Aquinas,               Alfarabi,                  Avicenna,         Averroes,       Maimonides  &    Albertus


#CAP: Classical Arabic Philosophy: an Anthology of Sources, J. McGinnis & D. Reisman, eds. (Indianapolis: Hackett, 2007)

#CCAP: Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy, P. Adamson & R. Taylor, eds. (Cambridge: CUP. 2005). Turkish translation: İslam Felsefesine giriş / editörler Peter Adamson, Richard C. Taylor ; tercüme, M. Cüneyt Kaya. İstanbul : Küre Yayınları, 2007.

SEP: Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (online

#RCIP: Routledge Companion to Islamic Philosophy, R. Taylor & L. López-Farjeat, eds. (Routledge, 2015)

Items in black are especially recommended in preparation for class.

Class Meetings #1a & 1b 17 May 2016


Preview: At this class I will introduce the five major topics to be covered in the course: metaphysics of creation, the conception of the nature of being, the theory of knowledge, the nature of the human soul, and ultimate human happiness in knowing God; (ii) I will provide some remarks on translations from Greek into Arabic and Arabic into Latin; (iii) and I will make some reflections on Philosophy and Religion in the context in 9th / 3rd century Baghdad and in the context in 12th & 13th century Europe.

Suggested readings:

• D’Ancona, C., “The Origins of Islamic Philosophy,” in The Cambridge History of Philosophy in Late Antiquity, L. Gerson, ed. Cambridge, 2010.

• D’Ancona, C., “Greek Sources in Arabic and Islamic Philosophy,” SEP link here.

• . . . , “Greek into Arabic: Neoplatonism in translation,” CCAP

• Hasse, D. “Influence of Arabic and Islamic Philosophy on the Latin West,” SEP link here.

•* Williams, Wesley, “Aspects of the Creed of Imam Ahmad Ibn Hanbal: A Study of Anthropomorphism in Early Islamic Discourse,” International Journal of Middle East Studies 34 (2002) 441-463.

Class Meeting #2a 18 May 2016

The Metaphysics of Creation in the ‘Circle of al-Kindi’

Preview: In this class I will present key texts and doctrines of creation as found in the Arabic Plotinus, the Kalām fī maḥḍ al-khair and al-Kindi.  The teachings on creation and the metaphysics of being found in the Arabic Plotinus texts involve a major change in the meaning of what Plotinus taught in his Greek texts. The author and modifier, probably Abdalmasih Ibn Na’ima, changed the conception of the First or One from that of the unknowable and unnamable One beyond being to a conception of the First as Pure and Infinite (that is, undelimited) Being. In this new understanding of the First Cause or the One, God who is pure being creates all things by emanation and through the mediation of the first created being, the intellect. As we will see, in the Arabic Plotinus and in the Kalām fī maḥḍ al-khair the First has only one act which is the creation of intellect as the mediator through which the First causes all reality. This creation, the author of the Arabic Plotinus argues, cannot take place by a Divine act of will. What is more, the First can also be said to be above both will and necessity.

Video lectures available: For this class I am providing two video lectures which were originally prepared for a Fall 2011 Katholieke Universiteit Leuven course in Belgium: “Aquinas and the Arabic Philosophical Tradition on ‘Creation’” Video 6a is on the Arabic Plotiniana Arabica which presents a transformation of the Neoplatonic thought of Plotinus into a new doctrine of being in which the One, the First, God, is presented as Pure Being and the Creator of all things. Video 6b is on the Arabic Kalām fī maḥḍ al-khair (known in the Latin tradition as the Liber de causis) which is a treatise on creation and primary causality and higher entities such as celestial intellects, souls and bodies. The doctrine of the Kalām fī maḥḍ al-khair is derivative on that of the Plotiniana Arabica but with emphasis on the way in which God can be the only true Creator and somehow immediately present to each and every being created by him. While the Plotiniana Arabica was not available to Aquinas, the Kalām fī maḥḍ al-khair in Latin translation was carefully studied and often cited by Aquinas in his discussions of the metaphysics of God and creatures. Also the mature Aquinas found the Kalām fī maḥḍ al-khair important enough to write a detailed commentary on it in 1272 CE just two years before the end of his life (1274 CE).

Suggested readings:

*Endress, Gerhard, “The Circle of al-Kindi,” in G. Endress and R. Kruk (eds), The Ancient Tradition in Christian and Islamic Hellenism, Leiden: Research School CNWS. 1997.

  1. (a)The Arabic Plotinus

primary sources:

*Arabic and English: A Philosophy Reader form the Circle of Miskawayh, E. Wakelnig, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014. (Text #1) pp. 94-97, section 33; and (Text #2) pp. 100-101, section 39.

