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Studien zur Geschichteder
Philosophiedes Mittelalters

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Fakhr al-Din al-Razi' s

Critique of an Avicennan Tanbfh


1. Avicenna's Tanbfh

elf-awareness, Avicenna (Ibn Sina) (d.1037) maintains, is the direct

S apprehension of one's immaterial self. This is not awareness of

any of the sensory cognitive faculties; nor is it mediated through
them. The faculty or power by which the immaterial soul apprehends it-
self is «a faculty that is in the soul, subsisting in it,» not in the body. «And
if the substance of the soul is that faculty by which it apprehends, then
these two [i.e. substance and soul] are not separate.» 1 In the Ta<lfqat,
comments he dictated to his stud~nt Bahmanyar, Avicenna expresses the
same thought in another way, drawing from it, however, the conse-
quence that the soul has constant awareness of itself. He writes: 2
The human soul is naturally constituted to be aware of existents. It is
aware of some naturally; with others it gains the power to be aware
of them by acquisition. That which is attained naturally is realized for
it actually and always. Its awareness of itself is by nature. It [i.e. its
self-awareness] is hence one of its constituents. It therefore belongs to
it actually, never ceasing.
The idea that the human soul has constant awareness of itself is given
more detailed and vivid expression in the opening paragraph, entitled
tanbfh, 3 of the psychological sections of Avicenna's Kitiib al-Ishiiriit wa
al-Tanbfhat. 4 In this tanbfh, however, he says nothing explicit regarding

1 Ibn Sina,al-Mubiihathat, in A.A. Badawi's Arista <Jndal-'Arab (Cairo, 1947), pp.

134-35. For a French translation of the relevant passage in its entirety, see S. Pines,
«La conception de la conscience de soi chez Avicenne et Abu>l Barakat al-Baghda-
di,» Archivesd'HistoireDoctrinaleet Litterairedu Moyen Ages, 29 (1954), p.45.
2 Ibn Sin~ al-Ta'lrqiit,ed. A. A. Badawi (Cairo, 1973), p.30.
3 The singular of tanblhiit, see note 4 below.
4 Ibn Si~ Kitiib al-Ishariit wa al-Tanblhiit, ed. G. Forget (Leiden, 1892), p. 119. This

work will be abbreviated lshiiriit.

Michael E. Marmura

the reason for this constant self-awareness. He does not tell us, that is,
that self-awareness is constant because it is one of the soul's constitu-
ents. Avicenna simply asks us to introspect. Provided the soul is capable
of attending to a thing correctly, introspection will show that one is
never unaware of one's self. «Return to your self,» he writes, «and
reflect whether, being whole, or even in another state such, however,
that you attend to a thing in a correct manner, you would be oblivious to
the existence of your self (dhataka)and would not affirm your self/soul
(nafsaka)?» «To my mind,» he continues, «this does not happen to the
perspicacious - so much so that the sleeper in his sleep and the person
drunk in his state of drunkenness will not miss knowledge of his self.»5
But this is not all. Even if all the sensory faculties are inactive and
there is total unawareness of our bodies and of anything physical and
spatial, Avicenna continues, we would still be aware of our individual
selves. He expresses this by giving a version of the hypothetical example
of the individual created fully mature and rational and suspended in

