Saint Thomas Aquinas and Ibn Rushd

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November 15, 2013 by throughwriting

Civilization 102
March 25, 2013

Saint Thomas Aquinas and Ibn Rushd

     Philosophers can say a lot about the time in which they lived through their writings because they do not only think of themselves but also others’ lives. Greek philosophers, who are the foundation of philosophy, contributed a great understanding of Greeks in the early ages. Likewise, other philosophers, after Socrates, like Saint Thomas Aquinas and Ibn Rushd have continuously influenced both positively and negatively the way human beings think and live. Although, the primary source of Saint Thomas Aquinas and Ibn Rushd reflects the cultural values, namely religion and intelligence, and they explained the issue, the existence of God, differently; it doesn’t reflect social values and how people behaved of the time and place in which it was written.

Both of the sources indicate the perspectives of people toward religion, which made them find reasons and have explanations for various matters besides the known Bible and Quran. A piece of writing is not going to be written if a writer doesn’t have a few points to explain to the reader or people. Both of philosophers wrote their writings because people had started to think by themselves to find out how they live, and who/what helps or doesn’t help human beings to survive. God became the major topic, according to these texts, to be mentioned, and there were doubts whether God exists or not. Therefore, these philosophers considered explaining the dilemma so that people could understand. Religion became a major part of people’s lives in the high middle ages, when the crusade happened as well. People, with the motivation of the pope, started to fight for their religion because after life was important among them. Bible and Quran became debatable. People started questioning the importance and effects of these holy books. Consequently, they needed answers so that they can live presumably happy.

Investigating Quran and Bible showed the intelligence and curiosity of people to know about these sacred books and the hidden questions about the universe and its origin. To understand a community, the first place, I think, is to see the literature of it. Aquinas and Ibn Rushd’s pieces clearly explain the relation between reason and revelation and distinguish them, even though Aquinas uses philosophical language and Ibn Rushd uses reason and verse. Some people needed reason to understand the confusion and others were only convinced when hearing a verse. It is a fact that Greeks, such as Odysseus, were curious, and curiosity was a part of their personalities. Similarly, people generally in this age wanted to know about their religion, and a best way to reach out this is to understand the holy books and literature. These writers wrote that people had questions about the existence of God, which basically indicates that people looked for answers either to be happy or know about the universe. According to Ibn Rushd’s writing, the verses in Quran and Hadith contradict, which he explains through reasons. For instance, he says, “Men and women are only the agents, while God is the real creator of the child.” That is, people wanted to reveal this question and learn more about it; therefore, he explains through clarifications and support from a Quran verse.

These two texts neither explain social values nor how people behaved then. During the middle ages, people had different and unique perspectives about religion, and they lived on the basis of sacrificing for God. If we only read these texts, we would not know whether these people indulged in particular activities or pleasure, nor would we know art was crucial or not. Social values are important to be known to understand a community. One possible explanation that these two texts don’t show social value is that people at the middle ages were more into religion and crusades, so their lives were more important for their religions, which were Christianity and Muslim. Therefore, from these texts, it can’t be concluded how they behaved because there is not enough evidence to finalize it. Additionally, to make an analogy with earlier piece of writings, such as Odysseus is written by Homer, it becomes clear that Homer explains indirectly how people were and lived. That is, these texts do not fully inform readers about the time in which it was written. Rather, It is related to religions. I suspect that social values can be known through arts, poetry, myths, and historical evidence.

Thomas solely depends on philosophical logic to make his arguments about the existence of God; however, Ibn Rushd uses Quran and Hadith and explains that philosophy is nothing other than to look into creation. Writers are different, so do their works, in terms of how they write to convince readers or explicitly opine what they want. On one hand, Thomas on this particular text about the existence of God greatly points out reasons to show that God does exist. For instance, one reason could be about motion as he writes, “The first and more manifest way is the argument from motion.” Through this, he refers all the motion in the universe to God as the source of motion. On the other hand, Ibn Rushd at the beginning of the writing states, “There are many verses of the Qur’an, which by their universal nature teach that all the things are predestined and that man is compelled to do his acts.” For this, Ib Rushd gives verses from Quran to support his argument about fate and predestination. Furthermore, he uses “traditional arguments (Hadith)” to illustrate the point in more details. That is, besides being a philosopher, he is a religious person as well, which means that the use of Quran and Hadith in his writing is expectable.

All in all, through literature, we can understand and reveal various information that is related to the culture and the time when the text was written. Also, texts can explain the writer’s perspective about the issue. Saint Thomas Aquinas and Ibn Rushd concentrate on one of the most known issues among people in the time they lived, which is the existence of God. These two philosophers by using different techniques explain that God exists and He is the one, who controls the universe. Through these texts, people’s perspectives toward religions and their intelligence can be known, even though people’s lives and the way they lived are not mentioned. Furthermore, in terms of religion, people then had great honor and attitude toward divine power, yet they were doubtful and wanted answers of the questions they had had about the existence of God. It could be known through these texts that curiosity was a great part of people in the middle ages. It is worth mentioning how people behaved in regular lives when spending most of their times questioning. Knowing how people reacted toward their regular lives is important; however, we would not know if we only read these primary sources.


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