UBC Theses and Dissertations
Plotinus, the Islamic intellectual tradition and the metaphysics of nature Hansen, Brian P.
Plotinus, the Islamic Intellectual Tradition and the Metaphysics of Nature examines the profound influence that the spiritual functions of nature as expressed by Plotinus (205-270 CE) exerted on certain developing philosophical and mystical currents in Islam during its first three centuries. In addition, this thesis demonstrates that Plotinus' metaphysics continues to live within contemporary Islamic intellectual circles, specifically in the work of a significant orthodox Islamic thinker— Seyyed Hossein Nasr, who, in allying himself and his religion with Plotinus' dynamic metaphysics, not only clarifies Islamic metaphysical doctrines, but also supplies a significant spiritual context for modern scientific inquiry into the physical world. The first chapter describes and assesses what Seyyed Hossein Nasr defines as the philosophia perennis, paying particular attention to the role of the Intellect, simultaneously a metaphysical principle and potential human spiritual experience that is central in Plotinus, mystically-based Islamic philosophy and Sufism. The second chapter gives a brief analytical summary of Plotinus' metaphysical worldview, underscoring his double emphasis on the Unity experienced via Intellectual vision and the 'metaphysical transparency' of the natural world. The third explores the significant details of Plotinus' metaphysics of nature in preparation for specific demonstrations, in the chapter following it, of how and why Islam embraced elements of Plotinian metaphysics. The fourth chapter appraises the impact that Plotinus' teaching on the beauty and metaphysical transparency of the sensible world had on certain intellectual currents in Islam. This is presented via an historical overview and an analysis of thematic correspondences between Plotinus' metaphysics and the orthodox Islamic worldview as articulated by Seyyed Hossein Nasr. Finally, the fifth chapter evaluates, along with Nasr, the potential for a new scientific paradigm of nature and suggests areas for possible future study. All five chapters support our views that the Intellect functions both as metaphysical bridge between Plotinus and Islam, that its awakened vision is central to the search for the Divine in both spiritual 'ways' and that the insights of an awakened Intellect could contribute to the development of a new, efficacious scientific paradigm for nature.
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