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Pointers, Guides, Founts and Gifts: The Reception of Avicennan Physics in the East

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We know precious little about the reception of Avicenna’s natural philosophy in the post-Avicennan Muslim East and even less about the reception of physics more generally in this milieu. In this study, I argue that the primary vehicle for the transmission of Avicenna’s natural philosophy was the Ishārāt. This work is virtually unique in structure and much of its content compared with earlier works of natural philosophy including Avicenna’s own Ṭabīʿīyāt from the Shifāʾ; thus its influence is relatively easy to identify in later works. Additionally, I hypothesize that the physics of the Ishārāt underlies the sections on natural philosophy from some of the most important madrasa textbooks in the post-Classical Islamic world. These textbooks are al-Abharī’s Hidāyat al-ḥikma, Mullā Ṣadrā’s Sharḥ al-Hidāya, al-Kātibī’s Ḥikmat al-ʿayn and Faḍl-i Ḥaqq al-Khayrābādī’s al-Hadīya al-saʿīdiyya.


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