Part 1

Human Intellect

by Ibn Khaldun Icon
  1. Man’s ability to think

God distinguished man from all the other animals by an ability to think.

Perception - that is, consciousness, on the part of the person who perceives, in his essence of things that are outside his essence - is something peculiar to living beings to the exclusion of all other beings and existent things.

Living beings may obtain consciousness of things that are outside their essence through the external senses which God has given them:

  • hearing
  • vision
  • smell
  • taste
  • touch.

Man’s advantage over the other beings is that he can perceive things outside his essence through his ability to think, which is something beyond his senses.

  • It is the result of (special) powers placed in the cavities of his brain.

With the help of these powers, man:

  • takes the pictures of the sensibilia
  • applies his mind to them
  • abstracts from them other pictures.

The ability to think is:

  • the occupation with pictures that are beyond sense perception
  • the application of the mind to them for analysis and synthesis.

Af’idah or “hearts” is the plural of fu’dd.

  • It is written in the Qur’an: “He gave you hearing and vision and hearts.”
  • It means here the ability to think.

The ability to think has several degrees.

  1. The first degree is man’s intellectual understanding of the things that exist in the outside world in a natural or arbitrary order. In this way, he may try to arrange them with the help of his own power.

This kind of thinking mostly consists of perceptions.

It is the discerning intellect, with the help of which man obtains the things that are useful for him and his livelihood, and repels the things that are harmful to him.

  1. The the experimental intellect

The second degree is the ability to think which provides man with the ideas and the behavior needed in dealing with his fellow men and in leading them.

It mostly conveys apperceptions, which are obtained one by one through experience, until they have become really useful.

  1. The third degree is the ability to think which provides the knowledge, or hypothetical knowledge, of an object beyond sense perception without any practical activity (going with it).

This is the speculative intellect. It consists of both perceptions and apperceptions. They are arranged according to a special order, following special conditions, and thus provide some other knowledge of the same kind, that is, either perceptive or apperceptive.

Then, they are again combined with something else, and again provide some other knowledge. The end of the process is to be provided with the perception of existence as it is, with its various genera, differences, reasons, and causes.

By thinking about these things, (man) achieves perfection in his reality and becomes pure intellect and perceptive soul.

This is the meaning of human reality.

2. The world of the things that come into being as the result of action, materializes through thinking.

The existent universe comprises pure essences, such as the elements, the things resulting from their influence, and the three things that come into being from the elements, namely, minerals, plants, and animals.

All these things are connected with the divine power.

It also comprises actions proceeding from living beings, that happen through their intentions, and are connected with the power that God has given them. Some of their actions are well arranged and orderly. Such are human actions. Others are not well arranged and orderly.

They are the actions of living beings other than man.

This is because thinking perceives the order that exists among the things that come into being either by nature or through arbitrary arrangement. When it intends to create something, it must understand the reason or cause of that thing, or the conditions governing it, for the sake of the order that exists among the things that come into being.

(Reason, cause, or conditions) are, in general, the principles of that particular thing, since it is secondary to them, and it is not possible to arrange for something that comes earlier to come later, or for something that comes later to come earlier.

Such a principle must have another principle to which its own existence is posterior. This (regression) may go on in an ascending order (from principle to principle), or it may come to an end.

When man, in his thinking, has reached the last principle on two, three, or more levels, and starts the action that will bring the (planned) thing into existence, he will start with the last principle that has been reached by his thinking.

Thus, (that last principle) will be the beginning of action. He, then, will follow things up to the last element in the causal chain that had been the starting point of his thinking activity.

For instance, if a man thinks of bringing into existence a roof to shelter him, he will progress in his mind (from the roof) to the wall supporting the roof, and then to the foundation upon which the wall stands.

Here, his thinking will end, and he will then start to work on the foundation, then (go on to) the wall, and then (to) the roof, with which his action will end. This is what is meant by the saying= “The beginning of action is the end of thinking, and the beginning of thinking is the end of action.”

Thus, human action in the outside world materializes only through thinking about the order of things, since things are based upon each other. After (he has finished thinking), he starts doing things. His thinking starts with the thing that comes last in the causal chain and is done last.

His action starts with the first thing in the causal chain, which thinking reaches last. Once this order is taken into consideration, human actions proceed in a well-arranged manner.

On the other hand, the actions of living beings other than man are not well arranged. They lack the thinking that acquaints the agent with the order of things governing his actions. Animals 11 perceive only with the senses. Their perceptions are disconnected and lack a connecting link, since only thinking can constitute such (a connecting link).

Now, the things that come into being 12 that are of consequence in the worldof existent things, are those that are orderly. Those that are not orderly are secondary to them. The actions of animals, therefore, are subordinate to (orderly human actions).

