“The Metaphysics of ‘The Healing'”

“The Metaphysics of ‘The Healing'” August 16, 2018


Avicenna's tomb
The tomb of Ibn Sīnā, in Hamadan, Iran     (Wikimedia Commons)


Another of the books that appeared in Brigham Young University’s Islamic Translation Series (which, before the whole thing came to an end, blossomed and expanded into the broader Middle Eastern Texts Initiative) was the rather massive The Metaphysics of The Healing, written by Ibn Sīnā (or, in the popular and familiar English corruption of the Hebrew corruption of his original Arabic name, by Avicenna), and translated by Professor Michael E. Marmura, of the University of Toronto.


Avicenna (ca. AD 980–1037) was a Persian polymath — he was most renowned as a physician and as a philosopher, but his roughly 240 surviving works (out of what was once a total of approximately 450) also cover such topics as astronomy, alchemy, geography and geology, psychology, Islamic theology, mathematics, and physics, as well as logic and original poetry — is generally regarded as one of the most significant thinkers and writers of the Islamic “Golden Age.”  


His most famous works are The Book of Healing (Kitāb al-Shifā’), a philosophical and scientific encyclopedia, and The Canon of Medicine (Al-Qanun fī al-Tibb), a medical encyclopedia that, in Latin translation, became a standard medical text at many medieval universities in the West and remained in use as an authority as late as the middle of the seventeenth century.  Some have labeled him, accordingly, the father of early modern medicine.


Here is the online note that provides a background for the specific book in question:


Avicenna, the most influential of Islamic philosophers, produced The Healing as his magnum opus on his religious and political philosophy. Now translated by Michael Marmura, The Metaphysics is the climactic conclusion to this towering work. Through Marmura’s skill as a translator and his extensive annotations, Avicenna’s touchstone of Islamic philosophy is more accessible than ever before.

In The Metaphysics, Avicenna examines the idea of existence, and his investigation into the cause of all things leads him to a meditation on the nature of God. From this discussion, Avicenna develops a theory of divine causation that synthesizes Neoplatonic, Aristotelian, and Islamic ideas. Within this emanative scheme, Avicenna establishes some of the basic ideas of his religious and political philosophy, as he discusses the divine attributes, divine providence, the hereafter, and the ideal “virtuous” city with its philosopher-prophet as the human link between the terrestrial and heavenly realms. With this edition, The Metaphysics can now be better seen as one of the most masterful works of classical Islamic philosophy.



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