Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Zaki Naguib Mahmoud

Zaki Naguib Mahmoud
Zaki Naguib Mahmoud is one of the pioneers of enlightenment along half a century. He is "the philosopher of authors and author of philosophers," as Abbas Mahmoud Al-Aqqad put it.
Zaki Naguib Mahmoud was born on February 2,1905 in Damietta governorate. He attended Gordon College in Sudan where his father was working at that time, returned to Cairo and joined the department of philosophy at the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University. He graduated in 1930. Then, he worked as a teacher of philosophy in the secondary stage. In 1974, he was given a scholarship to England to do a doctoral thesis on self-determinateness. There, he knew closely the philosopher of the 20th century Ph.D. Bertrand Russell and the great logician John Eyre.
When he came back, he was appointed lecturer, then, assistant professor and finally professor of philosophy at the Faculty of Arts, Cairo University. Among the distinguished positions Zaki Naguib Mahmoud held are: professor of philosophy in the University of Kuwait, writer in Al-Ahram Newspaper, member in the Supreme Council of Culture, the National Council of Culture and the National Council of Education and Scientific Research.
Zaki Naguib Mahmoud’s encyclopedic reference books on philosophy and literature, not to mention his translations of the masterpieces of philosophy, all contributed to enrich Arabic literature. His intellectual life is divided into two main stages:
• In the first stage, Zaki Naguib Mahmoud laid the foundations of his intellectual production from which and sometimes from the corrective or polemical treatment of which the second stage emerged. He held that disciplined and systematic verification of knowledge is the ultimate object of philosophy and that logical analysis of language is the prime tool to that end. He concluded that knowledge is of two kinds: mental and sentimental.
At that stage, Zaki Naguib Mahmoud wrote:
Symbolic Logic (1951), The Philosophy of Science (1952), The Mythology of Metaphysics (1953) reprinted in 1983 under the title An Attitude Towards Metaphysics, Intellectual Life in the Modern World (1956), The Theory of Knowledge (1956) and Towards a Scientific Philosophy for which he was given the State Incentive Award.
• The second stage began with the publication of The Artist East in 1956 where Zaki Naguib Mahmoud revealed the historical dimension of knowledge and the civilized, structural and comprehensive significance of such a dimension rather than its limited social perspective. It is in that book that he began to discover the main cultural peculiarities of eastern cultures against a background of those characterizing western cultures through dichotomies between the sky and earth, sentiment and reason, good and evil, originality and modernity and so on. He generally attributed the first item of each pair to the East, the second to the West. The two items were not, however, dealt with as being completely separate.
In his later works such as The Poetry of Al-Ghazali and The Attitude of Ibn Khaldun Towards Philosophy, the question of the historical reality of the Arab culture occupied his mind and he became much more interested in the Arab cultural heritage.
His book The Revival of Arab Intellect written in 1970 marks the peak of the second stage. It drew a distinction between the genius of the Arab culture and borrowings from other cultures. The two criteria he established were the nature of creativity and the way borrowing occurs.
In the books mentioned below, Zaki Naguib Mahmoud attempted to shape an integrated philosophical attitude, engage in, criticize and foresee the future of the cultural and intellectual Egyptian and Arab life. These are:
• The Reasonable and the Absurd in our Intellectual Heritage (1975). • Our Culture Facing the Challenges of the Age (1976). • Our Intellectual Life (1979). • This Age and its Culture (1980). • On the Philosophy of Criticism (1983). • An Islamic Vision (1987). • On the Modernization of the Arab Culture (1988). • Seeds and Roots (1990).
Zaki Naguib Mahmoud was given the State Incentive Award in 1960, State Merit Award in 1970, Arab Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Award in 1984 and The American University in Cairo Honorary Doctorate in 1985.
In September 1997, the London-based Association named for Zaki Naguib Mahmoud was established.

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