From Norm Evaluation to Norm Construction
The Metaethical Origin of al-Ghazālī’s Radical Infallibilism
This study examines the issue of norm construction in al-Ghazālī’s thought focusing on the grounds advanced to support his radical infallibilist position. To fulfill such end, al-Ghazālī, I explain, relies on two types of arguments, the first one relates to the presumptive nature of legal texts in order to highlight their fundamental indeterminacy and the second links to the interpreter to show the impossibility to fall into error. To buttress these arguments, al-Ghazālī both draws on epistemological principles and metaethical ones. As it will be shown in the study, al-Ghazālī ultimately explains the divergence in interpretation of norms using the concept of ṭabʿ (nature, disposition or appetitive self) drawing on his well-known relativist ethical theory concerning norm evaluation and therefore brings in a unique way this typical feature of Ashʿarism within his own radical infallibilist theory of norm construction. The concept of ṭabʿ allows to bridge the gap between the ambiguity in the revealed text and the mujtahid’s interpretation in the norm construction process, and ultimately serves to justify ex post the choices made by the mujtahid. In doing so, al-Ghazālī assigns to theology a critical role in revealing the origin of the illusion of the jurists who naively think that licit and illicit are qualities of things themselves.
How to Cite
For content published in editions of JAIS before 2002, copyright belongs to the author. Content published between 2002 and 2017 is copyrighted by Edinburgh University Press (reproduced on FRITT with permission). Text and other material published in these journal volumes can only be shared and republished with written permission from the rights holders.
Starting from 2017, the content published in JAIS is - unless otherwise is stated - licensed through Creative Commons License Attribution 4.0: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/. Through this licence content can be copied and distributed but also remixed, transformed and built upon for any purpose under the following conditions:
Attribution — You must give appropriate credit to the creators of materials published in JAIS, provide a link to the license, and indicate if changes were made. You may do so in any reasonable manner, but not in any way that suggests the licensor endorses you or your use.
No additional restrictions — You may not apply legal terms or technological measures that legally restrict others from doing anything the license permits.
Notice: No warranties are given. The license may not give you all of the permissions necessary for your intended use. For example, other rights such as publicity, privacy, or moral rights may limit how you use the material.
Authors who publish in JAIS accept the following conditions:
Author(s) retains copyright to the article and give JAIS right to first publication while the article is licensed under the Creative Commons CC BY 4.0. This license allows sharing the article for non-commercial purposes, as long as the author and first publishing place JAIS are credited. The license does not allow others to publish adapted versions of the article without the author's permission.
The author is free to publish and distribute the work/article after publication in JAIS, as long as the journal is referred to as the first place of publication. Submissions that are under consideration for publication or accepted for publication in JAIS cannot simultaneously be under consideration for publication in other journals, anthologies, monographs or the like. By submitting contributions, the author accepts that the contribution is published in both digital and printed editions of JAIS.