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Lecture | LUCIS What's New?! Series

The Camel’s Hobble: Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī on the Practical Intellect

Thursday 14 March 2024
What's New?! Spring Lecture Series 2024
Cleveringaplaats 1
2311 BD Leiden

This lecture will delve into the classical, yet pressing, question of the boundaries between human and nonhuman animals, through the lens of one of the most outstanding thinkers in Islamic intellectual history: Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī (d. 606 H/1210 CE). Al-Rāzī, like most premodern philosophers across Western and Eastern traditions, posits the intellect (in Arabic, ʿaql) as the defining feature that sets human beings apart from nonhuman animals. However, an attentive reading of his works shows that the human intellect, as he conceives it, is primarily the capacity of reflecting upon and refraining from pursuing certain actions, likened to a “camel’s hobble.” This distinctive viewpoint, as I will contend, introduces a significant development in the discourse on the boundaries between human and nonhuman animals. It enables al-Rāzī to ascribe cognitive capacities, such as concept formation, granting belief, and inferential reasoning to nonhuman animals and, thus, to challenge the assertions of preceding scholars on this issue.

Sarah de Mendonça Virgi

Sarah Virgi is Assistant Professor for European and Islamic Philosophy at Utrecht University. She studied Philosophy at Paris 1 – Panthéon-Sorbonne, and Islamic Societies and Cultures at the School of Oriental and African Studies (SOAS), in London. In 2021, she completed her Ph.D. thesis at the LMU in Munich on the concepts of spirit and soul in post-Avicennan philosophy. Before her appointment at Utrecht University in 2023, she was a post-doctoral researcher in the project “The Heirs of Avicenna,” directed by Professor Peter Adamson, in Munich.

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