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  • Ahmed Alwishah (a1)


The purpose of this paper is to present a comprehensive and systematic study of Avicenna's account of animal self-awareness and cognition. In the first part, I explain how, for Avicenna, in contrast to human self-awareness, animal self-awareness is taken to be indirect, mixed-up (makhlūṭ), and an intermittent awareness. In his view, animal self-awareness is provided by the faculty of estimation (wahm); hence, in the second part, I explore the cognitive role of the faculty of estimation in animals, and how that relates to self-awareness. The faculty of estimation, according to Avicenna, serves to distinguish one's body and its parts from external objects, and plays a role in connecting the self to its perceptual activities. It follows that animal self-awareness, unlike human self-awareness, is essentially connected to the body. In the third part of the paper, I show that, while Avicenna denies animals awareness of their self-awareness, he explicitly affirms that animals can grasp their individual identity, but, unlike humans, do so incidentally, as part of their perceptual awareness.

L'objectif de cet article est de produire une étude complète et systématique de la doctrine avicennienne de la conscience de soi et de la connaissance chez les animaux. Dans la première partie, j'explique comment, selon Avicenne, la conscience de soi chez l'animal, contrairement à la conscience de soi chez l'homme, est considérée comme indirecte, mélangée (makhlūṭ) et intermittente – la conscience animale étant, dans sa vision, issue de la faculté estimative (wahm). Aussi la seconde partie porte-t-elle sur la fonction cognitive de la faculté estimative chez les animaux et sur la manière dont cette fonction se rapporte à la conscience de soi. Pour Avicenne, la faculté estimative sert à distinguer notre corps et ses parties des objets extérieurs, et a pour rôle de connecter le soi à ses activités perceptives. Il s'ensuit que la conscience de soi chez l'animal, contrairement à la conscience de soi chez l'homme, est essentiellement connectée au corps. Dans la troisième partie de l'article, je montre qu'Avicenne, tout en refusant aux animaux la conscience de leur conscience de soi, affirme expressément qu'ils sont capables de percevoir leur identité individuelle mais que, contrairement aux êtres humains, ils le font de façon accidentelle, cette conscience étant une partie de leur conscience perceptive.

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1 Avicenna, al-Mubāḥathāt, ed. Muḥsin Bīdārfar (Qum, 1992), §289, p. 120 (throughout I use M. Bīdārfar's edition). Unless otherwise indicated, all the translations from Arabic are my own.

2 Al-Mubāḥathāt, §290, p. 120.

3 Avicenna, Al-Taʿlīqāt, ed. Ḥasan al-‘Ubaydī (Baghdad, 2002), §72, p. 125. The concept of directness also extensively debated by Ahmed Alwishah in “Avicenna's philosophy of mind: self-awareness and intentionality,” Ph.D. Dissertation, (UCLA 2006) pp. 67–84; and later by Jari Kaukua, Avicenna on Subjectivity (Jyväsky, 2007), pp. 118–31; Deborah Black, “Avicenna on self-awareness and knowing that one knows,” in Shahid Rahman, Hassan Tahiri, Tony Street (eds.), The Unity of Science in the Arabic Tradition (Dordrecht, 2008), pp. 66–81.

4 Al-Taʿlīqāt, §47, p. 116; see also 47, p. 117.

5 Aristotle, De anima 430a 3–5. All translations of Aristotle are taken from The Complete Works of Aristotle, ed. Jonathan Barnes (Oxford, 1984).

6 Avicenna, al-Ishārāt wa-al-tanbīhāt II, ed. Sulaymān Dunyā (Cairo, 1957), p. 371. Recently, P. Adamson examined, in a great length, the connection between intellection and immateriality in Avicenna's al-Ishārāt and his commentators’ views; see Peter Adamson, “Avicenna and his commentators on human and divine self-intellection,” in Dag N. Hasse and Amos Bertolacci (eds.), The Arabic, Hebrew and Latin Reception of Avicenna's Metaphysics (Berlin, 2012), pp. 97–122.

7 See al-Mubāḥathāt, §668, pp. 224–5. I am grateful for J. McGinnis for suggesting this translation of “shuʿūr makhlūṭ.” In Avicenna's writings on natural science and metaphysics the term makhlūṭ usually means mixed with matter, element, and substance (see for example Avicenna's The Physics of the Healing, trans. Jon McGinnis [Provo, 2009], 1.10.6; 4.10.4). However, in the context of animal self-awareness, the term makhlūṭ is used in a broader sense to include the meaning of a subject being confused and not clear about the object of its perception or its awareness. For, as we will see soon, unlike the human self-awareness which is direct and transparent, animal self-awareness is indirect and confused with animal perceptions.

