Ibn Arabi and the Metaphysics of Creation


Adam is a paradigm by which, Ibn Arabi explains what one may call the metaphysics of creation. [1] By metaphysics of creation, I mean the account that he gives of creation, its reason, and and. To Ibn Arabi, Adam shows the possibility of human relationship and its nature with God. The possibility of human relationship with God started with Adam and has transmitted through him to human being. This possibility started with the creation of Adam; hence, it is eternal, azali. Indeed, Adam represents his notion of the Perfect Man. Therefore, the description that he gives of human being represents the Perfect Man not necessarily the existing human being.

Ibn Arabi makes a distinction between God’s Reality and Essence. The paradigm of Adam explains how the Reality wanted to see itself. The Reality desired to reflect on its Names and Essence; therefore, he created Adam. God without creating Adam was able to reflect on itself. In fact, Ibn Arabi believes that there are two types of self-reflection. The first is reflecting on oneself without mediate and the second is self-reflection through a medium. It seem that he believes each way of reflection will result in distinctive findings. Hence, God’s self-reflection without a medium would not be the same as his reflection through creation of Adam. The Cosmos in general and Adam in particular are the medium through which God reflects on itself. He uses the mirror as a metaphor and an anthropomorphic description to justify God’s reflection through a medium. He believe when one tries to see oneself without a mirror, his perspective is confined by his position. Indeed without employing a mirror one, for example, cannot see his back. However, a mirror, if it is polished enough, may give a comprehensive image of oneself. It also helps the viewer to see parts of himself that without using a mirror would be hidden from him. Hence, a mirror not only makes self-reflection possible but also gives a comprehensive and more precise image of the self. By the same token, Cosmos and Adam function as media through which God will have an all-inclusive perception of himself. As Ibn Arabi states, “For the reality, he is as the pupil is for the eye through which the act of seeing take place. Thus he is called insan [meaning both man and pupil], for it is by him that the Reality looks on His creation and bestows the Mercy [of existence] on them” (51). This perception of human being places human being above all existing things. No being, even angel, have a closer place to God than human being.

However, this extraordinary position of human being mostly refers to the human’s potentiality rather than to his actuality. In fact, Ibn Arabi, by referring to the Quran (XXI:91)[2] maintains that God has given human being potentiality to ascend to the divine realm by becoming the Perfect Man, insan al-kamel. It is for the Perfect Man that God has created the universe. Adam, as representation of the Perfect Man, Ibn Arabi believes, is the seal of God’s creation; “Even so is the Cosmos preserved so long as the Perfect Man remains in it.” As a result, it is Adam as the Perfect Man that make the relationship of God possible for human being.

Ibn Arabi in the most chapters of his book The Bezels of Wisdom deals with the same concerns; however, in each chapter he gives new explanations for each problem. In chapter twenty three he is responding to his fundamental guiding questions that reflected in the majority of his work. He once again returns to questions of the relationship between God and Cosmos, his knowledge of the particulars, oneness of God, and plurality in the world. The chapter starts with a short poem that explains God and the human being need each other. The simile that he uses is food. To Ibn Arabi, we are food for God as God is food for us. We need God to nourish our soul. In fact, not only us, as human being, is food for God, but “Should the deity wish for Himself sustenance, Then the whole of existence is food for Him.” In fact, Ibn Arabi’s God is close and accessible to the human being not inaccessible deity that his greatness merely evokes awes in his worshipers. His God is actually a mystic’s lover.

After the first passage, he introduces the hakim Luqman. Ibn Arabi quotes form the Quran that Luqman’s wisdom is God given. Introducing Luqman’s wisdom is an introduction to the problem of God’s knowledge of particulars. He believes since Luqman had a God given wisdom he was given the greatest divine boon. Wisdom, Ibn Arabi believes, is a potentiality. When the wisdom is expressed, it becomes an actual wisdom; however, when it is unexpressed remains a potentiality. For instance when Luqman gives his son advise, he is showing his expressed wisdom. Ibn Arabi quotes the Quran when he is giving advice to his son, “O, my son, consider this tiny mustard seed, which God would bring forth were it to be [hidden] in a rock, whether in heaven or earth” (XXXI: 16). This expressed wisdom, even is uttered by Luqman, is God’s beliefs that in fact have been expressed by Luqman. God has knowledge of the smallest objects in the material world. His knowledge is not only of the universals by knowing the nature of a master seed, heaven and or earth. Nothing is hidden from him. Responding to the problem of God’s knowledge of particulars leads his discussion to God’s relationship to the world.

Since God knows everything about even the smallest object, He must be the essence of everything. He maintains, “By what was expressed and what was unexpressed, Luqman realized that God is the essence of everything known, ‘the known’ being a more general term than ‘the thing,’ being as indefinite as possible” (236). Since Luqman was taught wisdom by God, “expressed or unexpressed” he comprehended that God is the essence of everything. Ibn Arabi maintains since the essence of everything is God, then plurality in world is compatible with oneness of God.

In fact, God exists in the essence of everything; therefore, all existing things reflect His existence. The plurality that we see in the world is, in fact, the manifestation of the One, since there is a unity of Essence. The plurality in the world is the plurality of the essence but the plurality of its attributes and accidents. However, he makes a distinction between his account on nature of God and reality. According to Ibn Arabi’s account, Asharites believed the essence of things even it is reality it is not Reality; therefore, God cannot be the essence of things. However, if the essence of the things were not God, then an abstracted God from reality would be hard to experience. Since God omnipresence by being the essence of every existing thing, including the essence of human being, it is possible to experience him in every existing thing as well as within us.

[1] By paradigm, I mean its classical meaning. In ancient Athens, to make columns faster sculptures used a model that helped them to make many pieces of columns simultaneously.

[2] “the breathing into him”

On “Modern Islamic Philosophy”

images-3What one may call “modern Islamic philosophy” is not continuation of traditional Islamic philosophy, but rather scattered intellectual activities resulted from translating some of the Western philosophy discussions into Islamic languages. However, if by Modern Islamic philosophy one means the traditional Islamic philosophers who manage to continue doing philosophy until the modern time, their philosophy, generally speaking, has no connection with the modern world. Or the practitioners of traditional philosophy, so far, were not able to give a convincing account for the usefulness and competent of traditional philosophy mostly not due to the limitations of traditional philosophy, but because of the traditional philosophers’ limited understanding of modern philosophy. To make the traditional philosophy relevant to the modern world, one needs first to show learning from ancient philosophers is possible and desirable. Second one needs to show that what we can exactly learn from ancients that modern thinking cannot teach us, and third show the limitation of the modern thinking. These kinds of philosophers have not yet emerged in the Islamic world, and they are the philosophers of future. Since it requires arduous intellectual labor and wisdom that will only come into existence gradually.

