Islamic Garden

Islamic Garden
Islamic Garden in Lausanne, Switzerland

Friday, January 9, 2009

Baseline on Medieval Islamic Psychology

Intellect and consciousness studies (Courtesy of Wikipedia).

Further information: Avicennism - Thought experiments on self-consciousness

In the philosophy of mind, certain hadiths indicate that dreams consist of three parts, and early Muslim scholars also recognized three different kinds of dreams: false dreams, patho-genetic dreams, and true dreams.[10]

One of the earliest Muslim psychological thinkers was Abu Bakr Muhammad Ibn Sirin (654–728), who was renowned for his Ta’bir al-Ru’ya and Muntakhab al-Kalam fi Tabir al-Ahlam, a book on dreams. The work is divided into 25 sections on dream interpretation, from the etiquette of interpreting dreams to the interpretation of reciting certain Surahs of the Qur'an in one's dream. He writes that it is important for a layperson to seek assistance from a an Alim (Muslim scholar) who could guide in the interpretation of dreams with a proper understanding of the cultural context and other such causes and interpretations.[13] Al-Kindi (Alkindus) (801–873) also wrote a treatise on dream interpretation entitled On Sleep and Dreams.[14]

Al-Farabi (Alpharabius) was a pioneer of social psychology and a pioneer in music therapy and dream interpretation.

In consciousness studies, al-Farabi (Alpharabius) (872-951) wrote the On the Cause of Dreams, which appeared as chapter 24 of his Book of Opinions of the people of the Ideal City, was a treatise on dreams, in which he was the first to distinguish between dream interpretation and the nature and causes of dreams.[15]

Avicenna (Ibn Sina) (980-1037), while he was imprisoned in the castle of Fardajan near Hamadhan, wrote his famous "Floating Man" thought experiment to demonstrate human self-awareness and self-consciousness and the substantiality of the soul. He referred to the living human intelligence, particularly the active intellect, which he believed to be the hypostasis by which God communicates truth to the human mind and imparts order and intelligibility to nature. His "Floating Man" thought experiment tells its readers to imagine themselves suspended in the air, isolated from all sensations, which includes no sensory contact with even their own bodies. He argues that, in this scenario, one would still have self-consciousness. He thus concludes that the idea of the self is not logically dependent on any physical thing, and that the soul should not be seen in relative terms, but as a primary given, a substance.[16] Avicenna also wrote about the potential intellect (within man) and active intellect (outside man) and that cognition cannot be produced mechanically but involves intuition at every stage. As an analogy, he compares the ordinary human mind to a mirror upon which a succession of ideas reflects from the active intellect. He writes that a mirror can be rusty at first (i.e. before acquiring knowledge from the active intellect), but when the mirror is polished (i.e. when one thinks), the mirror can then readily reflect light from the Sun (i.e. the active intellect).[17]

H. Chad Hillier writes the following on the contributions made by Averroes (Ibn Rushd) (1126-1198) to the field of psychology:[18]

"There is evidence of some evolution in Ibn Rushd's thought on the intellect, notably in his Middle Commentary on De Anima where he combines the positions of Alexander and Themistius for his doctrine on the material intellect and in his Long Commentary and the Tahafut where Ibn Rushd rejected Alexander and endorsed Themistius’ position that "material intellect is a single incorporeal eternal substance that becomes attached to the imaginative faculties of individual humans." Thus, the human soul is a separate substance ontologically identical with the active intellect; and when this active intellect is embodied in an individual human it is the material intellect. The material intellect is analogous to prime matter, in that it is pure potentiality able to receive universal forms. As such, the human mind is a composite of the material intellect and the passive intellect, which is the third element of the intellect. The passive intellect is identified with the imagination, which, as noted above, is the sense-connected finite and passive faculty that receives particular sensual forms. When the material intellect is actualized by information received, it is described as the speculative (habitual) intellect. As the speculative intellect moves towards perfection, having the active intellect as an object of thought, it becomes the acquired intellect. In that, it is aided by the active intellect, perceived in the way Aristotle had taught, to acquire intelligible thoughts. The idea of the soul's perfection occurring through having the active intellect as a greater object of thought is introduced elsewhere, and its application to religious doctrine is seen. In the Tahafut, Ibn Rushd speaks of the soul as a faculty that comes to resemble the focus of its intention, and when its attention focuses more upon eternal and universal knowledge, it become more like the eternal and universal. As such, when the soul perfects itself, it becomes like our intellect."

"Ibn Rushd succeeded in providing an explanation of the human soul and intellect that did not involve an immediate transcendent agent. This opposed the explanations found among the Neoplatonists, allowing a further argument for rejecting of Neoplatonic emanation theories. Even so, notes Davidson, Ibn Rushd’s theory of the material intellect was something foreign to Aristotle."

