The Incoherence of the Philosophers  

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Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel
Kunstformen der Natur (1904) by Ernst Haeckel

The Incoherence of the Philosophers (تهافت الفلاسفة Tahāfut al-Falāsifaʰ in Arabic) is the title of a landmark 11th century work by Al-Ghazali of the Asharite school of Islamic theology criticizing the Avicennian school of early Islamic philosophy. Muslim philosophers such as Ibn Sina (Avicenna) and Al-Farabi (Alpharabius) are denounced in this book. The text was dramatically successful, and marked a milestone in the ascendance of the Asharite school within Islamic philosophy and theological discourse.

Critical reception

Ibn Rushd (Averroes) wrote a refutation of Al-Ghazali's work entitled The Incoherence of the Incoherence (Tahāfut al-Tahāfut) in which he defends the doctrines of the philosophers and criticizes al-Ghazali's own arguments. It is written as a sort of dialogue: Averroes quotes passages by al-Ghazali and then responds to them. This text was not as well received by the wider Islamic audience. In the 15th century, a refutation of Ibn Rushd’s arguments in Tahāfut al-Tahāfut was written by a Turkic scholar Mustafā Ibn Yūsuf al-Bursawī, also known as Khwājah Zādā (d. 1487), who defended al-Ghazali's views. This once again indicated to Islamic scholars the weakness of human understanding and the strength of faith.

Another less critical response to Al-Ghazali's arguments was written by Ibn Rushd's predecessor Ibn Tufail (Abubacer) as part of his Arabic philosophical novel, Hayy ibn Yaqzan (later translated into Latin and English as Philosophus Autodidactus). Ibn Tufail cites al-Ghazali as an influence on his novel, especially his views on Sufism, but was critical of his views against Avicennism. Ibn al-Nafis later wrote another novel, Theologus Autodidactus, as a response to Ibn Tufail's Philosophus Autodidactus, defending some of al-Ghazali's views.

See also

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