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The Limits of Discursive Interpretation

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Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī (d. 1274) is arguably the most important thinker of the generation following the main founders of medieval philosophy—al-Fārābī, Ibn Sīnā, Ibn ʿArabī and Suhravardī—and before Mullā Ṣadrā. Yet, almost nothing of his writings has been translated into English. In this influential work he independently explores speech (divine and human) as the unfolding relationality of knowing and being.

This is the first annotated translation of his magnum opus The Limits of Discursive Interpretation. The Translator’s introduction and notes shed a detailed light on the linguistic sources of Qūnawī’s lexicon. The Introduction also summarizes the key ideas of the book and explains their significance to philosophy.

In Part One Qūnawī begins by arguing that the failure of theoretical proofs to establish the reality of a thing does not itself disprove that reality. He elucidates the canons of thinking in relation to ‘tasting’ (experience) and the question of the ‘realities of things’ where knowing and being unfold dynamically from their ‘root’ in divine hiddenness and manifestation. His original approach led him to contextualize the narrow sense in which Ibn Sīnā declared man incapable of grasping the realities of things. He then details the concepts and the rules of subordinate relations—mostly derived from linguistics—that rule these realities according to rootedness and mutual distinctions. Without a proper understanding of rootedness as the source of the realities’ mutual distinctions, thinking remains relational, incapable of rendering the real (not to be confused with empirical facticity) it intends without folding back on itself, bereft of realization (taḥaqquq, also confirmation), which is essential to the burgeoning philosophical tradition to which he belonged.

In Part Two he details the semiology by which, not only the contents of the Qur’ān but, primarily the ontological dimensions of God’s speech are disclosed as the veiling and unveiling, exteriorization and interiorization of being.

Published: Apr 1, 2024


Section Chapter Authors
Preface Anthony Shaker
Translator's Introduction Anthony Shaker
The Limits of Discursive Interpretation: Introduction
Prologue Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
The Promised Introduction Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
1. Instalment Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
2. Instalment from This Root Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
3. Instalment from This Root Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
4. Instalment Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
5. Instalment from This Root Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
6. Instalment from This Root Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
7. A Universal Fundament I Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
8. A Universal Fundament II Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
The Limits of Discursive Interpretation: Exegesis
9. Elaboration of What His Word Summates: Bism ʾAlllāh al-Raḥmān al-Raḥīm Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
10. Door Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
11. Instalment from This Root Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
12. Instalment from This Root Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
13. Instalment from This Root Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
14. Completion Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
15. Section Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
16. Voice of the Junction of This Subdivision and Its Closure Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
17. Instalment on the Exterior, the Interior, the Limit and the Locus of Dawning Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
18. Instalment: On the Lead-bearing of the Intellects, the Selves and Man Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
19. Instalment: On the Voice of Junction and the Locus of Dawning, wherewith we Close the Discussion on this Second Subdivision, with God’s Aid and Volition Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
20. Instalment from This Root Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
21. Opening of the Third Subdivision of the Principal of the Book Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
22. Instalment from This Root Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
23. Section Concerning the Instalment Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
24. Instalment Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
25. Instalment Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
26. Instalment from [the Preceding] Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
27. Instalment Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
28. Section: On the explanation of the secret of prophethood, the forms of its right counsel, the endpoint of its ways, and its fruits Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
29. Conclusion and Comprehensive Guidance Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
30. Section: On the promised ‘guidance Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
31. In Completion: Of the discussion on this sign-verse according to requirement of the 30 antecedent promise His Most High pronouncement, ‘the pathway of those whom You benefact, not the chastised or those who stray’ (Q. 1.7) Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
32. Instalment in the Voice of Limit and Dawning Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
33. Instalment Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
34. Instalment: On His pronouncement ‘Or Those Who Stray' Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
35. Instalment: In explanation of the secret of final perplexity, its echelons and reasons Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
36. Another Instalment: In explanation of the strongest of reasons for the last perplexity that 15 belongs to the most eminent and its secrets in the voice of what lies beyond the dawning Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
37. An Instalment Higher and More August That Uncovers More of the Secrets, Branch and Root Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
38. Descent to the Intelligences, a Familiarisation and an Elucidation of an Equivocation with a Precious Similitude Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
39. Section: Closures of universal openings, junctions of ordinances, and the divine Qurʾānic and separative secrets Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
40. Instalment from [the Preceding] in the Voice of Junction of the Junction Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
41. Instalment: Including a modicum of the canonical, radicate and Qurʾānic secrets Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
42. Instalment: On the junctions of consonant ordinances, being the conclusion of the book Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
43. Instalment Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
44. The Closing Extolment Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī