Tuesday, December 10, 2013

A Thousand Years of The Avicena Canon

Avicenna (Abu ‘Al? al-Husayn ibn ‘Abd All?h ibn S?n?) was a Muslim philosopher, scientist and physician who was born in Afshana near Bukhara, now Uzbekistan, in 980, during the Persian Samanid dynasty. His native language was Persian, but he wrote mostly in Arabic. Early in life he revealed an unusual intellectual capacity.

At the age of eighteen he had mastered the major sciences of the time and practiced and taught medicine. He travelled extensively throughout Islamic East and served various rulers such as Majd al-Dawla, son of the last emir of the Buyyid dynasty, Shams al- -Dawla, another Buyyid emir, and ‘Al?’ al-Dawla. He died in 1037 in Hamadhan (now Iran), where he is buried. Avicenna’s work is vast and covers most of the sciences of his time, heirs of the ancient Greek sciences, including Aristotle and Galen.

Also worthy of note is the importance of the Neoplatonic current, which had a special influence on Avicenna’s metaphysics, through a work by the pseudo-Aristotle, the Theology of Aristotle, which in fact consisted of excerpts from the Enneads of Plotinus. The Neoplatonic influence is noted especially in his conception of a first being which is one and, purely intelligible, who emanates other intellects which in turn give rise to the celestial spheres.

After the emanation of the celestial spheres, each animated by its own intellect, the earthly world is generated, where human beings exist. In that sense, Avicenna was heir to a conception of the universe that comes from Aristotle and late Antiquity, with a marked distinction between the perfect heavenly world and the earthly world where there is generation and corruption. Avicenna also wrote on logic, mathematics, biology, physics, astronomy and metaphysics, among other sciences.

His great encyclopaedic work al-Shif?’ (The Cure) is an original compendium of these diverse disciplines. Avicenna distinguished himself in several areas, namely metaphysics, by elaborating the concepts of possible, necessary, essence and existence, influenced by Islamic theology, thereby creating a metaphysical system that would have a major impact on Western philosophy, particularly on St. Thomas Aquinas, and throughout the medieval and early modern philosophy, in its reflection on existence and that which exists. Avicenna also developed a detailed theory on the faculties of the soul, specifically the human soul, with a highly developed theory of subjectivity.

In an example provided by Avicenna, the human soul, as well as human identity, arises entirely separated from the body, in an explicit affirmation of human self-consciousness, a topic that was resumed during the modern period, especially since Descartes. One of the most important works of Avicenna is the Canon of Medicine (al-Q?n?n fi-l-tibb), which Avicenna began writing around 1013.

This work addresses the human body and general issues on health and disease, tumours and fractures, pathologies, symptoms and diagnosis, and various types of treatment. The work continued to be used regularly in the East and West until the seventeenth century and today still contains useful information on various medical issues.

Technical Details
Date of Issue: 23 August 2013
Values: stamp of 1,70€.
Souvenir sheet with stamp of 3,30€.
Acknowledgments: Catarina Belo
Designer: Carlos Possolo
Printer: INCM
Process: Offset
Size: stamps: 30,6 x 40,0 mm
Souvenir sheet: 125 x 95 mm
Perforation: 13 x 13
Paper: 110 g./m2
Sheet: with 50 stamps

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