Even though philosophy continued in Persianate world after the death of Averroes; however, it has been a marginal intellectual activity among Persian thinkers who consider philosophy as a kind of intellectual ornament. From the traditional philosophers who lived in the modern time, we can name Jalal Ashtiyani as one of the Mulla Sadra’s scholastics commenter, Allameh Hossein Tabataba’i, and Mehdi Ha’iri Yazdi whose philosophy is mostly continuation of the Ishraqi School and Mulla Sadra’s philosophy. From the modern philosophers, one can mention the influential Iranian thinker Adul Karim Sourosh, who studied analytic chemistry in England. In the Arab world, one may name al-Jabri, Muhhamad Arkon, Nasr Hamid Abu Zaid, Aziz al-Azmeh all educated in the Western universities.

The lack of a living continuous tradition in Islamic world makes the possibility of modern Islamic philosophy unlikely. By tradition, I do not mean a religious tradition, but a living intellectual frame of reference for philosophical thinking that makes creative thinking and new questions possible. Comparing to Europe, where a continuous living tradition of philosophical thinking exists, the modern philosophy came into existence from within the European philosophical thinking. However, it does not mean that European did not engage in dialogue with other cultures. Averroes’s philosophy caused more heated debate in the Christian Middle Ages than in the Islamic world. In fact, the traditional thinking has collapse in Muslim countries perhaps since four century ago due to its contact with modernity and its. The symptoms of the collapse of tradition are enormous and can be seen both on theoretical level and practical level. On the theoretical level, the traditional Islamic philosophy lags the problems with which the Islamic civilization is dealing since four century ago.[1] In fact, Muslims were not able to produce world-class thinkers like Ibn Sina, Averroes or Mulla Sadra since four century ago.

In fact, many attempts by modernists, such as Said Jamal al-Din Afghani, Muhammad Abdu, Rashid Reza to modernize Islamic tradition have failed. For instance, Said Qutb as the founder father of some extreme groups is a product of modernizing attempts. Said Qutb neither has the intellectual depth of Abdu nor has the keen instinct of diagnosing of Afghani or Reza.

The modernists failed to fulfill their promises, which was reconciling Islam with modernity. Maybe one of the reasons of their failure is abandoning the tradition and pretending that it never has been existed. The result of abandoning the tradition has been the emergence of modern extreme tendencies that claim they are rooted in the tradition while they have no firm understanding of the tradition either. These extreme reactionary groups, advocating a return to the past while their attitude toward the past is selective, and it is merely to morph tradition into political ideologies, have had catastrophic consequences. Abandoning the tradition is neither possible nor desirable. At the same time, the path to return to the past is closed. However, the reasonable attitude toward the traditional philosophy is laying down the theoretical foundations that make learning from it possible.


[1] Poverty and sociopolitical problems in Muslim countries are the symptoms of a broader crisis. This crisis can be identified as a civilizational crisis that has happened by a break with tradition. Muslims can neither return to their past nor they can find a place in the modern world. This state of intellectual void and suspension and confusion has given birth to emergence of “solutions” and treatments that were more fatal than diseases.


The Ascent of Intuition and Descent of Philosophy in Islamic Civilization


From al-Kindi in Baghdad to Ibn Rushd in 12th century of the western Islamic world and from Mulla Sadra in Shiraz and Mulla Sabzivari in the 19th century in Khurasan, Islamic philosophy has taken a dramatic journey. Muslim philosophers became familiar with philosophy through translation from Greek and Syriac into Arabic under Abbasid dynasty while Ishaq ibn Hunain the head of Dar al-Hikma gathered a group of bilingual and trilingual scholars to transfer Greek sciences into Arabic. Muslim philosophers considered Plato and Aristotle as the climax of ancient wisdom. From the dawn of philosophy in the Islamic world, they became the careful readers and commentators of the two Greek philosophers as well as other Greek philosophers. Although the foreign origin of philosophy was the favorite slurs of anti-philosophy tendencies; however, philosophy was in the center of intellectual activity till the age of Ibn Rushd (1126-1198). With the death of Ibn Rushd not only philosophy starts to move from the center of intellectual activities to the margin of Islamic civilization, but it also went through an internal transformation. After the death of Ibn Rushd, philosophy becomes, borrowing Shahab al-Din Suhrawardi’s terminologies, more intuitive. The question is that why philosophy became increasingly intuitive while the early Muslim philosophers consider the alternative, which was demonstrative or discursive philosophy, superior. The increasing fascination of Muslim philosophers with intuition determined the fate of Islamic philosophy. Islamic philosophy became more intuitive gradually without a strong intellectuals opposition to argue for the alternative and to question the epistemological merits that its advocates attributed to intuition. In the absence of a strong discursive philosophy opposition, the philosophical merits of intuitive philosophy remained unquestioned.[1]

Due to the special place of intuition in Islamic philosophy, analyzing the role of intuition in Islamic philosophy gives us a deeper understanding of Islamic philosophy as whole. Intuition gradually occupies a central place in Islamic philosophy. The implications of the growing role of intuition in Islamic philosophy are an under-examined subject. The notion of intuition has many related concepts in the Muslims’ philosophy. Intuition has been known with a variety of familial concepts such as mushahada, wahy, mukashifa, elham, kashf, vojdan, vajd, and finally what was known as ilm a-lhudhuri. When we are dealing with intuition, we are talking about a loose conceptual apparatus with special epistemological significance. For this reason, talking about intuition within the context of Islamic philosophy is not possible without some degree of simplification. However, simplification has its own virtues. (It assists) For the sake of brevity, I will focus on the place of intuition in Suhrawardi and Ghazali’s philosophy as two influential philosophers who tried to lay down a theoretical foundation for intuition. With Suhrawardi and Ghazali philosophy went under major changes. Ghazali’s attack delegitimized philosophers and with Suhrawardi Islamic philosophy’s focus shifted from a more or less discursive or conceptual philosophy to intuitive philosophy. Suhrawardi’s intuitive philosophy set the agenda for the rest of Islamic philosophy.

Ghazali’s disappointment with rational sciences and his seclusion

            Ghazali’s, suspicion toward philosophical thinking symbolizes a growing unfriendly attitude toward philosophy in the Islamic philosophy. In fact, Ghazali’s disappointment with philosophy and public life becomes an increasingly popular model for intellectual life. Ghazali in his Rescuer from Error gives a moving story about his disappointment at the rational sciences and philosophers. His disappointment, as he explains, is rooted to the doubts that rational sciences raise in the practitioners. A logician, Ghazali believes, can be certain about the validity of his logical method and the certain knowledge that it can produce. Now if a logician believes that his opinions against religion have the same degree of certainty that his logical beliefs have, then he will be misled by logic. By the same token, other rational sciences can produce the same false certainty. However, it does not mean that Ghazali denounces all types of knowledge. He believes that rational sciences if are not contradictory to religion should not be rejected. At the same time, he believes that they are potentially harmful if they cause the practitioners doubt religion. For this reason, Ghazali warns about the potential harms of rational sciences. However, his attitude toward philosophers is tougher. One of his concerns is to explain what is in philosophy that makes its practitioners unbeliever. “Qutb al-Din, Sharh hikmat, 16, remarks that the science of lights deals with the First Principle, the (celestial) the intellects, and souls. That which is based upon it includes most of physics, some of metaphysics, and, in general, that which is known by intuition” (Walbridge and Ziai 170).

