Discusses Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy Ibn Yaqzan as a philosophical story of solitude, mysticism, and understanding. Isolated from human civilization, the infant Hayy ibn Yaqzan is raised by a gazelle on a deserted island Through observation, experimentation, and speculation. Ibn-Tufayl. It was during this time, working for the Almohads that Ibn-Tufayl wrote the first ever philosophical novel, “Hayy Ibn Yaqzan“ or “Living.
Ibn-Tufayl was a 12th century philosopher living in Andalusia, or Medieval Spain. He was originally a secretary for the ruler of Grenada and became a vizier to the Almohads. He eventually recommended his successor Averroes to the Almohad king in But like any good philosopher, he knows that he stands on the shoulders of his predecessors, and in the prologue written for the book, mentions them and talks about what he thinks about them before giving the account of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan.
He mentions three distinct men: Avicenna, Al-Ghazali, and Ibn-Bajja. He praises them in some ways, and dismisses them in others. And he says lbn his predecessor, Ibn-Bajja, while impressive, was not a mind of the same caliber of the other two, but still had a lot to be learned from. And then, after giving us an account of his predecessors which I cover here because I will be referring back to them throughout the posthe proceeds to tell the tale of Hayy Ibn-Yaqzan.
That the Earth not heated through convection or contact or motion, since the Sun is itself not hot, yaqzann the Earth is not moving, nor does the air heat evenly. The only conclusion then is that the sun heats according to its light, which is best absorbed by suitable ysqzan. Then the account is given for those who jayy not believe spontaneous generation is possible. Ibn-Tufayl explains that on an island opposite of haayy ideal island, there was a King, a tyrant really, who refused to allow his sister to marry until he found her a mate suitable for her.
After nursing it, in fear of her brother, she put it in a wooden yaaqzan and sent it away praying for God to watch it and protect it. Sure enough, it was protected, as it arrived on the island safely.
Ibn Tufayl’s Hayy Ibn Yaqzan
There the child started to cry and was rescued by a doe, a gazelle who had recently lost her own fawn and was feeling matronly, who decided to nurse Hayy until he was strong. We then get the second account, that of the spontaneous generation. Here, in harking back to the medical tradition that had come up before him, through Galen, Al-Razi and Avicenna, we see a detailed account of the generation of the human body from nothing.
The suitably prepared matter then began to form itself according to the human form, gaining organs and divided faculties for different functions.
Within these organs there is the heart, which contains the vital heat which is distributed throughout the body and keeps it functioning.
We see the brain formed to manage all the senses and help us to avoid what is harmful and pursue what is good, and we see the liver formed to manage our bodily humors and all our nutritive needs. Eventually, he developed blood vessels and nerves and the rest of the organs and burst out of the patch of fermented earth where he grew, so that he could be found crying by the doe.
And this is where the two stories reunite. Hayy grows strong among the deer, living and grazing amongst them. He and the doe were inseperable, she always leading him to good water and good food, helping him crack hard nuts open so he could eat them and they protected each other and spoke to each other in calls suited for animals.
Hayy soon learned to imitate the call of all animals, not just of Gazelle, and he could speak and communicate to them for the purposes he came upon. Soon though, Hayy began to notice he was unlike the other animals. All the other animals were well coated in fur, and he was not. Other animals had natural means of defense, such as antlers or horns, but he had none. As such, he was not particularly strong or fast either, and often found himself losing fruit when others tried to take it from him.
He also noticed that he was naked, that his genitals and other organs were open and exposed unlike the other animals, who had theirs well protected. And thus the seven-year old Hayy grieved. He grieved and put his mind about solving the matter, that he could come up with some way of protecting himself and covering himself. He tried at first to use leaves, but they failed miserably, the string always wearing out quickly and the leaves withering and dying so he had to remake it.
He began also to fashion spears and other primitive weapons, and used them to protect himself from the beasts, noting that he had better hands than the rest of them. Soon though, the doe died, and Hayy did not know what was happening. Hayy noted that when he shut his eyes or something was put in front of them, he ceased to be able to see until the obstruction was removed.
The same with his ears and other senses. He reasoned that his faculties could be obstructed and that if obstructed they could be restored by removing the obstruction. He however, could not find any visible obstruction on her outside, and concluded that it must be an internal obstruction, and if it is indeed an internal obstruction it must be an obstruction in a place that would cause all her faculties to cease if obstructed.
He reflects on his own experience and finds that indeed, he feels the presence of such an organ in his own body, the beating of which he cannot perceive himself as living without. It is why he shields it instinctively in fights, a hand will heal, this thing will not.
After breaking through the pericardium, he opens up the heart and finds that it has two halves, one of which is full of congealed blood, the other…empty. He concluded that the thing that had abandoned it before its own house came to ruin, would not return now that the body was mangled as it was. He thus decided that it was not bodies that mattered, but this principle that gives them life. This idea, that we are souls imprisoned in bodies wishing to escape is a very platonic concept that we see in many of the Aristotelian philosophers of the Arabic world.
