Article ID: CBB000651641

Knowledge (`ilm) and Certitude (yaqīn) in al-Fārābī's Epistemology (2006)


The concept of ``certitude (yaqin) is central in Arabic discussions of the theory of demonstration advanced by Aristotle in the Posterior Analytics. In the Arabic tradition it is ``certitude, rather than ``knowledge (`ilm=Greek episteme), that is usually identified as the end sought by demonstrations. Al-Farabi himself devotes a short treatise, known as the Conditions of Certitude (Šara'i[tdotu ] al-yaqin), to determining the criteria according to which a subject can claim to have absolute certitude of any proposition. In this article the author traces the roots of the concept of certitude to the Arabic translation of the Posterior Analytics. She then offers a close reading of the text of al-Farabi's Conditions and its parallels in his Epitome of the Posterior Analytics (Kitab al-Burhan). She argues that the identification of certitude as a cognitive state distinct from knowledge enabled al-Farabi to introduce a number of interesting and sometimes problematic innovations into Arabic epistemology. Foremost amongst his positive innovations is the recognition that contingent as well as necessary propositions allow for an attenuated form of certitude, and the introduction of reliabilism into the justification of claims to certitude. But al-Farabi is also one of the first philosophers to articulate explicitly the idea that certitude must include an element of ``knowing that one knows, a controversial principle that tends to undermine both al-Farabi's reliabilism and his efforts to loosen some of the strictures in traditional Aristotelian epistemology.

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Authors & Contributors
Rashed, Marwan
Street, Tony
Bertolacci, Amos
Aouad, Maroun
Schoeler, Gregor
Kemal, Salim
Arabic Sciences and Philosophy
Aleph: Historical Studies in Science and Judaism
Early Science and Medicine: A Journal for the Study of Science, Technology and Medicine in the Pre-modern Period
Medioevo, Rivista di Storia della Filosofia Medievale
Warburg Institute, Univ. of London
Harvard University
Brill Academic Publishers
Arab/Islamic world, civilization and culture
Methodology of science; scientific method
al-Fārābī, Abū Naṣr Muḥammd ibn Muḥammad
al-Kindī, Abū Yūsuf Yaʿqub ibn Isḥāq
Time Periods
10th century
12th century

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