*Arabic text: Plotinus, Apud Arabes, Theologia Aristotelis et Fragmenta Quae Supersut. Aflutina 'inda al-'arab, A. Badawi, ed. Cairo: Dirasa Islamiyya, 1947 (Reprint Islamica 20, 1955)

*English translations by G. Lewis in Plotinus, Plotini Opera, vol. 2 ed Paul Henry & Hans-Rudolf Schwyzer. Paris: Desclee de Brouwer; Bruxelles: L’Édition Universelle, 1959.

secondary sources:

• Michael Chase, “Creation in Islam from the Qur’an to al-Farabi” RCIP, chapter 20.

• Adamson, Peter, “The Theology of Aristotle” SEP 2012 link HERE.

Also recommended:

#Adamson, Peter, The Arabic Plotinus: a Philosophical Study of the “Theology of Aristotle”, London: Duckworth, 2002

  1. (b)The Kalām fī maḥḍ al-khair, “Discourse on the Pure Good”

Arabic text and English translation in Richard C. Taylor, The Liber de causis (Kalām fī maḥḍ al-khair): A Study of Medieval Neoplatonism. Doctoral Dissertation, 1982, University of Toronto, Toronto, Canada.

*Selected Arabic Texts with English translation. For English, click HERE.

Secondary sources:

D’Ancona, C., “The Liber de causis,” in Interpreting Proclus - From Antiquity to the Renaissance, S. Gersh, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014.

*D’Ancona, C. and R.C. Taylor, “Le Liber de causisDictionnaire de Philosophes Antiques. Supplément ed. Richard Goulet et alii, eds., pp.599-647 (Paris: CNRS Edition, 2003).

(c) Al-Kindi

primary sources:

*Arabic texts: al-Kindi’s introduction in “Fī ‘l-falsafati ‘l-ūlā”, in Rasā’il al-Kindī, Abu Rida, ed. 1950, Arabic pp. 97-105; also pp. 169-171; 186-192; 194-198; 201-207;  

*“On First Philosophy,” in al-Kindi, The Philosophical Works of al-Kindi, P. Adamson & P. Pormann, tr. Oxford: Oxford University Press. 2012, pp. 10-14; 58-75.

Adamson, Peter, “Al-Kindi” SEP 2015 link HERE.


#Adamson, Peter, Al-Kindi. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006

Class Meeting #2b 18 May 2016

The Metaphysics of Being and Creation in Ibn Sina / Avicenna

Preview: The metaphysics of Aquinas is developed from his study of Avicenna. As Owens in the article recommended for last week’s class explains, the metaphysics of Aquinas is very different from that of Aristotle even if a superficial reading has convinced many scholars that their teachings are the same. Aquinas develops his metaphysical thought on his study of Avicenna (which develops its principle dialectically) through a unique dialectical approach set forth in his De ente et essentia / On being and essence, which we will study later. This class is focused on the metaphysics of Avicenna with important readings and some four lectures. Only three of those lectures on Avicenna are required. The lecture on Avicenna Metaphysics Book 6 is optional but strongly recommended.

Video lectures available: Avicenna is very important for Aquinas. For a 2011 course on Creation, I prepared detailed video lectures on the metaphysics of Avicenna. We will use those lectures here but only three are required though all are recommended. Video 7a is on Book 1 of Avicenna’s Metaphysics; Video 7b is on Metaphysics 6; Video 7c is on Metaphysics 8; and Video 7d is on Metaphysics 9.

Suggested readings:

*Avicenna: The Metaphysics of the Healing, Book 1, ch. 4-7; Book 8, ch. 5-7; Book 9, ch. 1-3. The text used is Avicenna, The Metaphysics of the Healing (Arabic & English), M. E. Marmura, tr. Provo, Utah: Brigham Young University Press, 2005.

Secondary Sources

*Acar, Rahim,  “Avicenna's Position Concerning the Basis of the Divine Creative Action” Muslim World 94 (2004).

Jules Janssens, “Metaphysics of God,” RCIP, chapter 18

Also recommended:

Acar, Rahim, Talking About God and Talking About Creation. Avicenna’s and Thomas Aquinas’s Position. Leiden: Brill, 2005.

Class Meeting #3a 24 May 2016

The metaphysics of being and creation in the thought of Thomas Aquinas as developed through his use of translations of works of the Arabic tradition

Preview: In his early Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard Thomas Aquinas first sets out his understanding of creation and the giving of being to things by God. In this same period (ca. 1251-1252) Aquinas also wrote a short treatise called De ente et essentia / On Being and Essence in response to the requests of his fellow Dominicans for help in understanding philosophical terminology. In this short work Aquinas explicitly cites the Kalām fī maḥḍ al-khair  (Liber de causis), proposition 8 in the De ente regarding the nature of God as esse tantum (anniyyah faqat in the Arabic). You will recall that this phrase is also in the Plotiniana Arabica and that this proposition of the Kalām fī maḥḍ al-khair is NOT dependent on the Elements of Theology by Proclus but instead is dependent on Plotinian thought from the Arabic Plotinus. So here Aquinas is in direct contact with metaphysical matters discussed in 9th century Baghdad in the Circle of al-Kindi.

    For our class I will focus on the importance of the Metaphysics of Avicenna and of the Kalām fī maḥḍ al-khair for the development of the thought of Aquinas on the metaphysics of being and creation. We will consider carefully his Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, In 2 Sent. D.1, Q.1, A.2, “Whether anything can go forth from <God> by creation.” I will also make some references and comments on his later discussions in the Summa contra gentiles and the Summa theologiae.

Video lectures availableVideo 8a (ca. 22 min.) concerns interpretations of the De ente and De ente ch. 1; Video 8b on De ente ch. 2-5. Note: Video 8b is ca. 65 min. long. I suggest students view the first 52 min.

Suggested readings:

Istanbul Handout #2b Aquinas contains:

Thomas Aquinas, Commentary on the Sentences of Peter Lombard, In 2 Sent. D.1, Q.1, A.2, “Whether anything can go forth from <God> by creation.” (1251-1254 at Paris) For an unpublished English translation, click HERE.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles, Book 2, chapter 16. For English and Latin Texts, click HERE.

Thomas Aquinas, Summa theologiae, prima pars, Q. 45 on Creation. (1265-1268 at Rome) For English and Latin texts, click HERE. In particular, read Summa theologiae, prima pars, Q. 45, articles 1 & 2.

Secondary sources:

*Houser, R.E., “Avicenna, Aliqui, and Thomas Aquinas’s Doctrine of Creation,” Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie médiévale 80 (2013) 17-55.

*López-Farjeat, L.X., “Avicenna’s Influence on Aquinas’ Early Doctrine of Creation In II Sent., D. 1, Q. 1, A. 2,” Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie médiévale 79 (2012) 307-337.

Class Meeting #3b 24 May 2016

Latin Opponents of Aquinas


Aquinas’s Rejection of Mediate Creation


  1. (i)Opponents of Aquinas: Bonaventure and Siger of Brabant

The view of Aquinas following Avicenna on the nature of creation was opposed in various ways. Aquinas held with Avicenna that creation is the origination of being ex nihilo or absolutely from nothing. This applied to all material composite essences of matter and form as well as immaterial essences such as separate substances (intellect, angels and the human soul). Further, Aquinas held that it is not impossible for the world to be created eternally, though by faith in the religious doctrines based on revealed Scripture he held that creation too place with a beginning of time.

    Bonaventure who was writing his Commentary on the Sentences in Paris at the same time as Aquinas argued that the philosophers did not reach a conception of creation and that any conception of creation had to involve a beginning of time. Further, he also held that separate substances (intellect, angels and the human soul) without physical matter still had spiritual matter due to their capacities for change of various kinds.

    Siger of Brabant who was working in the Arts Faculty at Paris attacked the views of Aquinas by arguing for the eternity of the world and for the impossibility of creation ex nihilo.

(ii) Aquinas on God as the sole Creator and sole sufficient cause of being

    A key issue remaining from our discussion of creation in Aquinas is that of his rejection of the doctrine of mediate creation set out in the Kalam fi mahd al-khair, the Arabic Plotinus texts and the Metaphysics of Avicenna. Providing his own analysis of the nature of being but perhaps basing it in part on the arguments of Avicenna for the uniqueness of the Necessary Being and the impossibility of there being two Necessary Beings, Aquinas reasons that only God can create and give being to things because God does not merely have being but rather is being itself (ipsum esse per se subsistens, “being itself subsisting in its own right”). As such only God has the infinite power of pure being that makes creation from nothing take place, for there is an infinite distance between non-being and being, a distance that only the infinite power of God can overcome.  In this sense, then, God — as the only true giver of being — is present and acting in every instance of being for the binding of essences into existing individual things as composites of essence and existence or being can only be brought about by God who does not merely have being in some limited, incomplete and imperfect way, but is being itself as pure, active, actual and infinite in power.

Recommended readings:

Rudi te Velde, Participation and Substantiality in Thomas Aquinas. Leiden: Brill, 1995) especially pp. 170-183.

For translations of Bonaventura on creation and related issues, click  HERE.

Istanbul Handout #3 24May2016 contains:

(1) Bonaventure, Commentary on Sentences 2, D1, Pt1, A1, Q1-  “Whether things have a causal principle”

  1. (2)Bonaventure, Commentary on Sentences 2, D3, Pt1, A1, Q1-  “Whether Angels Are Composed of Matter and Form”

  2. (3)Siger of Brabant, Question on Creation Ex Nihilo

  3. (4)Aquinas, On the Power of God Q3A4

Class Meeting #4a 25 May 2016

Knowledge & Abstraction in the Classical

Rationalist Islamic Philosophical Tradition:

al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd

Theories of natural abstractive knowledge in al-Farabi, Ibn Sina / Avicenna and Ibn Rushd / Averroes


The accounts of al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd all employ similar language for powers and activities of the soul though the referents and meanings of the terms have subtle differences of great importance indicating different doctrines of intellect, knowledge and abstraction. Al-Farabi holds varying views across his corpus regarding the activities of the Agent Intellect but in relation to human understanding there is consistency. For him the Agent Intellect provides a power and a principle to human to make human intellectual abstraction (separation) and understanding actual. The power received into the soul is the receptive material intellect which can bring about a transfer of intelligibles in potency from their existence as forms of particular entities to a new existence in this human soul as intelligibles in act available for human intellectual understanding. The end to be achieved through intellectual knowledge is a transformation from existence as an embodied soul to existence as intellect unconnected with body for the sake of achieving ultimate happiness as a separate substance rising near to the level of the Agent Intellect.

