After Avicenna: Metaphysical Essentialism and Its Critique in Islamic Philosophy (AA)

Main funder

Funder's project number: 340923

Funds granted by main funder (€)

  • 484 688,00

Funding program

Project timetable

Project start date: 01/09/2021

Project end date: 31/08/2025


The After Avicenna project has a twofold objective. First of all, it conducts a historiographical study of Avicenna's (d. 1037 CE)
metaphysics and its Islamic reception in the so called post-classical period, that is, from the twelfth century CE onwards. This study is
conducted with a keen eye on contemporary analytic metaphysics, especially on questions related to the re-emergence of metaphysical
essentialism and the consequent critique of nominalism and reductive modal analysis. This leads to the second objective of the project,
namely to develop the findings of the historiographical work into new contributions to the contemporary discussion. The project is
thereby loosely connected to the emerging neo-Aristotelian movement in metaphysics and theory of science. However, instead of
loosely drawing inspiration from a vaguely defined Aristotelianism, it looks analytically at the ways in which the Aristotelian heritage
was developed, by Avicenna and his successors, in response to challenges that were often strikingly similar to those of today.

In more specific terms, the themes the project will focus on include Avicenna's definition of the modalities (necessity, contingency or
possibility, and impossibility) in his distinction between essence and existence, his use of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, and his
reconciliation between necessitarianism and a robust concept of contingency. In addition to reconstructing Avicenna's own thinking, the
project will investigate the reception of these ideas by both his endorsers and his critics. It will also study other developments in the
post-classical period, such as the critique or natural universals, or the critique of a number of central Peripatetic concepts (like
'substance' or 'existence') as constructs of the human mind, with a view to how such challenges affected later versions of Avicennian
essentialism and realism.

The project will have a major impact on the historiography of Islamic philosophy. It will also make valuable contributions to
contemporary metaphysical debate. Finally, although the project consists in fundamental research in philosophy, it will have a positive
societal impact in the long run. By creating conceptual tools for mutual understanding between Islamic and Western intellectual
cultures, it will undermine cultural and societal polarisation.

Principal Investigator

Other persons related to this project (JYU)

Primary responsible unit

Last updated on 2021-27-05 at 11:24