Suppose a Man born Blind, but of quick Parts, and a good Capacity, a tenacious Memory, and solid Judgment, who had liv'd in the place of his Nativity, till he had by the help of the rest of his Senses, contracted an acquaintance with a great many in the Neighbourhood, and learn'd the several kinds of Animals, and Things inanimate, and the Streets and Houses of the Town, so as to go any where about it without a Guide, and to know such people as he met, and call them, by their names; and knew the names of Colours, and the difference of them by their descriptions and definitions [alone]; and after he had learn'd all this, should have his Eyes open'd: Why, this Man, when he walk'd about the Town, would find every thing to be exactly agreeable to those notions which he had before; and that Colours were such as he had before conceiv'd them to be, by those descriptions he had receiv'd: so that the difference between his apprehensions when blind, and those which he would have now his Eyes were opened, would consist only in these two great Things, one of which is a consequent of the other, viz., a greater Clearness, and extream Delight.--Abu Jaafar Ebn Tophail The Improvement of HUMAN REASON, Exhibited in the LIFE of Hai Ebn Yokdhan [also known as Philosophus Autodidactus], translated by Simon Ockley (1708).*
The great joyous zenith of Ian Mueller's medieval philosophy course (recall), was his treatment of Avicenna's (or Ibn Sinna) flying man argument. He would carefully take you through the argument, step by step sometimes nodding ahead to Descartes, sometimes glancing backward to Augustine. He would note the little slips and offer gentle improvements along the way. But at the end of the treatment, he would sigh softly and whisper, Isn't that something? Awe replacing his more usual embrace of aporia.
It is well known that Ibn Tufayl's [or أبو بكر محمد بن عبد الملك بن محمد بن طفيل القيسي الأندلسي ] twelfth century, philosophical novel is ingenious; its debts to Avicenna, who is acknowledged in the first sentence, is obvious even to a non-specialist like me. Ibn Tufayl was born in Andalusia (present day Spain) and the intellectual patron of Averroes ( أبو الوليد محمد ابن احمد ابن رشد),(recall). But reading the sparkling philosophical prose for the first time produces a kind of shock of the unexpectedly familiar that is not quite identical to what is known.
Ibn Tufayl's treatment of the blind man's color vision is closer to L.A. Paul's pregnant Mary [recall] than to Jackson's color-blind Mary.** In context, Ibn Tufayl agrees with Paul and Jackson that the discursive does not exhaust the knowable, and that is, in fact, the immediate point of the thought experiment (which is meant to illustrate the nature of a kind of mystical, intuitive knowledge of the highest truth, or union with God). But, strikingly, Ibn Tufayl does not point to the what it's like part of experience that is not knowable (suggesting a lack of anxiety about any purported opposition between the third vs first personal stances). Nor does he use the example to undermine faith in the transferability of testimony or teaching.
Rather, what he points to is that new experiences that add to the empirical base or foundation of one's knowledge can be transformative of one's emotional state. One need not agree with Ibn Tufayl's particular diagnosis that it's joy that will follow the new-found color-clarity of experience in order to recognize that transformative experiences may generate intellectual sentiments (wonder, admiration, surprise, joy etc.)
One may find my classification of joy among the intellectual sentiments a bit dubious. For example, in Essays on Philosophical Subjects, Adam Smith omits joy in his list of intellectual sentiment; and while he recognizes a form of joy subsequent to intellectual tranquility, he tends to understand joy as one of the more natural passions. Even so, we may say in proto-Spinozistic terms that for Ibn Tufayl joy is consequence of the mind's movement toward greater perfection.