Defense Date


Graduation Date

Summer 8-11-2018


One-year Embargo

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

Michael Harrington

Committee Member

Peter Adamson

Committee Member

Thérèse Bonin

Committee Member

Christof Rapp


Islamic Philosophy, Arabic Philosophy, Ibn Ṭufayl, Neoplatonism, desire, Graeco-Arabic Translation


This dissertation investigates the role of desire in Ibn Ṭufayl’s Ḥayy Ibn Yaqẓān through a philosophical investigation of desire from Plotinus to Ibn Ṭufayl. I examine Plotinus’s account of desire for the Good, and I argue that this desire forms the basis of his account of substance, such that this desire is non-rational, permanent, fundamental to all hypostases. I also examine the Arabic translations of Plotinus’s text, arguing that the role of desire for God is severely diminished. Indeed, the desire for God we find in these texts is rational and non-permanent – a modified version of the Plotinian model. As I consider Ibn Bāǧǧa’s corpus, I argue that on his account desire is decidedly rational and non-permanent. However, he uses a model I term the power-among-powers model, which he inherits and develops from al-Fārābī and the translations of Aristotle. These previous examinations form the backdrop for my main concern: my argument that desire is fundamental to Ibn Ṭufayl’s Ḥayy Ibn Yaqẓān. I contend that Ibn Ṭufayl intends to intervene politically by inciting desire for the path toward Truth in his readers. I then argue that his account of desire is a blend of Avicenna’s and al-Ġazālī’s accounts, a combination of the Plotinian and power-among-powers models. On this account, desire for God is non-rational and permanent. Finally, I conclude that Ibn Ṭufayl presents a model for political intervention that places desires at the center of philosophical education and practice and that includes all members of society and the natural world.



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