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PERCEIVING THINGS IN THEMSELVES: ABŪ L-BARAKĀT AL-BAĠDĀDĪ’S CRITIQUE OF REPRESENTATIONALISM

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  14 August 2020

Fedor Benevich*
Affiliation:
Ludwig-Maximilians Universität, München
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Abstract

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What are the proper objects of perception? Two famous responses to this question hold that they are either the images of extramental objects, that is, the way in which they appear to us (representationalism), or they are the objects themselves (direct realism). In this paper, I present an analysis of this issue by Abū l-Barakāt al-Baġdādī (d. 1164/65), a post-Avicennian scholar whose impact on the history of Islamic philosophy has been largely neglected. Abū l-Barakāt argued against the traditional Aristotelian-Avicennian epistemological dualism, which distinguishes between the sense-perception of material particulars and the conception of immaterial universals in terms of the perceiver  and/or  the  structure  of  perception.  In  Abū  l-Barakāt's  own  theory, all epistemic acts have the unified structure of direct relation between one and the same perceiver (immaterial soul) and the objects themselves – both material and immaterial. His main thesis is that having corporeal organs is not necessary for sense-perception. In the final section of the paper, I show that Abū l-Barakāt's critique of the Aristotelian-Avicennian tradition was received as a breakthrough in epistemology. It may have also determined the epistemological theories of two of the most important post-Avicennian Islamic philosophers: Faḫr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 1210) and Šihāb al-Dīn al-Suhrawardī (d. 1191).

Résumé

Résumé

Quels sont les objets de la perception ? Deux réponses célèbres à cette question soutiennent que ce sont soit les images des objets extramentaux, c'est-à-dire la façon dont ils nous apparaissent (représentationalisme), soit les objets eux-mêmes (réalisme direct). Dans cet article, je présente une analyse de cette question par Abū l-Barakāt al-Baġdādī (m. 1164/65), un savant post-avicennien dont l'impact sur l'histoire de la philosophie islamique a été largement négligé. Abū l-Barakāt s'est opposé au dualisme épistémologique traditionnel aristotélicien-avicennien, qui établit une distinction entre la perception sensorielle des particuliers matériels et la conception des universaux immatériels, notamment en ce qui concerne le percevant et/ou la structure de la perception. Selon la théorie d'Abū l-Barakāt, tous les actes épistémiques ont la structure unifiée d'une relation directe entre un même percevant (l’âme immatérielle) et les objets eux-mêmes – matériels et immatériels. Sa thèse principale consiste à dire qu'avoir des organes corporels n'est pas nécessaire pour la perception sensorielle. Dans la dernière section de cet article, je montre que la critique d'Abū l-Barakāt de la tradition aristotélicienne-avicennienne fut considérée comme une innovation révolutionnaire en épistémologie. Cela peut avoir déterminé les théories épistémologiques de deux des philosophes arabes postavicenniens les plus importants : Faḫr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (m. 1210) et Šihāb al-Dīn al-Suhrawardī (m. 1191).

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Creative Common License - CCCreative Common License - BY
This is an Open Access article, distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution licence (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted re-use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.
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Copyright © The Author(s), 2020. Published by Cambridge University Press
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