The two words in the title, al-Ishiiriit and al-tanb'ihiit are closely related in
meaning. Ishiiriit is the plural of ishiira, «indication,» «hint,» «sign,» «signal,»
«directive;» tanbfhiit, the plural of tanb'ih «drawing attention to something,»
«alerting,» <<awakening,» usually directing attention to something one already
knows. For a discussion of this term as it is used in the De Anima of the Shi/a>,for
example, and elsewhere, see the author's article, «Avicenna's 'Flying Man' in
Context,» The Monist, 69,3 (July, 1968), pp.383-95, particularly pp.366, 390-91, and
notes 38,39.
The lshiirat is presented in the form of short sections, each usually (but not ex-
clusively) entitled either as isharaor tanb'ih. In their unders~nding of these terms,
medieval Islamic writers gave different emphases. Thus al-Tusi (d.1274).suggests
that ishararefers to a problem that is sought after, while tanb'ih refers to the inves-
tigation of the question. See his Commentary in lbn Sina, al-Ishiiri.itwa al-Tanb1hiit
ma<aSharb Na~'iral-Din al-Tus'i,ed. S. Dunya (Cairo, 1958), p.176. (This reference
will be abbreviated, «Tusi's Commentary.» Fakhr al-Din al-Razi as quoted by al-
Tusi (Ibid., p.245) holds that the inductive examination of Avicenna's work indi-
cates that ishararefers to a section where the the judgement is established through
effort; tanb'ih, to a section whose truth is established through an examination of
its definition or by something previously established. Qutb al-Din al-Razi al-
Tal;ttani (d. 1374) in his Commentary on the Ishiiriit, indicates that the term tan bf h
is used to refer to a section where the discussion does not require a demonstra-
tion. See lbn Sina, al-Isharat wa al-Tanbihiit ma<aSharb Na~fr al-Dfn al-Tus'i wa
Qutb al-Din al-Razi, (al-Tahtanf) (3 vols.: Tehran, 1959) vol.. II, p.295. This refer-
ence will be abbreviated, «Ta);ltani's Commentary.»
5 Isharat, p. 119.

Fakhr al-Din al-Razf's Critique of an Avicennan Tanbfh

space - the example referred to as the «Flying Man.» Suppose yourself

to be born fully mature, whole and rational, your eyes, however, being
closed, your limbs spread apart, not touching, and suppose yourself to be
suspended in temperate, still air in such a way that you have no aware-
ness of your body and of any external physical thing. In such a state you
will be totally unaware of everything with one exception - your exist-
ence as an individual self.
This, then, is the substance of the tanbfh with which we are con-
cerned. Before going any further, however, a brief comment on the ver-
sion of the «Flying Man» it includes is in order. This is a very shortened
form of the example. Its fullest version occurs in Psychology, 1,1 of the
Shifa> (Healing) and includes a proof that the soul is immaterial. 6 This
proof is part of an imaginative, contemplative exercise whose purpose is
to awaken the self to the direct experiencing of itself as an immaterial
entity or substance. In other words, the purpose of this first version of
the example is not simply to argue that the soul is immaterial, but to
alert the soul to the direct experiential knowledge of itself. The shorter
version of the «Flying Man» in the Ishariit plays a much more modest
role; It is part of the affirmation of the tanbfh that the self has constant
self-awareness. Arguments for the immateriality of the self follow in the
subsequent tanbfhs, some basing themselves on the «Flying Man.» Thus
this version of the example is ultimately used to argue for the soul's im-
materiality. But its immediate concern is with showing that this soul has
constant self-awareness.
Avicenna's tanbfh, hightened by the «Flying Man,» drew the attention
of the islamic theologian Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d.1207). After an exege-
sis of the text in his Commentary on the Isharat, al-Razi criticizes the way
Avicenna presents his concept of the soul's constant self-awareness.7
Avicenna, al-Razi argues, has not shown that the knowledge that we
have constant self-awareness is self-evident. Moreover, on the supposi-
tion that it is not self-evident, he continues, Avicenna has not offered a

6 For a detailed discussion of this version, as well as the other two versions of
Avicenna's hypothetical example, see my articles in The Monist, referred to in n.4.,
7 Fakhral-Din al-Razi, Sharf, al-Ishariit(Cairo, 1325 A.H.) pp.121-22. This old print-

ing covers the Physics and Metaphysics, but not the Logic of the Isharat. It includes
Avicenna's text as well as al-Tusi's commentary. References to this printing will
be abbreviated, «al-Razi's Commentary.»

