Intentionality in Medieval Arabic Philosophy

Quaestio 10:65-81 (2010)

Deborah Black
University of Toronto, St. George Campus
It has long been a truism of the history of philosophy that intentionality is an invention of the medieval period, and within this standard narrative, the central place of Arabic philosophy has always been acknowledged. Yet there are many misconceptions surrounding the theories of intentionality advanced by the two main Arabic thinkers whose works were available to the West, Avicenna and Averroes. In the first part of this paper I offer an overview of the general accounts of intentionality and intentional being found in the linguistic, psychological, and metaphysical writings of Avicenna and Averroes, and I trace the terminology of “intentions” to a neglected passage from Avicenna’s logic. In the second part of the paper I examine the way that Avicenna and Averroes apply their general theories of intentionality to the realm of sense perception. I offer an explanation of why Avicenna might have chosen to denominate the objects of the internal sense faculty of estimation as “intentions”, and I explore the implications of Averroes’s decision to attribute intentionality to the external senses and the media of perception
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DOI 10.1484/J.QUAESTIO.1.102326
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