floating man argument


floating man argument
   An argument that Ibn Sina makes to prove the substantiality of the soul. He calls upon the reader to enter into an introspective thought experiment, whereby we are to imagine a human being who has suddenly come into being, fully developed and perfectly formed, but bereft of any sensory experience of the world or even of his own body (the man is floating in space, with shrouded vision and no physical contact). Ibn Sina argues that such a being would nonetheless be conscious of his own existence; i.e. that the soul has a reflexive, unmediated knowledge of itself (and more generally, a prelinguistic awareness of being). Since the existence of self as consciousness/soul is conceivable without any awareness of the body, it must be separable from, and ontologically independent of, the body. As numerous modern commentators have pointed out, Ibn Sina’s thought experiment anticipates Descartes’ cogito argument in drawing attention to the indubitable, and thus foundational, fact of one’s own existence as a thinking thing.
   See afterlife; epistemology; Ibn Sina; Illuminationism; psychology; al-Suhrawardi
   Further reading: Goodman 1992a/2006; Ibn Sina 1952/81; Marmura 2005; Wisnovsky 2001

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

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