From Identity to Representation: Ibn Sina on the Identity of Knower and Known in the Human Rational Soul

Ucer I. H.

NAZARIYAT-JOURNAL FOR THE HISTORY OF ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY AND SCIENCES, vol.4, no.2, pp.1-55, 2018 (Peer-Reviewed Journal) identifier

  • Publication Type: Article / Article
  • Volume: 4 Issue: 2
  • Publication Date: 2018
  • Doi Number: 10.12658/nazariyat.4.2.m0054en
  • Journal Indexes: Emerging Sources Citation Index, TR DİZİN (ULAKBİM)
  • Page Numbers: pp.1-55


The question of the human rational soul's relation with its objects of thought over the course of actual intellection is one of the major problems in Ibn Sina's epistemology. Concerning this issue, Ibn Sina inherited a wide range of interpretations around the theory of the intellect and the intelligible's identity that was introduced in De Anima 3.4 by Aristotle.This study seeks to determine Ibn Sina's final position on this theory. However, there are certain difficulties in determining his original view and final position on this issue. In his early work al-Mabda' wa al-ma'ad, he accepts the position of identity. And yet in his later al-Shifa'/al-Nafs and al-Isharat, he sharply refutes a similar stance that he attributed to Porphyry - his real opponent remains unacknowledged - and holds fast to the opinion of the immaterial representation of the intelligibles. Yet again, he uses a language of identity (ittibad) in the works that come after al-Shifa'/al-Naft. To solve this apparent inconsistency and determine his real view, this article offers an aporetic reading of relevant passages in his works. Accordingly, Ibn Sina held the view of identity in al-Mabda', in which he made no distinction between direct self-awareness and indirect self-intellection. However, after al-Shifa'/al-Nafs, in which he laid the ground for this distinction, he moved on to the theory of representation and adhered to it consistently in his later works. The questions of the place of Ibn Sina's theory of representation in the history of this problem and the possible identity of the real opponent(s) to whom he attributed the Porphyrian position form the body of this article.