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Adamson, Peter (2018): The Simplicity Of Self-Knowledge After Avicenna. In: Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, Vol. 28, No. 2: pp. 257-277


Alongside his much-discussed theory that humans are permanently, if only tacitly, self-aware, Avicenna proposed that in actively conscious self-knowers the subject and object of thought are identical. He applies to both humans and God the slogan that the self-knower is "intellect, intellecting, and object of intellection ('aql, 'aqil, ma'qul)". This paper examines reactions to this idea in the Islamic East from the 12th-13th centuries. A wide range of philosophers such as Abu l-Barakat al-Baghdadi, Fahr al-Din al-Razi, al-Sahrastani, Saraf al-Din al-Mas'udi, al-Abhari, al-Amidi, and Nasir al-Din al-Tusi raised and countered objections to Avicenna's position. One central problem was that on widely accepted definitions of knowledge - according to which knowledge is representational or consists in a relation - it seems impossible for the subject and object of knowledge to be the same. Responses to this difficulty included the idea that a self-knower is "present" to itself, or that here subject and object are different only in "aspect (i'tibar)".