Representation and reality: on the definition of imaginative prophecy in Avicenna

O.L. Lizzini

Research output: Chapter in Book / Report / Conference proceedingChapterAcademicpeer-review


The general question of the relationship between representation (and symbolic representation) and reality, i.e., how — and to what extent — representations stand for and correspond to reality, holds a privileged place of discussion in the Arabic-Islamic tradition: that of prophecy and of the veridical dream . In this contribution I offer some remarks on this topic, especially as regards the theory of so-called ‘imaginative’ prophecy in Avicenna (Ibn Sīnā, d. 1037). My purpose is to highlight the fact that in Avicenna’s theory of prophecy, the definition of imaginative prophecy – which is particularly problematic – involves the imaginative-combinative (or combining) power of the human soul in a specific sense: although the imaginative faculty is not properly receptive, the kind of reception imaginative prophecy involves cannot be conceived beyond the imaginative power itself and its role in elaborating symbols. In my analysis I shall be referring mainly (but not exclusively) to the Book of the Healing.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Parva naturalia in Greek, Arabic, and Latin Aristotelianism
Subtitle of host publicationSupplementing the Science of the Soul
EditorsB. Byden
Number of pages22
ISBN (Electronic) 9783319269047
ISBN (Print)9783319269030
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameStudies in the History of Philosophy of Mind


  • Arabic Philosophy
  • Medieval Philosophy
  • History of Science
  • Avicenna
  • Ibn SIna
  • History of Psychology


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