Moral Agents and Their Deserts: The Character of Mu'tazilite by Sophia Vasalou

By Sophia Vasalou

Needs to solid deeds be rewarded and wrongdoers punished? could God be unjust if He did not punish and gift? and what's it approximately stable or evil activities and ethical identification that will generate such prerequisites? those have been many of the important spiritual and philosophical questions that 8th- and ninth-century Mu'tazilite theologians and their refined successors tried to respond to, giving upward thrust to a particular moral place and probably the most favorite and debatable highbrow traits in medieval Islam. The Mu'tazilites constructed a view of ethics whose distinguishing gains have been its austere ethical objectivism and the the most important position it assigned to cause within the wisdom of ethical truths. relevant to this moral imaginative and prescient used to be the suggestion of ethical wilderness, and of the nice and evil consequences--reward or punishment--deserved via a person's acts. ethical brokers and Their Deserts is the 1st book-length examine of this important subject matter in Mu'tazilite ethics, and an try to grapple with the philosophical questions it increases. whilst, it's a bid to question the ways that glossy readers, coming to medieval Islamic suggestion with a philosophical curiosity, search to learn and speak with Mu'tazilite theology. ethical brokers and Their Deserts tracks the demanding situations and rewards thinking about the pursuit of the best dialog on the seams among glossy and medieval issues.

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36 But it would here underestimate ῾Abd al-Jabbār’s systematicity to present him as taking recourse to a rule of thumb in laying down what constitute, after all, the very foundations of his moral system. As for the Zoroastrian milieu, I will be returning to it from a different direction in a moment. In any case, there is no need to go so far afield in search of an explanation. The mystery—and any worries about untidiness—clears up once we recall the theological end points and, in particular, the position of paramount importance that the Mu῾tazilite view of lies occupies in their defense of the principle of justice.

Reinhart and George Makdisi, both of whom go on record with the view that the inquiries into value of the mutakallimūn do not constitute ethics in the proper sense of the word. For Makdisi, the “Rationalists”—those engaging in kalām—fall foul of the description of the science of ethics because “ethics is a science that seeks to know which actions should be done and which avoided. 40 The overall tendency is to abstract from the theological contexts that give ῾Abd al-Jabbār’s positions their meaning and purpose.

And to suggest a kinship of purpose between their ethics and that of Greek or British philosophers misidentifies the type of practice they were each engaged in. More instructively, it will help to track some of the difficulties with which such a conception of Mu῾tazilite practice hamstrings the attempt to give an account of it. A leading example to consider is Hourani’s proposed explanation of the principles utilized by ῾Abd al-Jabbār in selecting which attributes of acts are to be made absolute grounds for their moral value and which are only prima facie grounds.

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