Ibn Khaldun’s Methodology for Analysis
Prof. Hasan A. Yahya, Ph.Ds الدكتور حسن يحيى
His main tool in this work of analysis is observation. Fairly recently there has been stressed the realistic aspect of his thought. Ibn khaldun, who has a thorough knowledge of the sources on logic and makes use of it, particular of induction, greatly mistrusts speculative reasoning. He admits that reason is a marvellous tool, but only within the framework of its natural limits, which are those of the investigation and the interpretation of what is real. He was much concerned about the problem of knowledge and it led him finally, after a radical criticism, to a refutation of philosophy. ‘In casting doubts on the adequacy of universal rationality and of individual reality, Ibn khaldun at the same time casts doubts on the whole structure of speculative philosophy as it then existed’ (N. Nassar, La pensee realiste d’Ibn khaldun, 66). Having thus calmly dismissed Arabo-Muslim philosophy, he chose, in order to explore reality and arrive at its meaning, a type of empiricism which has no hesitation in ‘having recourse to the categories of rational explanation which derive from philosophy’. In short, Ibn khaldun rejects the traditional speculation of the philosophers, which gets bogged down in fruitless argument and controversy, only to replace it by another type of speculation, the steps of which are more certain and the results more fruitful since it is directly related to concrete facts.
This new positive speculation which he suggests and of which he provides an example in the Muqaddima is operated through a dialectical process which has been referred to in several studies (see in particular the recent works of Y. Lacoste and N. Nassar). He could not in fact penetrate to the heart of reality, describe the struggles and conflicts, the tensions and the successive failures of states and civilizations produced by their internal dissensions without encountering, and calling attention to, the process of dialectic, especially since he had encountered logic in his earlier years and since the ideas of contradiction, antithesis, opposition, the complementariness of opposites, of ambiguity, of complexity and of confusion had long been familiar to the Muslim thinking in which he had been educated. They are thus often evoked as operative concepts permitting understanding and explanation. In surmounting the contradictions dialectically, and in attempting to explain them and hence to resolve them, Ibn khaldun thus arrives at a dynamic conception of the dialectic development of the destiny of man, and at a system of history which is retrospectively intelligible, rational and necessary. His famous cyclic schema of historical interpretation, which in itself is not particularly original, must be included, in order for its true meaning to be seen, in this general view. (M. Talbi, H. A. Yahya). www.arabamericanencyclopedia.com
Note: Bibleography may be found at number one in this series. (The Editor)