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Averroes The Book of the Decisive Treatise

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In the book Decisive Treatise, Averroes provides the audience with four attainable syllogisms to describe how religious arguments could be absorbed. These syllogisms are, demonstrative, rhetorical, dialectical and sophistical. Through these arguments, Averroes provides his stance on philosophical interpretations and its role in understanding religion. Through his arguments, it can be inferred that he is arguing about the necessity of using philosophical and scientific arguments to properly comprehend claims made in the Qur’an and the origin of Muhammad, the Prophet. Although, he claims the majority of people rely on rhetorical arguments, Averroes claims philosophical interpretations is the better way.

Demonstrative syllogism is described to be arguments that acknowledge evidence from principles founded on rationality and validity (Averroes). It is considered to be the highest from of interpretation. Dialectical syllogism is defined as the path where reasoning is used as the principle to comprehending generally accepted statements (Averroes). Rhetorical syllogism focuses on observations and experiences rather than logic along with the language and structure of the material. Finally, sophistical syllogism is the use of persuasive speech to influence citizens. Participants of this form of argument are believed to use fallacious reasoning, deliberately while claiming to appeal to logic (Stanford encyclopedia of Philosophy).

Averroes claims philosophical interpretation is the most effective way to understanding the law, due to philosophy being the highest form of rational thinking. Through his writing, Averroes argues that using philosophical and scientific arguments are crucial when trying to comprehend the claims and meaning found in the Qur’an along with the origins of Muhammad. Understanding the two sources of Islam through philosophical/scientific interpretation is a pathway to knowledge. The most effective way to accomplish this is through demonstrative syllogism, because both philosophy and religion require drawing conclusions through true premises, that are overall accepted. Hence why it would be the most logical way for people to reflect rationally. In order to truly understand the inner meaning of religious beliefs, the individual needs to study philosophy. Because demonstrative arguments are built off reason and valid arguments, it should be allowed to be used when interpreting religion (Averroes)”.

Moreover, dialectical is the second level of interpretation, considered for the theologians. They accept the scriptures, but use reason to arrive at their conclusion. In order to understand accepted ideas, they use reason as a tool to prove the truth that is claimed (Averroes). As for rhetorical arguments, which is generalized towards the common mass, analyze the language of the texts and their experiences to draw conclusions (Averroes). Averroes does not provide sufficient information on sophistical arguments, but are the lowest for of interpretation. They are founded on the premise of fallacious internet and information.

According to Averroes, not all humans are capable of being philosophical, that is why there are different levels of interpretation. The mass are more intent with rhetorical than demonstrative, therefore they are incapable of comprehending the true meaning of religious beliefs, which is found through demonstrative syllogism. Only the ones who have been educated properly have the ability to understand the truth, therefore it should only be allowed to them.

I disagree with the Averroes’s ultimate conclusion, because it is founded on the premise of a privileged background and biased generalization. He came from a distinguished family, with access to resources to receive opportunities that the majority of the mass are deprived of. Philosophers devote their time and life to formulating arguments, explanations, etc. This demand is not an option the general public can accept. The reality is, people have to work for survival. They have responsibilities that don’t allow them to devote their time and life to philosophy. Moreover, Averroes believes the true meaning of religious beliefs should only be taught to those of higher education. This information has to be withheld from the public, to avoid misinterpretation and confusion, therefore they must accept the plain meaning is a biased generalization and prejudice. Receiving higher education doesn’t necessarily make someone smart or superior, just more knowledgeable. Someone who hasn’t received higher education can be as intelligent or more than someone who received more education. The assumption that just because the general public is not intelligent enough to understand the “truth” due to them not receiving “proper” education is prejudice. Indeed, there may be some percentage of the population who can be confused by the information, but Averroes should not generalize everyone into that category. There are various reasons why people don’t undergo higher education. Averroes is making a pre-judgment about the abilities of the public and setting a limit on their capability to interpret, without sufficient evidence. The lack of devotion to philosophy doesn’t imply they are incapable of understanding and interpreting.

