Ibn Sina – Avicenna

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Ibn Sina – Abu Ali Al Hussein (980-1037)

Ibn Sina (Avicenna) is one of the most famous philosophers in the medieval Hellenistic Islamic tradition, a period which also includes al-Farad and Ibn Rushd. His philosophical theory is a comprehensive, detailed and rational account of the nature of God and being, in which he finds a systematic place for the physical, spiritual, inner world and various types of logical thought including dialectic, rhetoric and poetry .

A central place in Ibn Sina’s philosophy is occupied by his concept of reality and reason. Reason in his scheme allows progress through various levels of understanding and ultimately leads us to God, the ultimate truth. He emphasizes the importance of acquiring knowledge, and develops a theory of knowledge based on 4 factors: the sense of perception, retention, imagination and appreciation. Imagination has the main role in the intellect, because through it images are compared and created which give access to reach the universal. Again the ultimate object of knowledge is God, pure intellect.

In metaphysics, Ibn Sina makes the distinction between essence and existence; essence considers only the nature of things and must be considered separate from their mental and physical realization. This division applies to all people except God, whom Ibn Sina identifies as the first cause and thus both essence and existence. He also states that the soul is immaterial and cannot be destroyed. The soul, according to him, is an agent that in this world makes the choice between good and evil, which consequently leads to reward or punishment.

Various references are sometimes made to Ibn Sina’s supposed mysticism but the world seems to be based on the misunderstanding of Western philosophers about some parts of his works. As one of the most distinguished practitioners of philosophy, Ibn Sina exerted a strong influence on both other Islamic philosophers and the philosophers of medieval Europe. His work was one of the main targets that Ghazali uses to attack the Hellenistic influence on Islam. In Latin translations, his work influenced many Christian philosophers, most notably Thomas Aquinas.

Biography of Avicenna

Ibn Sina was born in 980 near Bukhara in central Asia, where his father governed a village in one of the royal areas. At the age of 13, Ibn Sina began to study medicine which made him an eminent physician… His medical expertise brought him to the attention of the Sultan of Bukhara, Nuh ibn Mansur, whom he treated successfully; as a result he was given permission to use the sultan’s library and the rare manuscripts it contained, thus enabling him to study the ways of knowledge.

When the sultan died, the heir to the throne, Ali Ibn Shams al-Dawla, asked Ibn Sina to continue as vizier, but the philosopher had negotiated for him to join the forces of his other son, the later king Ala al-Dawla, so he went into hiding. During this period he wrote his greatest philosophical tract, Kitab al-Shifa (the book of healing), a comprehensive study of learning ranging from logic and mathematics to metaphysics and the afterlife.

At the time he was writing the logic section, Ibn Sina was arrested and imprisoned, but he fled to Isfahan, a known Sufi area, and joined Ala al-Dawla. During this time he completed the book al-Shifa and also wrote another book Kitab al-Najat (The Book of Salvation), a compilation of the book al-Shifa! He also wrote at least two major books on the subject of logic: the first, al-Mantik, translated as Ibn Sina’s Proposed Logic, was a commentary on Aristotle’s Primary Analysis and forms another part of Al Shifa ; the second book, Al-isharat wa-I-tabihat (notes and warnings) seems to be written in the form of evidence where the reader must participate by working out the steps that emerge from certain premises going towards the proposed calculations. He also wrote a treatise on definitions and a compendium of the theoretical sciences, along with a considerable number of psychological and religious works as well as many other works. He later wrote a number of short works on logic and metaphysics, and a book on ‘righteous judgement’ which had been lost when his prince’s people had experienced great suffering. Ibn-Sina’s philosophical and medical summers and his involvement in politics continued until his death.

Reason and reality

Ibn Sina’s autobiography parallels his allegorical work, Hajj ibn Yaqzan. This clarifies how it is possible for the individual alone to arrive at the indisputable truth about reality, being and God. The autobiography shows how Ibn Sina more or less taught himself, albeit with certain ways of helping at crucial moments, and continued through various levels of sophistication until he reached the ultimate truth.

