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

By Sophia Vasalou

Needs to sturdy 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 subtle successors tried to respond to, giving upward thrust to a particular moral place and essentially the most popular and debatable highbrow traits in medieval Islam. The Mu'tazilites constructed a view of ethics whose distinguishing positive factors have been its austere ethical objectivism and the the most important position it assigned to cause within the wisdom of ethical truths. important to this moral imaginative and prescient used to be the suggestion of ethical desolate tract, and of the great 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 significant subject matter in Mu'tazilite ethics, and an try and grapple with the philosophical questions it increases. even as, it's a bid to query the ways that sleek readers, coming to medieval Islamic concept with a philosophical curiosity, search to learn and communicate with Mu'tazilite theology. ethical brokers and Their Deserts tracks the demanding situations and rewards taken with the pursuit of the suitable dialog on the seams among sleek and medieval matters.

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The optimum or “most beneficial” (al-as. lah. ), and prophecy all form part of the same theological project. Th is is a project that ranges itself under one of the two main principles mentioned in the previous chapter—that of justice (῾adl)—in which the distinctive Mu῾tazilite position concerning God’s justice was developed: moral concepts such as justice and goodness apply to God’s action in the same way as they do to those of human beings, God is not above all moral standards because of His status as Sovereign and Proprietor, nor are moral truths generated by His command.

Hourani had remarked on ῾Abd alJabbār’s exposition of the evilness of vain action that it was “not very satisfactory,” the examples with which it was illustrated not appearing sufficient to warrant the moral judgment that these actions are evil. ”47 It is the double intent contained in this statement that makes the piece problematic. For on the one hand, Leaman speaks of grasping “what is behind ῾Abd al-Jabbār’s objections to uselessness” (itself a rather ambiguous way of putting the matter) and ῾Abd al-Jabbār’s success in providing foundations.

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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