Illumination

Philosophy continued in Andalusia, where the texts of Averroes were instrumental in its development. Other types of philosophical writing emerged in Andalusian centres such as Cordoba and Seville in the twelfth century. The dominance of legal strictures, among other reasons, ensured that the production of philosophical writing by Ibn Bajja (d. 1138) and Ibn Tufayl (d. 1185) took the form of individual works rather than a trend or school.

Ibn Baajja's writings were an interpretation of Faaraabai's political philosophy. Ibn Baajja reaffirms the supreme virtues of the perfect, ideal city, but does not think that it will ever be realised. He argues that darkness prevails in all actual cities, whose inhabitants live in the cave (after Plato), perceiving only the ''shadows'' and not the ''good''. He does not accept Farad's view of a leadership role for the philosopher in the city but argues instead that the philosopher's activity is limited to the solitary pursuit of theoretical knowledge. His teaching accepts Avicenna's notion of experiential knowledge, explained as ''enlightenment'', through conjunction with the Active Intellect (e.g. Avicenna's Directives and Remarks, IX, X), but this ''prophetic'' knowledge serves only the individual philosopher rather than a political system, or a state.

Ibn Tufayl continued Ibn Bajja's political interpretations. He was more inclined towards Avicenna's philosophical allegories and composed a philosophical story of a solitary man who is suckled by a deer on an isolated island, reared in the wild, and finally acquires complete theoretical knowledge based on his own self-abilities in unaided reason. This enlightenment, however, does not affect society;he fails on his mission to bring wisdom to the inhabitants of an adjacent island, and is forced to return to his solitary life.

In the East, philosophy mainly continued through Suhrawardi's Illuminationist philosophical system. The Philosophy of Illumination is a holistic, constructed system that aims to refine the period's Peripatetic philosophy, which was known mainly through Avicenna. Illumina-tionism is critical. Had it not been for Suhrawardi's definition and construction of the Philosophy of Illumination, the creative endeavour of philosophy as a distinctive branch of knowledge might have died out altogether in Islam.

For the most part, Aristotle's authority was unquestioned among devotees of falsafa, and Avicenna's work was considered the perfect and consistent Arabic and Persian expression of his system. Suhrawardi was among the very first philosophers, as opposed to theologians, to raise well-reasoned objections to Aristotle. His aim - to refine philosophical arguments by rethinking the set of questions that constitute holistic systems - generated novel analyses covering the principles of knowledge, ways of examining being, and new cosmological constructs.

The most important and clearly stipulated aim of the philosophy of Illumination is the construction of a holistic system to define a new method of science, named the ''Science of Lights'' ('ilm al-anwar), a refinement of Aristotelian method that is capable of describing an inclusive range of phenomena in which Peripatetic theory is thought to have failed. Suhrawardi's novel ideas were expressed in four major texts that together constituted the new system. The first of these texts was The Intimations (al-Talwihat);the second, its addendum, was entitled The Apposites (al-Muqawamat). The latter was composed with a standard Peripatetic structure and language with the aim of presenting a working synopsis of Avicenna's philosophical system, to bring out the elements in which the Illuminationist position differs from that of the Peripatetic, and also to introduce arguments to prove the former. The third text, the Paths and Havens (al-Mashari' wa'l-Mutarahat), is the longest of Suhrawardi's compositions. Here he presents detailed arguments concerning Illuminationist principles in every domain of philosophical inquiry set against those of the Peripatetics, mainly the strictly Avicennan.

The fourth text of the corpus is the text eponymous with the system itself, The Philosophy of Illumination (Hikmat al-ishraq);this is the best known of all of Suhrawardi's works. The book is the final expression and systematic construction of the new analysis. Its structure differs from the standard, three-part logic, physics and metaphysics found in Peripatetic texts and employs a constructed, symbolic metalanguage, called the ''Language of Illumination'' (lisan al-ishraq). All things pertaining to the domains of knowing, being and cosmology are depicted as lights in which distinction is determined by equivocation; that is, in terms of degrees of intensity of luminosity. The One origin of the system is the most luminous, hence most self-conscious light, named the Light of Lights, and all other entities are propagated from it in accordance with the increasing sequence 2n, where n is the rank of the propagated light starting with the First Light; and together they form the continuum, the luminous whole of reality.

The Illuminationist ontological position, called ''primacy of quiddity'', was a matter of considerable controversy. Those who believed in the primacy of being, or existence (wujud), considered essence (mahiyya) to be a derived, mental concept (amr i'tibari, a term of secondary intention); while those who believed in the primacy of quiddity considered existence to be a derived, mental concept. The Illuminationist position was this: should existence be real outside the mind (mutahaqqaq fi kharij al-dhihn), then the real must consist of two things: the principle of the reality of existence, and the being of existence, which requires a referent outside the mind (misdiq fi kharij al-dhihn). Moreover, its referent outside the mind must also consist of two things, which are subdivided, and so on, ad infinitum. This is clearly absurd. Therefore existence must be considered an abstract, derived, mental concept.

Mongol rule over eastern Islam witnessed the emergence of noted thinkers who, starting in the thirteenth century, wrote commentaries on Suhrawardi's texts and also composed independent works, some distinctly inspired by the Illuminationist system. Among the Ottomans, too, Illuminationism continued to be cultivated, as exampled in the figure of Isma'al Ankarawa (d. 1631), whose commentaries on Suhrawarda perpetuated this important branch of the falsafa tradition in Ottoman lands.26 In this respect an Illuminationist-inspired analytical trend can be seen to have helped to rescue genuine philosophy from being assimilated entirely into either dogmatic theology or mysticism. In part, the origins of Illuminationist philosophy may be viewed as attempts to respond to anti-falsafa polemics. The daring Illuminationist philosophical position, however, insisted that Peripatetic philosophy itself needed to be reconstructed in order to remove a set of presumed logical gaps and to provide epistemological and other theories better able to explain being, knowing and cosmology.

Meditation Mastery

Meditation Mastery

Discover How Breath Watching Meditation Turned My Mind From Cluttered To Laser Focus. You Can Get More Things Done When You’re Focus And Aware Of Your Mind.

Get My Free Ebook


Post a comment