The Ornament of the World

by María Rosa Menocal
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Banned in Paris Summary

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Last Updated on April 9, 2022, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 291

Averroes’s commentaries on Aristotle were banned in 1210 at the University of Paris, as they conflicted with Christian ontology, and in 1215, all work by Aristotle was banned. Much of Aristotle’s work had recently been translated into Latin and had made an intellectual splash in Paris. But by 1277, the bishop of Paris had levied 219 prohibitions on what could be taught. At the heart of the prohibitions was the question of reason against faith. However, all of this began between the eighth and tenth centuries in Baghdad, when the Abbasids began one of the largest translation projects in the world, focused on translating Greek written contributions into Arabic.

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This translation work was not simply designed to preserve Greek thought. Instead, even in a religious Muslim world, this work was seen to have cultural value. Eventually, these translations would make their way to Andalusia. But just as the world was discovering the theories and sciences coming out of Andalusia in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, repressive regimes sought to still these intellectual movements.

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Latest answer posted May 9, 2020, 4:08 pm (UTC)

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Menocal describes the world in the early 1100s that the intellectuals Averroes and Maimonides were born into. Both represent the tail-end of a world where faith and reason could coexist, and both died at the end of the century in exile. Menocal describes how Maimonides’s family moved across Northern Africa during the Almohad occupation to settle in Egypt. Maimonides would advocate for looser rules in Judaism and a more Arabized, Andalusian view of the world. Averroes responded to previous Arabic thinkers, defending the idea that scientific truth and religious revelation were reconcilable. As they died, so did an Arabic and Aristotelian scientific tradition underpinned by the values that had led to Andalusia’s flourishing for the past four centuries.

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