Avicennian Essentialism

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Essentialism can be defined as a metaphysical theory according to which things have essential and accidental properties. In this paper, I will address Avicennian essentialism, that is, essentialism as we find it in Avicenna’s own writings and the writings of the immediate post-Avicennian philosophical tradition of the Islamic world. I will consider a number of primary sources, summarize the state of recent scholarship regarding Avicennian metaphysics of attributes, and I will draw comparisons between Avicennian essentialism and modern essentialism. As a result, I will show that Avicennians endorse two different types of essentialism: conceptualist essentialism and de re essentialism. Avicennian conceptualist essentialism only applies to kinds, while Avicennian de re essentialism only applies to particular individuals.
Original languageEnglish
JournalBritish Journal for the History of Philosophy
Early online date13 Jan 2022
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 13 Jan 2022


  • essentialism
  • Islamic philosophy
  • Avicenna
  • medieval metaphysics


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