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Tommaso Alpina: Has Avicenna ever defined the soul? Witnesses on the stand

November 26, 2021 @ 14:00 - 16:00 CET

Tommaso Alpina

Ancient interpreters and Modern scholars of Avicenna’s science of the soul have never doubted that, following the Aristotelian tradition, in Nafs, I, 1, Avicenna offers his own definition of the soul as “the first perfection of a natural, organic body, having the capacity of performing the activities of life” (kamāl awwal li-ǧism ṭabīʿī ālī lahū an yafʿala afʿāl al-ḥayā, 12.7-8). However, this definition, which implies the distinction between first and second perfection and the equation of first perfection with form, seems to be at odds with the claim, also contained in Nafs, I, 1, that kamāl (perfection) is a sufficiently broad notion to encompass inseparable entities like forms as well as separable ones.

Taking into account the nature of Nafs, I, 1, and the global programme of Nafs, I, 1-3, as well as the manuscript tradition of Avicenna’s Nafs and the evidence provided by its Latin translation, I will try to solve the (apparent) tension within Nafs, I, 1, and to detect whether and where Avicenna formulates his own definition of the soul in his Kitāb al-Nafs.

Tommaso Alpina is Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter at the LMU Munich in the ERC project “Animals in the Philosophy of the Islamic World”, directed by Peter Adamson. He received his MA from the University of Pisa, and his diploma di licenza (BA+MA) and his PhD from the Scuola Normale Superiore of Pisa. He also studied Arabic at the University of Jordan (Amman) and has been a visiting student at the University of Cambridge (St. John’s College, 2013), and at the École normale supérieure de Lyon and Paris (2014). Before joining the LMU, he held a four-year research fellowship at the Scuola Normale Superiore. His first book Subject, Definition, Activity: Framing Avicenna’s Science of the Soul has been published in the series Scientia Graeco-Arabica by De Gruyter in 2021. His main areas of research are the reception of Aristotelian philosophical psychology and zoology in Arabic philosophy, notably in Avicenna, and the connections between natural philosophy and medicine.


November 26, 2021
14:00 - 16:00 CET
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Tommaso Alpina
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