Averroes, Kant and the origins of the Enlightenment: reason and revelation in Arab thought
AVERROES KANT AND THE ORIGINS OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT – Book Sample
AVERROES KANT AND THE ORIGINS OF THE ENLIGHTENMENT – INTRODUCTION
Since the nineteenth century, Arab and Islamic scholars have devoted countless hours to a single, traumatic question: how is the Arab-Islamic world to overcome its failure to confront the dominance of Western economic and military power? Within this question – which is both the focus of this book and the reason for its being written – lie many more.
The problem is onion-layered: why is Arab-Islamic society characterized by political oppression, socio-economic inequality, poor standards of education and healthcare, and the dominance of religious and sectarian fundamentalism? Is this failure inherent in the cultural heritage of the Arab-Islamic world, or contingent on specific forces of repression and regression? And if the Arab-Islamic world is to awaken to a brighter future, must its rich heritage of philosophy, jurisprudence and literature be jettisoned in an attempt to emulate the West?
Enlightenment, the eighteenth-century
Consideration of this question and its subsidiaries leads, inevitably, to the Enlightenment, the eighteenth-century European and North American movement that united philosophers, poets and revolutionaries in opposing the dogmatic forces of the Church and the state while privileging reason and the rights of the individual. This movement created a paradigm shift that forever transformed the entire basis of public, political, social and intellectual life in the Western world. In comparing and contrasting the Western and Arab-Islamic worlds, the question then becomes, why has the Arab-Islamic world not yet experienced such a paradigm shift – an Enlightenment of its own: an Arab enlightenment?
Once again, we return to the question of the shared cultural heritage of the Arab-Islamic world. We no longer deal in such crude essentialisms as a ‘national character’ or ‘essential Arab’, but any modern definition of an individual must give primacy to the cultural context – the discourses, laws, history – within which they are born and raised. It is not ‘a question
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