8 Al-Mubāḥathāt, §657, p. 221.

9 Ibid., §502, p. 175.

10 Ibid., §503, p. 176; see also §669.

11 Ibid., § 509, p. 177.

12 See Ibid., § 666, p. 224.

13 Ibid., § 511, p. 177.

14 Ibid.

15 Ibid., § 504, p. 176.

16 Ibid., § 505, p. 176.

17 The term used in this passage is mudrikan, and it normally translates as ‘someone who is perceiving something’, but it can also translate as ‘someone who is aware of something.’ I prefer the latter, since it is consistent with other passages where Avicenna speaks of the subject as aware (not “perceptive”) of his essence; I believe this passage emphasizes that point further.

18 Al-Mubāḥathāt, § 666, p. 224. For more on Avicenna's theory of abstraction see, Dag N. Hasse, “Avicenna on abstraction,” in Robert Wisnovsky (ed.), Aspects of Avicenna, Princeton Papers: Interdisciplinary Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, vol. 9 (Princeton, 2001), pp. 39–72; McGinnis, Jon, “Making abstraction less abstract: The logical, psychological and metaphysical dimensions of Avicenna's theory of abstraction,” in Proceedings of the ACPA 80 (2007), pp. 169–83; Cristina D'Ancona, “Degrees of abstraction in Avicenna: how to combine Aristotle's De Anima and Enneads,” in Simo Knuuttila, and Pekka Kärkkäinen (eds.), Theories of Perception In Medieval and Early Modern Philosophy (Dordrecht, 2008), pp. 47–71.

19 Avicenna, al-Shifā’, al-Nafs, ed. Fazlur Rahman (Oxford, 1959), p. 16. See the full translation of the passage with this thought experiment in Hasse, Avicenna's De Anima in the Latin West, p. 80.

20 Al-Taʿlīqāt, §34, p. 111, for more see Alwishah, “Avicenna's philosophy of mind,” p. 83; Kaukua, Avicenna on Subjectivity, pp. 101–4; and Black, “Avicenna on self-awareness,” p. 65.

21 Al-Taʿlīqāt, §70, p. 125.

22 Al-Nafs, p. 205.

23 Ibid.

24 Ibid.

25 Ibid., p. 206.

26 Aristotle, Nicomachean Ethics III.10, 1118a 19–23.

27 According to Aristotle, “of all animals man alone is capable of deliberation: many animals have memory and are capable of instruction, but no other creature except man can recall the past at will” (History of Animals I, 488b 23–26).

28 Al-Nafs, p. 185.

29 Ibid.

30 David DeGrazia, “Self-awareness in animals,” in Robert Lurz (ed.), The Philosophy of Animal Minds (Cambridge, 2009), p. 209.

31 Ibid.

32 Al-Nafs, p. 206; he uses this example earlier in a different context in pp. 184–5: cf. Black, Deborah, “Estimation (wahm) in Avicenna: The logical and psychological dimensions,” Dialogue, 32 (1993): 219–58, on p. 226.

33 Al-Nafs, p. 206.

34 J. Kaukua, for example, has an extended section on animal self-awareness; however he failed to address the concept of mixed-up awareness (see Kaukua, Avicenna on Subjectivity); see also Black, “Estimation (wahm) in Avicenna;” Dag N. Hasse, Avicenna's De Anima in the Latin West (London, 2000); Luis Lopez-Farjeat, “Self-awareness (al-shu‘ūr bi-l-dhāt) in human and non-human animals in Avicenna's psychological writings,” in Alejandro Vigo, Ana Marta González, Georg (eds.), Oikeiosis and the Natural Bases of Morality (Hildesheim, 2012), pp. 131–8; and Thérèse-Anne Druart, “Animal cognition according to the philosophers in Islamic world: Aristotle or Galen,” (forthcoming).

35 There are many instances in al-Nafs (pp. 44, 152, 165); Avicenna uses “al-muṣawwira” (representative) and “al-khayāl” (imagination) to refer to the same faculty: “the perceptible form retained by the faculty which is called ‘al-muṣawwira’ and ‘al-khayāl’ (p. 165), “the faculty of ‘al-muṣawwira’ which is ‘al-khayāliyya’ as you will see” (imagination) (p. 152).

