Arabic Sciences and Philosophy

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Arabic Sciences and Philosophy (2010), 20:185-206 Cambridge University Press
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Research Article



a1 University of Michigan, 4108 Modern Languages Building 812 E. Washington St., Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1275, USA Email:
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Scholars have long debated the possibility of a mystical or illuminationist strain of thought in Ibn Sīnā's body of writing. This debate has often focused on the meaning and contents of his partly lost work al-Mashriqiyyūn (The Easterners), also known as al-Ḥikma al-Mashriqiyya (Eastern Wisdom), mentioned by Ibn Sīnā himself as well as by numerous Western writers including Ibn Rushd and Ibn Ṭufayl. A handful of references to what is called Ibn Sīnā's “Oriental Philosophy” are also found in the Castilian and Hebrew works of the Castilian Jew Abner of Burgos (ca. 1270-ca. 1347), known after his conversion to Christianity as Alfonso of Valladolid. Although the content of these citations has not been identified, it has been proposed that they may preserve otherwise unknown passages from Ibn Sīnā's lost work. This study considers the references to Ibn Sīnā's so-called “Oriental Philosophy” within Abner's writings and concludes that rather than preserving lost passages from Ibn Sīnā's writing, Abner's references were drawn primarily from Ibn Ṭufayl and offer no support for the argument of a possible mystical or illuminationist strain in Ibn Sīnā's thinking.


Depuis longtemps, on a discuté de la possible présence d'une orientation mystique ou “illuminative” dans l'œuvre d'Ibn Sīnā. Le sens et le contenu de son ouvrage (partiellement perdu) al-Mashriqiyyūn (Les Orientaux), également connu comme al-Ḥikma al-Mashriqiyya (La Sagesse orientale), mentionné par Ibn Sīnā lui-même et par des écrivains occidentaux comme Ibn Rushd et Ibn Ṭufayl, ont souvent été au centre de ce débat. On trouve aussi quelques références à ce qui est appelé la “philosophie orientale” d'Ibn Sīnā dans l'œuvre du juif castillan Abner de Burgos (ca. 1270-ca. 1347) connu après sa conversion au christianisme sous le nom d'Alphonse de Valladolid. Sans avoir au préalable identifié le contenu de ces citations, on a fait l'hypothèse qu'elles auraient permis de conserver des passages, inconnus par ailleurs, de l'ouvrage perdu d'Ibn Sīnā. Cette étude porte sur les références à la “philosophie orientale” d'Ibn Sīnā dans l'œuvre d'Abner de Burgos. Elle montre que les références d'Abner semblent avoir été essentiellement tirées d'Ibn Ṭufayl et ne renvoient donc pas aux passages perdus de l'ouvrage d'Ibn Sīnā. En conséquence elles ne peuvent servir d'argument pour confirmer la présence d'une orientation mystique ou “illuminative” dans l'œuvre d'Ibn Sīnā.


* This research is part of a collaborative project entitled, “The Intellectual and Material Legacies of Late Medieval Sephardic Judaism: An Interdisciplinary Approach,” directed by Dr. Esperanza Alfonso (CSIC). I wish to thank the European Research Council for its support of this project with a four-year Starting Grant and to thank Dr. Alfonso for her ongoing coordination as Principle Investigator of the project and for inviting me to present on this research at the CSIC in October, 2009. I also wish to thank Edward Casey and Nathan Torreano for their editorial suggestions, Suzanne Akbari for organizing the “Semitic/Romance” panel at the 2008 MLA meeting where I read an earlier version of this essay, and the Yale Near Eastern Studies Colloquium where I first presented this material.