Conclusion

In the end, a proper understanding of Avicenna's ontology reveals an important sense in which, after all, esse is best described as 'happening to essence.' Not in the Aristotelian sense of an 'accident' (which should come as no surprise, since we are not operating in a purely Aristotelian setting), and not as a merely clumsy locution invoked by Avicenna for lack of more elegant thinking on his part; but, rather, as invoking the images of cosmic Remaining, Procession and Reversion as an especially effective means to impress upon the analyst's own soul (as well as on the part of the reader's soul) an awareness of 'self as effect.' As in the above cases of the philosopher's viewing the motions of the Sun and of considering the nature of numbers, the Neoplatonic Methodology is here at play as well, though in this case, the very terms of an ontological analysis evoking images of analysanda first and foremost as contingent essences (or effects)—are the conduits used to prepare the analyst's soul for its own revertive act.

If this reconstruction of Avicenna's ontological sensitivities as extensions of his commitment to the Neoplatonic Methodology is right, it would seem that there is good reason to expect that the two main criticisms against Avicenna—both the charge of 'clumsy thinking' and the related charge of relying unduly upon cosmological intermediaries—will be off the mark. Ironically, it is precisely the attempts to defend Avicenna's ontology in purely Aristotelian terms—popular in the scholarship—which leave him open to these sorts of problems, problems which, once we accept the legitimacy of seeing in Avicenna a truly Neoplatonic Methodology, would fall by the wayside. For, in coming to more charitably and favorably view the import of invoking effective images—in this case, the images of cosmic Remaining, Procession and Reversion which are invoked by the language of existence's being 'added' to 'preexisting essences'—we may render these two criticisms against his system as irrelevant and misguided, talking, as it were, past his Neoplatonic project. As such, 'essentialism' as a description of this 'essence+esse' approach need no longer have the force of a

'charge' against Avicenna, and may rather be viewed as a viable alternative to Aquinas' more direct 'existentialist' analysis.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment