- Averroes, the Decisive Treatise: The Connection Between Islamic Religious Law and Philosophy transed. by Massimo Campanini
Massimo Campanini offers a new translation of Averroes's Fasl Al Maqal from the Arabic original, preceded by a substantial introduction to the text. The introduction, a kind of interpretative essay, attempts to clarify Ibn Rushd's position on the relation between philosophy and religion, the genre to which the Fasl belongs and the format it utilizes, while also offering a fully blown and intriguing outline of the political, theological, cultural, and ideological debates in Andalusia during the Almohadic period. A large part of the 55 pages of this informative essay is dedicated to what Campanini considers to be Ibn Rushd's view of language as a pluralistic means of expressing the same truth in multiple ways. According to Campanini, Averroes sees truth as standing at the intersection of alternative formulations.
Campanini's essay is divided into the following parts: 1. "The book and its title" (p. 1), 2. "Averroes Life and Works" (p. 3), 3. "The Meaning of Averroes' Work" (p. 9), 4. "Being and Language in the Decisive Treatise" (p. 23), 5. "Sociology of Knowledge" (p. 43), and, 6. "Averroes, The Double truth and his Heritage" (p. 47), all followed by a bibliography (pp. 55–68).
The most substantial part is to be found in the 19 pages of section 4, "Being and Language in the Decisive Treatise," where Campanini explores Averroes's theory of language and meaning. His preoccupation with this theme springs from a concern of paramount importance and the real pivot for the Fasl: This is Averroes's famous, or should one say infamous, interpretation of Surah Imran 7, to the effect that it is philosophers rather than theologians who have the ability and must be entrusted with the interpretation of the ambiguous verses (mutashabihat) of the Scripture. In combination with Averroes's re-rendering of the Aristotelian classification of arguments into a threefold distinction of demonstrative, dialectical and rhetorical ones, it yields the idea of three classes of people. Significantly, Campanini says that this opens the way to a sociological distinction of people into three classes.
Introducing talk of a "sociological" element facilitates Campanini's attempt to drive home his reading of Averroes in general and of the Fasl in particular as engaged in a political project very much in tune with the official ideology of [End Page 1] Andalusia under the Almohades. After exposing what he sees as the main tenets of the political and theological project of the Almohades, engaging with "Almohadic theology" and exploring the position of Ibn Rushd as an intellectual in the court of Abu Yaqub Yusuf, Campanini concludes that the Decisive Treatise constitutes a "judicial-philosophical justification of Almohad theology" (p. 11), while the Disclosure of the Methods of Proof is a systematisation of such a theology (p. 11). This inference is behind Campanini's conviction that the standard translation of the Fasl's title calls for radical re-evaluation.
In his exposition of "Almohadic theology" and its political ramifications Campanini refers both to Dominique Urvoy and to Josep Puig Montada. In so doing he mentions Urvoy's view of the Fasl as part of a triptych together with the Disclosure of the Methods of Proof as well as Averroes's famous Tahafut. The term "Almohad Theology" seems to be the axis upon which Urvoy's classification, which Campanini adopts, is articulated. On his part, Campanini brands the Fasl a "borderline work between theology, Law and philosophy" (p. 10). Even more importantly, the work is said to constitute a justification of Almohad theology, and more specifically, a judicial-philosophical justification (p. 10).
This reference to the judicial element offers a way of relating to Josep Puig Montada's call to "read Averroes's theology politically (p. 11)." Campanini takes heed and explores the Fasl's political implications by calling attention to the position of the jurists in Almohadic society (p. 15). In so doing...