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 contrive a convenient place for his Philosopher, so as to leave him to Reason by himself, and make his Observations without any Guide. In which Relation, he proposes both these ways, without speaking one Word in favour of either_.
Then he shews by what Steps and Degrees he advanc’d in the Knowledge of Natural Things, till at last he perceiv’d the Necessity of acknowledging an Infinite, Eternal, Wise Creator, and also the Immateriality and Immortality of his own Soul, and that its Happiness consisted only in a continued Conjunction with this supream Being.
The Matter of this Book is curious, and full of useful Theorems; he makes most use of the Peripatetick Philosophy, which he seems to have well understood; it must be confess’d indeed, that when he comes to talk of the Union with God, &c. (as in the Introduction) there are some Enthusiastick Notions, which are particularly consider’d and refuted by the Editor in his Appendix.
Whose Design in publishing this Translation, was to give those who are as yet unacquainted with it, a Taste of the Acumen and Genius of the Arabian Philosophers, and to excite young Scholars to the reading of those Authors, which, through a groundless Conceit of their Impertinence and Ignorance, have been too long neglected.
And tho’ we do not pretend to any Discoveries in this Book, especially at this time of Day, when all parts of Learning are cultivated with so much Exactness; yet we hope that it will not be altogether unacceptable to the curious Reader to know what the state of Learning was among the Arabs, five hundred Years since. And if what we shall here communicate, shall seem little in respect of the Discoveries of this discerning Age; yet we are confident, that any European, who shall compare the Learning in this Book, with what was publish’d by any of his own Country-men at that time, will find himself obliged in Conscience to give our Author fair Quarter.
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Abu Jaaphar Ebn Tophail’s
To the LIFE of
Hai Ebn Yokdhan.
In the Name of the most Merciful God.