Ibn Ṭufayl’s Critique of Politics — Idris
By Murad Idris | Published on September 23, 2019
Murad Idris. “Ibn Ṭufayl’s Critique of Politics.” Journal of Islamic Philosophy 7 (2011): 67–102.
“The political relations marshaled in Ibn Sīnā’s two stories [Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān, and Absāl and Salāmān] are reducible to an either/or. Either agreement and harmony are realized as the ideal and norm of interpersonal life, or they break down and things fall apart. Meanwhile, the construction of politics in Ibn Ṭufayl’s Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān breaks down assumptions fundamental to Ibn Sīnā’s two allegories and to this polarization between total agreement and absolute tragedy. Indeed, it is the way in which Ibn Ṭufayl builds his case against mass politics that demands special attention. His Ḥayy ibn Yaqẓān, I argue, shows that political ideals can themselves be tragic and self-subversive, and this is an ever-present possibility in politics.
My first aim is to elaborate on the allegories’ differing portrayals of politics. Second, I map out the contours of the ethical values implicit in Ibn Ṭufayl’s allegory, namely how ideals and obligations fall into internal contradiction, and how their proliferation leads them into opposition with each other. My reading locates disagreement at the foundation of political life in Ibn Ṭufayl’s allegory, where unrelenting commitments to association, hospitality, friendship, and care of others can bring about negative consequences, including the very opposites of these commitments’ aims. Through moments of antinomy in his story, where the principles of political and ethical action contradict one another or otherwise fail, Ibn Ṭufayl turns Ibn Sīnā’s allegories on their head. In the final section, I bring Ibn Ṭufayl’s critiques to weigh on assumptions about political harmony and disagreement in political theory.” (70)