Open Lecture – June 2018

On Good and Evil: ethical theories in classical Islamic thought

This lecture will historically introduce a major debate in Islamic thought on the nature and sources of ethical judgement. Central to this debate is the question of whether an act is good or evil because reason judges it to be so, or because God commands, permits or prohibits it. The former position is represented by two schools of thought: one that views goodness and evilness as intrinsic to acts themselves, and another that connects them to the consequences of acts. This debate has had a deep impact on Islamic thought and practice, past and present.

Dr Ayman Shihadeh is Reader in Arabic Intellectual History at the Department of History, Religions and Philosophies at SOAS University of London. He studied at SOAS and Oxford, and specialises in medieval Arabic philosophy and Islamic theology. His most recent monograph explores the interaction between these two traditions during the twelfth century.

Much of Dr Shihadeh’s work focuses on Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1210) and al-Ghazali (d. 1111), two hugely influential medieval thinkers whom he has been contextualising by the exploration of key, though little-known, figures and manuscript texts. One of his main current research projects investigates the transformation of the Ash‘ari stance towards Avicenna’s philosophical anthropology, especially his body-soul dualism, during the eleventh and twelfth centuries.

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