Thursday, July 28, 2016

Koran Raises Barbarians to Morality --Gilson

"Aquinas Confounding Averroës"

"As most of the philosophers, [Averroës] wanted social order, that he himself might philosophize in peace, and he knew full well that men could not possibly be civilized by merely being taught some abstract code of social ethics. In other words, Averroës did not consider religion as merely a rough approximation to philosophic truth. It was for him much more. It had a definite social function that could not be fulfilled by anything else, not even philosophy. Such is the exact meaning of the texts where he praises the Koran as a truly 'miraculous' book. I see no reason not to take that word seriously. The more convinced Averroës was of the absolute superiority of philosophical knowledge, the more baffling must have been to him the existence of such a book, a book both wholly unphilosophical and much more effective than philosophy itself in raising barbarians to the level of morality.

"...The prophets have no proofs of the existence of God, yet they know there is one, and when they say it, everybody believes it. They never ask themselves whether man has a soul or not. They know it. Moreover, as soon as they start preaching that man has indeed a soul, and that man's happiness ultimately hangs on his respect for such virtues as justice and charity, the wildest barbarians begin to listen, and behold something like real civilization actually sets in...[A veritable miracle!]."

Ettiene Gilson, University of Virginia Richard Lectures 1937 Reason and Revelation in the Middle Ages, New York: Scribner, 1938, 50-51.

In the above passage Gilson is actually merely presenting Averroës' opinion, as found in the Commentator's book The Agreement of Religion and Philosophy.
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