American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly

Volume 88, Issue 2, Spring 2014

Aquinas and Arabic Philosophy

Olga L. Lizzini
Pages 237-270

“A Mysterious Order of Possibles”
Some Remarks on Essentialism and on Beatrice Zedler’s Interpretation of Avicenna and Aquinas on Creation (al-Ilāhiyyāt, the Quaestiones de Potentia)

Avicenna’s distinction between essence and existence was—and sometimes still is—read in the sense of a priority of essence. My analysis will focus on an important example of such a reading: Beatrice Zedler’s interpretation of one of the most important texts for Thomas’s discussion of Avicenna’s philosophy, the Quaestiones de Potentia. Independently of its consistency, Zedler’s interpretation gives me the opportunity to discuss Avicenna’s supposed “essentialism” (supposed also by Thomas Aquinas). My aim is to show that Avicenna is very well aware of the aporia that an essence existing independently of existence (and therefore “before” it) would represent. If essentialism is a risk of Avicenna’s metaphysics, this is not because of the essence-existence distinction. It is because of the ethical dimension that creation perforce implies (creation is good and brings into existence what is good), that Avicenna seems in fact to posit an “independent order of possibles” before God’s creative action.

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