Sunday, July 15, 2012

Avicenna and Albert

Avicenna and Albert

Having become fairly familiar with st. Thomas' position on individuals and how we know them, I decided to seek out an opinion contrary to his. I first tried Leibniz, who discusses the individual substances in his Discourse on Metaphysics, but I had trouble finding the argument for his position. It seemed to be reducible to the objection on Thomas about how we can make the statement "Socrates is a man." therefore, both of the terms must be intelligible. (and then some...)

So then I happened to pick up Scotus' Quaestiones super De Anima, of which question 22 is whether individuals are per se intelligible to our intellect. Basically the exact the question I was asking. I had trouble reading parts of it, but his answer was basically yes. Two things were most of all hard to understand: what is a vague individual? And on what basis does he differ from Thomas on the principle of individuation?

The first question led me to an article by Deborah Black explaining the history of the phrase vague individual. Very helpful! Avicenna takes the position quite opposite Scotus saying that the individual is in no way the object of the intellect, even denying that the Lord knows them. Yet he begins to give an account of how the vague individual is grasped by the interior sense powers. Albert develops this and I'm excited to read more of him. It seems that since our knowledge of individuals is tied up with sense, the interior senses will be key to understanding. Albert wrote extensively on this in his De Anima and De homine. Hopefully, I will not find any great conflict with st. Thomas but rather an elucidation and expansion. I knw he disagrees on the number of interior senses, but beyond that we shall see.

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