As such, he may be considered to be the first major Islamic philosopher. The philosophical space that he articulates for God as the Necessary Existence lays the foundation for his theories of the soul, intellect and cosmos. Late 20th century studies have attempted to locate him within the Aristotelian and Neoplatonic traditions. His relationship with the latter is ambivalent: although accepting some keys aspects such as an emanationist cosmology, he rejected Neoplatonic epistemology and the theory of the pre-existent soul.

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As such, he may be considered to be the first major Islamic philosopher. The philosophical space that he articulates for God as the Necessary Existence lays the foundation for his theories of the soul, intellect and cosmos.

Late 20th century studies have attempted to locate him within the Aristotelian and Neoplatonic traditions. His relationship with the latter is ambivalent: although accepting some keys aspects such as an emanationist cosmology, he rejected Neoplatonic epistemology and the theory of the pre-existent soul. His influence in medieval Europe spread through the translations of his works first undertaken in Spain.

Avicennan metaphysics became the foundation for discussions of Islamic philosophy and philosophical theology. In the early modern period in Iran, his metaphysical positions began to be displayed by a creative modification that they underwent due to the thinkers of the school of Isfahan, in particular Mulla Sadra d.

However, much of this material ought to be carefully examined and critically evaluated. Gutas has argued that the autobiography is a literary device to represent Avicenna as a philosopher who acquired knowledge of all the philosophical sciences through study and intuition al-hads , a cornerstone of his epistemological theory.

Thus the autobiography is an attempt to demonstrate that humans can achieve the highest knowledge through intuition. We will return to his epistemology later but first what can we say about his life? Avicenna was born in around in Afshana, a village near Bukhara in Transoxiana. His father, who may have been Ismaili, was a local Samanid governor. This training and the excellent library of the physicians at the Samanid court assisted Avicenna in his philosophical self-education.

Thus, he claimed to have mastered all the sciences by the age of 18 and entered into the service of the Samanid court of Nuh ibn Mansur r. After the death of his father, it seems that he was also given an administrative post. Around the turn of the millennium, he moved to Gurganj in Khwarazm, partly no doubt to the eclipse of Samanid rule after the Qarakhanids took Bukhara in There he first met his disciple and scribe Juzjani.

After a year, he entered Buyid service as a physician, first with Majd al-Dawla in Rayy and then in in Hamadan where he became vizier of Shams al-Dawla. Based in Isfahan, he was widely recognized as a philosopher and physician and often accompanied his patron on campaign.

It was during one of these to Hamadan in that he died of colic. An arrogant thinker who did not suffer fools, he was fond of his slave-girls and wine, facts which were ammunition for his later detractors. Avicenna wrote his two earliest works in Bukhara under the influence of al-Farabi. Aristotle, that covers the natural sciences, logic, mathematics, metaphysics and theology.

It was this work that through its Latin translation had a considerable impact on scholasticism. It was solicited by Juzjani and his other students in Hamadan in and although he lost parts of it on a military campaign, he completed it in Isfahan by According to Gutas it was written in Isfahan in the early s; according to Michot, it dates from an earlier period in Hamadan and possibly Rayy.

One further work that has inspired much debate is The Easterners al-Mashriqiyun or The Eastern Philosophy al-Hikma al-Mashriqiya which he wrote at the end of the s and is mostly lost. In certain cases the Latin manuscripts of the text predate the extant Arabic ones and ought to be considered more authoritative. The main significance of the Latin corpus lies in the interpretation for Avicennism andAvicennism, in particular forregarding his doctrines on the nature of the soul and his famous existence-essence distinction more about that below andbelow , along with the debates and censure that they raised in scholastic Europe, in particular in ParisEurope.

This was particularly the case in Paris, where Avicennism waslater proscribed in However, the influence of his psychology and theory of knowledge upon William of Auvergne and Albertus Magnus have been noted. More significant is the impact of his metaphysics upon the work and thought of Thomas Aquinas. His other major work to be translated into Latin was his medical treatise the Canon , which remained a text-book into the early modern period and was studied in centrescenters of medical learning such as Padua.

Logic is a critical aspect of, and propaedeutic to, Avicennan philosophy. On the age-old debate whether logic is an instrument of philosophy Peripatetic view or a part of philosophy Stoic view , he argues that such a debate is futile and meaningless.

More importantly, logic is a key instrument and standard for judging the validity of arguments and hence acquiring knowledge. Salvation depends on the purity of the soul and in particular the intellect that is trained and perfected through knowledge. Of particular significance for later debates and refutations is his notion that knowledge depends on the inquiry of essential definitions hadd through syllogistic reasoning.

From al-Farabi, Avicenna inherited the Neoplatonic emanationist scheme of existence. Contrary to the classical Muslim theologians, he rejected creation ex nihilo and argued that cosmos has no beginning but is a natural logical product of the divine One.

The super-abundant, pure Good that is the One cannot fail to produce an ordered and good cosmos that does not succeed him in time. The cosmos succeeds God merely in logical order and in existence.

Consequently, Avicenna is well known as the author of one an important and influential proof for the existence of God. The argument runs as follows: There is existence, or rather our phenomenal experience of the world confirms that things exist, and that their existence is non-necessary because we notice that things come into existence and pass out of it. Contingent existence cannot arise unless it is made necessary by a cause.

