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American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 88, Issue 2, Spring 2014
Aquinas and Arabic Philosophy

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Displaying: 1-9 of 9 documents

1. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 88 > Issue: 2
Richard C. Taylor Introduction: Aquinas and the Arabic Philosophical Tradition
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2. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 88 > Issue: 2
R. E. Houser Introducing the Principles of Avicennian Metaphysics into Sacra Doctrina: Thomas Aquinas, Scriptum super Sententiarum, Bk. 1, d. 8
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Aquinas’s theology, as presented in his Scriptum, is “scientific” in the Aristotelian sense of this term. Some of its arguments for conclusions are based on theology’s “proper” principles—the articles of faith—but many others are purely rational demonstrations. As the basis for his rational arguments in theology, and in particular his treatment of the divine essence in d. 8, he introduces philosophical principles, and offers dialectical arguments for them, which are thoroughly Avicennian. In order to understand Aquinas’s commentary on d. 8, then, it is not just helpful but necessary to see how he makes use of doctrines coming from the Metaphysics of Avicenna’s Book of Healing. So we look first at Aquinas’s source texts in Avicenna, and then at how he makes use of them in his commentary on the Sentences, Bk. 1, d. 8.
3. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 88 > Issue: 2
Deborah Black Cognoscere Per Impressionem: Aquinas and the Avicennian Account of Knowing Separate Substances
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There are surprisingly few texts in which Avicenna discusses our knowledge of separate substances. The most extensive account occurs in Metaphysics 3.8, a text which was cited by Aquinas in a small number of works from relatively early in his academic career. Aquinas’s attitude to Avicenna’s account, which he dubbed knowledge per impressionem, is by no means uniform, even within a single work. Sometimes Avicenna is an adversary; sometimes he is an ally; still other times he is an innocent bystander. I explore the reasons for Aquinas’s shifting evaluation of Avicenna’s theory and show that Aquinas’s attitude depends in part upon whether the separate substance in question is God or the angels, and whether he is considering the soul as separated or embodied. Ultimately I argue that Aquinas’s abandonment of knowledge per impressionem reflects his general move away from any Avicennian influences that smack of dualism in his eyes.
4. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 88 > Issue: 2
Olga L. Lizzini “A Mysterious Order of Possibles”: Some Remarks on Essentialism and on Beatrice Zedler’s Interpretation of Avicenna and Aquinas on Creation (al-Ilāhiyyāt, the Quaestiones de Potentia)
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Avicenna’s distinction between essence and existence was—and sometimes still is—read in the sense of a priority of essence. My analysis will focus on an important example of such a reading: Beatrice Zedler’s interpretation of one of the most important texts for Thomas’s discussion of Avicenna’s philosophy, the Quaestiones de Potentia. Independently of its consistency, Zedler’s interpretation gives me the opportunity to discuss Avicenna’s supposed “essentialism” (supposed also by Thomas Aquinas). My aim is to show that Avicenna is very well aware of the aporia that an essence existing independently of existence (and therefore “before” it) would represent. If essentialism is a risk of Avicenna’s metaphysics, this is not because of the essence-existence distinction. It is because of the ethical dimension that creation perforce implies (creation is good and brings into existence what is good), that Avicenna seems in fact to posit an “independent order of possibles” before God’s creative action.
5. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 88 > Issue: 2
Jon McGinnis The Eternity of the World: Proofs and Problems in Aristotle, Avicenna, and Aquinas
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This study looks at the position of two of the Middle Ages’ towering intellectual figures, Avicenna and Aquinas, and their arguments concerning the age of the cosmos. The primary focus is the nature of possibility and whether possibility is such that God can create it or such that its “existence” (shadowy though it might be) has some degree of independence from God’s creative act. It is shown how one’s answer to this initial question in turn has enormous ramifications on a number of other, core theological topics. These issues include one’s position concerning whether the cosmos necessarily existed infinitely into the past or may have been created at some finite point in the past; how one understands divine simplicity; what constitutes omnipotence; and even the place of rhetoric in theological and philosophical discussions.
6. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 88 > Issue: 2
Jules Janssens A Survey of Thomas’s Explicit Quotations of Avicenna in the Summa contra Gentiles
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Thomas Aquinas, in his Summa contra Gentiles, cites by name and quotes Avicenna seventeen times explicitly. A detailed examination of all these passages reveals that Thomas sometimes, although rarely—in fact, only with regard to the discussion of the divine attributes of truth and liberality—makes a positive assessment of Avicenna’s ideas. Much more often, Thomas is highly critical of the latter’s doctrines. It comes as no surprise that Thomas strongly opposes Avicenna’s theories of emanation and of knowledge acquisition by an illumination of the agent intellect. However, it is astonishing that he qualifies Avicenna as a “Platonist.” This understanding seems to result partly from Averroistic influences, partly from Thomas’s desire to make Avicenna’s system—in spite of the presence of obvious tensions in it—completely coherent, and partly from some (unwarranted) rewordings which fit better Thomas’s own system. Nevertheless, there is no doubt that Avicenna was for Thomas a real “auctoritas.”
7. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 88 > Issue: 2
Luis Xavier López-Farjeat Avicenna and Thomas Aquinas on Natural Prophecy
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In De Veritate, question 12, article 3, Thomas Aquinas discusses whether prophecy is natural. Given that there he argues that prophecy is a divine gift (donum Dei), he seems to break away from the Muslim philosopher Avicenna, who holds a naturalistic explanation of this phenomenon. Certainly Avicenna explained prophecy in psychological and metaphysical terms, and was considered by some Christian theologians as proponent of a naturalistic view, thought to be incompatible with prophecy conceived as a divine and supernatural gift. In this paper I trace the origin of the discussion on whether prophecy is natural or supernatural, and then I recapitulate Avicenna’s understanding of this phenomenon in two short treatises, namely, the Epistle Concerning Dreams and On the Proof of Prophecies, and in the De anima and the Metaphysics of his major work The Book of Healing. Then I review Aquinas’s understanding of Avicenna’s view and his own conception of “natural prophecy” in order to show that, although when he argues for the divine origin of prophecy he distances himself from the Persian philosopher, he sees in his interpretation of Avicenna’s naturalistic doctrine a theory that could explain why some people sometimes attain knowledge of future events through a natural process different from divine prophecy. Finally, I discuss for what purpose Aquinas would have admitted this naturalistic view.
8. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 88 > Issue: 2
Daniel D. De Haan A Mereological Construal of the Primary Notions Being and Thing in Avicenna and Aquinas
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This study has two goals: first, to show that Avicenna’s account of being and thing significantly influenced Aquinas’s doctrine of the primary notions; second, to establish the value of adopting a mereological construal of these primary notions in the metaphysics of Avicenna and Aquinas. I begin with an explication of the mereological construal of the primary notions that casts these notions in terms of wholes and parts. Being and thing refer to the same entitative whole and have the same extension, but they are distinct in intension according to the different entitative parts they signify. Existence and essence constitute the two most fundamental entitative parts of every entitative whole. Being is taken to mean that which has existence, and thing signifies that which has essence. I then show how this mereological construal of the primary notions clarifies a number of texts in Avicenna and Aquinas. Finally, I address a few arguments against employing this mereological interpretation of the primary notions.
9. American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly: Volume > 88 > Issue: 2
Francisco J. Romero Carrasquillo The Dialectical Status of Religious Discourse in Averroes and Aquinas
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The oft-rehearsed, seldom-contested story of Aquinas’s account of sacra doctrina has him holding that revealed theology counts as a demonstrative science, along Aristotelian lines, because it is subaltern to God’s self-knowledge. This paper seeks to question this assessment of the matter by comparing Aquinas’s view to that of another great Aristotelian commentator, Averroes, who holds the contrary position, insofar as he considered religious discourse to be dialectical, and not scientific, in nature. The paper argues that, although both of these thinkers strive to present faithfully Aristotelian solutions to the problem of the epistemological status of religious discourse and in both accounts religious discourse somehow ends up being less than something naturally scientific, ultimately their approaches have widely divergent starting points and foundations that lead to distinctively different approaches and conclusions.