Farabi’s Philosophy of Knowledge, Her Understanding of EpistemologyJune 27, 2021
In Fârâbî, the problem of knowledge has two basic dimensions, one related to psychology and the other to logic.
Knowledge is a phenomenon that takes place in the human mind at the end of a psychological process with various stages. In this respect, Fârâbî tries to base the problem of knowledge within the framework of the concepts of nafs and reason. According to him, the connection between thought and being takes place through form. The form, which expresses determination at the species level, is in a way the same as the definition; therefore, the equivalent of an existent in the mind is a form.
On the other hand, the form that corresponds to the distinction (fasl) and knowing the close genus in the context of the definition corresponds to the middle term in qiyas. According to Fârâbî, there are two types of existence of the form, in the external world and in the mind: The first of these is the presence of the form in the body; The body consists of matter that has already taken a form, and everything in the field of natural existence has a form. The second one emerges in three stages or in three ways: in the senses, in the imagination, and in the mind. While the image of particular beings such as “that tree”, “that horse” and “Ahmet” is perceived directly in the sense stage, a complete abstraction does not occur in the imagination, but particular objects are perceived not with their individual characteristics but with their generic dimensions. In the last stage, the mind, on the other hand, is conceived as a universal that is completely purged or abstracted from particular features. Therefore, knowing is an abstraction process that takes place in the mind through the senses and imagination. (Aydinli, 2008: 55-56)
Fârâbî, who shows that he does not adopt Plato’s “naturist” theory by considering sense perception as the beginning of knowledge within the framework of this approach, acts like a “sensualist” about the source of knowledge. He refers to the theory of psychological minds, which has continued in the Peripatetic tradition since Aristotle, while explaining how the impressions coming from the senses and imagination are processed by the mind or how the mind performs the function of abstraction.
Psychological minds theory is based on Aristotle’s power-verb distinction. According to him, passive mind, which is a power of the human soul, cannot abstract and produce knowledge by itself, since something in a state of power cannot come into the field of action by itself. Therefore, there must be a factor in constant action that takes him out of the power state into the realm of action. According to Aristotle, it is the active or active mind, which affects the human mind in a state of power from the outside and is always active.
Muallim-i Sânî Fârâbî was the thinker who examined this distinction between passive and active mind, which was interpreted in various ways after Muallim-i Evvel, with all its dimensions in his various works. (Rock, 1995: 152)
According to him, the mind is primarily divided into two as practical and theoretical. The practical (practical) mind is the mind that is effective in revealing all kinds of human-specific balanced behavior. According to the philosopher, it is practical reason that enables knowledge and achievements related to morality and politics that regulate individual, family and state administration, as well as human achievements related to arts and techniques such as maritime, carpentry, farming and medicine. Theoretical (theoretical) mind, on the other hand, consists of the development and maturation of the soul substance and its transformation into the substance of the mind, and theoretical disciplines such as mathematics, physics and metaphysics, which are independent of human will and doing, and precise knowledge in these fields are his work. In the subject-object relationship, the impressions that come from the senses and become partially abstract in the imagination are processed by the theoretical mind in a three-stage process, which Fârâbî calls the knowledge at each stage. The first of these stages (a) is the “intellect in power” (al-aklü’lheyûlânî, al-akl bi’l-quvve). In a way, this mind, which is a part or power of the nafs or the soul, has the power to abstract and conceptualize the forms of existence. The powerful mind, which the philosopher likens to a smooth wax that has not been stamped, cannot act on its own, abstract and produce knowledge without the influence of the active mind. Fârâbî tries to explain this relationship with the relationship between the sun and the eye; Just as the eye cannot perceive the colors and shapes of the being unless it sends the sunlight and illuminates the environment, the weak mind cannot produce concepts and know nothing unless it sends the active intelligence. In the second stage (b) there is “intellect in action” (elaql bi’l-fi’l), which is the activation of the mind in power. At this stage, the mind reaches concepts and information completely independent of matter or particularity by abstraction. In this way, as a person knows himself, he acquires universal and a priori knowledge and identifies with them, just as a candle on which a stamp is imprinted turns into a stamp. The third stage, which the philosopher (c) calls “acquired intellect” (al-aklu’l-mustefad), is the highest level that man can reach. Since it is open to intuition and inspiration, the acquired mind, which has nothing to do with sense perceptions, is now ready to establish a relationship (ittissal) with the active mind. Man attains the possibility of theoretical thinking and reasoning only at the stage of acquired reason. The hierarchy that is valid in the whole of Fârâbî’s thought system is also in question here, and the previous mind is material for the next.