Ghazali in his treatise recognizes three methods of knowledge. The first is the method of theologian, the second is the way that Ismailis advocated, the third is philosophical thinking, and finally the mystical or Sufism. He maintains that only mystical method leads to certainty. Through his search for certainty, Ghazali noticed that his previous knowledge were not well-thought and were not based on robust knowledge since they have not passed the test of doubting. Since he has not reflected on them carefully, he noticed that what he considered as knowledge was not in fact knowledge at all. Ghazali: “As to doubt concerning what I know, there is none. Thus, I knew that whatever I did not know in this manner and was not certain of in this way was untrustworthy and insecure knowledge; and every knowledge that is insecure is not certain knowledge” (61). Therefore, he started his journey to seek the truth with casting doubt on what he dubbed as knowledge previously. Ghazali’s doubts about the certainty of his beliefs are legitimate doubts and any truth seeking person cannot avoid doubts about the validity of his method of inquiry or truthfulness of his beliefs. However, the significant about Ghazali’s doubts is his conclusions.

However, Ghazali explains that his certainty about his sensory and rational knowledge was restored through intuition nit necessarily through rational proof. As he eloquently explains,

Eventually, God cured me of this disease and my mind was restored to health and balance. The rational necessary beliefs were once again accepted and trusted, both securely and certainly. This did not come about by composing a proof or by an arrangement of words but rather by a light that God Almighty cast into my breast, which is the key to the greater part of cognizance. Whoever, supposes that enlightenment depends upon explicit proofs has narrowed the expanse of God’s mercy. (Ghazali 63)

The restoration of certainty on his rational knowledge and his other beliefs, as he explains, was not a result of “composing a proof or by an arrangement of words,” but it was through “a light that God Almighty cast into my breast.” A doubtful thinker like Ghazali with keen analyzing skills when it comes to intuition gives up his critical position and accepts the truthfulness of his beliefs that has found through intuition. Ghazali never poses any question about validity of the approach he uses. Intuition equates certainty in his view. According to Ghazali’s account of knowledge the intuition is the sufficient condition of certainty, but a rational proof might be necessary condition of knowledge, but never can be sufficient.

However, Ghazali praises the method of mysticism and its superiority to the rational scientists as such, “It became apparent to me that what was most distinctive about them [Sufis] and specific about them was what could not be attained through teaching but rather ‘tasting,’ the ‘state’ and a ‘transformation of attributes.’ There is a world of difference between knowing the definitions of health and satiety, their causes and their preconditions, and actually being healthy and satiated” (77). According to his analogy, intuition is more potent faculty than reasoning.[2] However, Ghazali never gives a consistent account why one should think that intuition is more potent than reasoning. As one might say, analogy cannot function for reasoning. His analogy apparently shows his epistemological preference; however, it does not provide any reason for his preferences.

In fact, what Ghazali introduces as the bases for robust knowledge and certainty, namely intuition, becomes the paradigm of thinking in the Islamic philosophy. Contrary to Descartes, who tried to restore his certainty through “composing proofs” or “arrangement of words,” Ghazali obtains his certainty through a “God-given” immediate perception. In fact, it is the presence of this intuition that gave Ghazali justification to believe that his previous knowledge was true and reliable.[3] Knowledge is obtainable through true intuition, which a mystic can have through mystical discipline and purification of the soul. Therefore, knowledge-seeking is not necessarily through employing the methods of proofs and giving a rational account based on well-constructed and consistent arguments but through immediate perception.

What is important about Ghazali’s attack against philosopher is that, as Ibn Rushd mentions, he expresses his doubts in his popular works, which were accessible to the general public. This is, in fact, an important point that Ibn Rushd makes. With this move, Ghazali popularizes intuition and a not-very-friendly attitude toward philosophy. If mysticism before Ghazali was an elitist movement limited to a small group of individuals, after him it became a popular movement which one of its central theme has been scorning reason. Ghazali’s attack against philosophy has a negative aspect without offering a convincing rational alternative. However, Suhrawardi tries to lay down a theoretical foundation for intuitive philosophy, an attempt that shaped the rest of Islamic philosophy. Ghazali’s intuition-based knowledge-seeking finds a rigorous epistemological justification in Suhrawardi’s Illuminist Philosophy.

Suhrawardi and Intuition:

Suhrawardi’s hikmat al-ishraq (Philosophy of Illumination) is an important historical moment in the Islamic philosophy. It is with Suhrawardi that a shift of focus happens in the Islamic philosophy. Suhrawardi attributes intuitive philosophy to Plato, Empedocles, and Pythagoras and Peripatetic philosophy to Aristotle. However, he places intuitive philosophy above the discursive philosophy. Although Suhrawardi is committed to discursive philosophy and does not denies its usefulness; however, intuition has an epistemic privilege over discursive philosophy.

To understand the shift of focus that happened in Islamic philosophy with Suhrawardi, one needs to analyze the role of intuition in his philosophy. Suhrawardi in his introduction to his book Hikmat al-Ishraq (The Philosophy of Illumination) gives a useful description of his approach and explains the method of his book as intuitive. Suhrawardi: “But the present book has another method and a shorter path to knowledge… I did not first arrive at it through cognition, but rather it was acquired through something else. Subsequently I sought proof for it so that should I cease contemplating the proof, nothing would make me fall into doubt” (2-3). However, although Suhrawardi finds his knowledge not through “cognition” but “through something else,” he feels committed to give a rational account of his intuitive knowledge. The question is that why Suhrawardi tries to give a consistent rational account of his intuition? What did make Suhrawardi to feel committed to justify his intuition philosophically while he believes a discursive philosopher will not benefit form his book? Answering these questions is not easy given the fact that he mentions that he sought rational proof so that “ should I cease contemplating the proof, nothing would make me fall into doubt.” On the other hand, he believes that justification of his intuitive beliefs are independent form his discursive philosophy. He does not explain more about the relationship between providing rational proof as way to buffer doubts and secure certainty; on the other hand, he believes that he has not arrive at knowledge “through cognition.” To explore these questions, we need to go into more details of his philosophy.

There is no question that Suhrawardi believes that one can obtain certainty through discursive philosophy. However, the intuitive philosophy is a shorter and a more secure path to knowledge than discursive philosophy. Intuition, to Suhrawardi, is a more competent epistemic tool. Suhrawardi gives a useful explanation of the distinction between discursive philosophers and intuitive philosophers.

Suhrawardi’s distinction between intuitive philosophy and discursive philosophy reveals the superior place of intuition in his Philosophy of Illumination. According to Suhrawardi’s epistemology, there are two types of philosophies: intuitive philosophy and discursive philosophy. Philosophers or students will be classified based on their engagements in either of the two philosophies. The genuine and competent philosopher is the person who has mastered both philosophies. A person who is proficient in only intuitive philosophy is more worthy than one who is only proficient in discursive philosophy.[4] As Suhrawardi mentions, he has written the Philosophy of Illumination for students who are familiar with both intuitive and discursive philosophy, and “there is nothing in it for the discursive philosopher not given to, and not in search of, intuitive philosophy” (4). In other words, the intuitive philosophy is not dependent of intuitive philosophy and a pure discursive philosopher cannot arrive at intuitive philosophy merely relying on discursive philosophy. The question is that what intuitive philosophy has that discursive lacks?

