This introductory chapter provides a short biography of Ibn Kammūna and the historical context in which he lived. It also discusses the background behind the text this volume translates: the Kalimāt wajīza mushtamila ʻalā nukat lạtīfa fī al-ʻilm wa-l-ʻamal, literally “Brief Words Containing Nice Points Concerning Knowledge and Practice.” The Kalimāt is meant to contain in capsular form Ibn Kammūna's “discourse on intellectual matters (ʿaqliyyāt).” He includes in it “nice points concerning knowledge and practice” which he organized symmetrically: two “gates,” or sets of “points,” on knowledge and two on practice. The sections on knowledge deal with knowledge of the deity, or the “Necessary Existent,” and knowledge of the soul—which amounts to a person's knowledge of their own self. The first section on practice concerns personal ethics, the second political matters—that is, advice on how to govern.
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