The Quest for Self-Knowledge: Afdal al-Din Kashani (d.1213, Maraq, Kashan)

 Baba Afdal for one reminds us repeatedly that what we understand of the world is nothing but our own understanding. Perception and finding are not situated “out there” but “in here.”  As he writes in one passage, “Nothing can be reached through the meaning of speech but the meaning of self

Excerpts: The Heart of Islamic Philosophy, William Chittick, Suhail Academy, Lahore, p.45-46                                     

Psychology: Soul and Intellect

“What is important for the Muslim philosophers is the qualities that appear in the things, not the things themselves. The qualities give each thing its own “specificity” (khassiyya), that is, the attributes and the characteristics that set it apart from other things. Whether or not a thing is there, its specificity is always real, because the specificity is a unity of qualities that derive from the Necessary in Existence, the Eternal Real. One of the philosopher’s tasks is to know the things’s reality (haqiqa), that is, the thing as it is in itself, which is the unity of its individual specificities….One can say that the philosophical concern with qualities and specificities,  rather than with quantifiable things, means that the cosmological thinking of philosophers like Baba Afdal is not “scientific,” but rather logical, psychological, and epistemological. In other words, philosophers focus not on things as found in the external, physical realm, but on the things as known…

It follows that Islamic cosmology is not discussing the cosmos per se, but rather the human self and the nature of our awareness of what we call the “cosmos”. ..The philosophers knew very well that any description of the cosmos goes back to the structure of the human psyche and thought. Baba Afdal for one reminds us repeatedly that what we understand of the world is nothing but our own understanding. Perception and finding are not situated “out there” but “in here.” As he writes in one passage, “Nothing can be reached through the meaning of speech but the meaning of self” (Musannafat 694:HIP 138).

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