Ilm al-Husuli and its Theory of Truth

Suhrawardi answers this question through criticizing Peripatetic philosophy and its champion Ibn Sina who is a discursive philosopher in his view. Islamic philosophers divided sciences into two general divisions. The first division was knowledge by acquiring, ilm al-husuli and the second was knowledge by presence. He believes that Ibn Sina’s epistemology solely relies on ilm al-husuli, which is knowledge through using mediates such as conceptions, logical tools, and argumentations, and it fails to appreciate the epistemological merits of ilm al-hudhuri, which is only obtainable through immediate knowledge, namely intuition. “Knowledge was essentially the unmediated presence of the thing known to the conscious knower” (Walbridge 204).

            Ilm al-husuli’s theory of truth is a version of what today one may call the correspondence theory of truth. Based on this version of truth the truthfulness of a statement is dependent to its correspondence to reality. A statement is only true only if it denotes the object to which it refers. The statement of “Stockholm is the capital of Sweden” is true only if there is a city names Stockholm and that very city is still the capital of Sweden. A knower cannot assent that his statement is true if his statement has not the above mentioned condition. In ilm al-husuli, there is an unbridgeable gap between the knower and the object of knowing.

Suhrawardi sees the gap between the knower and the known object as a defection of ilm al-husuli’s theory of truth, since makes infallibility of knowledge unlikely or less probable. However, a true knowledge, Suhrawardi believes, requires an immediate relation between the knower and the known object, if one wants to know the essence of things. Ilm al-hudhuri makes the infallible knowledge through overcoming the gap between the knower and the known object. In fact, it is the unity of the knower and the known object that makes true knowledge possible. The unity of the knower and the known object is, in fact, the epistemic privilege that intuitive knowledge has over discursive philosophy.

For a belief to be true in Peripatetic philosophy, it must correspond to reality. The statement of “The Philosophy of Illumination is written by Suhrawardi” is true only if we have enough reasons that indicate a person whose name was Suhrawardi lived in a certain time and wrote that book. If we find new evidences that show the book was written by another writer, then the statement of “The Philosophy of Illumination is written by Suhrawardi” renders to be false, since it no longer corresponds to reality. In discursive philosophy, the correspondence requirement to determine the truth-value of a belief, which is correspondence of a belief to its object in reality in order to be true, operates based on a distinction between the knower and the object of knowing. However, since intuitive philosophy maintains that there is not any gap between the knower and the object of knowing, the possibility of error diminishes in ishraqi philosophy. In fact, intuitive philosophy tries to prove infallibility of intuition by removing the possibility of error. It is worthy of mentioning that when there is no possibility of error, the possibility of certainty vanishes too, since certainty is only obtainable only if it is a result of a process of undermining to possible doubts. Therefore, it is not clear that how intuition can be certain if there it is impossible for an instance of intuition to be false. The intuitive philosophy by removing the possibility of falsehood, it removes the possibility of certainty too.

However, the unity of the knower and the object of knowing in intuitive philosophy give self-awareness an epistemological significance. Suhrawardi believes that the only true knowledge of the self is immediate knowledge that is obtained through self but not something else, namely representations or attributes of the self. If knowledge of the self was through its attributes, then self-awareness was not possible. However, self-awareness is possible, since mind is self-conscious and it has access to its essence directly without the mediate of representations or attributes. Therefore, maintaining that mind knows its essence through the mediate of its attributes is absurd. More importantly, self-awareness is an instance of knowledge by presence, a prim example of the unity of the knower and the known object.

            Ilm al-husuli is dependent on the ilm-hudhuri opposite than what Peripatetic philosophers believed. What makes error possible is when the possibility of corresponding exists, since in immediate knowledge there is no distance between the knower and the known there is not need for correspondence; therefore, there is no possibility for error. Ilm al-hudhuri is infallible, since there is not distance between the knower and the object of knowledge. Intuition is part of a truth-seeking science, which he calls it “the science of lights.” The goal of the science of the light is to unveil the First Principle.

Intuition and Justification

What justifies the truthfulness of intuition is not necessarily a rational account. The function of rational account is to make it understandable for the beginner of intuitive philosophy, and rational account is not necessary to justify an intuitive belief. An intuitive belief is such that it is justified because of its special epistemic status that it has. In fact, intuition is not a pre-cognitive experience that only becomes justified if it is sufficiently supported by a rational account. The truthfulness of an intuitive belief is independent from its relevant rational account. The truthfulness of an intuitive belief is relevant to the approach through which an ishraqi obtains the belief. In fact, once an ishraqi obtains an intuitive belief through a reliable process, the truthfulness of the intuitive belief has been secured independently from a rational account that the ishraqi offers. The rational account is merely for educational purposes, namely for those who want to take the path of ishraq.

To have a better understanding about the role of intuition in Suhrawardi’s philosophy one needs to answer the question why Suhrawardi believes that a discursive philosopher will not benefit from his book? According to Suhrawardi, the discursive philosophy seeks knowledge through the mediate of philosophical conceptualizing. Intuition in discursive philosophy is not absent from the knowledge-seeking process. In discursive philosophy, however, intuition is merely a pre-philosophical perception without justification. Therefore, to justify a belief, one needs to give a rational account. And without a rational account, it is no more than an unjustified belief. However, for an intuitive philosopher what justifies a belief is the performative process of obtaining knowledge. In fact, the performative nature of justification is very crucial in intuitive philosophy. I think it was this performative dimension of intuitive philosophy that made it appealing for Sufism, and made philosophy either losing its independence or gradually being dissolved into Sufism. I think the performative aspect of justification in intuitive philosophy needs further clarification.

What gives intuitive philosophy a performative dimension is the action that a knower should perform in order to maintain his ilm al-hudhuri sound. In order to do that, the knower needs to keep his inner vision sharp, which requires constant purification of the soul and heart. This performative aspect has a justificatory force, which means that it secures the justification of an intuitive knowledge. In ilm al-hudhuri the truthfulness transforms from the approach through which the intuitive belief has been obtained to the content of the very intuitive belief. It is the performative requirement of justification that makes adopting an ascetic life inevitable for an ishraqi. For this reason, the notion of philosophical truth is inseparable from an ishraqi ideal philosophic life, which is a constant purification of the soul purging it from its attributes that distort an ishraqi inner vision and prevent him from gaining intuition.

