the story of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan

1. A famous American philosopher, Richard Rorty, once argued that, in politics and in daily
talk, religion can be a “conversation stopper,” meaning that religions often promote to
others beliefs that their religious members are not encouraged to doubt or examine
critically, even if others ask for evidence to support those beliefs (thus shutting down
conversational inquiry). What does Ibn Tufayl seem to promote in Hayy Ibn Yaqzan as a
response to the problem of dealing with such “conversation stopping,” both between
religious groups and also between religious and non-religious groups? Use textual and
historical evidence to explain your answer.
2. In what ways is the story of Hayy Ibn Yaqzan an attempt to argue that scientific curiosity
can lead to religious experience? Does Ibn Tufayl’s explanation of religious experience
have any connection to what people most commonly, in the history of Islam and in your
own experience of religions, mean by “God”? Use textual and historical evidence to
explain your answer.
3. Ibn Tufayl, via the story of Hayy, attempts to offer some kind of approach for reconciling
science and orthodox Islamic religion. What is most distinctive of this approach? What
are some aspects of Ibn Tufayl’s message that would be most at odds with the general
historical nature of Islam? In your opinion, does Ibn Tufayl also offer useful advice for
reconciling some of today’s common tensions between science and religion?
4. What are some of the main ways that Hayy Ibn Yaqzan utilizes a theme of artificial
human innocence as a basis for its central “thought experiment”? In what ways might this
experiment actually represent a challenge to traditional forms of Islamic political power?
Use textual and historical evidence to explain your answer.
5. Ibn Tufayl frequently uses themes from Islamic Sufism. Explain some major Sufi themes
that are central in Hayy Ibn Yaqzan. How might these themes represent a way to avoid
punishment for non-orthodoxy under traditional Islamic law? Could it be that for Ibn
Tufayl Sufism even represents a way to redistribute power in the Islam of his time?

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