Such progress was possible according to ibn-Sina’s concept of reality and reason. He stood for the principle that God, the principle of eternal existence, is the pure intellect from which other existing beings such as minds, bodies and other objects originate, from which all these are dependent. This dependence, at first fully understood, is rational and allows beings to learn from each other, and ultimately from God. Indeed, the totality of intelligence is syllogistically structured, and human knowledge consists of the mind’s perception and apprehension of intelligible being. Since knowledge consists of grasping the syllogistic structures of “intelligibles”, it requires the use of reason to follow the connection between intelligibles. Among these intelligibles are the principles that include both concepts such as: ‘existing’, ‘thing’ and ‘need’, which constitute the categories and truths of logic, including the first syllogistic figure, and all these are basic, primitive and obvious. The laws of logic are also very important for human development.

Ibn Sina’s position on the fundamentalist nature of categorical concepts and logical forms has similar foundations to Aristotle’s thoughts in the Primary Analysis. Borrowing heavily from Aristotle, he also shares a capacity for a mental act in which the knower spontaneously hits on the middle term of the syllogistic. Since rational proofs are developed syllogistically, the ability to hit upon the middle term is the ability to move an argument forward by looking at the premises to arrive at the correct conclusion. It allows one to master this ability to develop arguments, to recognize one’s inner connections with syllogistics. Furthermore, since reality is syllogistically structured, the ability to strike the middle ground and develop arguments is crucial to advancing knowledge of reality. muslimphilosophy

Ibn Sina

Ibn Sina thinks that it is very important to acquire knowledge. The apprehension of the intelligible determines the fate of the rational soul henceforth, and thus it is very important to human activity. When the human intellect grasps these intelligibles, it comes into contact with the active intellect, that level of being which originates from God and receives “a holy flow”. People can be ordered according to the capacity to acquire knowledge, and according to the mastery and development of their capacity to shoot in the medium term. At the highest point stands the prophet, who knows the understandable from the first step or from the beginning. He has a pure rational soul and can discern the intelligible by its syllogistic rule, including middle terms. On the other side stands the impure man with a lack of capacity to develop arguments. Most people lie between these two extremes but they can improve their capacity to grasp the middle ground by developing a balanced temperament and purity of heart. (See LOGIC IN ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY 1).

Regarding the old debate about the respective fields of grammar and logic, Ibn Sina thinks that since logic deals with concepts that may have been haunted by sensible materials, it also escapes the unexpected. Language and grammar dominate the sensitive material and thus have different spheres: of course, languages ​​are different, so are their rules of operation, their grasp of the sensitive materials is also articulated in different ways. (See LANGUAGE AND ITS PHILOSOPHY). Although languages ​​make possible haunted concepts whose action is guided by logic; but if language deals with contingencies, it is not precisely known how it can possibly be apprehended or possible for the objects of logic. Sometimes, as for example in the work al-Isharat, Ibn Sina emphasizes that languages ​​generally have a structure.

Avicenna’s Theory of Knowledge

In his theory of knowledge, Ibn Sina identifies the mental faculties of the soul according to the operation of their epistemology. As noted earlier, knowledge begins with abstraction. The perception of feeling, which is mental, is the form of the perceived object. (See FEELINGS AND REFERENCES, PART ONE). The perception of feeling responds to definite form and material accidents. As a mental event, being the perception of an object and not the object itself, perception occurs in particular. To analyze this answer, by classifying formal characteristics in abstraction from material accidents we must hold images from sensation and also manipulate them from separate parts and connect them based on formal properties and other properties. However, retention and manipulation are separate epistemological functions and cannot depend on props; thus Ibn Sina distinguishes between religious props and manipulation as appropriate for those separate epistemological functions. (See EPISTEMOLOGY IN ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY) PART 4).