[edit] Empiricism, tabula rasa, nature versus nurture

Further information: Avicennisn - Avicennian epistemology and psychology
One of Avicenna's most influential theories in psychology and epistemology is his theory of knowledge, in which he developed the concept of tabula rasa, a precursor to the nature versus nurture debate in modern psychology. He argued that the "human intellect at birth is rather like a tabula rasa, a pure potentiality that is actualized through education and comes to know" and that knowledge is attained through "empirical familiarity with objects in this world from which one abstracts universal concepts" which are developed through a "syllogistic method of reasoning; observations lead to propositional statements, which when compounded, lead to further abstract concepts." He further argued that the intellect itself "possesses levels of development from the material intellect (al-‘aql al-hayulani), that potentiality that can acquire knowledge to the active intellect (al-‘aql al-fa‘il), the state of the human intellect at conjunction with the perfect source of knowledge."[19]

In the 12th century, the Andalusian-Arabian philosopher and novelist Ibn Tufail (known as "Abubacer" or "Ebn Tophail" in the West) first demonstrated Avicenna's theory of tabula rasa as a thought experiment in his Arabic novel, Hayy ibn Yaqzan, in which he depicted the development of the mind of a feral child "from a tabula rasa to that of an adult, in complete isolation from society" on a desert island. The Latin translation of his work, entitled Philosophus Autodidactus, published by Edward Pococke the Younger in 1671, had an influence on John Locke's formulation of tabula rasa in An Essay Concerning Human Understanding,[20] which went on to become one of the principal sources of empiricism in modern Western philosophy, and influenced many Enlightenment philosophers, such as David Hume and George Berkeley.

[edit] Sensory perception

Ibn al-Haytham's psychology in his Book of Optics (1021) may have also possibly been influenced by Buddhist philosophy, echoes of which can be in some of his views on pain and sensation. He writes that every sensation is a form of 'suffering' and that what people call pain is only an exaggerated perception; that there is no qualitative difference but only a quantitative difference between pain and ordinary sensation.[21]

Avicenna was the first to divide human perception into five external senses (the classical senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch known since antiquity) and five internal senses which he discovered himself: the sensus communis (seat of all senses) which integrates sense data into percepts; the imaginative faculty which conserves the perceptual images; the sense of imagination which acts upon these images by combining and separating them, serving as the seat of the practical intellect; Wahm (instinct) which perceives qualities (such as good and bad, love and hate, etc.) and forms the basis of a person's character whether or not influenced by reason; and intentions (ma'ni) which conserve all these notions in memory.[22]

Al-Ghazali (Algazel) (1058-1111) stated that the self has motor and sensory motives for fulfilling its bodily needs. He wrote that the motor motives comprise of propensities and impulses, and further divided the propensities into two types: appetite and anger. He wrote that appetite urges hunger, thirst, and sexual craving, while anger takes the form of rage, indignation and revenge. He further wrote that impulse resides in the muscles, nerves, and tissues, and moves the organs to "fulfill the propensities."[23]

Al-Ghazali was also one of the first to divide the sensory motives (apprehension) into five external senses (the classical senses of hearing, sight, smell, taste and touch) and five internal senses, which he was able to describe more accurately than Avicenna. The five internal senses discovered by al-Ghazali were: common sense (Hiss Mushtarik) which synthesizes sensuous impressions carried to the brain while giving meaning to them; imagination (Takhayyul) which enables someone to retain mental images from experience; reflection (Tafakkur) which brings together relevant thoughts and associates or dissociates them as it considers fit but has no power to create anything new which is not already present in the mind; recollection (Tadhakkur) which remembers the outer form of objects in memory and recollects the meaning; and the memory (Hafiza) where impressions received through the senses are stored. He wrote that, while the external senses occur through specific organs, the internal senses are located in different regions of the brain, and discovered that the memory is located in the hinder lobe, imagination is located in the frontal lobe, and reflection is located in the middle folds of the brain. He stated that these inner senses allow people to predict future situations based on what they learn from past experiences.[24]

In The Revival of Religious Sciences, al-Ghazali also writes that the five internal senses are found in both humans and animals. In Mizan al Amal, however, he later states that animals "do not possess a well-developed reflective power" and argues that animals mostly think in terms of "pictorial ideas in a simple way and are incapable of complex association and dissociation of abstract ideas involved in reflection." He writes that "the self carries two additional qualities, which distinguishes man from animals enabling man to attain spiritual perfection", which are 'Aql (intellect) and Irada (will). He argues that the intellect is "the fundamental rational faculty, which enables man to generalize and form concepts and gain knowledge." He also argues that human will and animal will are both different. He writes that human will is "conditioned by the intellect" while animal will is "conditioned by anger and appetite" and that "all these powers control and regulate the body." He further writes that the Qalb (heart) "controls and rules over them" and that it has six powers: appetite, anger, impulse, apprehension, intellect, and will. He states that humans have all six of these traits, while animals only have three (appetite, anger, and impulse).[24] This was in contrast to other ancient and medieval thinkers such as Aristotle, Avicenna, Roger Bacon and Thomas Aquinas who all believed that animals cannot become angry.[25]

No comments: