The Place of the Beautiful in al-Ghazālī’s Ethics

Dr Sophia Vasalou
Wednesday, 20 November 2019

In this talk, Dr Vasalou will explore the role played by the concept of beauty in al-Ghazālī’s ethics. In al-Ghazālī’s major work, The Revival of the Religious Sciences, aesthetic experience takes on a special significance. The human response to the beautiful becomes al-Ghazālī’s chief paradigm for articulating a bold notion of disinterested love. This is the kind of love provoked by God in his beauty and grandeur. It is also the love provoked by human beings when we find them endowed with great beauty of character. Al-Ghazālī’s approach to aesthetic experience is interesting on many levels, not least for the links it forges with other episodes of philosophical history. But his close conjunction of the good and the beautiful within an Islamic context holds a particular interest, training a new spotlight on old questions about the nature of moral standards and their intelligibility to the human mind.


Dr Sophia Vasalou received her PhD from the University of Cambridge, and is currently Birmingham Fellow in Philosophical Theology at the University of Birmingham. Her work focuses on Islamic ethics, virtue ethics, and a number of other philosophical subjects. Her books include Moral Agents and their DesertsThe Character of Mu’tazilite Ethics (Princeton, 2008); Schopenhauer and the Aesthetic Standpoint: Philosophy as a Practice of the Sublime (Cambridge, 2013); Wonder: A Grammar (SUNY, 2015); and Ibn Taymiyya’s Theological Ethics (Oxford, 2016).

(Seminars start at 5.00 p.m.)