Published online by Cambridge University Press: 01 September 2007
In this paper, my aim is to offer some comments on the study of Mu‘tazilite kalām, framed around the study of a particular episode in the Mu‘tazilite dispute about man (‘mā huwa al-insān’) – a question with a deceptively Aristotelian cadence that is not too difficult to dispel. Within this episode, my focus is on one of the major arguments used by the late Baṣrans to hold up their side of the dispute (a side heavily indebted to Abū Hāshim’s ontological innovations), and on the relationship between the mental and the physical (or the subjective and objective) which emerges from it. The most interesting – and most surprising – aspect of this relationship is that the mental and the physical do not seem to be treated as distinct terms, thus creating the space for questions about how the two relate. The first person perspective seems to be identified with the physical body. My interest then is in the response of the reader to this surprising presentation – or rather, in a certain kind of reader response, and thus a certain kind of interpretive mode, whose value and viability it is part of my aim to help clarify.