Ibn Sina holds that human efforts by the external senses and the internal senses and powers of the brain in relation to things of the world are preparations for conjoining with or for receiving an emanation from the Agent Intellect. Since he holds that there is no personal intellectual memory for individuals, all intellectual thought of intelligibles for the formation of complex understandings require a linkage (described by use of the two metaphors of conjoining and receiving emanations) with the Agent Intellect where (following Themistius and Neoplatonic Greek thinkers) the intelligibles exist primarily and actually. The rational soul, leaving behind the body, finds happiness in intellectual fulfillment by linking with the Agent Intellect in the present life and ultimately in the next life where highest attainment of happiness is found at the level of the Agent Intellect.

Ibn Rushd / Averroes develops three different theories of intellectual understanding in his Short, Middle and Long Commentaries on the De Anima of Aristotle. In his early Short Commentary with the assistance of the Agent Intellect the human receptive or material intellect — here described as a power of imagination in the individual person — receives intelligibles for intellectual understanding.  As the brain power of imagination is perishable, so too is the power of material intellect attached to it. That theory of rejected later when in the paraphrasing Middle Commentary he sets out an account of the material or receptive intellect as an immaterial power of receiving into itself intelligibles in act abstracted with the help of the Agent Intellect. This material intellect is individuated by belonging to the human being who is body and soul in the world in such as way that every human has his/her own personal material or receptive intellect as an immaterial subject for receiving intelligibles in act. As the individual human being in the body is perishable, so too is the material intellect which, while immaterial, still belongs to the individual who is perishable and so is itself perishable. In his last work on Aristotle’s De Anima, his Long Commentary, Ibn Rushd again changes his theory after a third reading of the Paraphrase of the De Anima by Themistius available to him in Arabic translation. He continues to hold that the human soul is perishable but he now sets out the doctrine that human beings are involved with abstraction and have knowledge thanks to the assistance of the Agent Intellect. The Agent Intellect assists human beings by connecting or coming into the human soul (and is “in our soul”) as “form for us” enabling a human to abstract or separate intelligibles in potency in the contents of the cogitative power and memory based on sensation. The Agent Intellect transfers the intelligible in potency in memory to a new existence as intelligible in act. This intelligible in act is received into the immaterial nature of the separately existing substance called the receptive or Material Intellect which continues to have a linkage to the individual human who provided the images for abstraction or separation. In this way Agent Intellect and Material Intellect, while existing as separate eternal substances in their own rights, are available to provide their powers to particular human beings seeking intellectual understanding. While this account of natural human knowing has it that particular humans are perishable and transitory, Ibn Rushd provides another different and special way in which somehow humans rise up to the apprehension and understanding of these and higher intellects right up the intellectual apprehension of the First Cause or God. Following enthusiastic remarks about highest intellectual transcendence through intellect found in the Paraphrase of the De Anima by Themistius, Ibn Rushd indicates that an individual can rise through linkage to the Material Intellect to be able to understand higher intellects in true and ultimate human happiness. While this doctrine does not fit well with the account of normal human attainment of rational scientific knowledge (something he acknowledges), there is no denying this teaching even if it is not clear precisely how the two teachings fit together coherently.

Videos available:

video 3a: al-Farabi, 1 of 2. Click HERE.

video 3b: al-Farabi, 2 of 2. Click HERE.

NOTE: In video 3a I mistakenly write and say “the part is greater than the whole” when, of course, I should have said “the whole is greater than the part.” This is a mistake I will correct in a later version of this video. (RCT)

video 4a: Ibn Sīnā / Avicenna, 1 of 2. Click HERE.

video 4b: Ibn Sīnā / Avicenna, 2 of 2. Click HERE.

video 5a: Ibn Rushd / Averroes, 1 of 2. Click HERE.

video 5a: Ibn Rushd / Averroes, 1 of 2. Click HERE.

  1. Istanbul Handout #5

Suggested readings:

• al-Farabi, On the Intellect in CAP

• Ibn Sina / Avicenna, On the Soul, selections in CAP

• Ibn Rushd, selections from Averroes (Ibn Rushd) of Cordoba. Long Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle, R. C. Taylor, tr., with Th.-A. Druart, subditor. (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009)

• Ivry, A. “Arabic and Islamic Psychology and Philosophy of Mind,” SEP

• Lizzini, O. “Human Knowledge and Separate Intellect,” RCIP

  1. Taylor, R., “Textual and Philosophical Issues in Averroes’ Long Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle” in The Letter before the Spirit.The Importance of Text Editions for the Study of the Reception of Aristotle, Aafke M. I. van Oppenraaij and Resianne Smidt van Gelder-Fontaine, eds. (Brill: Leiden-Boston, 2012), 267-287.

