al-Razi, Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyya’

(250–313 or 323/864–925 or 935)
   One of the most respected and influential physicians in the medieval period, al-Razi (Latin: Rhazes) wrote extensively on the subject of philosophy as well as medicine, viewing it as a ‘medicine of the soul’. His philosophical contributions, however, generally elicited criticism and hostility within the Islamic tradition, and were often branded as heretical. Only a handful of his philosophical texts are extant today. In one of them, the Spiritual Medicine (al-Tibb al-ruhani), al- Razi draws upon his reading of Greek philosophy, as well as his own considerable experience as a physician, to elaborate a Platonic-Epicurean account of pleasure as the return to a natural state of harmony from a prior dislocation, which he defines as pain. He goes on to espouse a prudential, hedonistic ethics which aims at minimizing pain through the guidance of reason, as well as the strategic use of mildly ascetic practices. In his Book of the Philosophical Life (Kitab al-sira al-falsafiyya), he defends philosophy as a way of life (focusing particularly on the paradigmatic figure of Socrates) and assumes a more critical stance towards asceticism, as potentially excessive and unproductive.
   Al-Razi’s rather naturalistic hedonism is, however, only one of the doctrines that earned him his reputation as a bold and potentially dangerous freethinker. Elsewhere, he argues that all human beings have the same fundamental capacity for reason and that the apparent inequality of people in this respect is ultimately a function of opportunity, interest and effort. Accordingly, al- Razi takes a rather dim view of prophecy, which in his view is both unnecessary and delusional, and indeed he criticizes all revealed religions as provincial and divisive. No one individual or group can legitimately claim a monopoly on the truth; each succeeding generation has the ability to improve upon and even transcend its predecessors’ insights through rational argumentation and empirical inquiry.
   Al-Razi thus holds out the possibility of progress not only in medicine and science, but in ethics and metaphysics as well. He sees his own unique metaphysics as an example of this: in an attempt to avoid the conceptual problems generated by both Islamic creationism and Greek eternalism, he posits the existence of five eternal, uncreated principles: God, soul, time, space and matter. From these building blocks he fashions a philosophical myth of the ‘fall of the soul’, in which the world comes to be out of preexisting matter, within a framework of absolute time and space, as a result of the pre-rational, spontaneous urge of an immaterial life-force (the soul) and the compensating design of a divine, benevolent intelligence (God). The aim of the soul, according to al-Razi, is eventually to escape from its embodiment through the exercise of our Godgiven reason and return to its original state. Yet despite his claims about the immortality and ontological independence of the soul, he retains an element of agnosticism about our ultimate fate. At the end of the Spiritual Medicine, while attempting to dispel the painful fear of death, he employs two very different kinds of therapeutic argument: a Platonic argument for the deathlessness of the soul and – in case that is unpersuasive – an Epicurean argument that death is nothing to us, since the soul dies with the body. Although, like Socrates, al- Razi believes the former, he is too much of a pragmatist and falliblist to reject the latter out of hand, especially when it too can help us lead a more rational – and less painful – life.
   Further reading: Goodman 1999a; Pines 1997; al-Razi 1950, 1993; Stroumsa 1999

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

Look at other dictionaries:

  • ibn — Palabra árabe usada en apellidos, con el mismo significado que «ben». * * * ► Voz árabe que significa «hijo» y que entra en la composición de numerosos nombres árabes. * * * (as used in expressions) Abd al Malik ibn Marwan Abd al Mu min ibn Ali… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Bakr — Bakr, Ahmed Hassan, al * * * (as used in expressions) A ishah (bint Abi Bakr) Abu Bakr Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyya al Razi Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyya al Razi …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Abu — (as used in expressions) Abu Bakr Abu Dabi Abu Zabi Abu Hanifa (al Numan ibn Thabit) Abu Muslim Abu Simbel Abu Zayd, Nasr Hamid Abu al Fath Jalal al Din Muhammad Akbar Asari, Abu al Hasan al Abu al Walid Muhammad ibn Ahmad ibn Muhammad ibn Rusd… …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Muhammad — VER Mohamed * * * (as used in expressions) Abd Allah (ibn Muhammad al Tai ishi) Muhammad ibn Abd al Karim al KhaTTabi Abduh, Muhammad Abu al Fath Jalal al Din Muhammad Akbar Alí, Muhammad Muhammad Abd al Ra uf al Qudwah al Husayni Muhammad Abd al …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Razi — (as used in expressions) Fajhr al Din Razi Razi, al Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyya al Razi Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyya al Razi …   Enciclopedia Universal

  • Muhammad — /moo ham euhd, hah meuhd/, n. 1. Also, Mohammed, Mahomet. A.D. 570 632, Arab prophet: founder of Islam. 2. Elijah (Elijah Poole), 1897 1975, U.S. clergyman: leader of the Black Muslims 1934 75. 3. a male given name. * * * I or Mohammed born с 570 …   Universalium

  • Abu — (as used in expressions) Abu al Fath Jalal al Din Muhammad Akbar Abu Ali al Husayn ibn Abd Allah ibn Sina Abu al Qasim Mansur Abu Mazen Abu Bakr Abu Dhabi Abu Zabi Abu Hanifah al Numan ibn Thabit Abu Muslim Abu Qir Bay Abu Simbel Abu Zayd Nasr… …   Universalium

  • ibn — /ib euhn/, (often cap.) son of (used in Arabic personal names): ibn Saud. [ < Ar: son (of); cf. BEN4] * * * (as used in expressions) Abu Ali al Husayn ibn Abd Allah ibn Sina Ibn Sina Hasan ibn Ali ibn Abi talib Hussein ibn talal Mawlana Nur al… …   Universalium

  • Bakr — (as used in expressions) A ishah bint Abi Bakr Abu Bakr Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyya al Razi * * * …   Universalium

  • Razi — (as used in expressions) Fakhr al Din al Razi Razi al Abu Bakr Muhammad ibn Zakariyya al Razi * * * …   Universalium

Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.