Islamic Thought and
Social Inquiry

Al-Ghazali’s multiplex epistemology and implications for contemporary education

Our principal investigator Professor Recep Şentürk gave an online talk as part of the Cambridge Philosophy of Education Seminars.

Talk Description: Ghazali’s human ontology and epistemology are multiplex. So is his pedagogy. More concretely, Ghazali accepts that human beings are constituted by three levels: body, mind and soul. In line with this, his epistemology is constituted by two levels: objective and subjective epistemology. Objective epistemology consists of reason, sense perception and divine revelation while subjective epistemology includes spiritually gained knowledge via heart, dreams, intuitions and inspirations. In practice, this approach requires combining rational education (ta’lim) with spiritual and moral education (tazkiya). The purpose of Islamic education is to elevate students from unawareness (taqlīd) to awareness (tahqīq) about their own reality along with the meaning and purpose of their existence. This is how they achieve the goal of becoming ideal human beings (al-insân al-kâmil). This view on human ontology, epistemology and pedagogy have the following implications on contemporary education: (1) Replacing the present concept of human in the textbooks with a multiplex one. (2) Replacing the positivist epistemology in the textbooks with a multiplex one. (3) Redefining the ultimate goal of education as raising ideal human beings prior to training employees for jobs. (4) Using academic education to teach how to use objective epistemology. (5) Using spiritual and moral education to develop competency to use subjective epistemology. The multiplex approach Ghazali—along with other Muslim thinkers-adopted in education is very much needed today to overcome the problems emanating from the materialist uniplex pedagogical approaches.

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