Class Meeting #4b 25 May 2016

The Development of Aquinas’s

Conception of Human Knowledge

The theory of natural abstractive knowledge of Aquinas and how it was developed by his teacher, Albert the Great, through explicit use and quotation of translated works by Ibn Sina / Avicenna and Ibn Rushd / Averroes (new translations provided by instructor)


It has long been recognized by scholars of Thomas Aquinas that he provides a novel account of human intellectual abstraction that explains the agent intellect and possible (= material) intellect to be two powers of the immaterial human soul. Some scholars such as B. C. Bazán have explained that this doctrine by Aquinas is a novel understanding inspired by confused and eclectic attempts of thinkers of the first half of the 13th century.

The teachings of Ibn Sina where clear enough in the Latin translations to enable some Latin thinkers to hypothesize the Agent Intellect as God actig in the human soul, something in accord with the much earlier account of Augustine who placed “Christ the Teacher” in the individual human soul to make intellectual understanding possible. 

The teachings of Ibn Rushd were only available to Latins in the Long Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle which set out the Cordoban’s absolutely new conception of Agent Intellect and Material Intellect as separately existing eternal substances. The novelty of this view so different from those of any earlier thinker in the Arabic tradition left the Latins in a state of confusion about its meaning. (For an explanation of the confusion of modern European scholars of the 20th century about this, see my introduction in Averroes (Ibn Rushd) of Cordoba. Long Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle, Richard C. Taylor, trans. & intro., Therese-Anne Druart, subeditor.  New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009.) Some read it as holding for these two separate substances while others read it as indicating these as powers of the soul since Ibn Rushd mentions several times that these are “in our soul” (in anima nobis) in line with Aristotle’s saying in De Anima 3.5 that these are “in the soul” (en tē psychē).

Among those who chose the second reading was Albert the Great, teacher of Aquinas, whose misunderstanding of Ibn Rushd on this matter led to his formation of a new doctrine in his De Homine (ca. 1242). This new understanding of the attainment of natural human knowledge is explicitly concocted by Albert from his analysis of the texts of the De Anima by Ibn Sina and the Long Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle by Ibn Rushd using long quotations from both of these works. Albert’s conclusion in this work from 1242 is that the agent intellect and the possible (material) intellect are immaterial powers of the individual human rational soul, a teaching that was taken over by Aquinas as his own and spelled out in ca. 1250-52 along with his own reexamination of the source materials in these works by Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd.

Videos available:

video 6a: First and Second Averroism. 1 of 2 Click HERE.

video 6b: Albert the Great in his De homine. 2 of 2. Click HERE.

     Two typographical errors occur in video 6a. On the page discussing “Ambiguous doctrinal expressions”: The Arabic following ṣurah la-nā should be صورة . The Greek in the last line about Aristotle, DA 3.5 should be ἐν τῇ ψθχῇ. Corrections to the videos will be made at a later date.

video 7a : Aquinas on the soul in the Commentary on the Sentences. Click HERE.

video 7b : Aquinas on the intellect in the Commentary on the Sentences. Click HERE.

  1. Istanbul Handout #5


• Translations by the instructor of selected texts from the De homine by Albert the Great (new translations)

• Aquinas, Commentary on the Sentences, book 2, D. 17, Q. 2, A.1 (new translation)

• Taylor, R. “Albert the Great’s Account of Human Knowledge in his De homine:  A Concoction Formed From the Writings of Avicenna and Averroes, ” available at

• Taylor, R., “Aquinas and the Arabs: Aquinas’s First Critical Encounter with the Doctrine of Averroes on the Intellect, In 2 Sent. d. 17, q. 2, a. 1,” in Philosophical Psychology in Arabic Thought and the Latin Aristotelianism of the 13th Century, Luis X. López-Farjeat and Jörg Tellkamp, eds. (Paris: Vrin, 2013), 142-183 & 277-296. (Includes complete translation of Aquinas, In 2 Sent. d. 17, q. 2, a. 1.)

Class Meeting #5a 31 May 2016

Human Soul in the Classical Rationalist Islamic Philosophical Tradition

Human soul in al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd.


As we have already noted earlier, al-Farabi developed a teaching on intellectual abstraction and human knowing that involved the reception of the gift of receptivity or material intellect provided by the Agent Intellect to individual human souls. With this gift and also the first principles of understanding an intellectually talented and hardworking human being blessed with a good environment can develop his rational powers through reception of abstracted intelligibles into the soul. Following Aristotle’s discussion of the apprehension of essences in De Anima 3.4, al-Farabi holds that the person of knowledge and science is able to develop the rational powers to the point that the rational soul no longer needs the body. At this point it is transformed in substance and fully realizes itself as intellect, perhaps eventually to rise to the level of the Agent Intellect in a level of intellectual knowing that constitutes the very nature of happiness and the afterlife in an immaterial and eternal life into the future.

For Ibn Sina there was not transformation in substance through intellectual knowing but there was a perfection of the rational soul through knowing. He held that the rational soul itself is a perfection for the body which it uses for the attainment of knowledge and intellectual understanding. By use of the senses the rational soul used the body and its powers as a tool to prepare itself for the reception of intelligibles from a separate intellectual source. That source is the Agent Intellect where all the intelligibles available to human beings are found. Since the soul is per se rational, it is ready to receive into itself the intelligibles found in their fullness in the Agent Intellect. This receiving by the prepared soul is describe by Ibn Sina using two distinct metaphors neither of which taken alone fully captures the needed meaning. The soul described as both conjoining with and receiving from the Agent Intellect in order to know the intelligibles in act. The soul’s knowing can only take place when it is linked to the Agent Intellect in this way because the individual human rational soul does not have its own intellectual memory. As immaterial rational intellect from its creation in the body, the rational soul lives on after the death of the body, its tool in the physical world.

Ibn Rushd seems always to have held for the perishable nature of the individual human soul through all three of his Commentaries on the De Anima of Aristotle. This becomes particularly clear in select passages in his Long Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle and his Long Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle. He held that the human soul is form of the body and that the intellect is a  different kind of soul. For him in his mature works the Agent Intellect and the Material Intellect are separately existing substances that aid the individual perishable human being by connecting with the human being’s cogitative brain powers. With this connecting those intellects work with the powers of sense perception, imagination, cogitation and memory and make genuine abstractions from the experience of the world. After the application of the separating abstractive power of the Agent Intellect the intelligibles now in act are pressed on and received by the Material Intellect. Sharing in this generation of intelligibles, the individual human soul establishes a habitual connection with the Material Intellect and through that shares in intellectual understanding so long as it continues to live in the body which it needs for its existence. At the death of the body, the individual perishes. While positive discussion of the afterlife can be found in other works, in his philosophical works there is no doctrine of a real continued existence after death.

(It would be worthwhile to have a discussion of method in philosophical and religious doctrines in Ibn Rushd perhaps sometime outside of class.)

Handout 5a al-Farabi, Ibn Sina, Ibn Rushd 31May2016 21 pp.pdf

Suggested Readings: For this class meeting we will use many of the selected readings assigned for the previous two classes again.

• Al-Farabi, short selections from On the Intellect in CAP. (Handout)

• Ibn Sina / Avicenna, selections from Book on the Soul in CAP. (Handout)

  1. Ibn Rushd / Averroes, short selection from  Long Commentary on the De Anima and Long Commentary on the Metaphysics. (Handout)

  2. Wisnovsky. R. “Avicenna and the Avicennian Tradition,” pp. 96-105 in CCAP, specially pp. 96-105. (Handout)

• Marmura, M. E., “Avicenna and Traditional Islamic Belief,” The Judeo-Christian-Islamic Heritage. Philosophical and Theological Perspectives, R. C. Taylor & I. A. Omar, eds. (Milwaukee: Marquette University Press, 2012), 173-192.

• Taylor, R. C.,“Personal Immortality in Averroes’ Mature Philosophical Psychology,” Documenti e Studi sulla Traduzione Filosofica Medievale 9 (1998) pp. 87-110.

• Taylor, R. C.,“ “Averroes on the Ontology of the Human Soul,” Muslim World 102 (2012) 580-596.

Class Meeting #5b 31 May 2016

Human Soul in Aquinas

Aquinas’s development of his conception of the intellectual soul as form of the body through engagement with sources from the Arabic tradition.


   Aquinas develops from his study of Ibn Sina and the De Anima of Aristotle a unique philosophical doctrine on the nature of the human soul. For Aquinas the human soul is naturally composed with the body to make a single composite entity which has powers exercised through the body and other powers which belong to the soul itself even in separation from the body. In forming and arguing for this doctrine

   Aquinas agrees with Ibn Sina that the soul is created together with the body but does not accept the view that the body is a tool that has the nature to be discarded by the rational soul. For Aquinas the life principle of soul and the body that is enlivened are a single natural substance.

   Aquinas agrees with Ibn Rushd that the human soul is form of the body, not just a perfection for body using body as a tool.  Aquinas even goes so far as to assert that the human rational soul or intellect is rightly called “form of the body.”

   In his discussions Aquinas in a critical and synthetic way draws on the accounts of Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd and also parts of the analysis of his teacher Albert in the De Homine (as we have seen earlier) to argue for and to embrace what others in the tradition refused up to this time. This is the teaching that the human soul is both form of the human body and at the same time an immaterial rational soul in its own right.