36 For more on structure and the functions of these internal senses see Black, “Estimation (wahm) in Avicenna,” and Jon McGinnis, Avicenna, Great Medieval Thinkers series (Oxford and New York, 2010), pp. 113–16. Deborah Black, “Rational imagination: Avicenna on the cogitative power,” in Luis Xavier López-Farjeat & Jörg Alejandro Tellkamp (eds.), Philosophical Psychology in Arabic Thought and the Latin Aristotelianism of the 13th Century (Paris, 2013), pp. 59–81, on pp. 60–5.

37 Al-Ishārāt, p. 381, also in al-Nafs, p. 268.

38 Al-Taʿlīqāt, §47, p. 116. It is noteworthy that while Aristotle and Avicenna deny animals the ability to think, reason, or believe, unlike the latter, the former denies that there is an intellect-like faculty in animals (see Aristotle's De anima 404b4–6, 428a20–21, 433a11–12, 414b17–19, 415a7–8, and 434a6–11).

39 Avicenna, al-Najāt, ed. Majid Fakhry (Beirut, 1985), p. 210.

40 Al-Nafs, p. 194.

41 Avicenna writes “in the domain of the intellect the concept of right and left can be added to the square … just as one universal concept is joined with another” (al-Nafs, p. 191).

42 Al-Nafs, pp. 153–4.

43 Al-Nafs, p. 195.

44 Ibid.

45 In Alwishah 2006 (“Avicenna's philosophy of mind,” pp 127–52), I distinguished three types of maʿnā in Avicenna's works – individual (shakhṣī) maʿnā, universal (kullī) maʿnā, and representative (mutaṣawwar) maʿnā. I also discussed the various different meanings and views of maʿnā in kalām (as an accident, property, and causal determinant) and the Scholastic tradition. Following many modern scholars, especially D. Black, I translated maʿnā as intention for purposes of continuity. D. Gutas recently criticized Black and Alwishah especially for this translation without giving an argument or reason for why such a translation is, in his words, “grossly distorting the philosopher's [Avicenna's] thought.” Furthermore, Gutas seems to have overlooked footnote 286 in the dissertation where I explicitly referred to p. 7 of Marmura's translation of Ilāhiyyāt, the only edition of this text cited in the bibliography. (See Gutas, Dimitri, “The empiricism of Avicenna,” Oriens, 40 [2012], pp. 430–1.)

46 Al-Nafs, p. 166.

47 Cf. Black, “Estimation (wahm) in Avicenna,” pp. 225–6.

48 Al-Nafs, p. 168.

49 According to Avicenna, estimation “does not abstract this form from [all] appendages of matter because it grasps it in particulars and according to some matter and in relation to it and connected with the sense-perceived form, which is accompanied by the appendages of matter and with the cooperation of imagination [i.e., the storage place of forms] with regard to them” (al-Nafs, pp. 60–1; trans. Hasse, p. 131).

50 Al-Nafs, p. 183.

51 See al-Ghazālī, the Incoherence of the Philosophers, ed. and trans. Michael Marmura (Provo, 1997), pp. 187–8. I have chosen al-Rāzī's critique because it raises a more direct and robust objection. Al-Ghazālī's critiques, as Black shows, occasionally “rest upon a misrepresentation of Avicenna's views” (see Black, “Estimation (wahm) in Avicenna”, p. 222).

52 Al-Rāzī, Lubāb al-Ishārāt wa-al-tanbīhāt, ed. Aḥmad Ḥijāzī al-Saqqā (Cairo, 1986), p. 121.

53 Al-Ishārāt, II, p. 379.

54 Hasse, Avicenna's De Anima in the Latin West, pp. 131–2.

55 Compare this proposal with Black, “Estimation (wahm) in Avicenna,” pp. 221–4, and id., Imagination and estimation: Arabic paradigms and Western transformations,” Topoi, 19 (2000): 5975, pp. 60–2; Hasse, Avicenna's De Anima in the Latin West, pp. 131–41.

56 Hasse, Avicenna's De Anima in the Latin West, p. 132.

57 Al-Nafs, p. 167.

58 For Avicenna, judging the sensible and non-sensible properties is a survival mechanism for animals: see al-Nafs, p. 163.

