I. Background, Islamic Philosophy : Avicenna and Algazali and Averroes


I. Introduction

A. Our period...the rediscovery of Aristotle by the Muslims, Avicenna in the 9th century, great Islamic and Jewish philosophers of 9th-12th centuries, Aristotle's arrival in Paris at the end of the 12th century, Thomas Aquinas, 14th century philosophers, foundations of the Reformation.

B. Why do the history of philosophy?

1. See where we came from:

Ironic...enormous impact of Islamic philosophy on European thinking

a. Causation

b. Darwin

2. Helps see why and how philosophy happens.

3. Liberating, critical -- not trapped in the fashion of the times.

4. These guys may just be right:

Philosophy of religion (a lot about God!)



The nature of causation

II. Mechanics

A. Background, 101,301, 311?  If not read Weinberg. (Material is not easy.  Not a good class to take just because it fit your schedule.)

B. Combination lecture and discussion.  Do the reading.  Bring your books. To encourage reading, quizzes on assigned reading for every day reading is assigned. 1/6 of grade

C. Requirements: 

1. Three tests.  5 out of 6 essays. Obvious questions. Notes and study guides on line. (Each test will cover what we've done since the last test.) Each test is worth 1/6 of grade. 

2. Two 5-7 page research papers, each to be worth 1/6 of your grade.  You will have the option to revise your paper upon receiving comments.

3.Quizzes. Average of all -- except that you can miss 4 with no penalty -- will constitute 1/6 of grade.

4. I can also count participation and improvement, so "1/6" above, means "roughly 1/6".



I. Reason can prove many important truths of faith. E.g. most of our guys will think you can PROVE the existence of God.  

II. Standard Christian view inherited from St. Augustine -- Completely reasonable to believe some things on faith...i.e. things you cannot prove philosophically and that you have not witnessed yourself., but mostly we're sticking to philosophy.

III. But in our period lots of debate on how to sort out deliverances of faith and reason, due to the unhappy experience of the Muslims. 


A Perfect Being.  Unlimited.  That than which a greater cannot be conceived.
    Too hellenizing?
    a. Proper object of worship
    b. If we can "comprehend" (really grasp His nature) Him then he can't be all that great.
    c. As source of all He must transcend limiting categories of created being.

Absolute source of all --  What there is is God and what He causes to exist. (If there were something outside of and existing independently of God, then He's be limited.)

One -- Two unlimited beings are impossible.  Either they have power over one another or they don't. If they do, then each is limited because another being has power over it. If they don't each is limited because there is a being over which it doesn't have power.

Unified/Simple -- To be "cut-up-able", even conceptually (in intellectu), is to be destructible.


a. Can't get better -- He's already perfect.

b. Can't get worse -- A thing that can get worse is, by definition, corruptible, hence imperfect.

c. But is there room for lateral change? (Some disagreement here. Maybe we could say His nature remains unchanged, although He engages in different thoughts and actions.)

 -- Most say "No!" -- because...

    1. As perfect He already is all He can be.

    2. A simple being can't gain or lose anything.

 d.  But isn't God an agent? How can an AGENT be immutable?
    Three positions: Each will be advanced by somebody... 1.Deny immutability  2. Deny agency  3. Reconcile immutability and agency

God and Time: God is Eternal. What does that mean?

Two views of time:  Three understandings of Eternity

    A. Presentism:  Only the present has ontological status.  Two positions on God and (present) time.
        1. God is everlasting -- He's always existed and He will always exist -- and He changes (laterally).
        2. God is everlasting and absolutely immutable.  ("Outside of time" in the sense that he does not suffer any change.)

    B. Isotemporalism (also called "Four dimensionalism" or "eternalism"):  All of time, past, present and future, exists equally.  "Now" only seems privileged to us because of our perspective. God is outside of time in the sense that it's all just "now" for Him.
 (Won't be perfectly clear who says what on the time question.)

God and Space: No debate.  He's not spatial.  He's omnipresent/ubiquitous (in some sense)


A. "Can't" do the logically impossible.  But...(Everybody pretty much agrees on this, although how it works out will be radically different for different philosophers.)

        1. It's not that he's limited by laws outside himself. (He's NOT limited!) And...

        2. It's not that He invented or created or decided on the laws of logic.  Have to say this if you're going to say anything else. It logic doesn't apply to God then we just can't think or talk about Him meaningfully at all.

        3.Laws of logic are a reflection of his nature.  

   B.. "Can't" do anything inconsistent with being a perfect being...stub his toe, forget his phone number, behave wickedly... some of the Aristotelian "Muslims" say God can do only one thing.


A. Past, present, and future?

B. But does he know EVERYTHING or does he just know everything worth knowing?

Perfectly good 

--The Euthyphro Dilemma -- Does God conform to the laws of morality, or does He invent them?

