Cameron Gordon History 362
Ibn Sina: His Influences and Philosophies
Abu ‘Ali Ibn Sina also known in Latin throughout Europe as Avicenna (ca. 980- 1037 CE) was a highly regarded physician, philosopher, mathematician, astronomer and minister. Born in the Afshana province of Bukhara, during his lifetime Sina was considered the leading figure in natural philosophy and medicine by his peers. He students even went so far as to refer to him as al-Sheik al-Rais (Leader among the wise men). Because of his concise and popular writing style Sina heavily influenced philosophical topics and thinkers in Europe at the time. His chief philosophical piece of literature was Kitab al-Shifa (Book of Healing) published in 1027 which was later revised as Kitab al-najat (Book of Deliverance or Salvation). The books and Sina himself seemed to have been heavily influenced by Plato and his theories making Sina the leading Neoplatonist thinker at the time. His other large work was the al-Qanun fi al-Tibb (Canon of Medicine) a massive 14 volume encyclopedia of medicine he completed in 1025. Sina heavily influenced philosophers, scientists and theorists in Europe during his lifetime and for future generations. Many of his books and knowledge is still referred to today. I will mostly be focusing on the influence of others on Sina’s works, his Canon of Medicine and views on natural philosophy specifically the soul, metaphysics, the existence of God and his philosophical approach to the Qur’an. While Sina himself helped to inspire others to question and commentate on his works, if it were not for thinkers like Aristotle, Plato, Euclid, Ptolemy and Galen then Sina would not have been able to question their ideas in the first place. Sina most likely would have gone on to write his al-Qanun without having read works by the aforementioned thinkers but he would not have been nearly as influential or knowledgeable had he not. With regards to Aristotle he researched
different forms of heat, energy and force while presenting Aristotle’s work on Physics specifically his theory between time and motion in a more coherent form (El-Bizri). Continuing with Aristotle’s conception of vision Sina showed that the velocity of light had a finite magnitude. His reasoning for doing so may have been to make it an easier concept for others to understand. Though Aristotle’s work could have been outdated at the time of Sina’s study and so required a fresh new look. When it comes to geometry there was no one more knowledgeable on that subject than Euclid. Sina attempted to prove Euclid’s fifth postulate which according to Euclid is: if a straight line crossing two straight lines makes the interior angles on the same side less than two right angles, the two straight lines, if extended indefinitely, meet on that side on which are the angles less than the two right angles. Any knowledge on whether or not Sina succeeded in proving Euclid’s fifth postulate is not known but even his attempt and understanding of the postulate is impressive in of itself. Sina’s attempt at the proof may have been out of sheer curiosity. Moving on to philosophy, one of the most famous philosophers in the history of man is Plato who influenced so many people that any types of philosophy related to his findings is called Platonism. Platonism refers to the philosophy that affirms the existence of abstract objects which are supposed to exist in a “third realm”. It is much more complex than that simple explanation but the focus is Sina was considered more of a Neo-Platonist. Sina’s studies concerning Aristotle and Neo-Platonism were more alink to commentaries and corrections in the spirit of ijtihad or roughly an independent interpretation. Influenced by Plato and philosophy, Sina’s Canon focused highly on the causes of disease and health. Sina’s Canon of Medicine or Kitab al-Qanun fi’l tibb instantly became a classic and was translated into Latin in the 12th century. His book acted as the decisive...
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