Taha Abderrahmane’s Trusteeship Paradigm

Spiritual Modernity and the Islamic Contribution to the Formation of a Renewed Universal Civilization of Ethos

in Oriente Moderno
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This paper synthetically introduces “trusteeship paradigm” of Taha Abderrahmane (b. 1944), a leading philosopher of language, logic, ethics and metaphysics in the Arab-Islamic world. The core of his argument is that the four entities of revelation, reason, ethics and doing (or practice) are neither separable nor antagonistic to each other in the Islamic philosophy he aims at re-grounding; their centripetal force is essentially ethical. Islamic philosophy is primarily ethical. It is only this ethical force that can regenerate the politico-philosophical awakening of the Arab-Islamic world in particular, and can contribute to the formation of a pluralist civilization of ethos in general. Otherwise put, Abderrahmane envisions an ontological-epistemological revisionary revolution in the Arab-Islamic tradition to overcome what may be referred to as “classical dichotomous thought” that dominates some classical and contemporary Islamic thinking as well as much of the Greek heritage and Western modern thought. This ethical revolution is summarized in what he has developed as trusteeship paradigm (al-iʾtimāniyyah) or trusteeship critique (al-naqd al-iʾtimānī), a paradigm the heart of which is a theory of ethics that overcomes dichotomies like religion vs. politics, divine vs. secular, physical vs. metaphysical.