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Ibn Tufayl (1106-1185) – Natural learning

 

Although a critic of Al-Ghazzali, Ibn Tufayl follows through in this tradition of educational enlightenment in another part of the Muslim world, modern Spain, in Granada. This was a period of intense intellectual activity in this part of the Muslim world. He wrote a work of fiction The living one, son of the vigilant, which was widely admired across Europe for centuries, even by Leibniz. It possibly provided the impetus for Daniel Defoe’s Robinson Crusoe. In this neo-Platonic text, a boy is brought up in a natural environment, echoing Rousseau’s novel Emile.

 

The point is that we can gain knowledge of this world, and ultimately the divine, through our own efforts and learning. Even religion is seen to be the result of natural human feeling, observation and reflection, separate from scripture and revelations.


He also makes a distinction between logical or reasoned learning, and other learning which can be expressed and shared through language and intuition, that can only be shown obliquely through metaphors, allegories and stories. Although in the Neo-Platonist tradition, his views on education are synthesised with the Aristotelian view of empirical inquiry.


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