Meditating on the Meditations: Al-Ghazali, Teresa of Avila, Descartes

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Abstract

A common thread runs through Descartes’ First Meditation, the opening part of Teresa of Ávila’s Interior Castle, and al-Ghazālī‘s intellectual autobiography The Deliverer from Error. For spiritual and intellectual progress to occur, each of these authors concurs, one must first divest oneself of previously held certainties, even though evil deceivers will try to assault and halt this process. But what could explain the similarities between the three presentations? And are there philosophical lessons to draw from such comparisons, or are al-Ghazālī‘s and Teresa’s meditations destined to remain curiosities and marginal as compared to Descartes’? In this article, I show how al-Ghazālī‘s use of the same trope twice can point to a fresh consideration of the relation between Teresa and Descartes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)111-143
Number of pages33
JournalOxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy
Volume8
DOIs
StatePublished - Oct 22 2020

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