A. No,He doesn't conform to the moral laws.  (Then He'd be limited.)

B. But does He create/invent/decide upon them?  

C. Option 3 -- Moral laws are a reflection of the NATURE of God.

Creator (Views on creation are going to differ wildly from philosopher to philosopher, but all will say...)

A.  Ex nihilo - nothing exists independently of God. If it did He'd be limited
B.  When?   Right now -- in the sense of sustaining everything in existence from moment to moment.

Why? How?

---Two big areas of disagreement -- 

    1.  Is there a first day, a temporal beginning to the universe?

    2. Does God create immediately or through intermediaries?

Traditional scriptural attributes: (Expect lots of debate!)


Providential (Miracles)


Loving (Christian)

Free agent


Plato, Aristotle, Fluffy, and universals (crash course in platonic and aristotelian epistemology and metaphysics)   

Why are we going back to the 4th c. B.C.?  Medieval Philosophy is a synthesis of Greek Philosophy and revealed religion.  


1. We know things that we could not have learned through our senses, 2+2=4

    a. Fluffy is a cat. ( Our main concern in here will be natural kinds.) Fluffy is like other cats in being a cat, but to the senses each cat is very different. What we are grasping is the catness of Fluffy, Catness, as a unified ‘things' really the World of the Forms.

    b. Forms: Ideal nature exists as blueprint, original of the mirror image, copies ‘share in' the original, ‘participation'.

    c.  Two views of God. Source of things: (Republic) Ultimate Form of all Forms, the Good.
                                  (Timeaus)  Demiurge (Architect) looks to World of Forms and impresses forms on the "receptacle", a mishmash of the four elements.

2. Recollection -- In order to know "catness" you had to have immediate cognitive access to catness in the World of the Forms. And you did! As a disembodied soul before you were ever born. (Preexistence of soul and reincarnation.)

3. Platonic dualism. You are an immaterial soul in a material body. And the real you is the soul, imprisoned in this nasty matter.

4. Christian platonism (St. Augustine) : The forms are in the mind of God. Sometimes called 'divine ideas' or ‘divine exemplars'.

a. some truths...necessary and eternal truths like mathematics, come through divine illumination.  Some, like grasping the catness of the cat, from the cats themselves.

b. doesn't buy into platonic idea that body is prison.  Dualism, but not platonic.


1. Agrees with Plato that we do know more than what raw sense data could give us.  We need to know the Form.  Form is a key concept.

2. Disagrees with Plato on the nature of the forms. There is no World of Forms.  Forms exist only in the in individual things.  Substances are composed of matter and form; "Hylomorphism".  Form gives nature.  Matter is what individuates.

3. Abstraction -- Empiricist in that knowledge starts with sense data. Upon receiving the sense data from the material object the mind is able to grasp  the form.

4. Human being, unity of form and matter.  Matter is body, form is soul.  Separable?  You'd think not, but....

 Aristotle's  four causes

A.  The list

1.Matter -- what x is made of

2. Form -- the nature of x

3. Agent (efficient) -- what had to take action to bring x into being

4. Final -- the goal or purpose of x (to actualize its nature)

B.  Note importance of form.

C. Whole universe is permeated with teleology, purposiveness.

------But why does anything move or change at all?-------

(Let's do universals first, while we've got Plato and Aristotle on forms fresh in our minds.)


I.  Universals: The Problem:  When confronted with an object, the first and most important question is, what is it? We answer by using a universal term. "Fluffy is a cat."

A. We, including and especially when we're doing science, use terms which refer to a number of different individuals by the same name. So that generates a series of questions. 

B. Does that name really name some thing real in the world? (If not, could it be that we human beings are imposing our own categories on the world? Science is inventing rather than discovering the world?)

C. If it names something real, is it some unified thing existing in the various individuals as one thing? (If not, how are the individuals the same so that a single term is appropriately used of them all?)

D. If it names some real thing, where does that real thing exist?

E. And, since we are confronted only by individuals, how do we come to grasp the universal?

V. Universals: Different positions (The briefest sketch to be filled in and modified as we go on.)

A. Extreme Realism  -- The universal refers to something real (i.e. it exists outside of the human mind) which exists as a unity...somewhere. Plato with Forms; Augustine with Divine Ideas, others...

B. Moderate Realism -- The universal refers to something real which does not exist as a unity. Aristotle.

C. Conceptualism -- The universal refers to a unified concept which exists only in the mind of the human knower.

D. Nominalism  -- The universal is a name which does not refer to any unified thing at all.


I.  Snapshot

a. Lovely round earth at the center. (That sure is how it looks!)

b. Sublunary (beneath the sphere of the moon) world is the least perfect part of the universe. Death and corruption happen down here.

c.  Concentric heavenly spheres are the bodies of  "divine" intellects. 

d. It has always existed, so we do not need to ask for a cause of its existence.  (All of our medieval guys...with the possible exception of Ockham...disagree with this entailment.)

