Reason in Ibn Tufayl's Hayy Ibn Yaqzan

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Philosophy, as a product of human reason, is able to achieve truth without the need for religious symbolism

Ibn Tufayl is the writer of a philosophical novel called Havy Ibn Yaqzan. The fundamental point of the story is that scientific knowledge, which leads to the highest form of human knowledge, can be achieved by human reason. This human reason is unaided neither by society’s conventions nor by religion. There is no ambiguity that religion, in the context of the story, is viewed as a means created by man in an attempt to convey the truth. Ibn Tufayl intends to distinguish between the religious truth and that of philosophy with a conviction that philosophy, as a product of human reason, is able to achieve knowledge or truth without the need for the symbolism that which religion depends on. He admits, however, that religious symbolism is suitable for the understanding of the multitude, since different people have different conceptions of life and therefore require the assistance of different instruments. Religion is simply one of many instruments that have been created and utilized by man in order to find the truth. Certainly, truth carries different meanings amongst different people, and is affected by different contexts, and can be described as rarely pure and never simple.

In exploring Hayy Ibn Yaqzan, where truth is a focal element of the story, Ibn Tufayl demonstrates the relativity of the meaning of truth by showing the contrary conceptions of Hayy and Absal. Truth is shown to be found only when one reaches an understanding of the existence of God and his role as creator, the existence of the Universe and the eternity of the world. How one arrives at comprehending those concerns relies on the individual’s context and surroundings, as demonstrated by the differing environments in which Hayy and Absal lived. From the interaction of those two characters, one can witness the philosophical dialogue between faith and reason and hence understand the...
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