Michael E. Marmura

demonstration to prove that we have constant self-awareness. Al-

Razi also criticizes the tanbfh as ambiguous: there is a difference in ar-
guing that constant self-awareness is a contingent fact and in arguing
that it cannot be otherwise. This distinction, al-Razi maintains, is not
made clear in Avicenna's tanbfh.

2. Al-Razi and the Human Soul

Al-Razi's exegesis of the tanbfh does not stop with these criticisms men-
tioned above. He offers an argument to show that this notion of constant
self-awareness is not self-evident. But if not self-evident, it is in need of
a proof. Interestingly, al-Razi himself offers two argumnets in support
of this notion: the first is to show that constant self-awareness is a fac-
tual state of affairs; the second, that it is impossible for the self not to
have this constant self-awareness. He then adds that the first argument
is the weaker of the two, disclaiming that either argument is demonsta-
This disclaimer is quite explicit and at first sight may suggest that al-
Razi' s supportive arguments are at best given half-heartedly, that per-
haps he does not support the ide~ that man has constant self-awareness.
There is, however, no. textual evidence for interpreting al-Razi in this
way and there is no good reason for doubting that the two arguments,
although not regarded as demonstrative, are genuinely supportive, re-
echoeing what al-Razi says elsewhere. For his real quarrel with Avi-
.cenna is not on the question of constant self-awareness, but on the na-
ture of the object of this awareness - the self: Is it material or non-mate-
Now al-Razi agrees with Avicenna and uses essentially his argu-
ments to show that the self is other than the physical body or any of its
organs. He thus agrees with Avicenna that one can have self-awarenes:.,,
when totally unaware of the physical body. But from this, he maintains,
it does not follow that the self is immaterial. Material things differ in
their quiddities and are not reducable to each other. The self, or the hu-
man soul, he maintains, is a material substance, differing in quiddity
from the body, but exists in it, rendering it animate. 8

8 Fakhr al-Din al-Razi, Kitiib al-Arba<iin fi U~ al-D'in (Hyderabad, 1353 A.H.).

p.266. Al-Razi subscribes to a traditional Islamic view of the human soul as a ma-

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi's Critique of an Avicennan Tanbih

He thus rejects, not only Avicenna's doctrine of the immaterial self,

but also two doctrines held by different schools of Islamic speculative
theology (kaliim). The first of these, upheld by a majority of the
M u'tazilite school, identifies the self with the physical body, or structure
(al-haykal), as al-Razi puts it. The second, which he discusses almost in
passing, is the doctrine held by many of al-Razi's fellow Ash'arites,
namely that the self, although not the physical body, is «bodily,» having
«life» as an accident inhering in it. The doctrine he adopts, rejecting
other material theories of the soul he attributes to Greek philosophers, is
a traditional Islamic doctrine. This is the doctrine (to which we have al-
ready alluded (see note 8 below)) of the soul as a subtle, living matrial
substance, that is diffused throughout the body, animating it. It is a sub-
stance, he tells us, that is subtle «in itself,» that is, not by dint of an at-
tribute inhering in it, so to speak. He writes:9
Souls are bodies that are subtle in themselves, alive in themselves.
When these bodies associate with this bodily frame (al-haykal), flow-
ing in it in the way rosewater flows in the leaves of the roses, fire in
charcoal, and sesame oil in the body of the sesame, this bodily frame
becomes alive by reason of this association. Melting, and change find
no way to these subtle and living bodies, but only to the bodily frame .
.Thus as long as these organs and humours are receptive of the flow in
them of these bodies, subtle and alive in themselves, these subtle bod-
ies separate from them and this is death.
Al-Razi's use of the Avicennan arguments to disprove the doctrine of
identifying the self with the physical body is given more fully in his al-
Mabiil;tithal-Mashriqiyya.In this discussion, however, he does not enun-
ciate the doctrine of the self as a subtle material substance diffused in the
body, but different from it in quiddity. He makes it quite dear, however,
that these A vicennan arguments only disprove that the self is the physi-
cal body: they do not prove that this self is immaterial.
He offers three «demonstrations» (bariihfn). The first is a summary
and a paraphrase of the «Flying man» example in its first version in Psy-

terial substance differing in quiddity from the body. This is a view that can be
traced back to the maverick Mu'tazilite theologian al-Naiiam ( Al-
Ash'ari, Maqiiliit al-lslamiyyin, ed. H. Ritter (Istanbul, 1930) pp.331,333; al-Shahra-
stani, al-Milal wa al-Ni/ull, ed. A. F. Muhammad (3 vols.: Cairo, 1950), I, p.74.
9 Al-Razi, al-Arba'in, p.266.

