Saturday, April 19, 2014

524: Al Farabi

Let’s listen to some words of Al Farabi (died c. 950): “The substance of the First is a substance from which every existent emanates, however it may be, whether perfect or deficient. 

But the substance of the First is also such that all the existents, when they emanate from it, are arranged in an order of rank, and that every existent gets its allotted share and rank of existence from it. 

It starts with the most perfect existent and is followed by something a little less perfect than it. (..) Inasmuch as the substance of the First is a substance from which all the existence emanate, 

... it is generous and its generosity is in its substance; and inasmuch as all the existents receive their order of rank from it, ... the First is just.”

Are you still with me? I don’t think that you’ll hear such words from a contemporary philosopher anymore and yet for some reason scholars were impressed by them in those days.

For al-Farabl, the First Cause is the summit of existence, uncaused, self-subsistent, unmoved, intrinsically perfect; even so, the lower levels of existence mirror its perfection. 

The human soul and the human body are also governed hierarchically: In the body, the heart rules and is followed by the brain, under which all other organs are subordinated. 

Likewise, human society is arranged in orders of perfection: The ruler of this excellent city stands in relation to his subjects as the First Cause stands in relation to all other existents. 

The order of existence is thus not only hierarchical but microcosmic: Each order of being is such that it mirrors a higher order and is itself reflected in a lower.

But why did they believe in such metaphysical theories then? One important reason, in my opinion, is the influence of religion and the other is Aristotle. What he had achieved was unique.

He had created order in thinking. For instance, now we call it “Set Theory” and we use Venn Diagrams, but in those days it was a impressive innovation: logic 

The basic rule is, that if  in a valid reasoning the premises were true, the conclusion is also necessarily true. Just imagine, whatever you say, you can not deny the truth of the conclusion!

And with the universal ideas (Plato) or categories (Aristotle) he had organized our observations. Everything could be classified under a general name, the genus, 

and differentiated from other things of the same genus by a specific property, so that you get a species, like man = living being with rationality; animal = living being without rationality.

Thus was the discovery of Al Farabi and as with Aristotle his logic falls into two divisions, the first of these comprising the doctrine of Ideas and Definitions and the second, the doctrine of Judgments, Inferences, and Proofs. 

Ideas have in themselves no relation to reality, that is to say, they are neither true nor false. Among 'Ideas' Al Farabi recognizes here the simplest psychological forms, that is, both the representations of individual objects arising from Sense-Perception, 

and those ideas which have been stamped upon the mind from the First Intellect, such as the Necessary, the Actual, the Possible. The real metaphysical ideas, of which we ask ourselves now: where did he get them from?

Such representations and ideas are immediately certain. A man's mind may be directed to these, and his soul made observant of them, 

but they cannot be demonstrated to him, nor can they be explained by deriving them from what is known, seeing that they are already clear in themselves, and that too with the highest degree of certitude.

In the latter it is as if you hear Descartes, who also claimed to know such clear  and certain ideas. There metaphysical explanation was then and is now clear: they come from The First Mover, The First Intellect, God.  

Such line of thinking, put into the machinery of Aristotelian logic has burdened us for centuries with all kinds of almost cosmological theories.

One of the last, who closed the door on this approach was Thomas Fludd, who in 1617 stil created the pictures behind  me, where you can see the geocentric structure of the Macrocosmos and how man is connected to the cosmos.

