Page:EB1911 - Volume 02.djvu/295

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

studies which were simultaneously prosecuted by the Society of Basra. From Cairo, Bagdad, Damascus and Alexandria, books both old and new were procured at any price for the library of the prince; twenty-seven free schools were opened in Cordova for the education of the poor; and intelligent knowledge was perhaps more widely diffused in Mahommedan Spain than in any other part of Europe at that day. The mosques of the city were filled with crowds who listened to lectures on science and literature, law and religion. But the future glory thus promised was long postponed. The usurping successor of Hakam found it a politic step to request the most notable doctors of the sacred law to examine the royal library; and every book treating of philosophy, astronomy and other forbidden topics was condemned to the flames. But the spirit of research, fostered by the fusion of races and the social and intellectual competition thus engendered, was not crushed by these proceedings; and for the next century and more the higher minds of Spain found in Damascus and Bagdad the intellectual aliment which they desired. At last, towards the close of the 11th century, the long-pent spiritual energies of Mahommedan Spain burst forth in a brief series of illustrious men. Whilst the native Spaniards were narrowing the limits of the Moorish kingdoms, and whilst the generally fanatical dynasty of the Almohades might have been expected to repress speculation, the century preceding the close of Mahommedan sway saw philosophy cultivated by Avempace, Abubacer and Averroes. Even amongst the Almohades there were princes, such as Yusūf (who began his reign in 1163) and Yaqūb Almansūr (who succeeded in 1184), who welcomed the philosopher at their courts and treated him as an intellectual compeer. But about 1195 the old distrust of philosophy revived; the philosophers were banished in disgrace; works on philosophical topics were ordered to be confiscated and burned; and the son of Almansūr condemned a certain Ibn-Habīb to death for the crime of philosophizing.

Arabian speculation in Spain was heralded by Avicebron or Ibn Gabirol (q.v.), a Jewish philosopher (1021-1058). About a generation later the rank of Moslem thinkers was introduced by Abū-Bakr Muhammad ibn Yahya, Avempace. surnamed Ibn-Bājja, and known to the Latin world as Avempace. He was born at Saragossa, and died comparatively young at Fez in 1138. Besides commenting on various physical treatises of Aristotle’s, he wrote some philosophical essays, notably one on the Republic or Régime of the Solitary, understanding by that the organized system of rules, by obedience to which the individual may rise from the mere life of the senses to the perception of pure intelligible principles and may participate in the divine thought which sustains the world. These rules for the individual are but the image or reflex of the political organization of the perfect or ideal state; and the man who strives to lead this life is called the solitary, not because he withdraws from society, but because, while in it, he guides himself by reference to a higher state, an ideal society. Avempace does not develop at any length this curious Platonic idea of the perfect state. His object is to discover the highest end of human life, and with this view he classifies the various activities of the human soul, rejects such as are material or animal, and then analyses the various spiritual forms to which the activities may be directed. He points out the graduated scale of such forms, through which the soul may rise, and shows that none are final or complete in themselves, except the pure intelligible forms, the ideas of ideas. These the intellect can grasp, and in so doing it becomes what he calls intellectus acquisitus, and is in a measure divine. This self-consciousness of pure reason is the highest object of human activity, and is to be attained by the speculative method. The intellect has in itself power to know ultimate truth and intelligence, and does not require a mystical illumination as Ghazālī taught. Avempace’s principles, it is clear, lead directly to the Averroistic doctrine of the unity of intellect, but the obscurity and incompleteness of the Régime do not permit us to judge how far he anticipated the later thinker. (See Munk, Mélanges de phil. juive et arabe, pp. 383-410.)

The same theme was developed by Ibn-Ṭufail (q.v.) in his philosophical romance, called Hayy ibn-Yakdhān (the Living, Son of the Waking One), best known by Pococke’s Latin version, as the Philosophus Autodidactus. It describes the process by which an isolated truth-seeker detaches himself from his lower passions, and raises himself above the material earth and the orbs of heaven to the forms which are the source of their movement, until he arrives at a union with the supreme intellect. The experiences of the religious mystic are paralleled with the ecstatic vision in which the philosophical hermit sees a world of pure intelligences, where birth and decease are unknown. It was this theory which Averroes (1126-1198), the last and most famous of the thinkers of Moslem Spain, carried out to his doctrine of the unity of intellect.

For Aristotle the reverence of Averroes was unbounded, and to expound him was his chosen task. The uncritical receptivity of his age, the defects of the Arabic versions, the emphatic theism of his creed, and the rationalizing Averroes. mysticism of some Oriental thought, may have sometimes led him astray, and given prominence to the less obvious features of Aristotelianism. But in his conception of the relation between philosophy and religion, Averroes had a light which the Latins were without. The science, falsely so called, of the several theological schools, their groundless distinctions and sophistical demonstrations, he regarded as the great source of heresy and scepticism. The allegorical interpretations and metaphysics which had been imported into religion had taken men’s minds away from the plain sense of the Koran. God had declared a truth meet for all men, which needed no intellectual superiority to understand, in a tongue which each human soul could apprehend. Accordingly, the expositors of religious metaphysics, Ghazālī included, are the enemies of true religion, because they make it a mere matter of syllogism. Averroes maintains that a return must be made to the words and teaching of the prophet; that science must not expend itself in dogmatizing on the metaphysical consequences of fragments of doctrine for popular acceptance, but must proceed to reflect upon and examine the existing things of the world. Averroes, at the same time, condemns the attempts of those who tried to give demonstrative science where the mind was not capable of more than rhetoric: they harm religion by their mere negations, destroying an old sensuous creed, but cannot build up a higher and intellectual faith.

In this spirit Averroes does not allow the fancied needs of theological reasoning to interfere with his study of Aristotle, whom he simply interprets as a truth-seeker. The points by which he told on Europe were all implicit in Aristotle, but Averroes set in relief what the original had left obscure, and emphasized things which the Christian theologian passed by or misconceived. Thus Averroes had a double effect. He was the great interpreter of Aristotle to the later Schoolmen. On the other hand, he came to represent those aspects of Peripateticism most alien to the spirit of Christendom; and the deeply religious Moslem gave his name to the anti-sacerdotal party, to the materialists, sceptics and atheists, who defied or undermined the dominant beliefs of the church.

On three points Averroes, like other Moslem thinkers, came specially into relation, real or supposed, with the religious creed, viz. the creation of the world, the divine knowledge of particular things, and the future of the human soul.

The real grandeur of Averroes is seen in his resolute prosecution of the standpoint of science in matters of this world, and in his recognition that religion is not a branch of knowledge to be reduced to propositions and systems of dogma, but a personal and inward power, an individual truth which stands distinct from, but not contradictory to, the universalities of scientific law. In his science he followed the Greeks, and to the Schoolmen he and his compatriots rightly seemed philosophers of the ancient world. He maintained alike the claim of demonstrative science with its generalities for the few who could live in that ethereal world, and the claim of religion for all—the common life of each soul as an individual and personal consciousness. But theology, or the mixture of the two, he regarded as a source