Islamic Philosophy – Al Ghazali

Al Ghazali

Al Ghazali (1058-1111) was Persian and one of the most celebrated scholars of Sufism, Islamic mysticism.  As mentioned, it was the Sufis who borrowed the Indian analogy of the blind men and the elephant.  Like Heraclitus and Pyrrho of ancient Greece, Ghazali was skeptical of human expertise and the ability to acquire absolute knowledge.  

His work The Incoherence of the Philosophers criticized Kindi, Farabi and Avicenna as thinking too highly of arriving at certainty, as reality always transcends human judgement.  He does say that Avicenna is beyond all doubt the most distinguished of the philosophers.  Much like Democritus of ancient Greece, Ghazali argued that atoms are the only true things, and all else in the world is accidental.

In his Alchemy of Happiness, wrote of the negative theology of embracing the One.  St. Thomas Aquinas, the great ethics teacher of Christianity, read Ghazali as his favorite and central author.  Unfortunately, Aquinas is in spell check today, while Ghazali is not.

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