Such descriptions of reality you now only find but esoteric philosophies today,

Thank you.... ^_^

The Discussion

[13:31] herman Bergson: You endured it quite well, I must say :-))
[13:32] .: Beertje :.: hmm..may I ask..were is the woman in this? are only talking about man...
[13:32] herman Bergson: fell asleep ^_^
[13:32] Lizzy Pleides: there's nothing to endure
[13:32] herman Bergson: Beertje...
[13:32] herman Bergson: The first project ever I did was about 100 philosophers
[13:33] herman Bergson: among them were TWO women!
[13:33] .: Beertje :.: and?...
[13:33] Lizzy Pleides: 98 men
[13:33] herman Bergson: So my next project was about woman philosophers
[13:34] .: Beertje :.: a short project?
[13:34] herman Bergson: I had found 35 women through the ages :-)
[13:34] .: Beertje :.: but all those philosophers talk about man..even the picture in the circle is a far as I can see....
[13:34] Areyn Laurasia: yet we outnumber attendance in the class 3:1
[13:35] herman Bergson: the other one it is a woman :-)
[13:35] Areyn Laurasia: perhaps it's more symbolic.. like woman is mother earth.. and nature
[13:35] herman Bergson: and a second problem is that women in Arabaic culture do not count that much
[13:36] herman Bergson: Don’t blame me for that :-)
[13:38] .: Beertje :.: i can't discus this lecture's far beyond my head...sorry
[13:38] herman Bergson: What I don’t feel is what they must have feelt in those days........
[13:38] herman Bergson: They were franticly translating the works of Aristotle and Plato in those days.....
[13:39] herman Bergson: I think it must have felt the same as for us a new book of our favorite author
[13:39] Areyn Laurasia: Seems they were more open to the free flow and sharing of knowledge.
[13:39] herman Bergson: and besides that.....if a book was many copies were there....?
[13:40] herman Bergson: this was of course only an issue of the ruling class
[13:40] herman Bergson: The calif financed the translations
[13:40] herman Bergson: Maybe...the more knowledge the more power..?
[13:41] .: Beertje :.: most translations are not very secure
[13:41] Qwark Allen: i`ll say , the less the population know, the easier to control it
[13:41] .: Beertje :.: maybe they wrote what the kalief would hear or read?
[13:41] Lizzy Pleides: still today we say that knowledge is power
[13:41] herman Bergson: no Beertje.....
[13:42] herman Bergson: They had a deep respect for the greek philosophers, especially Aristotle...
[13:42] herman Bergson: I really wonder how it was in those days......
[13:42] Areyn Laurasia: The world today could use more of the same openness from those days.
[13:43] Lizzy Pleides: we need a time machine
[13:43] .: Beertje :.: but there are always words that can't be translated...look in our own language..."gezelligheid" doesn't exist in any other language
[13:43] herman Bergson: Was there someone waiting impatiently for the translation of the next page for instance?
[13:43] herman Bergson: Of course they ran into such difficulties Beertje...they are also documented
[13:44] herman Bergson: also
[13:44] herman Bergson: Same happened with the Jesuits in China....
[13:44] herman Bergson: Chinese had no word for God in the monotheistic catholic sense...
[13:45] herman Bergson: Bu the works of Aristotle are rather technical....
[13:45] herman Bergson: on reasoning, classification, definition.....
[13:47] Qwark Allen: would be very abstract the meaning of God to the chinese
[13:47] .: Beertje :.: could the population ..the common man and the book?
[13:47] herman Bergson: no, I don’t think so.....
[13:48] herman Bergson: In India education was accessible for everybody who showed intelligence.....
[13:48] Qwark Allen: in those days education was not for the comon population
[13:48] herman Bergson: Bu tint the Arabic world.....?
[13:48] herman Bergson: I don’t know...
[13:48] herman Bergson: and not for women ....
[13:48] Qwark Allen: ahahaha true
[13:49] Qwark Allen: should be much worst then now for sure
[13:49] Qwark Allen: maybe in the monasteries
[13:49] herman Bergson: Which was the same in Europe for cnturies too btw :-)
[13:49] Qwark Allen: yes
[13:49] Qwark Allen: darn dark ages
[13:50] herman Bergson: From an intellectual point of view they werent dark at all
[13:50] Qwark Allen: they were to the mass population
[13:50] herman Bergson: scholarship and education were at a high standard....
[13:50] Qwark Allen: for the rich
[13:50] Qwark Allen: °͜° l ☺ ☻ ☺ l °͜°
[13:50] Qwark Allen: lol
[13:50] .: Beertje :.: yes for the happy few
[13:51] herman Bergson: yes and those knights were peasants :-)
[13:51] Qwark Allen: ehehh
[13:51] herman Bergson: Well around 1700 there were only a handful of real scientific minds in Europe.....
[13:51] Areyn Laurasia: How many philosophers through the ages have an interest in science as well?
[13:52] herman Bergson: Well...started with Pythagoras and Archimede
[13:52] .: Beertje :.: and how many arabic philosophers?
[13:52] herman Bergson: then the real "scientist” were the alchemists
[13:52] herman Bergson: all of them Beertje....
[13:53] herman Bergson: they were specialized in astronomy mathematics medicine......that was common practice
[13:53] herman Bergson: that is the big historical issue....
[13:54] herman Bergson: till 1100 they were the greatest mathematicians present on earth....
[13:54] herman Bergson: all their wisdom reached Europe through Spain....
[13:54] herman Bergson: and after 1200 all was gone....
