Avicenna (980-1037) is the Latin name of Abu Alı al-Husayn ibn Abd Allah ibn Sına, an Islamic Persian philosopher and physician, who was born in Afsana near Bukhara and died in 1037 in Hamadan, both located in Persia.
After education in all the known sciences by teachers in his father’s house, Avicenna worked as physician and advisor to the local sovereign. In 999 the Samanid house was defeated by a Turkish dynasty and his father died—two reasons for Avicenna to flee from his hometown. During the following years Avicenna served as physician and scientist under several rulers in different regions until his death at the age of 57. His works became famous and were used in the education of students in European universities until the 17th century.
Avicenna’s philosophy is based on his study of Aristotle. As he did not understand Greek, he studied Arabic and Persian translations of the texts. Avicenna’s main works are The Canon of Medicine, which sums up the knowledge of healing in his time, and The Book of Healing, which is meant to be a paraphrase of the works of Aristotle.
As does Aristotle himself, Avicenna believes God to be the first cause of all things. God is the first existent and as such not influenced by the workings of time. Time begins only with the creation of the world. God is not interested in single incidents but is the mover of all things, the moving principle.
According to Avicenna, prior to their creation in the material world, all things already exist in the intellect of God. Only after they have been created can they also be perceived by the human intellect.
According to Avicenna’s philosophy, the continuity of time is broken within each human soul. Any act of the soul divides time into a “before” and an “after,” into past and future. The present exists in the moment of action. Soul and body are two separate substances: Whereas the body is mortal, the soul stays immortal. As a consequence, resurrection of the human body does not exist.
Avicenna’s thinking exerted considerable influence not only in the Islamic world but also over European philosophy in the Middle Ages, especially on Albertus Magnus and Saint Thomas Aquinas.