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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: Oct 1, 2022


Section Chapter Authors
Acknowledgements Anthony Shaker
Translator's Introduction Anthony Shaker
The Discursive Limits of Interpretation
Prologue Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
Part One - Expository Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
Part Two - Semiology and Interpretation Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī
Conclusion Ṣadr al-Dīn Qūnawī