[13:54] Lizzy Pleides: they were polymaths
[13:54] herman Bergson: yes Lizzy....
[13:54] .: Beertje :.: why was it gone after 1200?
[13:54] Qwark Allen: in a way they are still in the dark ages
[13:54] Qwark Allen: °͜° l ☺ ☻ ☺ l °͜°
[13:54] Qwark Allen: lol
[13:54] herman Bergson: But is disappeared into the desert
[13:54] .: Beertje :.: what happend?
[13:55] herman Bergson: I really don’t know what caused this development
[13:55] Qwark Allen: come to my mind the same fate of karl marx ideas
[13:55] Areyn Laurasia:
[13:55] Lizzy Pleides: religious fanatics probably?
[13:55] herman Bergson: The  only explanation I can think of that they just went down fighting their religious wors
[13:56] Qwark Allen: think... the less the population know, the easier to control it
[13:56] .: Beertje :.: yes Qwark,,that was in Europe in the last century too
[13:57] herman Bergson: Abbasids.....isnt that the period of religious wars..fitnas or something like that?
[13:57] Lizzy Pleides: in spain the muslims must have been still very tolerant
[13:57] Qwark Allen: they kept the religion part to control the population, and reduced the access to knowledge to everyone
[13:57] .: Beertje :.: yes
[13:57] .: Beertje :.: true
[13:57] Qwark Allen: if you look in the recent past
[13:57] Qwark Allen: you have karl marx
[13:57] Areyn Laurasia: No idea.. but I thought it was a time of great growth and knowledge until 1258 when the the Abbasid caliphate got broken up.
[13:58] herman Bergson: yes...that was it Areyn.....
[13:58] Qwark Allen: still think that its much worst to the arabians
[13:58] Qwark Allen: its like a milenia under this totalitarian system
[13:59] herman Bergson: I think  that the imams have taken over since 1258....and stayed in power since then
[13:59] Areyn Laurasia: They were doing better then.. while the East-West schism happened in 1054..
[13:59] herman Bergson: which meant total stagnation
[13:59] Qwark Allen: yes herman, terrible
[14:00] herman Bergson: Like I said in a previous lecture......
[14:00] herman Bergson: Arabs aren’t fighting each other individually like we do....
[14:00] Areyn Laurasia: have a read at the wiki, Qwark :) I was enlightened.
[14:01] herman Bergson: they fight as one group of believers agains another group which they see as non believers
[14:01] herman Bergson: since 640 they have been fighting religious wars among each other
[14:02] herman Bergson: and in Syria today they still do
[14:02] .: Beertje :.: is there nobody that thinks.,.what are we doing???
[14:02] herman Bergson: like in other parts where tribal and religous groups coincide
[14:03] herman Bergson: no Beertje, that is not how masses operate....
[14:03] Lizzy Pleides: they think they get to heaven directly when they die for their ideals
[14:03] herman Bergson: even in a group...when one asks...he man what are we doing, he might be shot imediately  as a non believer
[14:03] Areyn Laurasia: How's that, Beertje?
[14:04] .: Beertje :.: how is what Areyn?
[14:04] Areyn Laurasia: The questions about what are we doing?
[14:04] herman Bergson: we are not so much different......
[14:04] herman Bergson: Who has the guts in a group to question authority?
[14:05] .: Beertje :.: uhmm..i don't know what you mean
[14:05] Qwark Allen: eheheh
[14:05] Areyn Laurasia: What are we doing in the class now or in general? I was trying to understand the context.
[14:05] herman Bergson: Look at the PVV fractie :-)
[14:05] .: Beertje :.: ja...
[14:05] .: Beertje :.: treurig
[14:06] herman Bergson: We are looking at the history of Arabic philosphy Areyn
[14:06] .: Beertje :.: [14:02] Beertje Beaumont: is there nobody that thinks.,.what are we doing???..I ment ..those people in Arabia...
[14:06] Lizzy Pleides: could you explain that please? PVV fractie?
[14:06] herman Bergson: and at this moment in particular at the great influence of Greek philosophy on Arabic philosophy.....
[14:07] Areyn Laurasia: yes, I was refering to Beertje's question :)
[14:07] herman Bergson: PVV is a right wing party....fraktie is a dutch word...for the group im parlement...
[14:08] Lizzy Pleides: Fraktion in german
[14:08] Qwark Allen: omg, i have to go
[14:08] herman Bergson: Google translates it as Parlementairy group
[14:08] Qwark Allen: was really nice this class herman!!!
[14:08] .: Beertje :.: bye Qwark:)
[14:08] Areyn Laurasia: bye Qwark
[14:08] Qwark Allen: ˜*•. ˜”*°•.˜”*°•  Bye !  •°*”˜.•°*”˜ .•*˜  
[14:08] Qwark Allen: for now
[14:09] herman Bergson: Ye sindeed it is geting late!!!!!1
[14:09] Lizzy Pleides: TC Qwark
[14:09] Qwark Allen: 10 minutes past
[14:09] Qwark Allen: °͜° l ☺ ☻ ☺ l °͜°
[14:09] Qwark Allen: lol
[14:09] .: Beertje :.: I have to go's late....thank you Herman for this wonderfull lecture
[14:09] Qwark Allen: we got distracted with the discussion
[14:09] Qwark Allen: which is a good sign
[14:09] Qwark Allen: ^^
[14:09] Areyn Laurasia: wonders now what PVV has to do with arabic philosophy :)
[14:09] herman Bergson: ok....emergency Class Dismissed :-)
[14:10] Lizzy Pleides: lol
[14:10] Qwark Allen: °͜° l ☺ ☻ ☺ l °͜°
[14:10] Qwark Allen: lol
[14:10] .: Beertje :.: Goodnight and sweet dreams about any 'fraktie'
[14:10] Lizzy Pleides: thank you herman, byeeee
[14:10] herman Bergson: I'd rather not
[14:10] Areyn Laurasia: Happy Easter for those who celebrate and happy chocolate weekend to the rest :)
[14:10] .: Beertje :.: lol
[14:11] Areyn Laurasia: good night :)
[14:11] herman Bergson: Good night Areyn :-))

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