He then buries the Gazelle and turns to contemplate upon the nature of this life-force.
Hayy ibn Yaqzan |
One hqyy however, a fire arises on the island by friction, and he was frightened, having never seen flames before. Hayy tended the flames day and night, and found them to be good for warmth and light, and noticed they tried to move upwards all the time.
He ayqzan that it must be one of the substances that the stars are made of, and continued to test its power by throwing different things into it. It was by this method, he accidentally discovered cooking. After this he began to hunt and to fish, in order to obtain more meat that he might throw upon the fire.
He began to admire the fire more and more, and noticed that whatever had departed from the doe, must also be similar to, if not identical with, the fire in front of him.
Because as long as animals lived they were warm, and when they died, they became cold. And so he went about doing so, soon discovering that there is a sort of, hot yqazan that animates all life.
And he began to become curious as to how animal parts were arranged in order to do this, and so he began his inquiry with dissection of many kinds to see kbn they were assembled. Soon he concluded that even though there were many different faculties within an animal, they were nonetheless one, and the hot vapor guided used the body like Hayy used his weapons. All these members were fitted to do their function, but none of them could function without the soul that was animating it.
He further taught himself to hunt and ride horses and to overcome greater problems and challenges of beasts that were faster than him or stronger than him. The things that generate and decay are plants and animals, and the things that do not are everything else, from rocks to water. He also comes to understand that the world is vastly diverse, but also very unified.
It is a multiplicity in a unity. He explains this by discussing how among animal kind, they vary only in their properties in the account of their matter. They however contain the same animating substance. He uses an analogy of bowls of different substances filled with varying amounts of water.
In some bowls the water gets colder, and in others it stays about the same temperature.
In others it is deeper and in others it is shallower. He also concluded the same thing about plants, and then that plants and animals are one.
Stones too receive their nature by how much of this warm air they receive namely, none. We return to the analogy that is used at the very beginning of the story, in that when this island receives light, it does not receive it like a transparent object, where light passes right through it, nor does it receive it like an opaque object that is not polished, which reflects poorly. Rather it receives light like a mirror, which after light hits it can start fires.
Rocks are like transparent objects, vegetables and animals are like the non-polished opaque objects, and man would be like the polished objects.
This is how he understood the idea of the Active Intellect sending forms. Then, Hayy begans to notice that fire always moves up and the other elements also tend to act according to their own natures, and that all objects have extension and form.
Because extension by itself is no object, but when conjoined with form it becomes an object. He stumbles upon the whole of Aristotelian physics in this cave through empirical observation. Everything must have a cause and so he got the idea that there had to be a maker of some kind. He then began to contemplate the heavens, and the bodies that were there.
He knew they were bodies, because they had extension, and he began to consider if they had infinite length or not. He concluded they could not by conducting a thought experiment. Only the far side admits of doubt. Nonetheless I know it is impossible for it to extend forever.
For if I imagine two lines beginning on this finite side, passing up through the body to infinity, as far as the body itself supposedly extends, and imagine a large segment cut from the finite end of one and the two placed side by side with the cut end of one opposite the uncut end of the other, and my mind travels along the two lines towards the so called infinite end, then I must discover either that the pair of lines really do extend to infinity, the one no shorter than the other, in which case the cut line ibb the intact one, which is absurd…or else that the one does not run the full length of the other but stops short of the full course, in which case it is finite.
But if the finite segment that was subtracted is restored, the whole is finite. Now it is neither shorter nor longer than the uncut line. They must be equal then. But one is finite so the other must be finite as well, and so must the body in which these lines were assumed to be drawn. Such lines can be assumed in any physical thing. Thus to postulate an infinitely extended physical body is fallacious and absurd. hayj
And have thus completed infinite rotations. But we see that in the time it takes for Jupiter to do two rotations, Saturn only completes one. Thus they do not have identical numbers of rotations, and this is simply an absurdity created by postulating an infinite universe. Hayy unsurprisingly agrees with Al-Ghazali on this idea, that actual infinities are impossible. Then he began to wonder whether or not the universe had been here forever, or if it too had been created!
Both arguments lead you back to a necessary being. If the universe indeed sprang up Ex-nihilo, then it could not have created itself, but must have had an immaterial cause in order to bring matter into existence.
It would be inaccessible to our senses or else it would be a body, and it should be impossible for him to be imagined either, as our imagination can only represent to us the forms of things in their absence.
And so he comes to a full Asharite understanding of God, like Al-Ghazali, believing God to be beyond imagination or senses to get at, by postulating a beginning of the universe.
He then postulates an eternal universe ignoring for a moment the difficulty of actual infinitiesand discovers that it also needs an immaterial creator.
Privacy & Cookies Policy
Necessary cookies are absolutely essential for the website to function properly. This category only includes cookies that ensures basic functionalities and security features of the website. These cookies do not store any personal information.