Ibn Rushd’s Understanding of Philosophy of KnowledgeJune 27, 2021
Epistemology (philosophy of knowledge), which is derived from the episteme used as the equivalent of the word knowledge in ancient Greek, is one of the basic disciplines of philosophy.
The discipline of epistemology is one of the most discussed disciplines in philosophy. There is hardly any philosopher in the history of philosophy who has not dealt with the problem of knowledge. “What is knowledge?”, “What is the source of knowledge?”, “Is correct information possible?”, “What are the types of knowledge?”, which are among the basic questions of this basic discipline. Almost every philosopher has come to terms with such questions. One of these philosophers is Ibn Rushd.
According to Ibn Rushd, knowing something means knowing the reasons for it. Ibn Rushd actually followed his master Aristotle here. According to Aristotle, “this science (philosophy) is a science that studies first principles and causes”. The first principles and causes are four: the material cause, the formal cause, the efficient cause, and the final cause.
Ibn Rushd accepts these four reasons as mentioned by Aristotle. The most important of these is that which enables something to come into existence from non-existence; In other words, it is the active cause that realizes the target cause by giving form to the amorphous matter. The material, formal, and final cause is dependent on the active cause, but the active cause is independent. There is no similarity between the active cause (the first agent), which is the cause of everything, and the causes (agents) that appear in the sensible world and whose power is limited, except for the common name.
The First Agent (God), also called the First Intellect, is essentially pure action, cause, and effective knowledge. Therefore, his knowledge cannot be compared with human knowledge. The First Perpetrator is at the end of the chain of causes. The aim of philosophy is to try to reach its knowledge. He is the owner of the real knowledge, the will. His knowledge is perfect and he knows everything that is the manifestation of this knowledge, whereas our knowledge is incomplete.
Our first knowledge is the knowledge we get from the sensible world. Man gradually knows the sensible world (the known) through his senses. There is no difference between knowledge and the known, except that the known is in matter and knowledge is not in matter. Human knowledge is about the existing. This information is called correct information when appropriate. He expresses this in his comment to On Interpretation:
“… if someone says a certain thing is white and what he says is true, then there must be (something) white outside the soul.”
Although knowledge is related to something outside the soul and its correctness is revealed by its suitability for that thing, it is ultimately a product of the soul. Because “yes” and “negative”, which are the two types that we can separate all judgments for, are functions that the soul performs, they appear in the soul. Therefore, in order to explain how knowledge is revealed, it is necessary to explain both the processes that go through the soul until this product comes out and how the assurance that the product that comes out at the end of these processes corresponds to reality. Ibn Rushd describes the processes in the soul that reveal knowledge in his commentary on Aristotle’s On the Spirit. Here we talk about the five faculties of the soul: perception, imagination, material mind, active mind, speculative mind.
First the senses and then the mind play a role in acquiring knowledge. The senses have different power in each person. For example, the eyesight of healthy people is stronger than the sight of the sick, and the sight of young people is stronger than that of the elderly. At this point, Ibn Rushd includes the following words of Aristotle “…if an old person had an eye that a young person has, he would see it as a young person sees” In addition to this difference in sensory powers between people, there are also sensory errors.
Because of these illusions, a straight stick immersed in water appears to be broken, when a hand coming out of a hot water is put into warm water, the water feels colder than it is, and “the sun, which is about a hundred and seventy times larger than the earth, appears to the eye the size of a foot.” Perceived surrogates are relative. For example, color exists in the body because of its essence. The fact that color is a cause of seeing is because it depends on something else: seeing has a being only in relation to it.
The senses are the primary source of our knowledge, because through them we abstract forms from bodies. According to Ibn Rushd, sensible objects have degrees of existence. The knowledge of the higher-order object is more abstract than that of the lower-order object. For example, it is seen that there are several degrees of color that are superior to each other in terms of existence: the lowest degree is its existence in the body. The higher being of color is its being in the eye, because being is the being of color that grasps its own essence.
Since its being in the first matter is an inanimate being, it cannot grasp its own essence. Color also has an existence in the imagination, and this existence is superior to its existence in vision. Again, he has a higher being in memory than in imagination. Finally, the mind has a being that is superior to all beings. As it can be understood from these explanations, correct information can only be obtained through the senses.