Volume 5, 2009
Ibn Sīnā and Descartes on the Origins and Structure of the Universe
Cosmology and Cosmogony
This article begins with an examination of Ibn Sīnā’s conception of emanation and its origin within the Greek and Islamic philosophical traditions. Secondly, I present his view of the multiplicity of the universe from a single unitary First Cause, followed by a discussion of the function of the Active Intellect in giving rise to the existence of the sublunary world and its contents. In the second part of the article, I consider Cartesian cosmology, without, however, going into detail about what Descartes calls the ‘imaginary new world,’ the problems arising from the mechanical worldview. Note is made of the conflict between Descartes and the Scholastic and Orthodox Christian concept of cosmos. This article provides an account and comparison of Ibn Sīnā’s and Descartes’ portrayal of the origins and structure of the universe of both philosophers.