Michael E. Marmura

chology 1,1 of Avicenna's al-Shi/ii' (Al-Razi, one notes, says nothing about
the example's role of awakening the self to the direct experiential know-
ledge of itself) He writes:10
If the one among us imagines himself as though created all at once
and created complete, but having his senses veiled fromobserving ex-
ternal things, that he is falling either in the void or in filled space
where he meets no air-resistance and where he has no experience of
the qualities [of the hot and the cold]; that his limbs are separated so
that basically they neither meet nor touch; then in this state he would
apprehend his self, but would not be aware of any of his organs, ex-
ternal or internal. He would affirm his self without affirming for it
either length, breadth or depth. Indeed, if her were to imagine in this
state a hand or some other organ, he would imagine it neither as part
of his self, nor as a condition for his self. It is thus evident that what
one is aware of is other than that of which he is unaware. Conse-
quently his haecceity (huwwiyyatuhu) is other than his organs.
The second demonstration is treated as a syllogism, 11 the minor prem-
ise being that self-knowledge is not «acquired,» the major that know-
ledge of the external and internal bodily organs is «acquired». The main
argument is devoted to proving the ·minor premise, the major being
taken as an obvious empirical fact Al-Ra.zi in essence argues as follows:
If self-knowledge is acquired, then this would have to be either
through the senses or through thought. The first is false since it is gen-
erally agreed on that one knows his self while having no sensory experi-
ence at all. If the acquisition of this self-knowledge is supposed to be
through thought,then some indicator (dalfl) is needed. This would have
to be either the cause of the soul's existence or its effect. It cannot be the
cause since most people know their selves without the cause of their
selves occurring to them. It thus would have to be the effect. But the ef-
fect is an act of the soul. It thus would have to be either absolute, i.e. uni-
versal, or particular. It cannot be universal since from the universal only
the existence of the universal self is derived. If the act is particular, as it
would have to be, then it is related to the particular self. The self to
which it relates is necessarily presupposed. To infer the existence of the
self from the particular act hence involves circular reasoning.

10Al-Razi, Kitab al-Mabiit,ith al-Mashriqiyya(2 vols.: Tehran, 1966) pp.224-25.

11 Ibid., P· 225.

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi's Critique of an Avicennan Tanbfh

Turning to the third «demonstration,» it is quite short. This A vicennan

argument, severely criticized by al-Ghazali, is perhaps best described as
the argument from identity. 12 Al-Razi states it as follows:13
The parts of the human being increase at times, decrease at others,
even though the human remains identical in all these states. From this
we know that his haecceity is other than his physical built (al-bunya)
experienced by the senses.
It is perhaps not insignificant that al-Razi refers to these three argu-
ments as «demonstrations.» But, as mentioned earlier, for al-Razi, they
demonstrate that the self is other than the bodily physical structure or
frame They do not demonstrate that the self is immaterial. Thus after of-
fering these «demonstrations,» he writes:14
Know that these demonstrations do not require [as their necessary
conclusion] that the human self is incorporeal. For beasts apprehend
their particular individual selves. And how is this not so, when they
flee from the painful and seek the pleasurable? This fleeing is not from
pain in the abstract non-restricted sense [and] in two respects. The
first is that it is generally accepted that they do not comprehend uni-
versals. Secondly, they do not flee from the pain suffered by others,
even though this is a comprehended pain. Hence they only flee from
.their own pains. Their knowledge of their pain is subsequent to their
. knowledge of their selves. It is thus clear that they apprehend their
particular selves even though their souls are not separated from the
body. Rather these proofs only show that the human haecceity is other
than these sensed bodies. As to whether this haecceity is connected
with these bodies or is free from them is something that requires an-
other investigation.

