Avicenna’s Psychology Studies and Understanding of PsychologyJune 27, 2021
While functioning as a part of natural philosophy in accordance with the Aristotelian tradition, Avicenna placed psychology (ilmü’nnefs) in a central position in his system of thought and associated it with theory of knowledge, logic, metaphysics, ethics and religion. According to the philosopher, the subject of this discipline is to reveal the existence of the soul and to examine its structure, powers and qualities.
Ibn Sînâ is of the opinion that the real value of the human being, whom he considers the most valuable of beings (ashrafi existence) and evaluates them in the duality of the body and soul, comes from the soul. The soul, which has an independent existence, is an immaterial and simple substance and is not a power naturally found in the body. With this approach, Ibn Sînâ, who shows that he thinks differently from Aristotle, who sees the soul as an immanent competence and function in the body itself, agrees with him on the definition of the soul; that is, he defines the soul as “the first perfection of the organic natural body”. The philosopher’s characterization of the soul as the first competence points out that the actual existence of the natural organic body is realized thanks to the soul. The second competence that follows is the actual emergence of species-related features such as human sensation and movement. (Alper, 2008: 79)
Avicenna does not see the soul as an element unique to the human species; In addition to all biological, physiological and psychological occurrences in organic beings, he sees the movement of celestial bodies as the function of souls. In the world of creation and decay, there are three types of souls: vegetable (vegetable), animal and human. The nature of the soul is determined by the temperament of the body that carries it.
The vegetative soul, which is the lowest in the hierarchy among the living species starting from the plant and ascending to the human, is the nourishment, growth and reproduction of plants; The animal soul, which constitutes the second level, is the principle of the sense-cognition and related movement seen in animals together with the aforementioned features and actions. The human soul, which constitutes the highest level, is the principle of human intellect, thinking and volitional actions, together with all the powers and actions arising from the vegetative and animal soul. In other words, the animal soul refers to the vegetative soul, and the human soul refers to a state of competence that includes the powers of both vegetative and animal souls. But this in no way means that man has three separate souls: vegetative, animal and human; Avicenna, together with Aristotle and Farabi, argues that, unlike Plato, each body has a single soul. (Alper, 2008: 8081).
The theoretical and practical perfection of man depends on the fact that the powers of the human soul, as elements of a whole, fulfill their functions in harmony and harmony. Based on this understanding, Ibn Sînâ tried to classify the powers of the soul in a way that would form subunits in terms of their functions. Accordingly, the powers that make up the human soul, together with “nutrition”, “growth” and “reproduction”, which are the minimum conditions of life, are first grouped into three groups: (a) power of comprehension, (b) power of movement and (c) power of thinking.
(a) Within the scope of cognitive power, there are ten different senses, five of which are external and five are internal. (a1) While touching, tasting, smelling, hearing and seeing are called “external cognitive power” or “external senses” (a2) common sense, designing/imagining, imagination/contemplation, delusion, memory/remembering are called “internal cognitive power”. ‘ or ‘inner senses’. The functions of the cognitive faculties, which Ibn Sînâ lists as five inner senses, again corresponding to the five external sense powers, can be briefly explained as follows: (i) Common sense, the sense data perceived separately by the external sense powers in relation to the objects, recombines them in accordance with the situation of the object in the external world provides its understanding. (ii) It has the power to design the task of keeping as they are the particular copies of the objects perceived by the common sense as a whole again. (iii) It is the power of delusion, which pertains to particular forms concealed by the power of design, but which cannot be perceived by the external senses, such as “danger/enemy”, evoked by the image of the “wolf”. (iv) Particular meanings perceived by the power of delusion are stored and accumulated by the power of memory/remembering. (v) The power of imagination/contemplation performs the processes of transforming, combining and separating particular images accumulated/preserved in the power of designing and the particular meanings stored in the power of memory/remembering into universal concepts by abstracting them from particular features. This power, for example, can combine two different meanings of “gold” and “mountain” and produce a new image in the form of “gold mountain”. This power is called “the power of imagination/imagination” (alkuvvetü’lmütehayyile) when it performs the function of separating and combining under the direction of the power of delusion, and “power of contemplation/thinking” (elkuvvetü’lmüfekkire) when it performs under the direction of the power of reason. (Ibn Sina, 2005: 111112)
(b) The “movement power”, which provides the movement of organs through nerves and muscles, depending on the will formed in line with the data obtained by the internal and external senses.