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Paper   IPM / Philosophy / 16170
School of Analytic Philosophy
  Title:   Is Avicenna an Empiricist?
  Author(s):  Seyed Nasrollah Mousavian
  Status:   Published
  Journal: Mathematics, Logic, and their Philosophies. Chapter 18, Springer
  Year:  2021
  Pages:   443-474
  Supported by:  IPM
  Abstract:
I will focus on the following question: Ïs Avicenna an empiricist?". I will introduce Avicenna's language of ßignification", ünderstood content", "mental impression" and "conception". Then, following Kenneth P. Winkler, I will distinguish between origin-empiricism (OE) and content-empiricism (CE) and reinterpret the distinction in Avicenna's language as OEA and CEA. I will show that Avicenna's analysis of the relationship between knowledge, on the one hand, and sensation and imagination, on the other hand, includes three empiricist themes. I use these themes to argue that that Avicenna is committed to OEA. Then, I will consider three "possible" limitations to Avicenna�??s origin-empiricism. I will show that a common empiricist solution, that relies on the compositionality of the ünderstood content", quia demonstration and relative conceptions, has significant limitations. I will argue that a careful examination of these limitations, and the epistemology of the primary conceptions, show that Avicenna is not committed to CEA. I will conclude that Ïs Avicenna an empiricist?" has no simple yes-or-no answer. This raises a parallel open question: Ïs Avicenna a rationalist?", in some sense. After briefly commenting on this question, I will consider a related, but generally dissociated, question on the reality of abstraction, namely Ïs Avicenna an abstractionist?" I will explain how the common replies to both questions rely on different incompatibility principles, according to which emanation from the active intellect is incompatible with apprehension by or abstraction from sense-perception. I will end by outlining the elements of a reading of Avicenna that assumes neither of these incompatibility principles.

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