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Avicenna (ăvĭsĕnˈə), Arabic Ibn Sina, 980–1037, Islamic philosopher and physician, of Persian origin, b. near Bukhara. He was the most renowned philosopher of medieval Islam and the most influential name in medicine from 1100 to 1500. His medical masterpiece was the Canon of Medicine. His other masterpiece, the Book of Healing, is a philosophical treatise dealing with the soul. Avicenna's interpretation of Aristotle followed to some extent that of the Neoplatonists. He saw God as emanating the universe from himself in a series of triads formed of mind, soul, and body. This process terminated in the Aristotelian “active intellect,” which governs directly all earthly regions and transmits to all things their appropriate forms. Man's soul is also derived from it and is immortal. Avicenna was not an absolute pantheist as he believed matter to exist independently of God. He fixed the classification of sciences used in the medieval schools of Europe.


See S. M. Afnan, Avicenna, His Life and Works (1958); H. Corbin, Avicenna and the Visionary Recital (tr. 1960); P. Morewedge, The Metaphysics of Avicenna (1973).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Abu Ali Husayn ibn Abdullah ibn Sina). Born 980 in the village of Afshana, near Bukhara; died June 18, 1037, at Hamadan. Scholar, philosopher; representative of the eastern school of Aristotelianism.

Avicenna lived in Central Asia and Iran, serving under various rulers as doctor and vizier. His major philosophical works are the Book of the Recovery (in abbreviated form, the Book of the Salvation), the Book of Demonstrations and Affirmations, and the Book of Knowledge (in Persian).

Avicenna’s philosophy is a continuation of the traditions of eastern Aristotelianism in its metaphysics, epistemology, and logic and of Neoplatonism in its ontology. Avicenna rejects the creation of the world in time, explaining it as a timeless emanation of god, of a “first cause” (similar to the “One” of Plotinus), out of which minds, souls, and the bodies of heavenly spheres flow in hierarchical order. Thus the “universal intellect” and “universal soul” of Neoplatonism he divides into separate minds and souls, agreeing with the Aristotelian cosmological scheme. God alone enjoys an absolute existence, while everything else in itself is only possible, deriving its reality from god. Nature, however, flowing from god through the hierarchy of emanations, later develops according to the principle of self-movement, while being simultaneously circumscribed by time and space. Avicenna’s social doctrine is notable for its concept of the admissibility of armed uprising against unjust rule.

Muslim theologians, particularly Ghazali, accused Avicenna of heresy and atheism, while Averroës criticized him from the position of a more rigorous naturalism. Avicennna’s philosophical and natural history treatises enjoyed great popularity in the East and West for hundreds of years.


Some of Avicenna’s poems in Arabic and Persian have survived. Their basic theme is the eternity of matter and the advocacy of enlightenment and science; characteristic traits of his poetry are an aphoristic style and simplicity of artistic means. Most of his Persian poems are in the rubaiya form. In his unique philosophical tales “Alive, Son of Awake,” “Epistle on a Bird,” and “Salaman and Absal,” Avicenna presents his views in extended allegorical form. He was also a literary theorist, writing commentaries on Aristotle’s Poetics and an interpretation of the works of the Arabic poet ibn al-Rumi, which has been preserved. His works played an important part in the development of Persian as a literary language, particularly the Danish-name. Avicenna exerted a major influence on classical Iranian literature; somewhat less of an influence on Arabic and Uzbek literatures; and some influence on medieval European literature. Several scholars link the theme of Dante’s Divine Comedy with Avicenna’s Alive, Son of Awake.


Avicenna’s most important medical work is the Canon of Medicine, a medical encyclopedia in five parts that received world renown and was translated many times into numerous European languages. The Canon, the sum of the views and experience of Greek, Roman, Indian, and Central Asian doctors, was reissued in Latin about 30 times and was for centuries an indispensable guide in Europe and the East. It sets forth the theoretical principles of medicine: the author’s views on the philosophy of medicine, the study of the so-called fluids (blood, lymph, and bile) and different physiques, and the principles of human anatomy. The causes of diseases and health and the symptoms of disease are examined; a program of rational diet is expounded. Avicenna advanced a hypothesis on the invisible causes of “feverish” (infectious) diseases transmitted by water and air. His clinical descriptions of diseases are notable for their precision and completeness. The Canon exercised an enormous influence on the development of medicine throughout the world.



Divan. Tehran, 1957.
In Russian translation:
“Chetverostishiia.”Literaturnyi Tadzhikistan, 1953, book 5.
Kanon vrachebnoi nauki, books 1–5. Tashkent, 1954–60.
Danishname. [Dushanbe] 1957.
Matematicheskie glavy “Knigi znaniia.” Dushanbe, 1967.
“O dushe.” In Izbr. proizv. myslitelei stran Blizhnego i Srednego Vostoka, 9–14 v. Moscow, 1961. Pages 215–86.


Ibn Sina. Materialy nauchnoi sessii AN UzSSR, posviashchennai 1000-letnemu iubileiu Ibn Siny. Tashkent, 1953.
Semenov, A. A.Abu Ali Ibn Sina (Avitsenna), 2nd ed. [Dushanbe] 1953.
Ternovskii, V. N. Ibn Sina (Avitsenna). Moscow, 1969. (Bibliography, pp. 183–89.)
Corbin, H. Avicenne et le récit visionnaire, vol. 1, 2nd ed. Tehran-Paris, 1954.
Goishon, A.-M. La Philosophic d’Avicenne et son influence en Europe medievale, 2nd ed. Paris, 1951.
Afnan, S. M. Avicenna: His Life and Works. London, 1958.
Anawati, G. C. Essai de bibliographic d’ Avicenna. Cairo, 1952.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


Arabic name ibn-Sina. 980--1037, Arab philosopher and physician whose philosophical writings, which combined Aristotelianism with neo-Platonist ideas, greatly influenced scholasticism, and whose medical work Qanun was the greatest single influence on medieval medicine
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005