Science of the Soul in Ibn Sīnā’s Pointers and Reminders

A Philological Study


In Science of the Soul in Ibn Sīnā’s Pointers and Reminders, Michael A. Rapoport provides a philological and interpretive guide for critically reading and interpreting Ibn Sīnā’s (Avicenna, d. 1037) most challenging and influential text. Rapoport argues that chapters VII-X of the Pointers present scientific explanations for phenomena related to the human soul – from intellection to divination, magic, and marvels – within the framework of Ibn Sīnā’s Metaphysics of the Rational Soul. This book dispels widespread notions that the Pointers represents Ibn Sīnā’s mystical or Sufi philosophy and therefore stands apart from the rest of his corpus.

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Michael A. Rapoport, Ph.D. (2018), Yale University, is Assistant Professor of Arabic and Islamic Studies at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton, Florida. His research on Ibn Sīnā and Arabic philosophy has appeared in Oriens and Nazariyat.
Chronology of Ibn Sīnā’s Works
Notes on Sources, Presentation, Transliteration, and Translation

 1 Ibn Sīnā and Mysticism
 2 Metaphysics of the Rational Soul
 3 The Uniqueness of the Pointers
 4 Editions and Translations of the Pointers and Reminders
 5 Objectives, Methodology, and Structure
 6 Overview of Ibn Sīnā’s Internal Faculties

1 The Soul’s Independence from the Body
 1 The Rational Soul’s Independence from the Body
 2 Intellect and Intelligible Do Not Unite
 3 God’s Knowledge of Particulars
 4 Evil and the Order of the Good
 5 Ibn Sīnā, Optimist

2 The Soul’s Ultimate Destination
 1 Internal Pleasures Are Superior to External Pleasures
 2 The Nature of Pleasure and Pain
 3 Awareness of Pleasure and Pain
 4 Pleasure and Pain in the Afterlife
 5 Ranking Beings in Terms of Joy
 6 Returning to the Final Destination

3 The Soul’s Intellectual Development
 1 Differentiating Knowers from Non-knowers
 2 The “Stages” (darajāt) of the Human Intellect in Relation to Secondary Intelligibles
 3 Knowledge (ʿirfān) and the Highest Stages
 4 Characteristics of the Knower
 5 A New Metaphor for a Familiar Epistemology

4 The Soul, Science, and the Supernatural
 1 Marvelous Feats
 2 Imaginative Knowledge
 3 Motive Power
 4 Naturalizing the Supernatural

5 Returning to Ibn Sīnā’s Mysticism/Sufism
 1 Non-standard Epistemology
 2 Union with the Divine
 3 The Impossibility of Union for Ibn Sīnā

 1 If Not Sufism or Mysticism, then What?
 2 Concluding Remarks

Appendix 1: Comparison between Pointers and Ibn Sīnā’s Summae
Appendix 2: Comparison between Pointers and Ibn Sīnā’s Monographs
All interested in pre-modern Arabic philosophy and science, their relationship to mysticism and Sufism, and Ibn Sīnā’s (Avicenna) philosophy.
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