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This article explores the intimate connection between Avicenna's “flying man” argument and the theory of modes in the school of Abū Hāšim al-Ǧubbā’ī (d. 933). It shows that Avicenna borrows arguments developed originally by Abū Hāšim in order to demonstrate that a definite mode belongs to the living being as a whole (ǧumla). He argues for the incorporeality of soul on the basis of this departure from Aristotelian and Neoplatonic psychology and modal ontology. Here one sees Avicenna's subtle engagement with a thinker to whose writings he reacted critically, yet whom he very likely saw as one of the greatest metaphysicians to write in Arabic.
In Avicenna's Nafs there are two investigations that run in parallel from its very beginning: (a) the investigation of the soul as a relational entity, always considered in connection with the body, and (b) that of the human soul in itself. Both investigations aim at ascertaining the existence and the essence of the soul, in relation to the body, of which it is the soul, and in itself respectively. The aim of this contribution is to reconstruct the phases of these investigations, in order to single out the way in which they are mutually related to each other, and to detect what acts as an indicator of the transition from the first, more general investigation to the second, more specific one. In my reconstruction, this role is assigned to the Flying Man experiment. In order to corroborate this interpretation, passages from three other Avicennian works (Ḥikma mašriqiyya or al-Mašriqiyyūn, Kitāb al-Išārāt wa-l-Tanbīhāt, and Risāla Aḍḥawiyya fī l-ma‘ād) are taken into account, since they contain the three other attested formulations of the Flying Man experiment, and an argumentative move similar to the one detectable in the Nafs.
The first part of this article presents al-Mustamlī al-Buḫārī and his work, a voluminous commentary on al-Kalābāḏī’s compendium of Sufi doctrines, al-Ta‘rruf limaḏhab al-taṣawwuf. Both al-Kalābāḏī and al-Mustamlī had strong tendencies to the discussions of kalām, and of the two al-Mustamlī wrote extensively on theological issues in his commentary, Šarḥ al-Ta‘arruf. In light of the presence of topics of kalām in al-Mustamlī’s book, this article will demonstrate that despite his geographical proximity to Abū Manṣūr al-Māturīdī’s theological school, al-Mustamlī was probably a follower of Abū l-Ḥasan al-Aš‘arī. The second part of the article concerns al-Mustamlī’s discussion of the nature of spirit (rūḥ). It will be argued that in dealing with the nature of the spirit, al-Mustamlī goes beyond the physicalist anthropology of the kalām and presents an argument for the existence of the spirit that has some affinities with Avicenna's proof of the existence of human rational soul, as it appears in the context of his famous thought experiment, the “flying man”. In both parts, the main claim of this article is that al-Mustamlī’s book is a valuable source for understanding the intellectual history of Transoxiana, and the intricate interactions of different disciplines, kalām, falsafa, taṣawwuf with each other.
Alongside his much-discussed theory that humans are permanently, if only tacitly, self-aware, Avicenna proposed that in actively conscious self-knowers the subject and object of thought are identical. He applies to both humans and God the slogan that the self-knower is “intellect, intellecting, and object of intellection (‘aql, ‘āqil, ma‘qūl)”. This paper examines reactions to this idea in the Islamic East from the 12th-13th centuries. A wide range of philosophers such as Abū l-Barakāt al-Baghdādī, Faḫr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, al-Šahrastānī, Šaraf al-Dīn al-Mas‘ūdī, al-Abharī, al-Āmidī, and Naṣīr al-Dīn al-Ṭūsī raised and countered objections to Avicenna's position. One central problem was that on widely accepted definitions of knowledge – according to which knowledge is representational or consists in a relation – it seems impossible for the subject and object of knowledge to be the same. Responses to this difficulty included the idea that a self-knower is “present” to itself, or that here subject and object are different only in “aspect (i‘tibār)”.
One of the most important medieval documents in the history of medicine and scholarship, and of culture in general, is doubtless the bibliographical treatise (“epistle”, Risāla) by Ḥunayn b. Isḥāq (808-873) addressed to his patron and patron of the arts, the gentleman courtier ‘Alī b. Yaḥyā b. al-Munaǧǧim (d. 275 / 888-889), listing the translations of Galen into Syriac and Arabic. Its transmission and publication history, though, is extremely complicated.