The Ethics of Desire in the Philosophy of Ibn Gabirol

Document Type : Scientific-research


1 Doctoral student of philosophy at Beheshti University (corresponding author)

2 Associate Professor, Department of Philosophy, Faculty of Literature and Humanities, Beheshti University


The connection between ethics and metaphysics has always been an important problem in Neoplatonism. This question is also raised in the philosophy of Ibn Gabirol (the Jewish Neo-Platonist philosopher). Ibn Gabirol tries to connect ethics and metaphysics by the concept of ‘desire’. For him, the world consists of two movements: procession and reversion, i.e. the transformation of unity into multiplicity and the return of multiplicity into unity. Desire is both the cause of procession and the cause of reversion. “Human being” is the level from which the reversion begins. For this reason, he must turn “descending desire” (procession) into “ascending desire” (reversion). It is ethics that helps an individual, in his movement towards happiness, to make the ascending desire dominate the descending desire, that is, the ‘the pure indeterminate’ or ‘First unity’. But how can ethics do it? Ethics leads man towards his ascending desire through adjusting the natural dispositions. Man, because of his animal soul and his descending desire, confuses the determined things for the pure indeterminate as the object of his happiness. This causes the soul to go out of balance and tends to move toward multiple natural dispositions. These natural dispositions themselves cause a person to move further away from happiness. Ethics puts a person on the path of happiness through balancing natural dispositions.


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