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From Sight to LightThe Passage from Ancient to Modern Optics$
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A. Mark Smith

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780226174761

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: May 2015

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226174938.001.0001

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Greco-Roman and Early Arabic Developments

Greco-Roman and Early Arabic Developments

Chapter:
(p.130) Chapter 4 Greco-Roman and Early Arabic Developments
Source:
From Sight to Light
Author(s):

A. Mark Smith

Publisher:
University of Chicago Press
DOI:10.7208/chicago/9780226174938.003.0004

This chapter examines the post-Ptolemaic tradition of visual theory within the Late Platonist, or Neoplatonic, tradition between roughly 250 and 550. Marked by an effort to reconcile Platonic and Aristotelian thought on a variety of subjects, including perception and cognition, this tradition gave rise to a model of cognition that appealed strongly to eternal Forms, representative mental images, and intellectual illumination, which rendered those images cognitively “visible.” After looking at how this model evolved and how it affected the thought of St. Augustine, the chapter traces its influence on certain Arabic thinkers, such as al-Kindī, Ḥunayn ibn ʾIsḥāq, and al-Fārābī. Among these thinkers, Avicenna assumes pre-eminence for his faculty psychology based on the five internal senses in the brain. The chapter concludes with an examination of the ninth- and tenth-century revival of classical geometrical optics at the hands of al-Kindī, Aḥmad ibn ʿĪsā, and Qusṭā ibn Lūqā.

Keywords:   agent intellect, burning mirrors, cone of light-radiation, divine illumination, faculty psychology, internal senses, Late Platonism, neoplatonism, potential intellect, actual intellect

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