Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Al Farabi and Psychology

"When man comes into being, the first faculty to appear is that by which he is nourished, namely the vegetative faculty (al quwwat al-ghadhiyah). After that there develops the faculty with which he perceives the tangible objects such as heat, cold and the rest. This is also the faculty with which he tastes and smells, hears sounds, and sees colors and all other objects of vision such as light rays. Along with the senses is developed (the faculty) with which he yearns for the sensibles; he either likes or dislikes them. Then, after that, appears another faculty with which he retains the impression of the sensibles upon his soul after the sensible objects have disappeared from his senses. This is the imaginative faculty (al-quwwat al mutakhayyilah). This faculty combines some (of the impressions of the) sensibles with others as well as separates some from others, producing different combinations and separations. Some of these are false and some are true. Associated with this faculty is the power of desire toward the objects of imagination. After that there appears in him the rational faculty (al quwwat al-natiqah) with which he is able to perceive the intelligibles in order to gain possession of the arts and the sciences. There is also associated with this faculty the desire toward that which has been perceived by the intellect."

extracted from: Al Farabi's Kitab mabadi ara ahl al madinat al fadilah

Taken from Classification of Knowledge in Islam (Osman Bakar, 1992)

KR: In the above, one could find some comparison with the Freudian theory of psycho-sexual stages and/ or the general theory of developmental psychology from a cognitive developmental perspective.

One could be impress with the fact that Al Farabi articulated the early child-human developmental stages which is quite similar to the developmental concepts that Howard Gardner mentioned when he spoke of the cognitive development of the mind of a child in: The Unschooled Mind: How Children Think and How Schools Should Teach.

What is truly impressive from all of this is that Al Farabi lived in the period 890-950 CE where much of Europe were living still in the pre-middle ages and at that point the Muslims were rapidly "modernizing" and developing mathematics, natural sciences and philosophy.

A far cry if one would consider the condition of the educational level or value of knowledge by Muslims, in general, today.

Thus, this brings to the simple conclusion of the scholarship that is of Al Farabi - though sadly many psychology students hardly take heed or are less than familiar with his name and contributions while on the other hand are more accustomed to names the likes of Freud, Gardner, Lung, Carl Rogers, Erikson, Bandura, Cattell, Maslow, amongst others.

Al Farabi was also well regarded to have brought further the ideas of Peripatetic school of philosophy into the Islamic world studying from Greekian scholars and hence was the conduit between the early period and the age before enlightenment that had transformed Europe.

Al Farabi and many other scholars the likes in the past were the pace makers that set modern societies then ablaze with ideas and progress - today Muslims (even "Malay 2.0s") with the exception of a rare few are yet to even jump into the bandwagon let alone pacing the progress that leads to development!




cerebrator said...

i think it will still be a long time before we actually "jump into the bandwagon." Coz we are all in a framework that make us followers rather than 'revolutionaries'

Hanis said...

Wow! your write up here gives me a big slap on the face. I have just learnt about those theories and instantly al-farabi slipped of my mind. Astaghfirullah... I think Im lacking.

Thanks for the info shared. Jazakallah khairal jaza':)