Ibn Sina identifies the prop of holding as ‘representation’ and fills the imagination with the matter of reproducing and manipulating images. In order to conceive of our experience and to guide it according to its quality we must have and be able to retain images of what we have experienced but now miss. For this we must have feelings and at least representation; moreover, to guide and classify the content of the representation, we must be able to discriminate, separate and recombine parts of images, and then we must possess imagination and reason. To think of a black flag we must be able to analyze its color, separating this quality from others, or is part of the image from other images, and classify it with other black things, thus showing that the concept of blackness is applied to all other subjects and their image. Imagination covers this manipulation, allowing us to produce images of objects we have not seen outside of images of things we have experienced, and thus generate images for the intelligible and prophecy.

Beyond the perception of feeling, holding and imagination, Ibn Sina distinguishes appreciation (Wahm). This is an ability to perceive the insensible intentions which exist in individual sentient objects. A sheep escapes from a wolf because it feels that the animal can harm it; this feeling is more than re-representation and imagination because it involves a purpose which is added to the perceived and haunted form and concept of the animal. Ultimately this may be a skill that holds the concept of Wahm, the meaning of images. Ibn Sina also discusses the faculty of common sense, including care at work and the products of all other faculties which are related to these faculties.

Of these abilities, imagination has the essential role in intellect. Its juxtaposition and construction of images with certain meanings entitles the universal to be able to think about the universal by manipulating images. However, Ibn Sina explains this process of grasping the universal, this emergence of the universal in the human mind, as the result of an action on the mind by the active intellect. This intellect is the last of the 10 cosmic intellects below God. In other words, the manipulation of images does not by itself produce the apprehension of the universal so much as it trains the mind to think the universal when given to the mind by the active intellect. Once achieved, the process undergoes information training of the mind so that information participates in the active intellect as soon as the need arises. This direct right is very important since the soul has no ability to hold the universal and repeatedly demands the right to influence the active intellect.

As the highest point above the active intellect, God, the pure intellect is also the highest object of human knowledge. All sense experience, logic, and the faculties of the human soul are guided to grasp the fundamental structure of reality as it flows from that source and through levels of being below the active intellect, this is made possible through human thinking through reason or— in the case of prophets – intuition. According to this concept there is a close connection between logic, thought, experience, grasping the ultimate structure of reality and understanding God. As the highest and purest intellect God is the source of all existing things in the world. The latter originates from this pure and higher intellect, and they are ordered according to this need which enables us to act using rational conceptual thought. (See NEOPLATONISM IN ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY). These intertwinings became clearer in Ibn Sina’s metaphysics.


Metaphysics examines existence as an ‘absolute existence’ or existence as we know it. Ibn Sina, on the one hand, relies on the distinction that Aristotle makes in the Primary Analysis between the principles that are the basis for the scientific and mathematical understanding of the world, including the 4 causes, and on the other hand, on the subject of metaphysics, the first and decisive cause of all things – God. Regarding the first issue, Ibn Sina admits that the supervision of regularity in nature fails to meet their needs. At best, the existence of this social connection between events. To construct this necessity involved in this cause, we must understand that random rules cannot always occur, or perhaps at all, and certainly not with the regularity with which events occur (see CAUSE AND NECESSITY IN ISLAMIC THOUGHT). Thus, we can expect that such rules must be the necessary result of the proper requisites of the object in question.

In developing this distinction between the principles and the subject of metaphysics, Ibn Sina makes another distinction between essence and existence, which apply to everything other than God. Essence and existence are distinct in that we cannot prove from the essence of something that it can exist (see EXISTENCE). Essence deals only with the nature of things, and while this can be realized only in certain real circumstances or as an article in the mind with the conditions accompanying it, notwithstanding that essence may also come into consideration as alone separated from physical realization and mental. Essences exist in the super-human intelligence and also in the human mind. Moreover, if essence is separated from existence in the way Ibn Sina proposes, then both existence and non-existence of essence can be presented, and anyone could ask for an explanation.

