Alive, Son of Awake
Qantara reports that Ibn Tufayl's 12th Century philosophical masterpiece, Hayy Ibn Yaqzan (the "Arab Robinson Crusoe") is now out in German translation. About the novel:
Ibn Tufayl tells the story of a man named Hayy ibn Yaqzan, who grows up alone on a South Sea island on the equator and, aided only by his powers of observation and his intellect, gradually investigates the nature of things – from the anatomy of animals to the attributes of God.I'm going down to the PCL tomorrow to look for it. I tried to find it once in grad school, but gave up so I can focus on thesis research. I think the only thing I wound up focusing on was not missing happy hour.
Medieval explanations of the world from both the Orient and the Occident often assume a knowledge of philosophical traditions – the four elements, bodily fluids, the planets, or the difference between matter and form, substance and accident.
Ibn Tufayl, on the other hand, allows his hero Hayy ibn Yaqzan to acquire all of this knowledge by himself. He demonstrates why fire, water, earth, and air must be the most fundamental elements; through dissection he discovers the etheric vehicle of the vital force, the spirit; from observations he deduces the arrangement of the celestial spheres; and he establishes the existence of the soul and the celestial intelligences.