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From al-Kindī to al-Fārābī: Avicenna's Progressive Knowledge of Aristotle's Metaphysics according to his Autobiography

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  30 May 2002

Amos Bertolacci
Near Eastern Languages and Civilizations, P.O. Box 207202, New Haven CT 06520-7202, U.S.A.


The autobiography witnesses a significant evolution in Avicenna's approach to Aristotle's Metaphysics during the years of his education. It clearly shows that, at a certain point of his philosophical training, Avicenna faced the entire text of the Metaphysics, was puzzled by its extent and complexity, and found in a treatise by al-Fārābī a guide for its understanding. But, albeit less perspicuously, the autobiography also suggests that this was not Avicenna's first encounter with the Metaphysics. Avicenna dealt with Aristotle's work in a previous stage of his studies as well. Then, however, he did not read the Metaphysics in its entirety, but, rather, focused only on its essential parts and some commentaries thereupon. The parts of the Metaphysics that Avicenna read in this earlier stage were books Alpha Elatton and Lambda, as constituting the natural theology of Aristotle's work. He neglected, on the contrary, the books corresponding to its ontological part. The special attention to Alpha Elatton and Lambda and the close connection between these two books in a theological context were peculiar traits of al-Kindī's approach to Aristotle's Metaphysics. Therefore, the evolving approach to Aristotle's Metaphysics that Avicenna's autobiography witnesses can properly be described as a passage from the Kindian to the Farabian way of interpretation.

Research Article
© 2001 Cambridge University Press

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