1 I would like to thank the many conference participants who made useful comments and suggestions on the earlier presented version of this chapter.
2 We will treat Aquinas' dissatisfaction with Avicenna's emanationist approach somewhat more specifically towards the end of the chapter.
3 Rahman in this regard challenges not only the view of Averroes and Aquinas, but of such contemporary writers as Goichon and Gilson. For Rahman's view (and further references), see (Rahman 1958), as well as (Rahman 1981). See also (Morewedge 1972), (Rescher ), (Goichon 1956), (Husain 1976), (Gilson 1956/1994), (see esp. ca. pp. 37ff. where he talks of the "radical opposition" between Aquinas and Avicenna); (Anawati 1978), esp. in his introduction where—on p. 78, note 10—he describes the superiority of Aquinas' existential approach to Avicenna's essentialist method. See also (Burrell 1986a/b) for excellent summaries and discussions of this issue.
4 For a clear employment of this language by Avicenna, see, e.g. (Avicenna, Al-Isharat, 202
203). A translation of the relevant portion may be found in (Nasr 1980/1996, 80).
5 For this sentiment, see, e.g. (Anawati 1978, 78), (Burrell 1986a, 60), (Burrell 1986b, 33-34)
6 We might say that whereas for Aquinas, God's single act of creating an essence in and of itself yields a single substance with an inherent essence/existence distinction, for Avicenna, both essence and existence emerge in various ways as either a substance and its accident, or as two separate substrates; both of these can be seen in his emanationist cosmology in which God does not directly create an existing essence; rather, in the case of all but the first created Intellect, the said essence receives its existence from a Separate Intellect. As such, Avicenna's is described as an inescapably 'essentialist' account on which the 'essence+esse' claim is quite different from Aquinas' analysis of things into essence and existence.
7 For problems with Rahman's translation of 'ousia' as 'existence,' see (Morewedge 1972).
8 It might be noted in this regard that Avicenna himself voices a slightly different—but related—recognition of the error which would ensue if one were literally to take existence as a regular accident; in his statement, the focus is not so much on the absurdity of a 'preexisting essence,' but on the absurdity of treating existence as an accident of the same ontological sort as any other accident; for, as he argues, existence is an accident of a substance tantamount to that substance's own existence, whereas 'whiteness,' e.g., is an accident of a substance which is most certainly not tantamount to that substance's own existence; rather, whiteness' existence in the substance is tantamount only to that very whiteness' own existence. See (Nasr 1980/1996, 81-82).
9 See (Plato, Timaeus 39b3-c1).
10 See (Cornford 1935, 115).
11 See (Proclus, In Prim. EuclElement., Prologus 1, p. 20, lines 15-17; p. 17 Morrow).
12 See (Proclus, In Prim. Eucl. Element., Prologus 1, p. 20, lines 18ff.; p. 17 Morrow).
13 For further discussion and references, see (Heath 1992, esp. p. 90, with fn. 45), and (Walzer 1962).
14 For a discussion, references and ways in which this differs from other Arabic theories of prophecy, see (Davidson 1972, 177-178).
15 For excellent background and extended explication of the Neoplatonic causal theory, see (Gersh 1978), especially pages 27-82.
16 See (Proclus, Elements of Theology, propositions 23, 65 and 67-9; pp. 27-28, 63-67 Dodds), together with Dodds' commentary (Proclus 1963, 210-211, 235 ff.). Note in this regard that this more general ontological manifestation of the tripartite cyclic theory can also be seen in the three varieties of universals embraced in many Neoplatonic texts. See (Lloyd 1990, esp. 67) and Dodds in (Proclus 1963), ibid.
17 With respect to my earlier reference to Ivry's remarks about 'pre-existent subsistence,' it is here that the difference of my treatment should be clear: Within the context as I am presenting it, we might just as easily speak of Socrates—as essence—'subsisting in' or 'existing in' his vertically proximate cause; for, in either case, on my approach, this reflects a moment of analysis—and not any 'real' state of Socrates. However, my account also suggests more than merely the 'logical' analysis of Socrates in the analysis of him as 'essence' found in Rahman and others; for, given the goal of Return, we might only call this a 'logical' analysis if by 'logical' is understood not an end—as it is often thought of in contemporary treatments of Avicenna as an ontologist/logician—but as a mode of analysis which, in invoking the imagery of cosmic hierarchies and the nature of all things as effects, is a means to impressing truths upon the soul.
