Al-Stoicism Ghazali’s and Descartes’

Philosophical positions are collections of beliefs that enable philosophers to investigate the various branches of philosophy (Sellars, 2016). Different thinkers believed in different schools of thought, both of which they believed to be true and empirical. Philosophical positions that appealed to and persuaded more thinkers than others were embraced and are still in use in the field of philosophy today. The primary goal of this paper is to evaluate stoicism and its applicability in the works of Al-Ghazali and Rene Descartes. The works of Descartes and Al-Ghazali include an avenue for assessing the various aspects of information acquisition and epistemology, and knowledge is an essential part of human existence and Stoicism.
Stoicism is a philosophical position that was initially coined by Zeno of Citium from Athens. The new philosophical movement gathered wide applications in the third century during the Hellenistic period (Sellars, 2016). Stoicism has widely been perceived as a philosophy of individual and personal ethics that primarily dwells on its system of logics and perception of the natural world. Stoic teachings dwell on the fact that humans are social beings whose paths to happiness are defined by their abilities to accept a particular moment as it unfolds and not allowing their fear of pain or desires of pleasure to control them. Humans must also utilize their cognitive skills in assessing the world and do their part in ensuring that they abide by the different plans of nature. Stoics also believe that humankind must appropriately treat each other and work collaboratively to achieve the plans of nature (Sellars, 2016). Different manipulations were father made on the initial philosophy with thinkers such as Seneca and Epictetus putting more emphasis on the notion that happiness could only occur when virtue was present and sufficient.

The Rene Descartes, one of the key scholars in ancient philosophy, developed a code in the 17th century that based on three maxims. The third maxim shows that this individual had stoic ideologies. Rene Descartes’ “Discourse on the Method of Rightly Conducting One’s Reason and Seeking Truth in the Sciences” explains the philosopher’s ways of reasoning or thinking. The philosopher explores the diverse methodologies that he employs when handling the most difficult challenges that he encounters (Descartes, 1980). Descartes illustrates the process of developing his problem-solving methods using precise autobiographic sketches that are incorporated with different philosophical arguments. The book also entails five distinctive parts that explain how Descartes utilized stoicism in his reasoning and thinking.

Al-Ghazali, a twelfth-century philosopher in the Arab world, utilized stoicism and methodological skepticism to provide explanations and answers to two principal philosophical problems. The first issue that the thinker explored is the question of the various means in which knowledge can be acquired. Secondly, al-Ghazali also sorts to explain the concept of knowledge justification. Al-Ghazali’s “Deliverance from Error” utilizes the aspect of religion to answer science-based challenges that the world faces. The scholar divided the book into distinctive parts that explored different concepts (Landsbergensis, Green & Brown,1979). Al-Ghazali begins the piece of literature by explaining that different individuals have had pressing issues that he was expected to explore using philosophical thoughts. The great thinker also sorts to distinguish the various maladies, doubts, thoughts, and confusions that barred individuals from separating falsehood from the truth (Ormsby, 2014). Through Al-Ghazali, philosophers understand the concepts of the acquisition of knowledge based of stoicism.

Stoicism has almost nine primary elements. The philosophical position acknowledges that the emotions that people experience originate from within. Outside forces have limited control over what people think. Instead, Stoics believe that the perceptions that individuals have are the origin of emotions (Sellars, 2016). Although most individuals place responsibility or blame on external factors, the truth is that all conflicts causing emotions come from the brain. Stoicism’s second element directs thinkers to the individuals that they are familiar with or those that they respect and use them as vehicles of staying honest. Seneca, in the Letters from a Stoic, states that people ought to choose the individuals that they believe is dignified to share thoughts with (Sellars, 2016). Another key element of stoicism is that there exists life after failure. Therefore, humans must never fear setbacks. Stoicism also holds that without failure, growth cannot manifest. Honesty is an essential element of this philosophical position. Individuals must challenge themselves to the extent that they believe that they are brutally honest.

Implications of Stoicism

Stoicism is a key avenue through which scholars can explore the various techniques used in problem-solving. The primary implication of stoicism is that it makes people adaptable to difficulty. The elements of stoicism dictate that individuals must possess cognitive skills of ensuring that they maneuver through difficult times (Sellars, 2016). Philosophical stoicism also makes scholars behave ethically. The philosophical position also has a range of implications for the different epistemological systems. Stoicism defines the various techniques of knowledge acquisition, scope, and the different approaches used to validate knowledge (Sellars, 2016).

Support for Stoicism

Stoicism has attracted wide applications due to its immense contribution to the concepts of epistemology (Sellars, 2016). Rene Descartes’ third maxim was intended to guide him on the various ways through which he would transform the desires without changing the order of the world. The maxim also guides other scholars on logical reasoning by stating that humans have nothing that they can control other than their thoughts. Descartes’ third maxim was one of the several forms of contemplations used in the stoic school of thought. The scholar also explored the topic of envy and stated that human kind drives their frustrations to the individuals that they believe that are wealthier than them. People would also torture themselves knowing that they cannot achieve given goals and aspirations thereby making them bitter. Descartes’ “Discourse on the Method” also supports the stoicism as it states that the only avenue through which people can solve the challenges that they world presents is through knowledge acquisition and conformity to nature (Descartes, 1980). Descartes’ methods presented in his six-chapter book has gathered wide application in solving various challenges in social and pure science. Similarly, the various elements of stoicism are utilized in defining proofs in algebra and other subjects such as physics and geometry.