3. Al-Razi's Critical Exegesis of the Tanbfh

Al-Razi's comments on the first tanbfh of the psychological parts of the

Ishiiriit begin with an exegesis of the text, followed by criticism.1 5 The

12 See the author's «Ghazali and the Avicennan Proof from Personal Identity for
an Immaterial Self,» A Straight Path: Studies in Medieval Philosophyand Culture in
Honor of A. Hyman, ed. Link-Salinger (Washington D.C., 1988) pp.195-205.
13Al-Razi, al-Mubii1;,athiit,p.225.
14Ibid., p. 226.
lS Al-Razi's Commentary, pp. 121-22.

Michael E. Marmura

exegesis, in tum, divides into two parts, an introductory general obser-

vation on the Avicennan position on the immateriality of the soul in these
sections of the Ishariit, followed by the textual exegesis of the tanbfh. He
begins by remarking that when «the philosophers» use the personal pro-
noun «I,» they do not refer by it to the body. «The philosophers» al-
Razi speaks of are Avicenna and his followers. As we know, Avicenna
and his followers maintain that the human soul is an immaterial sub-
stance that does not inhere in the body: the soul is a. spiritual substance
created with the body, not imprinted in it. The concern in these sections,
al-Razi tells us, is with the immateriality of the soul, its non-inherence in
the body being clarified thereafter. The proof that the human soul is im-
material, he continues, consists in showing that an individual soul can
know his self when totally unaware of his bodily organs, from which it
follows that the self is other than the organs. To establish the antecedent
of this conclusion, al-Razi explains, Avicenna sometimes claims that it is
impossible for the self to be unaware of itself, sometimes that it is possi-
ble for a human to be aware of his self when totally unaware of his body.
After this introductory observation on the Avicennan position in gen-
eral, al-Razi turns to an exegesis of the text of the first tanbfh. To prove
the immateriality of the human self, he explains, it is necessary to put
forth a premise, namely that the human has degrees of discernment. The
first involves his being in the normal state of health and of being awake;
The second is the state of being asleep where the external senses are not
functioning. A third state is that of drunkenness where neither the exter-
nal nor internal senses are functioning properly. Finally, there is the
state described in the hypothetical example of being born mature, ra-
tional and suspended in space, the example of the «The Flying Man.»
In commenting on this example, al-Razi elaborates, making explicit
what lies implicit in the text. Avicenna's example speaks of the individual
suspended in space, having no awareness of his bodily limbs, these being
spread apart. Al-Razi, draws out the implications of this. The suspended
man will have no awareness of any part of his body and hence of any in-
terconnectedness of his bodily organs. Again, he explains the meaning of
the phrase al-hawa> al-talq, as air that is still and temperate, hence in-
ducing no awareness of the physical. «The sum total of [Avicenna's]
words,» al-Razi concludes, «is that the human is basically never un-
aware of his self in any of [these] states.» His criticism that follows is di-
rected against this premise.

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi's Critique of an Avicennan Tanbfh

