Epistle on the Intellect

Classical Arabic Philosophy: An Anthology of Sources. Trans. Jon McGinnis and David C. Reisman. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co. Inc., 2007. Pages 68-78.


“1. The term “intellect” is used in many ways. The first is the thing by virtue of which most people say that man is rational. The second is the “intellect” that the theologians constantly have on their tongues, saying X is something the intellect requires or rejects. The this is the intellect to which the master Aristotle refers in Posterior Analystics. The fourh is the intellect to which he refers in Book Six of (Nichomachean) Ethics. The fifth is the intellect to which he refers in De anima. The sixth is the intellect to which he refers in Metaphysics.

2. What most people refer to by “intellect” and on account of which they say man is intelligent, is discernment, sometime saying about the likes of Mu’awiya that he was “intelligent,” and sometimes refusing to call him “intelligent” by saying that the intelligent person should have religion (religion being something that they believe is the virtue). By “intelligent person,” then, these people mean only someone who is virtuous and deliberates well when deducing any good to be preferred and evil to be avoided. They avoid applying this term to anyon who deliberates well (only) when deducing anything evil; instead, they call (that person) “shrewd” and “clever” and similar names. Excellent deliberation in deducing what is in fact good in order to do (that good), and in deducing what is evil in order to avoid (that evil), is discernment.”


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