Even to present day, society and people who received higher education still look down on the ones who didn’t. Education is important and every person should have access to adequate education, but in most places that is not the reality. There are other factors that can restrict someone from obtaining a higher education. Averroes doesn’t consider the possibilities that the reason why some may not be able to understand is not just because they don’t want to, but they don’t have the opportunity to. He was raised in an affluent family, lack of resources was not his reality. It is easy for someone in his position to view the mass as degrading and unintelligent, because he was sheltered and didn’t have to experience the masses reality. There is a societal norm that if you don’t have a degree or proper education, you’re incapable of being intelligent. Averroes arguments are extensions of Aristotle, who also had a privileged life, but was advocate for liberal arts education. Therefore, I think it is stranger that instead of promoting the idea to educate the mass on the true meaning, he wants to deprive them of that knowledge. He is declared to be the person who transformed logic and is a rational thinking, but he lacks to acknowledge reasons why the mass would be confused. The wanting to keep the inner truth exclusive to the elites is not logical behavior. It implies the idea that, only the educated are worthy of the truth. Who gave him the authority to decide who is worthy of the truth?

Ironically, Socrates who was Aristotle’s teacher, only received basic Greek education. He was part of the mass, Averroes claims the mass are incapable of comprehending the true meaning. This is proof that, intelligence and the capacity to think rationally is not exclusive and does not rely on social status. Socrates believed “that the men whose reputation for wisdom stood highest were nearly the most lacking in it, while others who were looked down on as common people were much more intelligent (Plato, The Apology, 22)”. Here, Socrates defends the capability of the common mass and that wisdom is about acknowledging the fact that you don’t actually know anything and everything. Some people obtain more passion and desire to dedicated time to philosophy. Personally, I don’t think receiving higher education makes someone smart. If a person truly want to learn and become knowledgeable about anything, they could read, interpret and form their own conclusions. For instance, in college, professors require students to purchase books, read them, interpret them, formulate and analytical response, etc.

If philosophical and scientific interpretations are available to the public, they have the opportunity to draw their own conclusions. There is more knowledge, opinions, arguments that can lead to further or better explanations and interpretations. If only one group of people can express opinion on a matter, there is no diversity of thought or new ideas. Individuals, can perceive the same information differently. Others can learn or develop their own perspectives through different lens. Censorship establishes a form of control and authority. However, in the case of important information, it is cruel and unjustified.

The current rise of religious anti-rational sentiments in the Western world is founded on the basis of ignorance, fear, propaganda and use of scapegoats to refuse responsibility. Given the current tendency of some radical groups to misinterpret religious ideas and ideologies to their twisted advantage, Averroes assessment is correct. For instance, ISIS uses terror in the name of Islam religion to justify their ideologies. However, the overwhelming majority of Muslims state the fundamental principle of islam is peace. Another example of merit from Averroes position is the recent shooting at the Synongon in Philadelphia. The perpetrators reason was founded on the basis of antisemitism, fueled by hate and fear. The emotion was provoked by fallacious rhetoric.

The demerits of Averroes position in light of current religion anti- rational sentiments is that individuals are limited to their own level of consciousness. Even Averroes, from his philosophical, highly educated perspective can only interpret religious documents to his own level of consciousness. Therefore, he doesn’t have the authority to dictate the limits of others. For instance, to use the famous Indian fable of the elephant and the blind men, consider the elephant to symbolize the true inner meaning of religious beliefs. Various parts of the elephant represents the plain external meaning of the scriptures. There inlies the inherent flaw in superficial interpretations of religious beliefs. For example, the first blind man who feels the elephants’ side describes it to be like a wall (“All About Philosphy”). The second blind man who feels the tusk describes it to be like a spear. l (“All About Philosphy”) Meanwhile, the third blind man who feels the trunk describes the elephant be like a snake l (“All About Philosphy”), etc. If one lacks the broadened consciousness to view the whole elephant (religious truth), it’s likely they will misinterpret the small part they have grasped as the whole truth. Overall, individuals develop their own versions of the ‘truth’ through their own perspective and experiences.

Therefore, there is no such thing as the absolute truth or religious claims. Individuals have limitations to their perspectives, regardless of social class and levels of education. There are different versions of the truth. If the so called “true” meaning of religious belief is there, it should be accessible to all, in order to promote desire to seek more opportunity to experience other perspectives.

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