full size Velikiy Sheikh Sufizma. Opyt paradigmal'nogo analiza filosofii Ibn Arabi (The Great Shaykh of Sufism. A Sample of Paradigmatic Analysis of lbn 'Arabi's Philosophy). Moscow, 1993, 327 p. (in Russian, with the first full Russian translation of Ibn `Arabi's Fusus al-Hikam "Bezels of Wisdom")



This book, entitled The Great Shaykh of Sufism (a Sample of Paradigmatic Analysis of lbn 'Arabi's Philosophy), presents lbn 'Arabi's ideas in the form of an integral philosophical system. The scholars acquainted with the texts of the Great Shaykh would agree that such a task is far from being easy. Neither Fusus al-Hikam (Bezels of Wisdom) nor al-Futuhat al-Makkiya (Revelations of Mecca), the two major philosophical works of the Great Shaykh, though differing in style, offer a logical structure and a systematic presentation as far as his philosophical ideas are concerned. Moreover, too many an issue is discussed in different contexts, and various (sometimes even contradictory) solutions are offered. There needs to be an integral idea of lbn 'Arabi's philosophy if one wants to adequately understand each of his theses, while such an idea follows from an adequate understanding of all his philosophical views. The first step towards comprehending the Great Shaykh's philosophy would be to break this hermeneutic circle.

Thus the primary task was to get an idea of an overall scheme underlying lbn 'Arabi's philosophic research. This task being accomplished, one could read his texts anew and fill in the concrete material thus testing and correcting the primary logical scheme, while the adjusted scheme would, in its turn, make it possible to reach a higher level of understanding the texts. To make use of such a procedure I had to assume that, first, there is such an overall logical scheme of lbn 'Arabi's philosophy, and, second, that one can obtain it not only from his texts: both assumptions were, of course, only hypotheses to be tested. The second one could stand true only if the phenomenon called "medieval Arabic philosophy" proved to be homogeneous, this homogeneity being based on the fact that the logic of building up a philosophical system common to all medieval Arabic philosophers prevails over heterogeneous influences.

The analysis of the major schools of medieval Arabic philosophy (Kalam, peripatetism and Isma'ilism) verified the homogeneity hypothesis. The discovered common logical basis of these schools was formulated as a set of fundamental problems which any philosopher of that time had to pose in order to proceed with the philosophic explanation of the Universe. The differences between the above-mentioned schools boil down to initially different solutions of these basic problems. Moreover, the development of medieval Arabic philosophical thought proved to be logically consistent: each new attempt undertaken to solve these basic problems (and thus constituting a new major trend) is aimed at overcoming the contradictions of the previous one. Within the framework of suchlike understanding of the process of historical development of philosophy the concept of paradigm is relevant, though in this case its sense is rather different from what was initially meant by T. Kuhn.

Thus I've arrived at the conclusion that a study of historical development of philosophical thought can be undertaken with the help of the paradigmatic method. This method is described and the results of its application are summarized in the first chapter of the book The historical development of Arabic philosophical thought in 9th-12th centuries”.

The paradigmatic study of medieval Arabic philosophy provided a necessary clue to deciphering the philosophical texts of lbn 'Arabi. Many a scholar has noted that his philosophy is far from looking homogeneous. Perhaps the metaphor of a multi-measure space is relevant for describing this peculiarity of the Great Shaykh's thought: reading his texts one gets the impression of invisible bounds that stand in the way of linking different problems together, as if these bounds can't be surpassed by mere logical reasoning; sometimes two or three different solutions of the problem discussed are given in the same context without any explicit explanation of such a diversity. This fact is usually either ignored at all or declared to be the result of the author's inner contradictions, or the impossibility of incorporating the mystical experience within the narrow framework of philosophical discourse, etc.

All such explanations have one common feature: they proceed from the presumption that it would be "unnatural" for one philosophical system to consist of parallel (in a sense even incompatible) levels of thought and so strive to eliminate this fact one way or another. But quite the opposite should be done, I believe, to understand lbn 'Arabi's philosophy: this diversity of levels of thought is to be made the fundamental principle of explanation.

This approach proceeds from the assumption (shared by lbn 'Arabi) that there are three kinds of cognition exhausting all possible relations between its subject and object (first, them being independent of each other; second, partially merged together; third, indistinguishable from one another). Different levels of lbn 'Arabi's thought are represented by philosophical knowledge resulting from these three kinds of cognition; a notion of philosopheme is adopted to denote each of these levels.

Thus the overall system of lbn 'Arabi is described as consisting of three philosophemes, each one giving a systematic philosophical explanation of the Universe adequate to what is required by the paradigm of medieval Arabic philosophy. These three kinds of cognition (rational, intuitive and mystical) and philosophemes corresponding to them are described in the second chapter of the book lbn 'Arabi's philosophy: the analysis”.

The three philosophemes are not just mechanically joined together to make up an overall philosophical system of lbn 'Arabi. Their synthesis is, organic, and, as such, it demands a special element not incorporated by synthesized subsystems (i. e., philosophemes) but linking them into an integral system. Such synthesizing element in the Great Shaykh's philosophy is the conception of “new creation”. Within the framework of the integral system the philosophemes gain a content somewhat richer than that disclosed by analytical investigation. The structure and content of lbn 'Arabi's integral philosophical system are treated in the third chapter “Ibn 'Arabi's philosophy: the synthesis”. Among other, the problems of atomic structure of time, the relation between the temporal and the eternal and the implications of these concepts for lbn 'Arabi's understanding of causality are investigated.

In the Conclusion an attempt is made at testing the prognostic force of the paradigmatic method. The actual history of philosophical thought is far, I believe, from exhausting all the possibilities of constructing philosophical knowledge that are opened on each of its stages. The paradigmatic method proves to be effective in disclosing such lines of development which, though not actually realized, were nevertheless prepared by the preceding history of thought. In this book such virtual possibilities for further development of Arabic philosophy, based on lbn 'Arabi's ideas, are analyzed.

In the Appendix the reader will find the full Russian translation of the “Bezels of Wisdom” (Fusus al-Hikam), the work written in the last years of the Great Shaykh's life and presenting all of his major philosophical ideas, the commentary on it and a glossary of lbn 'Arabi's philosophical terms.