Al-Razi argues that Avicenna has not shown whether this premise is
self-evident or whether - supposing that it is not self-evident - it re-
quires a demonstration. On the assumption that it requires a demon-
stration, Avicenna has not offered one. Nor has Avicenna shown that
even if it is not the case that a human is never unaware of his self, un-
awareness of one's self is an impossibility.
Is then this premise a self-evident proposition? This does not seem to
be the case, al-Razi maintains. For, he argues, if we present to our
minds this proposition, namely that in all of the four states mentioned by
Avicenna, one is always aware of his self, and the proposition that the
whole is greater than the part, we would not find the former proposition
as clear and evident as the latter. On the contrary, the former proposi-
tion, Avicenna's premise, is subject to doubt and hence must be supported
by argument.
In this connection, it should be noted, al-Razi is invoking a criterion of
self-evidence which Avicenna himself used. 16 In the earlier logical parts
of the Ishiiriit, for example, Avicenna had argued that a moral dictum is
not self-evident. If a person is born all at once, mature and rational,
having, however, had no contact with other human beings and is con-
fronted with two propositions, a commonly accepted moral dictum and
the statement that the whole is greater than the part, such an individual
would be able to doubt the former proposition but not the latter.
Al-Razi then adds that whatever proves demonstratively that it is im-
possible for one to be unaware of his self, proves that one is always
aware of his self. The converse, however, is not true. What indicates that
one is always aware of his self does not prove that it is impossible for
one not to be aware of his self. With this observation, al-Razi strives to
set things aright by giving two arguments, one to show that a person is
always aware of his self, the other to show that it is impossible for such a
person·not to be aware of his self. The first argument can be paraphrased
as follows:
Let us suppose that a person is not aware of his self. Let us then sup-
pose that either a pleasurable or painful thing is impressed on him. He
would then either feel this or he would not. If he does not feel either the
pleasure or the pain, then he is dead not alive. If he feels these things,
then he either does not feel them as something pleasurable or painful, or

16 Ishariit, p. 59.

Michael E. Marmura

he does. If the first alternative, then he must at least recognize in them

something similar to what happens to others who are subjected to pain
or pleasure, If he does not, then this disjunct is false and the other, that
he senses pleasure or pain, holds. But if he is aware of pain or pleasure,
then he is aware of something being related to him. But knowledge of a
relation is posterior to the knowledge of the components of the relation.
Hence his knowledge of his self, being a component of the relation, is
prior. It always exists with such an indivi,dual. He then adds that this ar-
gument is applicable to the situation with animals ..In other words, the
self that is being constantly known, need no be Avicenna's rational soul.
Turning to al-Razi's second. argument, this time supporting the no-
tion that the self cannot but be aware of itself, it can be paraphrased as
To apprehend something means the occurrence (~u~al) of that thing's
quiddity in the apprehender. Thus, for example, my knowledge of my self
would have to consist in one of two alternatives. The first is the occur-
rence of a form equivalent to my self to this self, an impossibility because
two similar things cannot combine in the same receptacal. Moreover,
this is also impossible since neither one of the similar things has a
greater claim for being the receptacal than for being the thing that in-
heres. For both are identical in quiddity. Each then would be an inhering
and a receiving thing, which again is impossible. The second alternative
is for be a mere realization (~u~al) of the quiddity to
the knowing self. But a thing's realization of itself in itself cannot be
changed by absence, that is, if we read al-Razi alright, absence of the
realization. Hence if a thing apprehends itself, it becomes impossible for
it to become changed through such an absence. It must always appre-
hend itself.
Both these arguments, al-Razi concludes, are not demonstrative, the
first being the weaker of the two. As pointed out earlier, in giving these
arguments, al-Razi is not supporting Avicenna's ultimate aim-to prove
the immateriality of the human rational soul. Moreover, his criticism is
not directed against the doctrine. that self awareness is self-evident. (Al-
Razi, it should be remembered., belonged. to the Ash<arite school of kalam
that accepted. the view that knowledge of one's self is primary and «ne-

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi's Critique of an Avicennan Tanbfh

cessary.») 17Nor is it in the final analysis directed against Avicenna's doc-

trine that this self-evident self-awareness is constant. Rather, it is di-
rected against the way Avicenna presented the case for constant self-