   In forming this teaching he also drew on Aristotle’s De Anima with care and precision to assert that the phenomenon of human existence is both physically material and intellectually immaterial. For Aquinas this meant that at death the soul which has the immaterial power of rationality (a power having the soul as its necessarily immaterial subject) continues to exist but cannot exercise its natural powers of sensation and intellectual thought since its proper nature is to live in the body which is part of its essence. At the end of time in the afterlife with the resurrection of bodies, God restores the human soul to its now glorified body and the human person is made whole again.


For a valuable expert video presentation on the unity of the substantial form of the human being in Aquinas, see John Wippel, “Aquinas and the Unity of Substantial Form in Humans,” at

Aquinas Handout 5b for 31May2016 17 pp.pdf

Suggested Readings:

Aquinas, Commentary on the Sentences, Book 2, d.8, q.5, a.2 (new translation provided in class handout)

Aquinas, Summa contra gentiles, Book 2, ch. 68 (in handout)

Aquinas, Summa theologiae, prima pars, q. 76, a.1-2 (in handout)

Also see John O’Callaghan on “Body and Soul” in the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on Thomas Aquinas at

Additional suggested reading:

Aquinas, Quaestiones disputatae de anima, Qq. 1 & 4. Latin available via; English translation on MU ARES reserves. An older English translation of these can be found at

Class Meeting #6a 1 June 2016

Ultimate Human Happiness in the Classical Rationalist Islamic Philosophical Tradition

Ultimate happiness in Aristotle, al-Farabi, Ibn Sina / Avicenna and Ibn Rushd / Averroes.


    Aristotle discusses happiness (eudaimonia: fulfillment) in Book 1 and Book 10 of his Nicomachean Ethics. In 10.7 he discusses two forms of eudaimonia. The lower level of eudaimonia is found in the morally good citizens who live fulfilling lives good charactr with proper habits and good control of over the emotional and desiderative parts of soul. A higher level of the fulfillment of the human being as rational can be attained by those who have the lower level of excellence (virtue) of moral character but also have powerful talents of reason, good teachers, intensive and extensive learning involving insights into the eternal realities of the universe, and highest actuality of rational fulfillment. The function argument saying that the function and virtue of a human rational being consists in the highest function of reason leads Aristotle to say that those who have this fulfillment (eudaimonia) experience for short times the sort of high intellectual thinking that is characteristic of the god(s). Still, for Aristotle there is no serious discussion of an afterlife even for the most intellectually fulfilled human beings.

    For al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd this teaching of Aristotle is understood to mean that the highest fulfillment and happiness that a human being can have is in separation from the body after much study of intellectual scientific learning, consisting in an immaterial intellectual experience of some kind of separate substances (intellects, angels, God) as the ultimate end, purpose, goal and fulfillment for human beings

    For al-Farabi, as we saw in the last class, this involves an ontological and intellectual transformation of a generated physical & bodily human philosopher into an eternal intellect of a different sort of substance. This intellectual self rises up to the level of the Agent Intellect in fulfillment of itself as actualized or acquired (mustafad) intellect.

    For Ibn Sina from its creation the soul is itself per se rational and its time in the body on earth is meant to be one of knowledge attainment an preparation for multiple and ongoing conjoining with the Agent Intellect to share in the highest rationality.  At death this human rational soul, if it has developed itself in a highly rational way, can unite the Agent Intellect and together with the Agent Intellect perhaps have a glimpse of the higher intellects (angels) and God as its ultimate fulfillment.

   As I indicated in the previous class, for Ibn Rushd the individual human soul establishes a habitual connection with the Material Intellect and through that shares in intellectual understanding so long as it continues to live in the body which it needs for its existence. At the death of the body, the individual perishes. While positive discussion of the afterlife can be found in other works, in his philosophical works there is no doctrine of a real continued existence after death. Nevertheless, it seems that Ibn Rushd developed another teaching that was perhaps not fully developed. In his Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle he seems to indicate — as he reads in the Parapharse of the De Anima by Themistius — that some other kind of apprehension of separate substances through the Material Intellect may allow human beings the opportunity of intellectual knowing of the separate intellects (perhaps the angels of revelation) and God. He says that this is not the same as natural human scientific knowledge.  In his Long Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle in discussing Metaphysics Book 2 (α) he says that the nature of human intellectual understanding has as its natural and ultimate end the knowing of the most perfect being of all, God. From this he argues that since we have this end or goal as part of our natures as intellects, we must be able by our own powers to reach to the knowledge of separate substances and even perhpas God. (Aquinas vigorously attached this view in part because it would mean that the vision of God is in the hands of human beings and not a special transcendent gift from God himself.)

Videos available:

(1) Aristotle on Happiness. Click HERE.

(2) al-Kindi on Happiness. Click HERE.

(3) al-Farabi on Happiness. Click HERE.

(4) Ibn Sina on Happiness. Click HERE.

