IPT Talk Series 2023-24

14 December 2023, 20.00-21.00 (Greece time) (Online)

Peter Adamson

(LMU Munich)

Traveling Without Moving
Spatial Metaphors in Epistemology of the
Islamic World

A long-running theme in ancient and medieval epistemology is that thinking is analogous to motion, or even a kind of motion. Plato already suggests this in the Timaeus, though the idea is at least subject to qualifications in Aristotle, who deems understanding to be an actuality (energeia) and not a motion (kinesis). In this paper I will look at the version of the idea we find in Ibn Sina (Avicenna). According to him, discursive thinking unfolds over time and is thus a kind of motion, but we are also capable of intuition, which happens all at once and is thus not to be classified as motion. This influential idea, I suggest in conclusion, may have encouraged the later Mulla Sadra to put the metaphor of a “journey” at the center of his own philosophical masterwork, “The Four Journeys.”

Peter Adamson is Professor of Late Ancient and Arabic Philosophy at the LMU in Munich. He is the author of Al-Kindi and Al-Razi in the series “Great Medieval Thinkers” from Oxford University Press, and has edited or co-edited many books, including The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy and Interpreting Avicenna: Critical Essays. He is also the host of the History of Philosophy podcast (, which appears as a series of books with Oxford University Press.

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