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Encyclopædia Britannica, Ninth Edition/Avempace

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AVEMPACE. Abu Bekr Mohammed Ibn Jahrya, surnamed Ibn Badja or Ibn Sayeg (i.e., son of the goldsmith), whose name has been corrupted by the Latins into Avempace, Avenpace, or Aben Pace, was the earliest and one of the most distinguished of the Arab philosophers in Spain. Almost nothing is known of the events in his life ; he was born, probably at Saragossa, towards the close of the llth century, and died at Fez in 1138 at a not very advanced age. Like most of the Arab philosophers, hv~ was a physi cian by profession, and he is also said to have been a man of wide general culture. He was a skilled musician, mathematician, astronomer, and poet, and though he is now known only through his metaphysical speculations, these do not seem to have been his favourite studies. His writings, if we accept the report of Oceibia, were varied and numerous. Several treatises on logical subjects arc mentioned by Casiri as still among the MSS. at the Escurial, and some smaller pieces are also found in other libraries. The most important of his works is that noticed by Averroes, who promised a complete discussion of it, but unfortunately neither the treatise nor the exposition has come down to us. Our knowledge of it is almost entirely drawn from the notices given by Moses of Narbonne, a Jewish writer of the 14th century, in his commentary on the somewhat similar work of Ibn Tofail. The title of the work may be translated as the Regime or C onduct of the Solitary, understanding by that the organised system of rules, by obedience to which the individual may rise from the mere life of the senses to the perception of pure intelligible principles, and may participate in the divine thought which sustains the world. These rules for the individual are but the image or reflex of the political organisation of the perfect or ideal state ; and the man who strives to lead this life is called the solitary, not because he withdraws from society, but because, while in it, he remains a stranger to its ways, and guides himself by reference to a higher state, an ideal society. Avempace does not develop at any length this curious Platonic idea of the perfect state. His object is to discover the highest end of human life, and with this view he classifies the various activities of the human soul, rejects such as are material or animal, and then analyses the various spiritual forms to which the activities may be directed. He points out the graduated scale of such forms, through which the soul may rise, and shows that none are final or complete in themselves, except the pure intelligible forms, the ideas of ideas. These the intellect can grasp, and in so doing it becomes what he calls intellectus acquisitus, and is in a measure divine. This self-consciousness of pure reason is the highest object of human activity, and is to be attained by the speculative method. The intellect has in itself power to know ultimate truth and intelligence, and does not require a mystical illumination as Algazali taught. Avempace s principles, it is clear, lead directly to the Averroistic doctrine of the unity of intellect, but the obscurity and incompleteness of the Regime do not permit us to judge how far he anticipated the later thinker. (See Munk, Melanges de Phil. Juiveet Arabe, pp. 383-410.)