Consequently, their services are forcibly utilized by man. Thus, human actions control the (whole) world of things that come into being and all it contains. Everything is subservient to man and works for him. This is what is meant by the “appointing of a representative” mentioned in the Qur’an= “I am appointing a representative on earth.” 13

The ability to think is the quality of man by which human beings are distinguished from other living beings. The degree to which a human being is able to establish an orderly causal chain determines his degree of humanity. Some people are able to establish a causal nexus for two or three levels. Some are not able to go beyond that.

Others may reach five or six. Their humanity, consequently, is, higher.

For instance, some chess players are able to perceive (in advance) three or five moves the order of which is arbitrary. Others are unable to do that, because their mind is not good enough for it. This example is not quite to the point, because (the knowledge of) chess is a habit, whereas the knowledge of causal chains is something natural. However, it is an example the student may use to gain an intellectual understanding of the basic facts mentioned here.

3. The experimental intellect and how it comes into One knows from philosophical works the statement that “man is political by nature.”

The philosophers cite that statement in connection with establishing the existence of prophecy and other things. The adjective “political” refers to the “town” (polis), which they use as another word for human social organization.

The statement means that a single human being cannot live by himself, and his existence can materialize only in association with his fellow men. (Alone) he would be unable to have a complete existence and lead a complete life. By his very nature, he needs the co-operation of others to satisfy all his needs.

Such co-operation requires, firstly, consultation, and, then, association and the things that follow after it. Dealings with other people, when there is oneness of purpose may lead to mutual affection, and when the purposes differ, they may lead to strife and altercation. Thus, mutual dislike and mutual affection, friendship and hostility, originate. This leads to war and peace among nations and tribes.

Among human beings, this does not happen haphazardly, as is the case among stray animals. God caused human beings to act in an orderly and well-arranged manner, as the result of their ability to think, as has been mentioned before.

Therefore, God had (their actions) take place among them in an orderly manner, and He enabled them to arrange for (their activities) under political aspects and according to philosophical norms. Those (political aspects and philosophical norms) lead human beings from the things that are detrimental (to them), to those that are in their interest, and from evil to the good, First, however, they must recognize the things that are evil, and the detrimental effect of doing them, from sound experience and current customs. Thus, they are distinguished from stray animals.

The result of their ability to think shows itself in the fact that their actions are orderly and not likely to be detrimental.

The concepts bringing this about are not completely divorced from sensual perception and do not require very deep study. All of them are obtained through experience and derived from it. They are particular 17 concepts connected with the sensibilia.

Their truth or falsehood soon comes out in events. From (events) the student of these concepts can learn them. Each human being can learn as much of them as he is able to. He can pick up (his knowledge) with the help of experience among the events that occur in his dealings with his fellow men.

Eventually, he will have what is necessary and must be done, and must not be done, fixed in his (mind). By knowing this well, 18 then, the proper habit of dealing with his fellow men will be obtained by him.

Those who follow this (procedure) during their whole life become acquainted with every single problem, (but) things that depend on experience require time. God made it easy for many human beings to obtain this (social knowledge) in a time shorter than the time required to obtain it through experience, if they will follow the experience of their fathers, teachers, and elders, learn from them, and accept their instruction.

People can, thus, dispense with lengthy and careful (personal) study of events and need not attempt to pick out concepts from them. But people who have no knowledge or tradition in this respect, or people who are not willing to learn and to follow (others), need long and careful study in orderto be educated in these things. They are unfamiliar to them, and the knowledge they obtain of them is uneven. Their manners and dealings with others will be badly planned and show defects. Their chances of making a living among their fellow men will be spoiled.

This is the meaning of the famous saying= “He who is not educated by his parents will be educated by time.” 19 That is, he who does not acquire the manners needed in dealing with human beings from his parents -which includes teachers and elders - and does not learn these things from them, has to fall back upon learning them with the help of nature from the events that happen in the course of time.

Thus, time will teach and educate him, because he needs that education, since, by his very nature, he needs the co-operation of others.

Such is the experimental intellect. It is obtained after the discerning intellect that leads to action, as we have explained. After these two intellects, there is the (higher) degree of the speculative intellect. (Many) scholars have undertaken to explain it, and it is, therefore, not necessary to explain it in this book.

Latest Articles

How to Fix Ukraine
How to Fix Ukraine
The Age of the Universe
The Age of the Universe
Material Superphysics
The End of Capitalism (and Marxism)
The End of Capitalism (and Marxism)
The Elastic Theory of Gravity
The Elastic Theory of Gravity
Material Superphysics

Latest Simplifications

Nova Organum by Francis Bacon
Nova Organum by Francis Bacon
The Analects by Confucius
The Analects by Confucius
The Quran by The Prophet Mohammad
The Quran by The Prophet Mohammad

All Superphysics principles in our books

The Simplified Series

Developing a new science and the systems that use that science isn't easy. Please help Superphysics develop its theories and systems faster by donating via GCash