Volume 77, Issue 4, Fall 2003
An Excursion into Mysticism
Plato and Ibn al-‘Arabî on the Knowledge of the Relationship between Sensible Objects and Intelligible Forms
This paper draws on the mystical thought of Ibn al-‘Arabī (d. 1240) in order to explicate Plato’s account of the relationship between intelligible Forms and sensible objects. The author considers attempts by scholars to solve the difficulties that are inherent in the relationship between sensible objects and their essences—difficulties raised in the Parmenides—by reference to the notion of “immanent characters” of the Phaedo. He examines Ibn al-‘Arabī’s notion of “Specific Faces,” which in the author’s opinion correspond to Plato’s immanent characters. Comparing Ibn al-‘Arabī’s thought with Plato’s reflections on the theory of Forms in the Republic and the Symposium, the author reaches the conclusion that the notion of immanent characters or Specific Faces cannot be offered as a rational account of the relationship between sensible objects and their essences.