Al-Ghazālī, nativism, and divine interventionism

British Journal for the History of Philosophy 31 (6):1-23 (2023)
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ABSTRACT Al-Ghazālī’s engagement with scepticism in the Deliverance from Error has received much attention in recent literature, often in the context of comparing him with Descartes. However, there is one curious text that has gone largely unnoticed by commentators. In his account of how he overcame scepticism vis-à-vis a divine light cast unto his heart, al-Ghazālī makes a cryptic claim that suggests that primary truths are inherent to the mind, and that said cognitive status of primary truths is related to his overcoming of scepticism. Although this one text does not straightforwardly prove that al-Ghazālī is a nativist, I argue that there are other texts that plausibly reveal his nativism. As such, I argue that al-Ghazālī can be read as a nativist, and I reconstruct a way in which his nativism helps explain how he overcomes scepticism. In doing so, I defend the (standard) strong divine interventionist reading of al-Ghazālī’s response to scepticism, against Hadisi’s recent weak divine interventionist reading.



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Saja Parvizian
University of Illinois, Chicago (PhD)

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