It is the constant need for purification of the soul that makes self-consciousness necessary for an intuitive philosopher. A person who wants to purify his soul from all the attributes, which in fact are foreign to the mind, needs to be able to distinguish between his essence and his attributes. Mind potentially has the ability to know itself by distinguishing between itself and its attributes. Mind is evident to itself by intuition. Mind is self-conscious, and it knows itself not through its attributes but itself. Attributes are foreign to the mind; therefore, if one believes that mind knows itself through its attributes, it means that mind knows itself through something else, which is absurd. Suhrawardi believes it is impossible. For this reason, self-consciousness finds an epistemological significance in intuitive philosophy. In fact, Suhrawardi holds the same beliefs about mind the he maintains about vision. “It [vision] consists of a sound eye being in the unveil presence of something illumined… Most important, vision requires a self-aware being. Knowledge, like vision, consists in the unveiled presence of the object of knowledge before the self-aware knower” (Walbridge 209-210).

The Islamic philosophy after Suhrawardi is more or less expansion of his ishraqi philosophy. Suhrawardi sets agenda for later Islamic philosophers. We see that the notion of the unity of the knower and known object plays a central role in Mulla Sadra’s philosophy. In fact, after Suhrawardi the intuitive philosophers were without rivals and in the absence of thinkers who could challenge the epistemic privilege they attributed to intuition, intuitive philosophy found a decisive victory over discursive philosophy

Superiority of intuition found its expression in the notion of the unity of the knower and the known. It is worthy of mentioning that when there is no possibility of error, the possibility of certainty vanishes too, since certainty is only obtainable only if it is a result of a process of undermining to possible doubts. Therefore, it is not clear that how intuition can be certain if there it is impossible for an instance of intuition to be false. The intuitive philosophy by removing the possibility of falsehood, it removes the possibility of certainty too. We only can be certain about what we belief only if we are able to refute what we know is incompatible with our beliefs. If there is no possible way to know what is incompatible with an intuitive belief, then an intuitive belief cannot amount to certainty. In the absence of a rational account to justify an intuitive belief, an intuitive philosopher never would be able to distinguish between a psychological certainty, which is not well supported by adequate reason, or epistemological certainty, which is based on good reasons.

Most important, if intuition is infallible and there is no possibility of error, then why should one philosophize? Philosophy as Socrates has defined it is seeking wisdom through discovering errors. Suhrawardi believes, “The words of the Ancients are symbolic and not open to refutation.” When there is no possibility of errors, it implies that it is not possible for us to seek wisdom either. In fact, if what Suhrawardi says about the “words of Ancients” is true about his philosophy too, then intuitive philosophy is an argument for impossibility of philosophy.


The story of decline of philosophy in Islamic civilization is two-folded. One aspect of the decline is due to the transformation that philosophy went internally, namely decisive victory of intuitive philosophy, and the second dimension is due to the lack of intellectual opposition to offer the alternative. All civilizations need to create a delicate balance between the rational tendencies and extra-rational inclinations such as reason and revelation or it variations like intuition.[5] As historical experiences, like late Middle Ages Europe, shows a reasonable amount of tension between the reason and revelation will give birth to fruitful intellectual offspring. In fact, a reasonable tension will shape intellectual debates between groups that define the relations between the two tendencies differently. Some groups may emphasis on reason more than they put on revelation whereas the other group might put more emphasis on the latter. If any opposing view finds a decisive victory over the other side, then a civilization will loose its livelihood.

In the Islamic civilization the popular acceptance of intuitive philosophy gradually drove out the discursive philosophy from the mainstream of intellectual life to the margin. Sufism popularized the intuitive philosophy and Islamic civilization lost its balance. Intuitive philosophy was partially responsible for the imbalance in the Islamic civilization. The reason I say partially is that philosophy would not become marginalized if a strong intellectual opposition could resist and strived to challenge the epistemological merits of intuition on the one hand and gave a convincing account for the epistemological advantages of the alternative, which was discursive philosophy.

If there were equally competence philosophers in the opposite camp to defend the autonomy of reason and why reason should be a framework to understand intuition and if there were intellectual debates between these two competing camps, we would witness fruitful intellectual results within Islamic philosophy. The intuitive philosophy remained unraveled and without challenge; therefore, the useful and intellectual tensions died out. Hence, in the Islamic civilization the balance shifted against “rationalist” tendencies. Intuition made philosophical thinking to fall into what al-Farabi considered inferior to demonstrative philosophy i.e., the world of allegories, images, metaphors, symbols, and rhetoric (balaqah). The decisive victory of intuition was the defeat of Islamic philosophy.[6]


[1] One related question is that Muslims had access to the same sources of knowledge that Christians had in the Middle Ages. However, we see different intellectual results. Philosophy continued to grow in the West and had extensive cultural influenced. How relatively same knowledge had two different results in two cultural contexts?

[2] If discursive philosophy is inadequate, and it cannot lead to a robust knowledge, one cannot jump to the conclusion that intuition is superior.

[3] One might agree with Ghazali about the limitation of discursive philosophy; however, his reasoning for limitation of discursive philosophy cannot be used as a ground for justification for the superiority of intuition. To prove the merits of intuition, one needs to give an independent justification from the inadequacy of discursive philosophy.

[4] Furthermore, Suhrawardi states that, “The world will never be without a philosopher proficient in intuitive philosophy” (3). Since they are the “Poles,” who make the continuation of grace possible.

[5] I have barrowed the notion of balance in civilizations form Friedrich Nietzsche. He believes that before Socrates, the central derives and forces for the greatness and livelihood of the Greek culture were emotional drives or sentiments represented in the Dionysus (Διόνυσος) who was the god of wine, pleasure (ερως), and festivity. However, there were rational forces as well that were represented in the god of reason, Apollo (Απόλλων). The rational forces were basically forces that stopped Athenians from excessive pleasure. For this reason, he maintains that in Greek culture, it was a balance between Dionysian drives and Alloponian constrains, mostly tilted toward non-rational, pleasure based drives. However, he believes that Socrates rational approach toward life disturbed the balance of Greek culture and paved the way for its destruction.

[6] However, the story of philosophy was different in the Christian world. Due to Christian theology that was defined as the science of faith and its declared purpose was to give a rational account of faith, maintaining a balance between reason and revelation was essential. For this reason, the tension between reason and revelation did not drive out any side of the tension. In fact, a healthy and reasonable tension between reason and revelation gave birth to heated debates that lasted for centuries in Europe, one of the debates with wide consequences was the debates between via moderna and via antiqua that give birth to further intellectual skirmishes and cultural movements such as Renaissance and Enlightenment.

Works Cited

Al-Ghazali. “The Rescuer form Error.” The Medieval Islamic Philosophical Writings.           Trans. Muhammad Ali Khalidi. Cambridge University Press. 2005. Print.

Razavi, Amin. Suhrawardi and the School of Illumination. Curzon. Richmond. 1997. Print.

Suhrawardi. The Philosophy of Illumination. Trans. John Walbridge and Hossein   ZiaiBrigham Young University Press. Provo. 1999. Print.

Marcotte, Roxanne. “Reason (ʿaql) and Direct Intuition (mushāhada) in the Works of

Shihāb al-Dīn al-Suhrawardī (d. 587/1191)” Reason and Inspiration in Islam I.B.Tauris Publishers. London. 2005. Print.