A causal chain in reality must culminate in one un-caused cause because one cannot posit an actual infinite regress of causes a basic axiom of Aristotelian science.

Therefore, the chain of contingent existents must culminate in and find its causal principle in a sole, self-subsistent existent that is Necessary. This, of course, is the same as the God of religion. This final mode of essence is quite distinct from existence. Essences are thus existentially neutral in themselves. God on the other hand is absolutely simple, and cannot be divided into a bundle of distinct ontological properties that would violate his unity.

Contingents, as a mark of their contingency, are conceptual and ontological composites both at the first level of existence and essence and at the second level of properties.

Contingent things in this world come to be as mentally distinct composites of existence and essence bestowed by the Necessary. The quest to understand being qua being subsumes the philosophical notion of God. Indeed, as we have seen divine existence is a cornerstone of his metaphysics.

Divine existence bestows existence and hence meaning and value upon all that exists. Two questions that were current were resolved through his theory of existence. Second, the age-old problem was discussed: if God is good, how can evil exist? Divine providence ensures that the world is the best of all possible worlds, arranged in the rational order that one would expect of a creator akin to the demiurge of the Timaeus.

But while this does not deny the existence of evil in this world of generation and corruption, some universal evil does not exist because of the famous Neoplatonic definition of evil as the absence of good. Particular evils in this world are accidental consequences of good. The second most influential idea of Avicenna is his theory of the knowledge. The human intellect at birth is rather like a tabula rasa , a pure potentiality that is actualized through education and comes to know.

Knowledge is attained through empirical familiarity with objects in this world from which one abstracts universal concepts. It is developed through a syllogistic method of reasoning; observations lead to prepositional statements, which when compounded lead to further abstract concepts.

But the question arises: how can we verify if a proposition is true? How do we know that an experience of ours is veridical? There are two methods to achieve this. First, there are the standards of formal inference of arguments —Is the argument logically sound?

Second, and most importantly, there is a transcendent intellect in which all the essences of things and all knowledge resides. This intellect, known as the Active Intellect, illuminates the human intellect through conjunction and bestows upon the human intellect true knowledge of things. Conjunction, however, is episodic and only occurs to human intellects that have become adequately trained and thereby actualized.

A syllogistic inference draws a conclusion from two prepositional premises through their connection or their middle term. It is sometimes rather difficult to see what the middle term is; thus when someone reflecting upon an inferential problem suddenly hits upon the middle term, and thus understands the correct result, she has been helped through intuition hads inspired by the active intellect.

There are various objections that can be raised against this theory, especially because it is predicated upon a cosmology widely refuted in the post-Copernican world. The divine is pure, simple and immaterial and hence cannot have a direct epistemic relation with the particular thing to be known. God only knows kinds of existents and not individuals. This proof for the self in many ways prefigures by years the Cartesian cogito and the modern philosophical notion of the self.

It demonstrates the Aristotelian base and Neoplatonic structure of his psychology. If a person were created in a perfect state, but blind and suspended in the air but unable to perceive anything through his senses, would he be able to affirm the existence of his self? Suspended in such a state, he cannot affirm the existence of his body because he is not empirically aware of it, thus the argument may be seen as affirming the independence of the soul from the body, a form of dualism.

But in that state he cannot doubt that his self exists because there is a subject that is thinking, thus the argument can be seen as an affirmation of the self-awareness of the soul and its substantiality. This argument does raise an objection, which may also be levelled at Descartes: how do we know that the knowing subject is the self? This rational self possesses faculties or senses in a theory that begins with Aristotle and develops through Neoplatonism.

The first sense is common sense al-hiss al-mushtarak which fuses information from the physical senses into an epistemic object. The second sense is imagination al-khayal which processes the image of the perceived epistemic object. The third sense is the imaginative faculty al-mutakhayyila which combines images in memory, separates them and produces new images. The fourth sense is estimation or prehension wahm that translates the perceived image into its significance.

The classic example for this innovative sense is that of the sheep perceiving the wolf and understanding the implicit danger. The final sense is where the ideas produced are stored and analyzed and ascribed meanings based upon the production of the imaginative faculty and estimation. Different faculties do not compromise the singular integrity of the rational soul. They merely provide an explanation for the process of intellection.

Was Avicenna a mystic? Some of his interpreters in Iran have answered in the positive, citing the lost work The Easterners that on the face of it has a superficial similarity to the notion of Ishraqi or Illuminationist, intuitive philosophy expounded by Suhrawardi d. The question does not directly impinge on his philosophy so much since The Easterners is mostly non-extant. But it is an argument relating to ideology and the ways in which modern commentators and scholars wish to study Islamic philosophy as a purely rational form of inquiry or as a supra-rational method of understanding reality.

Gutas has been most vehement in his denial of any mysticism in Avicenna. For him, Avicennism is rooted in the rationalism of the Aristotelian tradition.


Avicenna Latinus

In addition, a partial translation of his medical treatise On Cardiac Drugs was incorporated into the translation of the De anima. Finally, Michael Scot offered the translation of an abbreviated version of the On Animals. It was only in the Renaissance that the physician Andreas Alpago elaborated the translation of a few minor philosophical treatises. The Avicenna Latinus includes also several pseudepigraphical writings, the attribution of which to Avicenna had sometimes originated in the Latin tradition, but not always.


Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna), Latin Translations of


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