Suggested Readings:

al-Farabi, "Attainment of Happiness," in Alfarabi: Philosophy of Plato and Aristotle, M. Mahdi, tr. (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2001)

For Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd we will use again texts from Handout 5a used in the previous class:

• Ibn Sina / Avicenna, short selections from Metaphysics 10 in The Metaphysics of the Healing, M. E. Marmura, tr. (Provo, Utah: Brigham University Press, 2005) 9.7 & 10.1-3 and 10.5.

• Ibn Rushd / Averroes, selected texts from Long Commentary on the Metaphysics and Long Commentary on the De Anima

• Elhajibrahim, S., “Alfarabi's Concept of Happiness Sa'ada: Eudaimonia, The Good and Jihad Al-Nafs” available at

• Taylor, R. “Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’: Arabic / Islamic Philosophy in Thomas Aquinas's Conception of the Beatific Vision in his Commentary on the Sentences IV, 49, 2, 1," The Thomist 76 (2012) 509-550.

Class Meeting #6b 1 June 2016

The Development of the Doctrine of Ultimate Happiness in Aquinas

Aquinas’s development of his conception of ultimate human happiness through engagement with sources from the Arabic tradition (new translations provided by instructor).


   The view of Ibn Rushd as well as the views of Aristotle, al-Farabi and Ibn Sina seemed to Aquinas put too much control over ultimate happiness in the control and nature of human beings as something naturally attainable. Instead he insisted that this is something beyond the natural control of human beings and provided only through the will and graciousness of God.

   In this class we will consider closely his philosophical reasoning in the Commentary on the Sentences IV, 49, 2, 1, and also look at his philosophical account in the Summa contra gentiles (SCG) Book 3, chapters 1-3, 16-21, 25-26, 37-44, 47-48, 51-53, 63-64 and his theological account in his Summa theologiae (ST), prima secundae, Questions 1-5. In the Commentary on the Sentences explains his view of beatitude using a model drawn Ibn Rushd and Ibn Rushd’s account of Alexander of Aphrodisias in the Long Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle by Ibn Rushd. In the SCG he critiques the Arabic tradition and provides his own philosophical account. In the ST he focuses on the doctrine itself and provides a theological account. (What makes the SCG account philosophical but the ST account theological?) His teaching is, in short, that humans have a deep yearning for the presence of God in themselves in an intellectual mode that cannot be fulfilled through solely human powers available to the human soul. The ultimate final cause for this human yearning, God, is the only entity that can empower the human soul in such a way that it can see (but not fully comprehend or encompass) God in His infinity even through powers enhanced by God. Only God can have comprehensive encompassing perfect knowledge of God. And it is only through God’s mercy in heaven that the blessed saints can see God face-to-face or in his essence. This happens when God comes into the soul from outside and (i) raises the powers of the soul miraculously to higher level to be able to receive the presence of God and (ii) God enters into the human soul as the immediately present Divine Essence in the soul.

Videos available:

  1. (1)Aquinas on Philosophy and Religion in Summa contra gentiles, 1.1-8. Click HERE.

(2) Aquinas’s first discussions of ultimate happiness: video 9a Preliminaries and video 9b (Aquinas In4Sentd49q23a1)

Suggested readings:

• Translation of Aquinas Commentary on the Sentences IV, 49, 2, 1, provided by the instructor at,_Q.2,_A.1.html

• Selected texts from Aquinas, Summa theologiae, prima secundae, questions 1-5; and Summa contra gentiles

R. C. Taylor, “Aquinas and ‘the Arabs’: Arabic / Islamic Philosophy in Thomas Aquinas's Conception of the Beatific Vision in his Commentary on the Sentences IV, 49, 2, 1" The Thomist 76 (2012) 509-550.

Katja Krause, “Albert and Aquinas on the Ultimate End of Humans: Philosophy, Theology, and Beatitude,” Proceedings of the ACPA, v. 86 (2013) 213-229.

• Don Adams, “Aquinas on Aristotle on Happiness,” Medieval Philosophy and Theology 1 (1991) 98-118.

Additional recommended readings:

Th. Prügl, "Thomas Aquinas as Interpreter of Scripture", in R. Van Nieuwenhove and J. Wawrykow (eds.), The Theology of Thomas Aquinas, Notre Dame, IN, University of Notre Dame Press, 2005, pp. 386-415. On ARES reserves.

Carlos Steel, “Siger of Brabant versus Thomas Aquinas on the Possibility of Knowing Separate Substances,” Miscellanea Mediaevalia, 2001, available on ARES reserves at MU, on Toledo at KUL.

• Carlos Steel, “Medieval Philosophy - an Impossible Project? Thomas Aquinas and the ‘Averroistic’ Ideal of Happiness” (1998). • A. Kenny, “Aquinas on Aristotelian Happiness,” in S. MacDonald and E. Stump (eds.), Aquinas’s Moral Theory: Essays in Honor of Norman Kretzmann, Ithaca, New York: Cornell University, 1999, pp. 15–27.

Appointments for further discussions with students and faculty colleagues will be arranged up to 17 June.