The Book of Letters

Medieval Islamic Philosophical Writings. Ed. Muhammad Ali Khalidi. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005.


“The capacities for dialectic, sophistry, and for the uncertain or dubious philosophy must precede the capacity for the certain philosophy, which is demonstrative philosophy, since one becomes aware of demonstrations after these others (i.e. dialectic and sophistry). Religion, if rendered human, comes after philosophy, in general, since it aims simply to instruct the multitude in theoretical and practical matters that have been inferred in philosophy, in such a way as to enable the multitude to understand them by persuasion or imaginative representation or both.

The arts of theology and jurisprudence come after philosophy in time and are dependent upon it. If a religion is dependent upon an uncertain or dubious ancient philosophy, the theology and jurisprudence that are dependent upon it will be in accordance with it. Or rather, they will be of a lower (standard), especially if the religion had corrupted the ¬†things it took from either or both of these philosophies, substituting images and similes for them. In this case, the art of theology takes these similes and images for certain truth and seeks to verify them with arguments. It sometimes happens that in the legislating theoretical matters, a more recent (religious) lawgiver has imitated one who preceded him, who took these theoretical matters from an uncertain or dubious philosophy. If the more recent lawgiver takes the similes and images imaginatively represented by the first lawgiver, which were in turn taken from that philosophy, to be truth rather than similes, he will seek to represent them imaginatively using similes. Then, the theologian in his religion will take these similes for the truth. Thus, what is studied by the art of theology in this religion is further from the truth than the furst religion, since it seeks merely to verify each simile of a thing that it assumes to be the truth, or that is falsely represented as the truth.”

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