Marmura, Micheal. “Al-Ghazali.” The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy.            Cambridge University Press. 2005. Print.

Walbridge, John. The Wisdom of the Mystic East: Suhrawardi and Platonic Orientalism. State University of New York Press. New York. 2001. Print.

Walbridge, John. The Leaven of the Ancients: Suhrawardi and the Heritage of the Greeks. State University of New York Press. New York. 1999. Print.

Walbridge, John. “Suhrawardi and Illuminationism.” The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. 2005. Print.

Wisnovsky, Robert. “Avecina and the Avecinnian Tradition.” The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. 2005. Print.


Plato on “the Ancient Quarrel between Poetry and Philosophy” (2)


Socrates’s response to Gorgias’s second claim, that the main focusing of a rhetorician are matters of just and injustice, is that if the main focus of rhetoricians is the matters of just and unjust, then they need to have a robust knowledge of the just and injustice, and this knowledge is obtainable through philosophical inquiry, since rhetoric per se cannot supply this knowledge. In another challenge, Socrates states that if the main concern of rhetoric is just and unjust matters, then the students of rhetoric must be just too. However, Gorgias admits that some students of rhetoric are unjust, which is contrary to his former claim that rhetoric teaches students justice. After Socrates has refuted Gorgias, Callicles, who advocates a type of political realism based on a naturalistic justification, enters the dialogue. First, he distinguishes between nature and convention. He frames domination of the strongest as a natural law (483e3), which may be in conflict with convention. He introduces his first thesis as such, “But I believe that nature itself reveals that it’s a just thing for the better man and the more capable man to have a greater share than the worse man and the less capable man. Nature shows that this is so in many places; both among the other animals and in whole cities and races of men, it shows that this is what justice has been decided to be: that the superior rule the inferior and have a greater share than they” (483c8-d6). He maintains that conventional beliefs that often view privileges attached to domination of the stronger blameworthy. To him, all justifications for acting just are attempts from the weaker to subjugate the stronger, and rhetoric is a skill to give a dominating position to those who are stronger by nature. His view of rhetoric presupposes that rhetoric makes the mighty mightier, and might makes the right of domination. Callicles should be considered as one of the founding fathers of the paradigm of thinking that reduces all discourses to ideology, and since everything is an ideology, then the goal of each discourse should be domination or winning. This reductionist view rules out the reasonability of ideas and sees them as mere power relations. Hence, if reasonability of ideas are denied and ideas are mere power relations, then pursuing power should be the only desirable life, since pursuing wisdom is no longer possible or wisdom itself is reduced to strategies of gaining power and domination. If wisdom in the sense of cultivating the faculty of seeking the truth is either impossible or undesirable, then education is reduced to the battlefield of ideologies where students learn various strategies to dominant their opponents. In this context, listening to the other sides’ arguments is only for the purpose of responding to rivalry, in fact, in the sense of “know thy enemy.” Listening is no longer a way of genuine learning and thinking. In fact, Callicles’s authoritative account of rhetoric reveals that it is indifferent about human soul. For his indifference about the soul, his teachings are either do not help the soul to flourish, or even worse the will be harmful to it.

Another important Plato’s critique is the rhetoricians’ lack of knowledge about human soul. If rhetoric is the art of persuasion, Plato asks, should not the rhetorician have a deep understanding of their audiences? By understanding the audience, Plato mean something deeper than what we today advise our students about knowing their audience. By this Plato means the knowledge of soul. According to Plato, the highest part of the soul is the rational faculty, and an effective rhetoric must see the rational faculty as its main addressee. The soul has lower parts too, which are the honor-liking and the appetitive parts. A defective and bad rhetoric in contrast addresses the inferior parts of the soul to suppress the rational part of the soul.

Does Plato mean that rhetoric is bad and must be abandoned? Despite to what Robert Wardy in The Birth of Rhetoric (2005) states that Plato was against rhetoric, it is doubtful to believe that Plato was against all sorts of rhetoric. He maintains, “Plato’s response to Gorgias in his dialogue the Gorgias is to present us with the most emphatic reaffirmation of the Parmenidean ideal, a scheme of philosophical dialectic utterly distinct from and immeasurably superior to rhetoric, which is fiercely castigated as nakedly exploitative emotional manipulation” (51). Plato himself was one of the greatest of rhetoricians and speechmakers. Some of the images that Plato has created such as the image of the Cave are one of the most profound images of Western civilization. His dialogues indicate powerful uses of rhetorical devices, and it is no exaggeration to state that any accurate interpretation of his dialogues is almost impossible without understanding their dramatic aspects. If he opposed rhetoric, we might expect that he would refrain from using rhetoric. So, the question is how can we make sense of Plato’s critique of rhetoric? By answering this question, one is able to answer what can we, as moderns, learn from Plato’s critique of rhetoric.


Plato’s critiques of rhetoric provide useful insights for modern rhetorical education. By emphasizing logos, it defends the rationality of rhetoric. It also shows where rhetoric can go wrong and how we can bring it back on the right track if it does so. It is possible for a piece of rhetoric to be persuasive not through a sound logos, but merely by appealing to authority or emotions. Of course, good rhetoric employs ethos and pathos effectively, but only if logos governs the two components, then it is a sound and healthy rhetoric. As the Socrates in the Phaedrus states, “then the conclusion is obvious, that there is nothing shameful in the mere writing of speeches. But in speaking and writing shamefully and badly, instead of as one should that is where the shame comes in. I take it”[1] (Phaedrus 258d1–5).


[1] This is R. Hackforth’s (1952) translation.

Works Cited

Annas, Julian. An Introduction to Plato’s Republic, Oxford: Oxford University Press. 1981. Print.

Bloom, Allen. (trans.) The Republic of Plato, translated with notes and an interpretive essay, New York: Basic Books. 1968.

Cicero. De Oratore. Ed. David Mankin. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 2011. Print.

Derrida, Jacque. Of Grammatology. Translated by Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. 1974. Print.

Griswold, Richard. “Plato on Poetry and Rhetoric,” The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. 2016.

Hackforth, R. Plato’s Phaedrus, translation with introduction and commentary. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. 1972. Print.

Heidegger, Martin. Language, Poetry, Thought. New York: Harper Perennial Modern Classics. 2013. Print.

Kraut, Richard. “Introduction to the Study of Plato,” in The Cambridge Companion to Plato, R. Kraut (ed.). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 1–50. 1992.   Print.

Rosen, Stanley. 1965, “The Role of Eros in Plato’s Republic,” Review of Metaphysics, 1965. 18: 452–75.

Seigel, Jerrold. Rhetoric and Philosophy in Renaissance Humanism. Princeton: Princeton University Press. 1968. Print.

Vivian, Bradford. Being Made Strange. Rhetoric beyond representation. New York: State University of New York Press. 2004.Print.

Wardy, R. The Birth of Rhetoric: Gorgias, Plato and their Successors, London: Routledge. 1996. Print.

