No man is an island: Nature and neo-platonic ethics in ḥayy Ibn yaqẓān

Journal of the History of Philosophy 46 (2):pp. 187-204 (2008)
Ibn Ṭufayl’s story of the solitary philosopher Ḥayy who, aided only by the power of his natural reason, comes to his own on an uninhabited equatorial island, attractively portrays the neo-Platonic worldview of the Muslim falāsifah . At the same time it forces to the foreground the most trenchant problem in any intellectualist ethics. If the highest virtue consists in the unmixed contemplative life, what good can a thinker do any longer, in any more mundane context? In this article, a reading is proposed that integrates Ḥayy’s cosmological explorations with his relations towards nature and his fellow human beings.
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