morocco.

His name is also seen as AverroŽs or AverrhoŽs. In Arabic (the language in which he wrote), it is Abu Al-Walid Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Muhammad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Ahmad Ibn Rushd أبو الوليد محمد بن احمد بن محمد بن احمد بن احمد بن رشد or just Ibn Rushd. In modern Tamazight (the language of the Almohad kings) it would be Muḥemmed mmis n Ḥmed mmis n Muḥemmed mmis n Ḥmed mmis n Rucd.



Averroes came from a family of Maliki legal scholars; his grandfather Abdul-Walid Muhammad (d. 1126) was chief judge of Cordova under the Almoravids. His father, Abdul-Qasim Ahmad, held the same position until the coming of the Almohad dynasty in 1146.

It was Ibn Tufail ("Abubacer " to the West), the philosophic vizier of Yusef al-Mansur, who introduced Averroes to the court and Avenzoar (Ibn Zuhr), the great Muslim physician, was his friend. in 1160 Averroes was made cadi of Seville and he served in many court appointments in Seville and Cordova, and in Morocco during his career.

He wrote commentaries on Aristotle and a medical encyclopedia. Jacob Anatoli translated his works from Arabic to Hebrew in the 1200s.

His most important philosophical work was the Tahafut at-Tahafut , "Refutation of (Ghazali's) Refutation", in which he defended Aristotelian philosophy against al-Ghazali's claims that it was self-contradictory and an afront to the teachings of Islam.

With the wave of fanaticism that swept Andalusia at the end of the 12th century, his high connections could not preserve him from political trouble and he was banished to an isolated place near Cordoba and closely monitored until shortly before his death (in Morocco), while many of his works in logic and metaphysics have been permanently lost in the ensuing censorship.

System of Philosophy

Averroes tried to reconcile Aristotle's system of thought with the religion of Islam. According to Averroes there is no conflict between religion and philosophy. He held that one can reach the truth through two different ways: philosophy or religion. He believed in the eternity of the universe and the existence of pre-extent forms. See also Averroism.


Averroes is most famous for his translations and commentaries of Aristotle's works, which had been mostly forgotten in the West. Before 1150 only a few translated works of Aristotle existed in Latin Europe, and they were not studied much or given much credence by monastic scholars. It was through the Latin translations of Averroes' work beginning in the 12th century that the legacy of Aristotle was recovered in the West.

Averroes' work on Aristotle spans almost three decades, and he wrote commentaries on almost all of Aristotle's work except for Aristotle's Politics, to which he did not have access. Hebrew translations of his work also had a lasting impact on Jewish philosophy. Averroes' ideas were assimilated by Siger of Brabant and Thomas Aquinas and others (especially in the University of Paris) within the Christian scholastic tradition which valued Aristotelian logic. Famous scholastics such as Thomas Aquinas believed him to be so important they did not refer to him by name, simply calling him "The Commentator" and calling Aristotle "The Philosopher". He left no school in the Islamic world, and his death marks the eclipse of liberal culture in Moorish Spain.

In fiction

Averroes appears in a short story by Jorge Luis Borges entitled "Averroes's Search", in which he is portrayed trying to find the meanings of the words tragedy and comedy.

External links

  • Catholic Encyclopedia: Averroes
  • Islamic Philosophy Online: Averroes

Last updated: 02-08-2005 00:44:53
Last updated: 03-01-2005 21:48:46