The existence of God

The former divisions are the main subjects with which metaphysics deals, that is, God and the proof of his existence. Scholars are of the opinion that the clearest and most detailed explanation of Ibn Sina’s arguments regarding the existence of God is found in the metaphysics section of the work al-Shifa (Goethe 1988; Mamura 1962; Moreuj 1972). We know from Aristotle’s categories that existence is either necessary or possible. If existence were possible by itself, we would argue that it would be a necessary existence, because as a possible existence it would not have needed to exist and we would need other factors to bring it about. his existence and not his non-existence. This is the most probable existence, for us to exist something else must have influenced it. And this something else cannot possibly be another possible existence because the latter itself would need other necessities to bring it about or lead us into an infinite regress without explaining why the possible existence exists. From this point of view, Ibn Sina proposes that a decisive cause and its effects will co-exist and cannot be part of an endless chain; the connection of causes and effects must have a first cause, which necessarily exists in itself: God (See GOD, ARGUMENTS FOR HIS EXISTENCE). Muslim philosophy

Ibn Sina (last part)

Bringing evidence for God’s existence, Ibn Sina goes on to explain how the world and its rules derive from God. While Aristotle did not connect the Active Intellect that can be implicated in Soul III with the first, all-thinking cause of the universal found in Book VII of his metaphysics. Later commentators on his work (such as Alexander of Aphrodisias) identified the two by making the “Active Intellect” the principle which brings about the passage of the human intellect from possibility to actuality, to the first cause of the universe. Along with this is the proof of the existence of God who appears to him not only as the first mover but also as the first existent. God’s self-consciousness consists in an eternal act that results or brings about the first intelligence or awareness. The first intelligence conceives or recognizes the necessity of God’s existence, the necessity of his existence, and his self-existence as something possible. From these acts of conception arise other existents: another intelligence, a heavenly soul, and a heavenly body respectively. The latter constitutes the first sphere of the universe and when the second intelligence is connected with its cognitive act, it creates the level of established stars and also another level of intelligence which in turn produces another intelligence and another level of the body. The latter, which derives from successive acts of cognition, is the “Active Intellect, which produces our world. This flow cannot continue without end, even though being can continue from intelligence. Not every intelligence containing the same aspects will produce the same effects. The succeeding intelligences have lost their power, and the active Intellect, which stands in the tenth place in the hierarchy, no longer possesses the power to produce eternal beings.

None of these suggestions of Ibn Sina’s were taken into account because he was accused of mysticism (for an opposing view see (ISLAMIC MYSTICAL PHILOSOPHY). His so-called “Eastern Philosophy”, often criticized as containing too much doctrine, seems to has been entirely a Western discovery which in the last 200 years has been read as a work of Ibn Sina (See Goethe 1988). However, Ibn Sina combines his Aristotelianism with religious interest, attempting to explain prophecy as something which underlies has it in a direct opening of the minds of the prophets to the active Intellect, through which the middle terms of the syllogisms, the syllogisms themselves, and their conclusions are made possible without the need for fact-tracing procedures. Sometimes the prophet is reflected through the imagination, and expresses his reflection in figurative terms. It is also the imagination that can contact the soul in the higher realms allowing the prophet to see the future in a figurative form.


In all these matters of prophecy, knowledge and metaphysics, Ibn Sina thinks they are all related to the human soul. In Al-Shifa, He emphasizes that the soul must be a non-material substance because intellectual thoughts themselves are indivisible. Apparently he thinks that a coherent thought, including concepts with a certain order, cannot be possessed by different intellects at the same time but still remains a coherent thought. To be a single coherent unit, a coherent thought must be possessed by only one intellect and not, for example, an intellect that has only one part of the thought, another soul, a separate part of the thought, and again the third intellect that there are separate parts of the same thought. In other words, a coherent thought is indivisible and can be part of an intellect as a whole which is complete or indivisible. However, physical being is divisible; so the indivisible intellect which is necessary for coherent thought cannot be physical. Then it must be non-physical, because those are the only possibilities.

