Caption Text: Arabic Text of Aphorism Two from Alfarabi’s Treatise The Five Aphorisms from Ms. Bratislava 231 TE 41  Source: Digitized Copy of the manuscript.

Arabic text of Aphorism Two from Alfarabi’s Treatise The Five Aphorisms from Ms. Bratislava 231 TE 41. Source: Digitized Copy of the manuscript.

Project (2019-)

Alfarabi and Averroes on What is Known Prior to Scientific Demonstration

Alfarabi’s and Averroes’s philosophical treatises are guided by a common recognition that there are four types of knowledge (maʽlūmāt) which are prior to scientific demonstration. These four types of knowledge are: received tradition, generally accepted opinion, perception, and first intelligibles. They constitute the starting points for Alfarabi’s and Averroes’s accounts of the five rational or syllogistic arts, rhetoric, dialectic, sophistry, poetry, and demonstration, the arts which are used in varying ways in all the sciences, natural, metaphysical, theological, and political. Although all of these sources of knowledge are pertinent to an inquiry into how these writers understood "experience" and "perception," two of these types of knowledge in particular, generally accepted opinion and perception itself, are presented by them as central to scientific demonstration. The purpose of my research is to show, in these two key figures in Arabic philosophy, how pre-scientific knowledge is essential to their accounts of the nature of our experiences and our perceptions. These two Arabic philosophers spawned rich accounts of the nature of science and philosophy for the discovery of human happiness.

There are two related aspects of this research which will highlight, through comparison, the significance of their accounts. First, since there is adequate evidence in Aristotle, as presented in the scholarship of Joe Sachs, Marjorie Grene, Jacob Klein and Richard Kennington, amongst others, that experience and perception are essential aspects of Aristotelian science, it should not surprise us that we find these elements not only present in but enriched by Alfarabi and Averroes. The recovery of this robust philosophic science helps us see better how the mechanistic accounts of nature in the seventeenth century limit our ability to understand our experience and our perceptions. Secondly, since the reception of Alfarabi’s and Averroes’s philosophies in Hebrew- and Latin-speaking communities was partial and often ambiguous—in comparison, for example, to the uses of Avicenna’s oeuvre—it is useful to compare and contrast the ways in which their accounts of pre-scientific knowlege were received in Europe and what was gained or lost in such a reception. I intend to articulate more precisely my arguments in Arabic philosophy with research and writing on these two related areas.