18 Note, an understanding of Neoplatonic ontology as I am presenting it can also be of assistance in understanding how, on the one hand, Avicenna denies ontological reality to essences, but yet, also speaks of essences existing in the Active Intellect. This latter claim is often treated in isolation from a general, programmatic treatment of his ontology, regarded, as it is, as the 'Neoplatonic dimension'—and hence inexplicable?—aspect of his work; see, e.g. (Marmura 1982, p.76, bottom of first column). While Marmura does not make any overtly negative claims about this 'Neoplatonic dimension'—aside from not integrating it fully into his treatment of Avicenna's ontology—there is no shortage of scholars who bemoan Avicenna's Neoplatonic elements as throwing a wrench into an otherwise nice (i.e., Aristotelian) set of ideas; see, e.g., J.Finnegan describes Avicenna's Neoplatonically realist construal of the Active Intellect as "his unfortunate theory of the separate Active Intellect," (Finnegan 1956, 201), and A.-M.Goichon's description of Avicenna's involvement in various modes of Neoplatonic thought as something which "proved a great handicap to him," (Goichon 1956, 107).
I see the above subtle approach to an ontology of 'pre-existence' encompassing a distinctive methodology as at least in part responding to these negative—or frustrated—estimations of the more cosmological side of Avicenna's project. It seems that the above understanding of Neoplatonic ontological analysis allows us a less crude (i.e., because not merely cosmological) possibility for what Avicenna could mean by 'essences existing in the active intellect.' In general, this approach can be used to better solder the seeming chasm between Avicenna's ontology, and his admittedly Neoplatonic cosmology, by showing how the cosmology claims—together with certain 'clumsy' sounding ontological claims—are all put forth in the service of a distinctive Neoplatonic methodology.
19 While the precise nature of the 'according to participation' moment in Proclus' own analysis might best be taken as referring to the analysandum's being participated in, and not—as I am here using it—as referring to the analysandum as a participant, I think it at least plausible to take it in this latter way. The case of Proclus aside, this treatment of an analysandum as a participant—and hence, as 'less than perfect' even with respect to its own nature—is one that seems to correspond to the 'process' analysis of Avicenna (see next note), and is a treatment which, hence, works well within an account of Avicenna. I am thankful to Gregory MacIsaac for raising this point about the 'according to participation' moment in Proclus' own account.
20 In support of this suggestion that Socrates be somewhat paradoxically viewed at once as his perfected soul (the association of Socrates with his pure essence in the 2nd moment of our above analysis), and as his soul trapped in matter, (the association of Socrates as an imperfect 'participant' which emerges from the 3rd moment of our above analysis), we might point to Plotinus, who describes the soul of man as at once embodied, but as also existing on high in the intelligible realm (Plotinus, Enn. 4.7.13). We might also point to the 'process' view of humanity in the Avicennian scholarship as precisely revealing this tension between the 'true' self attained with human perfection, and the current self which is individuated, as it were, in terms of that 'true' self as its limit (even though it has not yet converged, as it were, on that limit). For a discussion of this 'process' view in Avicenna, and how the existence of Socrates is best seen as the process of essential actualization or perfection, see, e.g. (Rahman 1958), and (Morewedge 1982).
21 See in this regard: (Aquinas, De Substantiis Separatis, 9.46; 56, Lescoe); and Aquinas' remarks on the third and fourth propositions of the Liber de Causis, cf. (Guagliardo, et. al., 1996, p.24 ff.), (and see also Guagliardo's introduction to that volume, including p. xxviii, note 65); and finally, Aquinas' Summa Theologiae, Part 1, Q. 45, a. 5 and Part 1, Q. 47, a. 1, where Avicenna is specifically addressed.
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