From the corporeal to the incorporeal

Bahmanyar – the famous disciple of Avicenna – has a short, little known treatise entitled On the levels of existents (ed. S. Poper, Leipzig: 1851). The work is rather technical, assuming a lot on the part of its reader. It is devoted to issues involving four kinds of immaterial being (i.e., God, the separate intellects, celestial, and human souls). Read more


The soul’s independence from the body

An excerpt from one of Avicenna’s (in all probability) early works, entitled A treatise on knowledge of the rational soul and its states (ed. N. Nadir, Beirut: 1960), ch. 3, pp. 32-33: Read more

Sirr fi’l-idrak

Allamah Hilli (d. circa 1325) was an important Shi’i philosopher-theologian. He was a student (a critical and perceptive one) of the renowned ‘ustad al-bashar’ (teacher of mankind), the Avicennian philosopher Nasir al-Din Tusi (d. 1274).

Hilli wrote a lot, pretty much covering the entire range of the intellectual (‘aqli) and transmitted (naqli) sciences of his day. From the former category, there’s this one work called Al-Asrar al-khafiyya fi’l-‘Ulum al-‘aqliyya (Hidden Mysteries in the Intellectual Sciences).  Read more

TOC for Razi’s Sharh al-Isharat, namat III

One of the things Fakhr al-Din Razi (d. 1210) is known for is the systematic structure and lemmatization he introduced into Avicenna’s enigmatic Al-Isharat wa’l-Tanbihat in his commentary on that work. Below is an example of such structuring activity. It’s the table of contents for namat III  from his Sharh al-Isharat (ed. A. Najafzada, Tehran: Ajuman-i Athar wa Mafakhir-i Farhangi, 2005). Read more

Wujud as a muqawwim in a mawjud

What’s the exact relation between God’s existence and that of everything else? The followers of Mulla Sadra (d. circa 1636) offer a profoundly ‘ajib answer: it’s one of part to whole. That is, they seem to view God’s existence to be, in a real, i.e., non-figurative, sense, a “metaphysical part” of the existence of everything else. In what real, non-figurative sense though? Answer: in a causal sense; that is, God, for them, is a real causal part of His effects. But why is this ‘ajib? After all, isn’t that what every (or at least most) theists hold anyway? Read more

Intellect without limits

No doubt, it’s very difficult to precisely understand ‘divine matters’ (ilahiyyat) – you know, things having to do with God, His relation to us, and the like. But why? The source of the difficulty is due either to: (1) something about the very nature of such objects, (2) something about us as knowers, or (3) something else entirely.  Read more

Ithbāt al-ʻaql al-mujarrad – part II

Tusi wrote a compact treatise on establishing the existence of a being separate from matter that is the ground of the truth of our necessary judgments. Here’s my summary of his argument:

A necessary truth is one whose truth-value can’t change. Now, where p (= belief, judgment, proposition, statement) is necessarily true, concede this: p is true iff p corresponds to something. Read more

De Anima, III.4, 429b5-9


Earlier today I was thumbing through Aquinas’ commentary on Aristotle’s De Anima, specifically book III. There’s a passage in chapter 4 of that book that grabbed my attention, where Aquinas critically engages Avicenna. The passage in question is a gloss on the following stretch of text from Aristotle, wherein he says something about how a knower of x comes to actively think x: Read more

Ismaili apophaticism

In his Masari’ al-musari’ (Qum: 1984, ed. H. al-Mu’izzi), a work devoted in part to a refutation of Ismaili theology as represented by Abd al-Karim Shahrastani, the Avicennian philosopher Nasir al-Din Tusi sums up in my view the best way to deal with their characteristic brand of tanzih. In criticizing Shahrastani’s account, Tusi writes (pp. 87-8, tr. Mayer, modified): Read more