For Ibn Sina, the fact that the soul is non-physical also proves that the soul is immortal: the decay and destruction of the body has no effect on the soul at all. There are basically three connections of the physical body that can threaten the soul, but Ibn Sina thinks that none of these connections has anything to do with the non-physical soul. That is why he is immortal. If the body were the cause of the soul’s existence, or if the body and soul were necessarily dependent on each other for their existence, or if the soul were logically dependent on the body, then the decay and destruction of the body would determine existence. of the soul. However, the body is not the cause of any of the 4 senses of the cause; both are physical and non-physical substances, and as substances they must be independent of each other; and the body changes and is destroyed as a result of independent causes and substances, not as a result of changes in the soul and therefore it does not mean that the soul follows any change in the body, including death which determines the existence of the soul. Even if the emergency of the human soul implies the role of the body, the role of this physical matter is accidental.

According to this explanation that the destruction of the body does not cause the destruction of the soul, Ibn Sina argues that the destruction of the soul cannot be caused by anything. Existing composite objects are perishable matter, on the other hand the soul as a non-physical being is not perishable matter. Furthermore, since the soul is not composed of matter and form, it can be generated but does not suffer the destruction that affects all generated things that are composed of form and matter. At the same time, if we were to identify the soul as a composite matter, for it to have a matter which is composed of itself, it would have to be integrated as a unit, and the principle of this unit of the soul would be simple and consequently, since the principle involves an ontological commitment to existence, to being simple and non-physical but also to be indestructible. (see SOUL IN ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY).

Reward and punishment

From the indestructibility of the soul arise questions about the character of the soul, what awaits the soul in a world which flows from God, and what will be its position in the cosmic system. Since Ibn Sina emphasizes that the soul retains its identity until immortality, we can also ask about its fate and how it is determined. And finally, since Ibn Sina also wants to attribute reward and punishment to the soul, he must also explain the manner of fate and punishment.

The need to punish bad actions and the explanation that Ibn Sina gives us mean that morality and other evils affect people and not species. Evils are usually the accidental result of things that would otherwise produce good. Good brings more good, and on the other hand, evil is the result of the misuse of good, but in some cases it also hinders the action of good. For example, fire is useful and consequently good, even if it burns people in some cases (see EVIL AND ITS CONSEQUENCES). Good may have created the world in another existence which was free from evil, or where evil is very few. Thus God generates creation which contains both good and bad as well as the agent, the soul. The spirit acts in this world; the reward and punishment he earns in his existence beyond this world are the result of the choices he has made in this world, and there can be both reward and punishment because this world and its order are the very factors that give the soul the opportunity to choose between good and evil.

Poetry, character and society

Identifying poetic language as imaginary, Ibn Sina focuses on the imagination’s ability to create images and thus to argue that poetic language can distinguish between premises, arguments and conclusions and allows the conception of political syllogism. Aristotle’s definition of syllogism was that if some propositions must be accepted then certain other propositions must necessarily be accepted (see ARISTOTLE part 5). To explain this syllogistic structure of poetic language, Ibn Sina first identifies poetic premises as similitudes which are created by poets which produce ‘a stunning effect of anxiety or pleasure. (See POETRY)

The similes written in essay form by the poets and the comparisons they make in their poems, when they are wonderful, original and so on, produce an amazing effect or ‘a sense of worry’ in the listener or reader’. “The evening of life” compares the spaces of a day and a life bringing the connotation of life to explain some characteristics of longevity. To make this poetic language meaningful, the suggestion is that we should see the comparison as the conclusion of a syllogism. The premise of this syllogism would be that days have a space which resembles or can be compared to the progress of life. This simile is wonderful, novel and visceral and understanding the juxtaposition of days and life makes the subject feel anxious or worried. Ibn Sina also draws other parallels between poetic language and meaningful arguments, showing that entertainment in imaginary approval can be expected for other subjects as well; approval in this way is more than an expression of personal preference. This validity of the poetic language makes it possible for Ibn Sina to argue that the beautiful in the poetic language has a moral value which rests and depends on the bonds of justice between the autonomous members of the community. In his commentary on Aristotle’s poetics, however, he combines this with the requirement that different types of poetic language accommodate different types of characters. Comedy suits people who are uneducated while tragedy pleases an audience of noble people (see ARISTOTLE AND ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY).

