Al-Ghazali and Descartes from Doubt to Certainty

Discusiones Filosóficas 18 (31):15-40 (2017)
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Abstract

This paper clarifies the philosophical connection between Al-Ghazali and Descartes, with the goal to articulate similarities and differences in their famous journeys from doubt to certainty. As such, its primary focus is on the chain of their reasoning, starting from their conceptions of truth and doubt arguments, until their arrival at truth. Both philosophers agreed on the ambiguous character of ordinary everyday knowledge and decided to set forth in undermining its foundations. As such, most scholars tend to agree that the doubt arguments used by Descartes and Al-Ghazali are similar, but identify their departures from doubt as radically different: while Descartes found his way out of doubt through the cogito and so reason, Al-Ghazali ended his philosophical journey as a Sufi in a sheer state of passivity, waiting for the truth to be revealed to him by God. This paper proves this is not the case. Under close textual scrutiny and through the use of basic Husserlian-phenomenological concepts, I show that Al-Ghazali's position was misunderstood, thus disclosing his true philosophic nature.

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Mohammad Alwahaib
Kuwait University

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