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Ibn Rushd, Averroes.

This book purposes to study Ibn Rushd in his historic context. The introduction depicts the doctrinal and cultural background of the Muslim world of southern Spain in the time of Averroes to consider next the philosopher's life. It was Averroes' intention to construct a coherent system and to determine how far reason can take us in the analysis of reality (p. 29). His disgrace resulted from the desire of the Almohad rulers to win over the masses by a political gesture.

The Short, Middle, and Long Commentaries witness to different periods in the life of the great Arab philosopher. Urvoy distinguishes a phase of scientific preparation, a period during which Averroes formulated his religious thought, and a third phase dedicated to the study of the entire field of knowledge (p. 90). In his medical work Averroes tries to give a summary of the medical knowledge of the East as well as of the West. Averroes is essentially a philosopher of nature (p. 58), although his works on law are very scholarly. In fact, he is a many-sided genius whose interest embraces the whole of reality.

Urvoy devotes ample space to what has been considered the most typical doctrine of Averroes (the unity of the possible intellect of all men, as well as the uniqueness of the agent intellect). With J. Jolivet he explains this theory by the presence of Neo-Platonic elements (p. 102) as well as by Averroes' desire to construct an overall coherence where Aristotle was satisfied with observation in each field of scientific studies. According to Averroes, it is man's function to take forms back to their origin by thinking them (p. 103). Wisdom transcends the human individual.

In the Muslim world Averroes has remained a marginal figure whose greatness was rediscovered toward the end of the nineteenth century. He found a much better audience with the Jews, who were instrumental in handing over his work to the Christians. Jewish scholars in southern France took over much of Averroes' criticism of Avicenna. In the Latin West, Ibn Rushd's influence increased after 1220 (Roger Bacon, Albert the Great, Thomas Aquinas, Siger of Brabant). Ramon Marti extensively quoted him and may have provided Thomas with texts. Ramon Lull, on the other hand, was involved in a polemic.

This book is a reliable and scholarly guide. Its usefulness would have been greater if Urvoy would have given more information on the Muslim rulers in southern Spain, and added a glossary of some Arab terms as well as a number of extra pages on the philosophy of Averroes. The translation by Stewart is correct, although occasionally somewhat stiff.
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Author:Elders, Leo J.
Publication:The Review of Metaphysics
Article Type:Book Review
Date:Mar 1, 1993
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