Alfarabi, Avicenna, and Averroes on Intellect: Their Cosmologies, Theories of Active Intellect, and Theories of Human Intellect / Edition 1

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A study of problems, all revolving around the subject of intellect in the philosophies of Alfarabi, Avicenna, and Averroes, this book starts by reviewing discussions in Greek and early Arabic philosophy which served as the background for the three Arabic thinkers. Davidson examines the cosmologies and theories of human and active intellect in the three philosophers and covers such subjects as: the emanation of the supernal realm from the First Cause; the emanation of the lower world from the transcendent active intellect; stages of human intellect; illumination of the human intellect by the transcendent active intellect; conjunction of the human intellect with the transcendent active intellect; prophecy; and human immortality. Davidson shows that medieval Jewish philosophers and the Latin Scholastics had differing perceptions of Averroes because they happened to use works belonging to different periods of his philosophic career.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"This is one of the most impressive scholarly books that I have seen in a long time. It is informed, erudite, well-researched, and well-structured."—Arthur Hyman, Yeshiva University

"Davidson's book is an absolutely indispensable and unique tool for all scholars of medieval angelologies and theories of intellect—both Eastern and Western—who are unable to read the Arabic sources in the original. The feature which makes this work stand out favorably among other similar studies is that the amount of detail and precision of descriptions almost makes it into an anthology of original texts."—Ruminatio

"This book is a masterful exposition of medieval writings on the "most intensely studied sentences in the history of philosophy,"(p.3), those concerning the intellect which Aristotle wrote Book Three of De anima, chapters 4 and 5....Davidson has impressive linguistic and analytical skills, enabling him to interpret difficult texts with seeming ease and confidence."—International Studies in Philosophy

"Davidson organizes his book in an extemely lucid, even schematic, way.... a wonderfully lucid quide to the Aristotelian tradition on intellect in the Middle Ages."—The Jewish Quarterly Review

"Nothing of comparable breadth or depth and quality of analysis and argument exists on this topic today....Davidson's excellent contribution to the study of the understanding of intellect in the Middle Ages belongs not only in every research library but also in the personal libraries of all serious students of Medieval philosophical and religious thought."—Journal of Neoplatonic Studies

"The literary and philosophic topics addressed in this monograph are perhaps the most difficult to decipher in the history of Western thought. Thanks to Davidson's embattled "history of philosophic ideas" and his uncanny knack for sorting out textual and conceptual confusions, the original meaning and subsequent interpretations of Aristotelian cosmology and intellect are no longer so hazy and intimidatingly enigmatic."— The Journal of the Association for Jewish Studies

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780195074239
  • Publisher: Oxford University Press, USA
  • Publication date: 9/28/1992
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.34 (d)

Meet the Author

University of California, Los Angeles
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Table of Contents

1 Introduction 3
2 Greek and Arabic Antecedents 7
Stages of Human Intellect 9
The Kind of Entity That the Active Intellect Is 13
The Active Intellect as a Cause of Human Thought 18
The Active Intellect as a Cause of Existence 29
Conjunction with the Active Intellect; Immortality 34
3 Alfarabi on Emanation, the Active Intellect, and Human Intellect 44
Al-Madina al-Fadila and al-Siyasa al-Madaniyya 44
Alfarabi's Philosophy of Aristotle 63
The Risala fi al-Aql 65
Alfarabi's Commentary on the Nicomachean Ethics 70
Concluding Note 73
4 Avicenna on Emanation, the Active Intellect, and Human Intellect 74
The Emanation of the Universe; the Active Intellect as a Cause of the Existence of the Sublunar World 74
Stages of Human Intellect; the Active Intellect as the Cause of Human Thought 83
Imagination, Cogitation, Insight 95
Conjunction and Immortality 103
Prophecy 116
Summary 124
5 Reverberations of the Theories of Alfarabi and Avicenna 127
Avicenna's Islamic Successors 127
Reverberations in Medieval Jewish Philosophy 180
Reverberations in Scholastic Philosophy 209
Summary 218
6 Averroes on Emanation and on the Active Intellect as a Cause of Existence 220
General Considerations 220
The Emanation of the Universe 223
The Active Intellect as a Cause of Existence: Epitomes of the Parva naturalia and the Metaphysics 232
The Active Intellect as a Cause of Existence: The Commentary on De generatione animalium 242
The Active Intellect as a Cause of Existence: The Long Commentary on the Metaphysics and Tahafut al-Tahafut (Destructio destructionum) 245
Summary 254
7 Averroes on the Material Intellect 258
Introduction 258
The Epitome of the De anima and the Epistle on the Possibility of Conjunction 265
A Minor Composition on Conjunction and the Middle Commentary on the De anima 274
Averroes' Long Commentary on the De anima and his Commentary on Alexander's De intellectu 282
Summary 295
Averroes' Theories of Material Intellect as Reflected in Subsequent Jewish and Christian Thought 298
8 Averroes on the Active Intellect as the Cause of Human Thought 315
The Passage of the Human Intellect to Actuality 315
The Possibility of Conjunction with the Active Intellect; Immortality 321
Prophecy 340
Averroes' Shifting Picture of the Universe and of Man's Place in It 351
Index 357
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