59 Al-Nafs, p. 183.

60 I am indebted to the reviewer of ASP for suggesting these two critical points which help me to construct a coherent account to justify the need of estimation in the above case.

61 Al-Nafs, p. 16.

62 Avicenna, The Physics of the Healing, 2.1.14, translated by J. McGinnis.

63 Al-Nafs, p. 167.

64 Cf. Kaukua, Avicenna on Subjectivity, pp. 114–17.

65 Al-Ishārāt, v. p. 9. Thanks to Druart who brought this passage to my attention, I am using her translation (Druart forthcoming).

66 This translation is taken from Sextus Empiricus, Outlines of Scepticism, edited by Julia Annas and Jonathan Barnes (Cambridge, 2000), I, 69.

67 Al-Taʿlīqāt, §60, p. 122.

68 The editor vocalizes it as al-mudrak (the subject of the awareness), but based on the context of the passage it should be written as al-mudrik.

69 Al-Mubāḥathāt, §665, p. 223.

70 Descartes, The Philosophical Writings of Descartes, trans. John Cottingham, Robert Stoothoff, and Dugald Murdoch (Cambridge, 1984), vol. II, p. 144.

71 I am indebted to D. Sanson for this observation.

72 Gennaro, Rocco J., “Animals, consciousness, and I-thought,” in The Philosophy of Animal Minds, pp. 189200, on p. 189.

73 See De Anima 425b 11–2.

74 Al-Nafs, p. 67.

75 Al-Mubāḥathāt, §291, p. 120.

76 Ibid., §291, §292, p. 120.

77 Ibid., §517, p. 178.

78 Al-Taʿlīqāt, §67, p. 124.

79 Al-Mubāḥathāt, §517, p. 178.

80 Ibid., and §518.

81 Ibid., §657, p. 221. Black provides a different translation for this passage: “Estimation is not the primary agent of awareness (al-shāʿira al-ūlā), because estimation cannot have an estimation of itself, nor establish itself, nor is it aware of itself” (see Black, “Estimation (wahm) in Avicenna,” p. 237). In her translation, Black (a) translated (al-nafs al-ḥaywāniyya) as “primary agent” instead of literally as the “animal soul” and (b) understood the phrase “al-shāʿira al-ūlā” as a reference to the estimation whereas I strongly believe that it should be a reference to the “animal soul”.

82 According to al-Fārābī, “if one uses the term ‘huwa’ one must use it as a noun and not a particle, and the term ‘huwiyya’ as an infinitive.” (al-Fārābī, Kitāb al-Ḥurūf, ed. Muḥsin Mahdī [Beirut, 2004], p. 115). Following al-Fārābī, Avicenna takes the term ‘huwa’ to mean something that connects the subject and predicate or, as al-Fārābī shows, something replacing the Greek cupola ‘estin’ (see Menn, Stephen, “Al- Fārābī's Kitāb al-Ḥurūf and his analysis of the senses of being,” Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, vol. 18 [2008]: 5997, pp. 72–3). Avicenna writes that ‘huwa’ is a connector (rābiṭa) and it means “being” (wujūd). It is called a connector because it connects two meanings, as in the sentence “Zayd is (huwa) writer” and if you say “Zayd is writer” then [huwa] is implicit in this sentence” (al-Taʿlīqāt, §36, p. 58). Thus, in this sense Avicenna views the term ‘huwa’ in same way that Aristotle views the cupola, as something that signifies a combination of subject and predicate (Aristotle's De Interpretatione 16b 19-25). With respect to the term “huwa huwa” Avicenna affirms that it “means the oneness/sameness and being. If one says ‘Zayd huwa writer’ this means ‘Zayd exists as a writer’, and that Zayd and writer are one and the same” (al-Taʿlīqāt, §35, p. 58). Here, Avicenna treats “huwa” as an identity relation between the subject (Zayd) noun and the predicate noun (writer). It is this kind of relation that Avicenna has in mind in reference to the animal identity.

83 Al-Mubāḥathāt, §246, p. 109.

84 Ibid.

85 Ibid.

86 Ibid.

87 Al-Mubāḥathāt, §246, p. 109.

88 Cf. Black, “Estimation (wahm) in Avicenna,” p. 237.

89 Ibid., §248, p. 110.

90 Ibid.

91 Ibid., §250, p. 110.

92 Ibid.

93 Ibid., §665, p. 223.

94 See Ibid., §249, p. 110.

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