The Accidentality of Existence in Avicenna and its Critique by Averroes

in Journal of Persianate Studies
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Abstract

The accidentality of existence in Avicenna (Ebn Sinā, d. 1037) is related to his distinction between “existence (vojud)” and “quiddity (māhiyya).” Both these theories have been greatly criticized by Averroes (Ebn Roshd, d. 1198). The latter’s misunderstanding of Avicenna has been the cause of confusion for the comprehension of Aristotle (d. 322 bce) in Western Christian scholasticism. This misunderstanding has also extended to Western contemporary Aristotelian scholarship.

This paper will try to clarify how this phenomenon perpetuated a global confusion and misunderstanding between the East and the West and also created a disastrous situation for the comprehension of the Peripatetic School. This state of affairs has continued up to the present day among both medievalists and scholars of Aristotelian philosophy. However, it is not my intention in this paper to give a complete review of Western and Eastern scholarship on this subject. Rather, I shall limit myself (with some exceptions) to the works of Aristotle, Alexander of Aphrodisias (fl. c. 205) and other Greek commentators, Avicenna, and Averroes, which together constitute the primary sources for the ongoing discussion around the nature of “essence” and “existence” in Avicenna’s works.

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