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Epistemology in Islamic philosophy

DOI: 10.4324/9780415249126-H019-1
Version: v1,  Published online: 1998
Retrieved July 23, 2024, from

Article Summary

Muslim philosophers agree that knowledge is possible. Knowledge is the intellect’s grasp of the immaterial forms, the pure essences or universals that constitute the natures of things, and human happiness is achieved only through the intellect’s grasp of such universals. They stress that for knowledge of the immaterial forms, the human intellect generally relies on the senses. Some philosophers, such as Ibn Rushd and occasionally Ibn Sina, assert that it is the material forms themselves, which the senses provide, that are grasped by the intellect after being stripped of their materiality with the help of the divine world. However, the general view as expressed by al-Farabi and Ibn Sina seems to be that the material forms only prepare the way for the reception of the immaterial forms, which are then provided by the divine world. They also state that on rare occasions the divine world simply bestows the immaterial forms on the human intellect without any help from the senses. This occurrence is known as prophecy. While all Muslim philosophers agree that grasping eternal entities ensures happiness, they differ as to whether such grasping is also necessary for eternal existence.

Citing this article:
Inati, Shams C.. Epistemology in Islamic philosophy, 1998, doi:10.4324/9780415249126-H019-1. Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Taylor and Francis,
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