Faculties in Arabic Philosophy

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapter


Classical Arabic philosophy provides illuminating perspectives on the western doctrine of the faculties. The systematization by Ibn Sina (the Latin Avicenna) of Aristotelian cognitive psychology provides an obvious access point, both for its success and its explanatory power. Avicenna was not, however, the first or only Arabic author to write on the nature of the faculties. Viewed against this wider backdrop, Avicenna's innovations gain in added resonance, even as they become contextualized. For instance, the Arabic discussion demonstrates how the Aristotelian theory of the psychic faculties builds on the metaphysical framework of interlocking active and passive powers. This raises several questions. Are the psychic faculties differentiated according to their objects or, rather, according to the suitedness of the various sense-organs? And what of the purportedly active nature of intellection? Many of the highlighted issues pit the underlying naturalism of the Aristotelian scheme against the supposedly special nature of human agency.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Faculties
Subtitle of host publicationA History
PublisherOxford University Press
ISBN (Electronic)9780190247201
ISBN (Print)9780199935253
StatePublished - Jun 30 2015


  • Avicenna
  • Cognitive psychology
  • Naturalism
  • Powers
  • Psychic faculties

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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