I was not willing (’though importun’d) to undertake the translating it into English, because I was inform’d that it had been done twice already; once by Dr. Ashwell, another time by the Quakers, who imagin’d that there was something in, it that favoured their Enthusiastick Notions. However, taking it for granted, that both these Translations we’re not made out of the Original Arabick, but out of the Latin; I did not question but they had mistaken the Sense of the Author in many places. Besides, observing that a great many of my friends whom I had a desire to oblige, and other Persons whom I would willingly incline to a more favourable Opinion of Arabick Learning, had not seen this Book; and withal, hoping that I might add something by way of Annotation or Appendix, which would not be altogether useless; I at last ventur’d to translate it a-new.
I have here and there added a Note, in which there is an account given of some, great Man, some Custom of the Mahometans explain’d, or something of that Nature, which I hope will not be unacceptable. And lest any Person should, through mistake, make any ill use of it, I have subjoin’d an Appendix, the Design of which the Reader may see in its proper place.
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When I first undertook the Publication of this English Translation, I thought it would not be amiss to present the World with a Specimen of it first. But since the Introduction is such, that the Reader can no more by it give a Guess at what is contain’d in the Book itself, than a Man can judge of his Entertainment by seeing the Cloath laid; I have thought it necessary to give him a Bill of Fare.
The Design of the Author (who was a Mahometan Philosopher) is to shew how Humane Reason may, by Observation and Experience, arrive at the Knowledge of Natural Things, and from thence to Supernatural; particularly the Knowledge of God and a Future State. And in order to this, he supposes a Person brought up by himself where he was altogether destitute of any Instruction, but what he could get from his own Observation.
He lays the Scene in some Fortunate Island situate under the Equinoctial; where he supposes this Philosopher, either to have been bred (according to Avicen_’s Hypothesis, who conceiv’d a possibility of a Man’s being formed by the Influence of the Planets upon Matter rightly disposed) without either Father or Mother; or self-expos’d in his Infancy, and providentially suckled by a Roe. Not that our Author believ’d any such matter, but only having design’d to._