The second support for stoicism are the various concepts of Al-Ghazali. The Arab philosopher expounded on different aspects of epistemology in answering difficult philosophical questions. Al-Ghazali’s book, “Deliverance from Error” supports stoicism by examining the different methodologies that philosophers can employ in gauging concepts that are true and distinguishing them from those that are false (Landsbergensis, Green & Brown,1979). Al-Ghazali also examined certainty of knowledge by defining “what knowledge is.” Knowledge is a crucial component of the Stoic school of thought. Therefore, the different knowledge-based answers provided by Al-Ghazali indicates that he showed some support for stoicism.

Reasons for the Adoption of Stoicism

The key circumstance that might drive an individual from adopting stoicism is a hardship. The philosophical position holds that there exists life after failure and that people can only grow when they fail (Sellars, 2016). Stoicism comforts those facing numerous challenges by assuring them that triumph is due. Secondly, stoicism guides individuals on how to use knowledge in solving different problems. Nature presents numerous challenges to humankind. However, lack of fear of such challenges and the application of knowledge in finding solutions would make humans maneuver through the challenges (Collette, 2016). Stoicism also provides leadership insights on how to control events. According to Stoics, emotions that people experience originate from within an individual (Sellars, 2016). Therefore, leaders must learn to control internal feelings before striving to solve external challenges. Stoicism also explores the subject of failure and how it could be managed. Leaders use these tenets as a comforting tool whenever they fail in a given activity. Another reason that might lead to adopting stoicism is its lack of religious bias. The philosophical position supports all religions. Al-Ghazali successfully incorporates stoicism into the Islam culture while Descartes utilizes a liberal view of the philosophical position that makes it applicable to other religions such as Christianity.

Comparison Between Stoicism in Al-Ghazali and Descartes

Al-Ghazali and Descartes are different philosophers from diverse regions and ages. Many philosophical scholars believe that Arab philosophy had a great impact on the works of most western philosophers. The comparison between different methodological epistemology points out that there exists a possibility that Al-Ghazali might have influenced the works of Descartes. However, there exists no written proof of the impact.

Descartes’ philosophies can be summarized based on his paper “Discourse on Method” The paper’s first part indicates the different considerations that must be made when indulging in sciences (Descartes, 1980). Descartes urges thinkers to have good senses when evaluating and distinguishing the truth from fiction. Al-Ghazali also mentions the necessity of the distinction between falsehood and truth in the first passage of his paper. The philosopher states that “You want me to give you an account of my travail in disengaging the truth from amid the welter of the sects, despite the polarity of their means and methods,” (p. 17). Al-Ghazali also speaks of the necessity of exploring the secrets of science.

The supremacy of God is another key similarity that the two scholars addressed. Descartes focused on exploring the true knowledge of God in his paper. Both philosophers acknowledged that true knowledge originates from God and the men depend on the supreme being for information (Yaran, 1999). Descartes emphasizes on Man’s dependence on God for his being and points out that faith is necessary for divine revelation.

The key distinguishing factor between the philosophical positions of the two scholars is that only one of them talked about failure. Stoicism holds that failure provides an opportunity for growth and that individuals should eliminate the fear of not succeeding. Descartes explores the concept of failure by stating that its primary cause is neglecting the correct path of thought. However, Al-Ghazali chose to dwell on the concepts of solving problems using knowledge-based approaches.


In Summary, the philosophical positions presented by Rene Descartes and Al-Ghazali have similar degrees of plausibility. However, Descartes’ discussion was the most appealing and reasonable. While both scholars attribute that God is that God is the key source of knowledge, only Descartes fully exploits the concept of failure and connects it to stoicism. Knowledge is an indispensable aspect of human life and Stoicism, and the works of Descartes and Al-Ghazali provides an avenue of evaluating the diverse aspects of knowledge acquisition and epistemology.


Collette, D. (2016). Stoicism in Descartes, Pascal, and Spinoza: Examining Neostoicism’s Influence in the Seventeenth Century (Doctoral dissertation, University of South Florida).

Descartes, R. (1980). Discourse on the method of rightly conducting one’s reason and of seeking truth in the sciences.

Landsbergensis, H., Green, R., & Brown, T. J. (1979). Hortus deliciarum. EJ Brill.

Ormsby, E. L. (2014). Theodicy in Islamic Thought: The Dispute Over Al-Ghazali’s Best of All Possible Worlds. Princeton University Press.

Sellars, J. (2016). Shaftesbury, Stoicism, and Philosophy as a Way of Life. Sophia, 55(3), 395-408.

Yaran, C. S. (1999). Natural Theology in Christianity and Islam: is There a Common Core?. Ondokuz Mayıs Üniversitesi İlahiyat Fakültesi Dergisi, 11(11), 35-54.

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