نقدی بر تفسیر کالمو از فارابی

کتاب «گسست از آتن: فارابی به مثابه بنیان‌گذار» نوشته‌ی کیستوفر کالمو تفسیری بدیع و جسورانه از فلسفه فارابی بدست می‌دهد. این کتاب به سال ۲۰۰۵ بدست انتشارات «لکسینگتون» نشر یافته و شامل یازده فصل است. کالمو که درس‌آموخته فلسفه است فارابی را یکسر از دریچه‌ای نوین می‌نگرد. تفسیر او از فارابی شایسته درنگ و ژرف‌کاوی است.  


فارابی بنیان‌گذاری همانند ماکیاولی و دکارت

به گمان کالمو، فلسفه فارابی اگر چه فهم و تفسیری روشن از افلاطون و ارسطو بدست می‌دهد اما به فرجام به گسستی از این دو فیلسوف یونانی می‌انجامد. مراد کالمو از گسست فارابی نه اعراض از فلسفه قدمایی بلکه گسست از آن از رهگذر بدست دادن تفسیری نوآیین است. همچنین مراد او از بنیان‌گذار بودن این نیست که فارابی فلسفه‌ای یکسر نوین پایه ریخته است.

دور نیست که ادعای کالمو در فضای اندیشگی ایران، که بیشتر زیر چیرگی تاریخ‌گرایی است، طنینی غریب داشته باشد. بنا به باور رایج، گسست از فلسفه قدمایی برای فارابی، به دلیل محدودیت‌های معرفتی ناممکن بوده است. تارخ‌گرا ادعا می‌کند که گسست از فلسفه قدمایی نیازمند مقدمات تاریخی و معرفتی بوده که در اختیار فارابی نبوده است. باری کالمو به گروهی از ناقدان تاریخ‌گرایی تعلق دارد که فارابی را ورای این نظریه می‌نگرد. این اندیشمندان اندیشه فلسفی را دارای قابلیت اندیشدن به امکان‌های معرفتی می‌دانند که لزوما در بند چارچوب‌های تاریخی نیست. به هر روی، می‌توان پذیرفت که هیچ گسست مطلقی در تاریخ روی نداده است و همواره عناصری از دوره کهن در نظام نوین حضور دارد و نقش فعال ایفاء می‌کند. هیچ دستگاه جدیدی یکسر بر مبنای نوینی استوار نگشته  و آنچه در واقع رخ داده است حضور عناصر دنیای قدیم در چارچوب جدیدی بوده است.

کالمو گسست فارابی با دنیای قدیم را گسستی از سنخ گسست فیلسوفان سپیده‌دم دنیای مدرن می‌داند. از این رو، او فلسفه فارابی را با ماکیاولی و دکارت دو بنیان‌گذار دنیای جدید قابل قیاس می‌داند. به باور او فلسفه فارابی، همانند اندیشه‌های ماکیاولی، «خودبنیادی» سیاست و بویژه استقلال سیاست از فلسفه را به رسمیت می‌شناسد. همچنین همانند  فلسفه دکارت، روش جایگاه کانونی دارد. او برمی‌نهد که عناصری از دگرگونی نوآیینی که دکارت در روش پژوهش علمی ایجاد کرد نیز نزد فارابی موجود است.  

کالمو یکی از نتایج تفسیر نوآیین فارابی از این دو فیلسوف یونانی را رسیدن به «خودبنیاد»ی سیاست از فلسفه می‌داند. فارابی، به زعم او، چونان ماکیاولی از خودبنیادی فلسفه دفاع می‌کند چرا که او نیز همچون ماکیاولی باور دارد که علم سیاست دارای مبانی ویژه‌ی مستقل از فلسفه است                            

گسست از فلسفه قدمایی؟

تفسیر کالمو از فارابی جسورانه است. باری، او توضیح نمی‌دهد که چرا فارابی گسست از افلاطون و ارسطو را مطلوب تلقی می‌کند و آیا این مطلوبیت با دیگر سویه‌های مهم فلسفه فارابی سازگار است یا خیر.

به نظر می‌رسد که تفسیر کالمو از فارابی فروکاهنده است. باور به اینکه فارابی سیاست را بریده از سیاست می‌داند و می‌خواهد دشوار است. بنا به یک دلیل اساسی، جدایی سیاست و به زعم او «خودبنیادی» سیاست نمی‌تواند مطلوب فارابی باشد و در حقیقت فارابی نمی‌تواند پاره‌ای از پیامدهای این خودبنیادی را بپذیرد. بر خلاف ماکیاولی، از نظر فارابی قدرت هدفی در خود نیست و این فلسفه است که غایت مطلوب سیاست را تعیین می‌کند. تعیین این غایت مطلوب نه تنها فقط از فلسفه بر‌میآید بلکه این تنها فلسفه است که می‌تواند نسبت این غایت را با روح و نفس تعیین کند چرا که این تنها فلسفه است که می‌تواند فهمی بسامان از نفس ارائه دهد.  در فلسفه فارابی هدف از سیاست تربیت نفس است و تربیت درست نفس بدون شناخت ژرف و بسامان از نفس امکان‌پذیر نیست. این جنبه‌ی فلسفه فارابی یکسر پایبند افلاطون و ارسطو است و برای فارابی گسست از آن مطلوب نمی‌توانست باشد.

از نظر ماکیاولی از آن‌رو که سیاست حوزه‌ای مستقل از فلسفه است  به فرجام قدرت هدفی است در خود. هنگامی که تشنگان قدرت برای کسب قدرت با هم می‌ستیزند برآیند این قدرت‌طلبی جمعی به فرجام ایجاد توازن نیروها ست. همچنین در نگاه او این شیوه‌ی خود-تنظیمی، که در چارچوب آن همه برای کسب قدرت تلاش می‌کنند، موثرترین شیوه‌ی مهار قدرت‌طلبی است. به باور ماکیاولی در وضعیت کسب قدرت از سوی همه سامان خود-تنظیمی پدید می‌آید که در آن مصالح عمومی بهتر تأمین می‌گردد. پرسش اینکه از نظر فارابیِ کالمو چه تضمینی وجود دارد که از دل قدرت‌طلبی‌های همگانی مصلحت عمومی تأمین گردد و یا تنها آن‌که قدرت‌مندتر است از رهگذر ابزارهایی که در اختیار دارد می‌تواند فریب‌کارانه نفع خود را عین مصالح عمومی جا بزند مطرح نمی‌گردد. همچنین کالمو نمی‌پرسد که از نظر فارابی چگونه این قدرت‌طلبی همگانی می‌تواند به تربیت روح و نفس شهروندان کمک کند؟ پرسش از روح و تربیت و بالندگی آن کانون فلسفه فارابی است. از نظر او همه دانش‌های نظری و عملی را باید در پرتو تأثیری که بر تربیت و بالندگی روح دارند سنجید. از این‌رو، روشن نیست که فارابی از چه رو می‌بایست خودبنیادی سیاست را امری مطلوب تلقی کند در حالی که

سودمندی فلسفه از نظر فارابی بدست دادن شناختی بسامان از نفس است. آنچه که علوم دیگر را به فلسفه وابسته می‌کند ضرورت شناخت نفس و دریافت چگونگی تأثیر دانش‌های گوناگون بر نفس است. هیچ علمی از آن نظر که علم است نمی‌تواند-مستقل از فلسفه- به مطلوبیت و یا ناسودمندی خود پی‌ببرد. علم شیمی پاسخی برای سودمندی شیمی و مهمتر از آن خطرات احتمالی آن برای زیست بشر ندارد. به این دست پرسش‌ها، بدون فلسفه نمی‌توان پاسخ گفت.             

