Avicenna's Emanated AbstractionSkip other details (including permanent urls, DOI, citation information)
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One of the largest ongoing debates in scholarship on Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā) concerns his epistemology of the first acquisition of intelligible forms or concepts. “Emanationists” hold that intelligibles are emanated by the separate Active Intellect (AI) directly into human minds. “Abstractionists” hold that intelligibles are abstracted by the human intellect from sensory images. Neither of these positions has a satisfactory grip on Avicenna’s philosophy. I propose that the two positions can be reconciled because Avicenna states in many texts that what the AI emanates is a power, and not the various intelligible forms. I argue that this can only be the power of abstraction itself. This new interpretation does greater justice to Avicenna’s system and reveals his unique place in the history of epistemology.