The City and the Law. Aspects of Ibn Khaldūn’s Critique of the Philosophers

In: Philological Encounters
Leonardo Capezzone Sapienza—University of Rome

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The history of Khaldunian readings in the twentieth century reveals an analytical capacity of non-Orientalists definitely greater than that demonstrated by the Orientalists. The latter, at least until the 1950s, prove to be prisoners of that syndrome denounced by Edward Said’s Orientalism (1978), which projected on Islamic historical development a specificity and an alterity, which make it an exception in world history. Orientalist scholarship has often wanted to see in Ibn Khaldūn’s critical attitude to the philosophy of al-Fārābī and Averroes only the confirmation of the primacy of the sharīʿa over Platonic nomos. This article seeks to highlight some aspects of Ibn Khaldūn’s critique of classical political thought of Islamic philosophy. His critique focuses on the importance given to the juridical dimension of social becoming, and to the role of the political body of the jurists in the making of the City. Those aspects witness Ibn Khaldūn’s effort to interpret change and fractures as factors which make sense of history and decadence.

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