17Both the Mu<tazilites and the Ash<arites held that self-knowledge is «necessary»
and immediate. See, for example, <, Sharlzal-U~ al-Khamsa,ed. A. A.
Uthman (Cairo, 1952), p.50; al-Baqillani, Kitiib al-Tamhld, ed. R. J. McCarthy (Bei-
rut, 1957),pp.9-10.
18Both al-Tusi and al-Ta.l;itanireplied to al-Razi's criticism. Al-Tusi thus main-
tains that «the absolutely first and clearest of. human apprehensions is a human's
apprehension of his self,» and, in effect, takes al-Razi to task for not recognizing
this.'s Commentary, pp.320-21. The main thrust of the criticism, however,
seems to be directed at something al-RAzi did not maintain. Al-Rizi is not chal-
lenging the primacy of self-awareness, but rather the way Avicenna maintains
that this self-awareness is constant. Al-Ta.l;itani in his Commentary (pp.292,295)
reechoes the criticism of al-Tusi, but seems to make a connection between the
primacy and immediacy of self-awareness and its being constant. He thus main-
tains that «the first apprehension of each one is the apprehension of himself con-
tinuous with his individual existence.» Accordingly, this «comprises two intui-
tive apprehension: the conception of his self and the veridical belief that he ex-
ists.» He thus seems to hold that we intuit not only the soul and ourselves as ex-
isting, but also self-awareness as a permanent feature of our psyche. He further ar-
gues that al-Razi is mistaken when he suggests that all primary notions have the
same degree of clarity. This raises the question of what constitutes a primary no-
tion and self-evidence.

Michael E. Marmura


1. Avicenna's Tanbfh19

Return to your self and reflect,whether, being whole, or even in another

state, where, however, you attend to a thing correctly, you would be ob-
livious to the existence of your self (dhiitaka) and would not affirm your
self? To my mind, this does not happen to the perspicacious-so much so
that the sleeper in his sleep and the person drunk in his state of drunken:..
ness will n_otmiss knowledge of his self, even if the presentation of his
self to his self does not remain in his memory.
And if you imagine your self to have been at its first creation mature
and whole in mind and body and it is supposed to be in a generality of
position and physical circumstance where it does not perceive its parts,
where its limbs do not touch each other but are rather spread apart, and
that this self is temporarily suspended in temperate still air, you will find
that it will be unaware of everything except the «fixedness» (thubut) of its
individual existence (anniyyatiha).

2. Al-Razi' s Comments20

Know that according to the philosophers the truth of the matter is that
when each of us refers to his soul and self by saying« I,» [the referent] is
neither body nor, moreover, [something] inhering in a body. What is in-
tended by these sections is [to show] that it is not body. As regards the
second standpoint (al-maqam), namely that it does not inhere in a body,
this will become evident thereafter. We say:
The proof for this is that the specific self belonging to every human
may be known at a time when none of his organs are known. This dic-
tates that his specific self is other than his organs.
Showing the first [point,. the antecedent,] is in two ways. At one time,
he [Avicenna] claims that it is impossible for a human to become unaware
of his specific self, building the objective of his [argument] on this; at an-

19 Isharat,p. 119.
20Al-Razi's Commentary, pp. 121-22.

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi's Critique of an Avicennan Tanbfh

