Medieval and Early Modern Theories

  • Henrik Lagerlund
Part of the Studies in the History of Philosophy of Mind book series (SHPM, volume 12)


Late ancient attempts to combine Aristotelian and Neoplatonic ideas of the mind continued among Arabic philosophers who were acquainted with ancient philosophy through numerous translations, including parts of Plotinus’ Enneads under the title The Theology of Aristotle. Through the twelfth-century translation of the sixth book of Avicenna’s Kitāb al-Shifā (The Book of Healing), Avicenna’s conception of the soul influenced twelfth- and early thirteenth-century Latin philosophy of mind, the second main source being Augustine. Both Augustine’s and Avicenna’s views of the soul belong to the Platonic tradition, and hence emphasise the independence of the soul from the body and its self-knowledge. Through a thought-experiment known as ‘the flying man’, Avicenna asks what knowledge humans without any sense experience would have. The answer is that they would know that they exist. Treating the soul as an immaterial substance, Avicenna explained that the Aristotelian formula of the soul as a form of the body is an expression of its function rather than its essence. Augustinian thinkers stressed the unity of a spiritual and immaterial soul as the centre of mental activities.


Thirteenth Century Human Soul Substantial Form Immaterial Sphere Human Intellect 
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© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2014

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of PhilosophyThe University of Western OntarioLondonCanada

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