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Meno’s Paradox and First Principles in Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī

In: Oriens
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  • 1 Bard CollegeUSAAnnandale-on-Hudson
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Abstract

This article examines Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī’s (d. 606/1210) epistemology and his understanding of syllogistic reasoning through a consideration of Meno’s paradox. It focuses on later works, namely, al-Maṭālib al-ʿāliya, Kitāb al-Jabr, and al-Tafsīr al-kabīr as well as his treatment of the subject in al-Mulakhkhaṣ fī l-ḥikma. Informed by the theories of epistemology developed through the philosophical tradition of Meno’s paradox and first principles, Rāzī views all knowledge formed through syllogistic reasoning as dependent on axiomatic truths (al-badīhiyyāt), a concept with roots in both the philosophical and theological traditions. These first principles are formed immediately upon the presence of the requisite concepts in the mind, and thus comprise Rāzī’s implicit response to the paradox in that all subsequent knowledge does indeed require previous fundamental knowledge that is not sought nor acquired voluntarily. Finally, the article discusses a separate paradox implicit in Rāzī’s works, namely that he both asserts in sections treating divine determinism that no knowledge can in fact be acquired whatsoever while elsewhere emphasizing the fundamental importance of knowledge acquisition.

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