other, he makes-no such claim but shows that the human may apprehend
his specific self when oblivious of all his organs.
Regarding the first standpoint, this is the one intended. It is necessary,
first of all, however, to set forth a premise, namely that the human has
[varying] degrees of discernment (al-fifna). The first is of a sound tem-
perament, apprehending sensible things and knowing them. The second
is the state ofsleep; for then the external senses and comprehension do
not remain sound. The third is the state of drunkenness. Here discern-
ment is more defective than it is in the state of sleep because in this state
the inner senses are also defective. The fourth is for a human to suppose
himself being in a state such that his parts are not connected and his
limbs do not touch, but rather, that his limbs are spread and suspended
for a moment in temperate, still, air. For in this state he will have no
awareness of another. And we have indeed supposed his being such that
his parts do not touch because if the parts of the animal are connected.
with each other, then each will feel that with which it is connected. It is
for this reason that we have supposed his organs not to be touching each
other. Moreover, when his organs are not connected and his parts not
touching, the parts and organs are inevitably spread apart. We have,
moreover, supposed them to be suspended in temperate, still, air, be-
cause if they were placed in a hard body, he would not be oblivious to it
and hence would be aware of it. As regards temperate, still, air, this is
because if the air is either warm, cold, in motion and so forth, then there
would occur to these suspended organs a sensible awareness of these
qualities and hence they would have an awareness of something other
than themselves. This then is the usefulness of the degrees of discern-
ment which the Shaykh [Avicenna] has mentioned and the reason for
giving priority of some over others.
The Shaykh then after elaborating in mentioning degrees, claimed
that the human in all these states must be aware of his individual self
(anniyyatihi), that is, its existence. Hence the sum total of his words in
this sectioh is that the human basically is never unaware of his self in any
of [these] states.
He, however, did not show whether this proposition is primary or
whether it requires demonstrative proof. And on the supposition that it
requires demonstrative proof, he did not mention at all an argument to
support it. Moreover, he did not show whether or not the human, even

Michael E. Marmura

though never oblivious to apprehending his self, is able to be unaware of

This being the case,·we must speak on these investigatory matters and
Regarding the question of whether or not this proposition is primary,
it appears that it is not primary. [This is] because if we present to our
mind this proposition, namely that we apprehend our selves in the state
of sleep, drunkenness and the spreading of the limbs, and also present to
the mind [the proposition] that·the whole is greater than the·part, we
would not find the first proposition as dear and evident as the second.
Rather, we find it open to doubt.Hence it necessarily needs to be validat-
ed by argument.
Know, moreover, that whatever proves that it is impossible for a hu-
man not to apprehend himself, proves that he always apprehends him-
self. But it is not the case that whatever proves that he always a·ppre-
hends himself, proves that it is impossible for him not to apprehend him-
We say: The proof that he always apprehends himself is that if we
suppose him to be unaware of himself, and then suppose that either a
painful or a pleasurable thing· reaches him, for example, that he is
beaten, fire drawn very close to him, or air prevented from reaching his
heart, then he will either sense this or will not. If he does not sense this,
then he is dead, not alive.
If sensation occurs to him, then his feeling of the painful or the plea-
surable is either not insasmuch as these are pleasurable or painful or it is.
If the first [alternative], then one of two things must follow: either that
he is not distressed by what harms him or he is distressed by what harms
another in the way he is distressed by what harms him because what
harms another shares with what harms him in being basically harmful. If
it does not lead to distress, then this part is falsified,. and the other be-
comes true.
But the knowledge that something harms him is a knowledge of the
relatedness of the harmful to him. Knowledge of the relation of one
thing to anther is posterior to the knowledge of each of the two related
things. It follows necessarily then that his self-knowledge is realized
prior to the occurrence of that thing that harms him. With this it becomes
established that the human is not unaware of his self-apprehension in
any of these states.

Fakhr al-Din al-Razi's Critique of an Avicennan Tanbfh

Know that this argument entails that the state of the rest of the ani-
mals is also the same.
Regarding that which indicates the impossibility of a human's being
oblivious of the apprehension of his self one would say: Apprehending a
thing is an expression of the occurrence of the quiddity of the thing ap-
prehended by the apprehender. Thus my knowledge of my self is either
the occurrence of a form equivalent to my self in my self, - which is im-
possible because of the impossibility of the combination of two similars
and because, being equivalent in quiddity, neither the one nor the other
has a greater claim to being an inherer or a receptacal rather than the
converse, whereby it would follow necessarily that each would be both
an inhering thing and a receptacal which is inpossible - or the mere real-
ization of the quiddity of that self to that self. But the realization of a
thing to itself cannot be exchanged by [the] absence [the realization].
Hence a thing's apprehension of itself cannot be exchanged by unaware-
These two arguments, [however], are not demonstrative, the first be-
ing the weaker of the two. This, then, is the discourse on [the proposi-
tion] that the human is never unaware of his self.