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2023-24 Colloquium: “Conceivability and Possibility in Avicenna”

Jan 19 @ 4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
Kaplan Hall 193,
January 19, 2024 | 4:00PM – 6:00PM
Kaplan 193 & Zoom


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Meeting ID: 931 0941 2131

Passcode: 279424


Join us on January 19, 2024 for a colloquium with Jari Kaukua, University of Jyväskylä. The talk will take place in Kaplan Hall 193 (and via Zoom) from 4:00PM – 6:00PM with a reception to follow.




Conceivability and Possibility in Avicenna


In his theory of science, Avicenna seems to commit to a very demanding concept of concept (taṣawwur): only the intellect’s adequate conceptions of real essences are concepts in the strict sense. This lands him the task of explaining what it is that we are doing when we think of things that are never realised, such as phoenixes or counterfactual states of affairs. I suggest that his solution relies on a nuanced distinction, grounded in his psychology, between a descriptive and a normative concept of concept. Unrealised, and consequently impossible, things are not conceivable in the strict sense of the word (they do not have real concepts), but they may be conceived as conjunctions of real concepts that are instantiated in mental images construed by our imagination. Such conjunctions may be epistemically indistinct from real concepts, which raises interesting questions concerning the metaphysical or scientific consequences of conceivability. Thus, I conclude with the suggestion that Avicenna would not have appreciated conceivability as a sign of metaphysical possibility.


Jari Kaukua is Professor of philosophy at the University of Jyväskylä. He is the author of Self-Awareness in Islamic Philosophy (CUP, 2015) and Suhrawardī’s Illuminationism (Brill, 2022), as well as many articles on classical and post-classical Islamic philosophy.



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Jan 19
4:00 pm - 6:00 pm
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Kaplan Hall 193


UCLA Department of Philosophy