Connections with the West

Latin versions of some of Ibn Sina’s works began to appear in the early 13th century. The most famous philosophical work that was translated was, Khitab al Shifa; although the translation did not include part of mathematics and a large part of logic. The translations made in Toledo include Kitab al-Najat and Kitab al-Ilahijat (metaphysics) as a whole. Other pieces on the natural sciences were translated at Burgos and for the king of Sicily. GERARD OF CREMONA translated Ibn Sina’s work Al Qanun fi-tibb (The Canon of Medicine). In Barcelona, ​​another philosophical work, part of the Kitab al-nafs (Book of the Soul), was translated in the early 14th century. His later work on logic, Al-isharat wa-l-tanbihat, has been translated in parts and attached to another work. His commentaries on the soul were well known to Thomas Aquinas and ALBERT THE GREAT, who often quoted him in his discussions.

These and other translations of Ibn Sina’s works constitute a body of literature that was amenable to study. At the beginning of the 13th century, his works were studied not only among Neoplatonists such as: AUGUSTINIAN and DUNS SCOTUS, but ARISTOTLE also used them in his works. They were banned in 1210 when the council of Paris banned the reading of ARISTOTLE’s works and summaries and commentaries of his works. The force of the ban was local and included only the study of this subject: the texts were read and taught in Toulouse in 1229. Later in the 16th century other translations of Ibn Sina’s short works into Latin were made, for example by Andrea Belluno ( See ARISTOTELIANISM, MIDDLE AGES part three; Islamic philosophy: transmission to Western Europe; translators).


Works of Avicenna

Ibn Sina (980-1037) Sirat al-Shaykeh (Biography of Ibn Sina) UE publisher and translator. Gohlman Albany, NY: State University of New York, 1974. (The only critical edition of Ibn Sina’s autobiography, together with material from the biography by his student Abu’Ubayd al-Juzjani. A newer translation of the autobiography of his is made from “Anniena and the Aristotelian tradition”: Introduction to the Philosophical Works of Anniena’s Works, Leiden: Brill, 1988.)

-(980-1037 al Isharat ua-l tanbihat (Admonitions and Advice), ed S Dunya, Cairo, 1960; some parts of it were translated by S>C Inati, Admonitions and Advice, Part I: Logic, Ont: institute papnor for medieval studies, 1984, and Ibn Sina and Mysticism, Remarks and Advice: Part Four, London Kegan Paul International, 1996.

-(980-1037) Al Qanun fi’l tibb (The Law of Medicine), ed I a Qashash, Cairo, 1987. The work of Ibn Sina in Medicine).

(980-1037) Dinishama-i ‘ala’ui (The Book of Scientific Knowledge), ed and trans P Moreuedge, The Mysticism of Anienas, London 1973 (This is a translated book of metaphysics in Persian).

-(1014-20) al-Shifa (Healing) Ibn Sina’s greatest work in philosophy. He began this work in 1014 and finished it in 1020. Critical editions of the Arabic text were published in Cairo 1952-83.

-(1014-20)al Ibarah (Interpretation), ed. M. El Khodeiri, Cairo: Dar al-Kitab al Arabi 1970. Volume 1, part three of al-Shifa.

– (c 1014-20) al-Qiyas (Syllogism), ed. S. Zayed and I. Madkour, Cairo: Organisme General des Imprimeries Gouvernementales, 1964. (Volume I, Part 4 of al-Shifa’.)

– (c 1014-20) al-Burhan (Demonstration), ed. A.E. Affifi, Cairo: Organisme General des Imprimeries Gouvernementales, 1956. (Volume I, Part 5 of al-Shifa’.)

(c 1014-20) al-Jadal (Dialectic), ed. A.F Al-Ehëany, Cairo: Organisme General des Imprimeries Gouvernementales, 1965. (Volume I, Part 7)

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