فارابی و دکارت

آشنایان با فلسفه دکارت می‌دانند که این فیلسوف از میان علت‌های چهارگانه ارسطویی، تنها علت فاعلی را برای تبیین علمی لازم و ضروری دید. او هم  در کتاب «گفتار درباره روش» و هم در مجموعه « پاسخهای ششم»اش علت غایی را در تعلیل و تبیین علمی نه ضروری دانست و نه لازم. بجای آن، او تنها علت فاعلی را برای تبیین مکانیکی از جهان بسنده و ضروری دانست. از نظر او، روش علمی می‌بایست تنها محدود به توضیح وتبیین ابعاد کمیت‌پذیر ماده باشد که براساس قوانین مکانیک عمل می‌کنند. با این روش نوین، دکارت بر آن بود تا «علم جدید» را از مابعدالطبیعه ارسطویی جدا کند. بر همین نمط، کالمو باور دارد که فارابی از رهگذر تفسیر ویژه خود از افلاطون و ارسطو از مابعدالطبیعه آنان می‌گسلد و مبانی نوآیینی برای فلسفه پی‌ می‌ریزد که بر پایه آن فلسفه دانشی می‌گردد تنها برای درک پدیده‌های این عالم و دانشی که  محدودیت‌های شناخت بشری را به رسمیت می‌شناسد. از آن‌رو که فارابی دانش مابعدالطبیعه را برای بشر دست‌یاب نمی‌داند، غایت علم را خدمت کردن به بشر تعیین می‌کند. پرسیدنی است که آیا کالمو حق دارد که فارابی را با دکارت قیاس‌پذیر بداند تا بدانجا که گسست دکارت از فلسفه ارسطویی را نهفته در فلسفه فارابی تلقی کند؟   

گویا ترین بیان نسبت دکارت با مدرنیته را هگل در اثر خویش «تاریخ فلسفه» آورده است. او میگوید هنگامی که با دکارت روبرو ‌می‌شویم در حقیقت از راه دیگری به خود می‌رسیم. این سلوک چیزی نیست جز سوژه‌گرایی. از این‌رو، بی‌راه نیست اگر مدرنیته را چیرگی سوژه‌گرایی دکارتی بنامیم. دکارت ارسطو را از دریچه انیشمندان اسکولاستیک سده‌های میانه می‌شناخت. دکارت هدف از دانش نظری را یاری به دانش‌های عملی می‌دانست که به کار رفاه بشر می آید.

دکارت برای رسیدن به یقین روش شک دستوری را پیش می‌کشد که هر اندیشه کهن را در زیر چکشِ  شک‌ ویران می‌خواهد. برای بیان روش خود او از استعاره ویران کردن بنایی بهره می‌گیرد. او برمی‌نهد برای آنکه بتوان بنایی استوار ساخت می‌بایست هر سازه‌ی استواری را با شک دستوری ویران کنیم. آنگاه پس از یافتن بنیادی مستحکم بنایی نوین را بازسازی کنیم. در این راه، هر آنچه که از شک‌های بنیادی جان سالم بدر برده پایه دانش نوین خود می‌نهیم. از نظر دکارت پایه‌ای‌ترین آگاهی که از این شک دستوری جان سالم بدرمی برد، آگاهی به خودِ-اندیشا است. ذهن شکاک دکارتی با هر شک سازه‌ای از دانسته‌های پیشین را ویران می‌کند و در مسیر این ویرانی با دانسته‌ای روبرو می‌گردد که شک ویران‌گر دستوری را تاب می‌آورد. آن سازه ویران‌ناپذیر «کوگیتو» است: «می‌اندیشم، پس هستم.» خودِ-اندیشا می‌تواند به همه چیز در جهان خارج از جمله وجود خود جهان خارج شک کند. اما هرگز نمی‌تواند به خودی که می‌اندیشید شک کند. چرا که  ذهن چیزی نیست جز اندیشایی که می‌اندیشد و اندیشیدن از نظر دکارت همواره خود-‌بازتابی است.

شکی نیست که فارابی نیز در پی درافکندن بنایی است که از گزند شک و شبهه در امان است و بی‌شک در این راه به ناچار یقین‌های آرامش‌بخش را با تیغ شک به زیر‌آورد. اما فارابی هیچگاه چونان دکاردت روش بنیان‌افکن شک دستوری را پیش نکشید. سخن بر سر آن نیست که کاربست شک دستوری برای زمانه فارابی ناممکن بود بلکه سخن بر سر این است که گسستن از مقدمات قدما مطلوب فارابی نبود چرا که گسستن از آن مقدمات نتایجی دربرداشت که نمی‌توانست مطلوب فارابی باشد. این سخن با باور به اینکه فارابی گاه از مابعدالطبیعه چونان ریتوریک سیاسی بکار می‌گیرد سازگار است.  

نقد پنهان مابعدالطبیعه از سوی فارابی، بر خلاف آنچه کالمو می‌پندارد، به معنای مسلط کردن علوم عملی بر علوم نظری نیست. در حقیقت برای فارابی یکی از نتایج ناپسند این زیروزبر کردن معرفتی برتری دادن سویه‌های زیرین و پست‌تر روح بر سویه‌های برین و والاتر آن است. چرا که از نظر فارابی علوم نظری میوه والاترین سویه نفس است. از این‌رو، فارابی بر خلاف مدرن‌ها نمی‌توانست بپذیرد که غایت مطلوب و سعادت بشر به کار گیری دانش نظری و عملی با هدف چیرگی انسان بر طبیعت است. باری این موضع فارابی با باوراو به بکارگیری حکیمانه علوم عملی برای خوشبختی بشر ناسازگار نیست.

فارابی بی‌شک اندیشمندی اصیل و خلاق است با نوآوری‌های اندیشه‌برانگیز اما او نه بنیان‌گذار مکتب نوافلاطونی است، چنان که پاره‌ای از شارحان او بیان کرده‌اند، و نه بنیان‌گذار از سنخ ماکیاولی و دکارت آن‌چنان که کالمو استدلال می‌کند.  


Colmo, Christopher, Breaking with Athenes: Alfarabi the founder. Lanham: Lexington Books, 2005.

Descartes, René, The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, Dugald Murdoch and Anthony Kenny, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 3 vols.1984-1991.

Gillespie, Michael Allen. The Theological Origin of Modernity. Chicago: University of Chicago Press. 2008.