ISLAMIC NATURALISM AND MYSTICISM – Book Sample
INTRODUCTION – ISLAMIC NATURALISM AND MYSTICISM
Ibn Ṭufayl, the renowned Spanish Muslim philosopher ((For an account of Ibn ‘T’ufayl’s life and works see respectively: Miguel Cruz Hernan dez, Filosofia hispano-musulmana, Madrid, 1957, Vol. I, pp. 369-418; Leon Gauthier, lbn Tho/ail, sa vie, ses oeuvres, Paris, 1909 and Abd al-Waḥīd al-Marrakushi, Al-mu’jib Fi talkhiṣ alkhbar al-maghrib, Cairo, 1949. pp, 238-42, 305-07.)), was at once a scientist, a mystic, and a believer. His science-oriented spirit, his mysticism, and his religious belief fell naturally into their proper places within the framework of his philosophy. This philosophy is imbedded in his distinguished treatise, Ḥayy Bin Yaqḍān ((See Appendix II for a list of the texts and translations of this work.)). In this work Ibn Ṭufayl fuses his comprehensive knowledge of various dis ciplines in an all-embracing view of things which bears the substance of his intellectual labor and culminates in a science-based mysticism.
Many of the observations upon which his philosophic scheme was raised are in essential agreement with modern philosophic and scien tific insights.
He may have recognized that science and philosophy are two separate institutions, but he insists that the attitude and results of the first should be brought forth to the forum of the latter. Whether in his epistemology, philosophy of science, or pantheistic doctrine, he was certainly awake, in substance and outlook, to the same impulse which was behind Locke’s epistemological determinations, Hume’s agnosticism concerning causal relations, Spinoza’s notion of universal substance, and the basic themes of Gestalt theory.
In reaching mystical intimacy, Ibn Ṭufayl employed impartial description, analysis of data, and the philosophical generalization of the results of the natural sciences. His relentless quest for knowledge utilized a plurality of methods whose driving force is scientific inquiry.
The scientific study of nature, independent of revelation, leads to a philosophic conception of the totality of things which culminates in an uncompromising passion to become Him without becoming Him. Here the objective relation to nature and God is dramatically trans formed into a subjective one, that of mysticism. As the detached experi mental search for the causes of natural phenomena commences, the See Appendix II for a list of the texts and translations of this work.
NATURALISM: THE BEGINNING OF ALL PHILOSOPHIZING – ISLAMIC NATURALISM AND MYSTICISM
THE RADICALISM OF IBN +UFAYL’S PHILOSOPHY
AND HIS NATURALISTIC OUTLOOK
In the preceding part of our enquiry-the historical genesis-we examined the structure, method of concealment, and literary style of the treatise; Ibn Tufayl’s views of antecedent philosophers were also discussed and evaluated.
This chapter is devoted to his naturalistic conception of the emergence of life and his methods of experimental procedure ; in each of these Ibn Tufayl attempts to establish a presuppositionless philosophy; he also advocates a plurality of methods of knowing, which are here dwelled upon and occasionally compared with similar modern ones.
I. INTRODUCTORY REMARKS: INFERRING lBN ṬUFAYL’s CONCEPTION OF NATURALISM. THAT HIS APPLICATION OF THE NATURALISTIC METHOD IS PIIILOSOPHICALL Y NEC ESSARY AND THAT IT HAS MODERN RELEVANCE
In what sense is Ibn Tufayl a naturalist? Thus far we have assumed the answer to this question, although some observations have been made to this effect. We do not here plan to give a detailed account of naturalism; we simply intend to clarify the sense in which we are employing the term and how far it is applicable to Ibn Tufayl.
The definition of “naturalism” by both Ralph Perry and Marvin Farber is particularly useful in this connection; both define it as “the philosophical generalization of science, and its various forms are determined by the content and the method of the sciences.”1 One may add that naturalism in its broadest sense, includes the philosophical approach to the perennial problems of philosophy based on
1 See respectively: Marvin Farber, Naturalism and Subjectivism, Springfield, 1959, p. 3. and Ralph Perry, Present Philosophical Tendencies, New York, 1929, p. 45. Part of the subsequent remarks in this section look back with partial debt to Marvin Farber’s class lectures and various writings…
CHAPTER FOUR TRANSITION FROM NATURALISM TO SUBJECTIVISM PSYCHOLOGY: – ISLAMIC NATURALISM AND MYSTICISM
EXISTENCE, NATURE, AND FACULTIES OF THE SOUL – THE SOUL AS THE INTERNAL MEANING OF BODY AND BODY AS THE EXTERNAL MEANING OF SOUL OR ITS MANIFESTATION
In this chapter Ibn ‘.Tufayl’s psychology will be treated. This is necessary for the development of the essay because his understanding of the central concept of psychology, the soul, is the basis upon which be marshals his views on mysticism.
1. THE EXISTENCE OF ANIMAL SPIRIT AS A LINK
BETWEEN THE NATURAL AND Subjective WORLDS
lMMATERIAL NATURE OF THE SouL
Since the soul is a natural being and its powers are natural powers, Ibn ‘.Tufayl continues his philosophical application of the naturalistic method to establish its existence and immaterial nature. Through psychology naturalism gradually pronounces its downfall leading to subjectivism. This in turn, along with the naturalistic method, explores the inner meaning of existing entities and progressively leads to pantheism.
By his acute observation and experimentation, Ḥayy discovers that every being owes its motion and growth to an internal principle, which Ibn ‘Tufayl calls the animal spirit (al-rii)i al-“Ḥayawani). This is diffused throughout the body, its focal point being the heart.1 Such a spirit, although corporeal, manifests qualities of soul because of the refined harmonious elements composing its nature. Ibn ‘.fufayl seems to consider the animal spirit a kind of bridge, a link, between the highest aspect of the physical nature of body and the lowest aspect of the animal soul.
For instance, Hayy in his usual experimental spirit continued his search for the cause of the phenomenon of death. By observation and elimination he concluded that the guilty factor must have dwelled in the empty left cavity of the heart.1 To ascertain this fact, he got hold of a beast, tied it down and cut it open as he had the roe, and searched the left chamber of the heart. He saw this chamber filled with a steamy gas-like mist; when he poked in his finger, it was almost burnt and the animal died immediately.2 This experiment led him to the conclusion that it was “the hot vapor which imparted animation to the animal and that every animal has something corresponding to it: when this departs, the animal dies.”3 After this l;Iayy had no hope to revive the roe; his mother was not the body but something which had departed from it.
];Iayy, therefore, neglects the body and begins his search for that being which produced sense and motion in his mother. This is not yet soul: l;Iayy’s mind is elevated to think of that which has no immediate presence in his sense experience. His thought undergoes a dramatic transition; from perception and observation of sensible objects, his mind is directed to a being that is not perceived by the senses nor accounted for by the “three way rhythms” 4 of naturalistic procedure. ‘
This being becomes the object of Ḥayy’s curiosity, subjective reflection, and intuition.5 The potential disparity of this being with physical objects renders it outside the realm of experimental procedure. ];Iayy’s naturalistic outlook, therefore, is progressively transformed into a subjective one. His unyielding curiosity to discover the human soul makes mysticism, in its most subjective aspect, Ḥayy’s possible fate. The scientist and the philosopher in Ḥayy collaborate to transform him from a detached naturalist into a passionate subjectivist; this is accomplished by a slow phenomenological reduction of the natural world.6
The animal spirit is not the soul, but a material manifestation or external aspect of it.7 Although it is not soul, Ḥayy’s discovery of this spirit had the following advantages for his intellect:
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