II. But what causes the motion?

A. The proof (or attempted proof or argument)  for Aristotle's God.

(What is a proof? A proof is an argument with premises (claims or statements) which, when you fit them together the right way give you a conclusion. "Valid" means that you've fit the premises together the right way, so that IF the premises are true, THEN then the conclusion is true. "Sound" means the argument is valid and the premises are in fact true, so the conclusion is true.)

1-4 below are the premises and 5 is the conclusion:

1. Things are in motion...changing...going from potential to actual. (Look and see!)

2. Nothing can cause its own motion. (Nothing in a state of potential can just up and change. It's a conceptual impossibility. Principle of sufficient reason. Every event has a cause.)

3. Something moved (going from potential to actual) must be moved by something already actual. (Except for the first mover, this will mean something which is already in motion.) (Something perfectly inert cannot be a cause.)

4. There cannot be an infinite series of moved movers. (The mirror analogy.)

5. Therefore there must be a first (not in time), unmoved mover.  The Unmoved Mover

B. The Unmoved Mover

1. Pure actuality...perfectly engaged in best activity

2. Pure thought...

3. ...thinking itself.

4. Final cause (remember everything has a final cause in itself, ultimate final cause is Unmoved Mover...Perfect standard of value.)

5. Immutable and everlasting

C. Immutable cause must produce an immutable effect...our universe...

1. ...has always existed, there is no coming into being and passing out of being,  and...

2. ...has always been going on pretty much as it's going on now.

3. Another way to prove this is from looking at efficient causes in nature. Where did the tree come from? So how many ancestors did the tree have? 

D.Similarities and differences to God of Jews, Christians and Muslims.

1.  Perfect, Immutable, Source of all (in a way)

2.  But not, omnipotent, omniscient, providential, creator, acting in the world.


(Most important of the Neoplatonists.  He's 2nd century AD)

I. The One (or the Good)  (Sounds a bit like the Good from Plato's Republic)

 A. Absolute source of all, beyond any sort of limitation, no multiplicity, no ‘nature'

B. What can we say about it? Nothing really. ‘One', ‘Good', just the least inadequate terms.  Better to say what it's not.  Not-Mind, Not-Power, Not-Being.

C. How can our world of multiplicity come from such perfect unity?  Emanation.

II. Nous.

A. Emanates from the One. One must emanate the next most perfect being.

B. Looks back to the One (emanation and return).

C. Thought thinking the One and thinking itself (most minimal multiplicity) and World of Forms in single, unified thought. (In that it is thought thinking itself it sounds like Aristotle's Unmoved Mover. In that it is a unified World of Forms it sounds like Plato's Good, again.)
III. World Soul

A. Emanates from Nous

B. Looks back to the Nous, unified World of Forms

C. Thinks Forms as discreet and imposes them on matter to make our corporeal world. (Contains Plato's World of Forms, and, like the Architect from the Timaeus, it acts to inform matter to produce our world.)

IV. Corporeal World

A. World Soul pours forms down into matter

B. Matter ambivalent...evil or the least good.

V. Human being

A. Platonic dualism: Soul ‘trapped' in body, but always in contact with (living in) the World Soul

B. Epistemology? Plato was right that we need immediate contact with the World of the Forms, but we do not recollect, since we are in contact right now.

C. Goal is to turn inward, true self is soul, rise through knowledge to Nous, and beyond to mystical union with the One.

MEDIEVAL ISLAMIC PHILOSOPHY: Avicenna, Algazali, and Averroes.

Background: Why is it important?

I. The big news in philosophy at the beginning of the 13th century in Europe is the arrival of Aristotle.  How did this happen?

II. Through Islam.

A.  Mohammed is born in Arabia, 570 - 632 . Says that God has told him to conquer the earth for Islam.  Holy War. (Biography: Sirat Rasul Allah by Ibn Ishaq)  Within a century the Islamic empire stretches from near east across North Africa, up into Sicily and Italy, and across to Spain.

B. Greek texts had been preserved and studied in Christian monasteries in the near east.  When Muslims discover them they're terribly impressed.  Set about translating into arabic in the 9th century.

C. The great Islamic philosophers of 10th, 11th and 12th centuries use Aristotle in expounding their ideas and they comment upon him.  So do Jewish philosophers.

D. In the 12th century scholars in Italy and Spain begin to translate A. from Arabic into Latin, along with commentaries.

III. By 13th century A. gets to Paris.

A. Earlier Islamic and Jewish thinkers will have enormous impact on European philosophy.  Avicenna's work catalyst for enormous amount of work, but impact of others very important as well.  ("Western" tradition does not equal "European" since European thought has been so heavily influenced by near eastern and North African thought.)

B. Questions and problems for 13th century Europeans will be shaped by interests of Islamic and Jewish predecessors, eg. relationship of reason to revelation, philosophy to faith, Aristotle to the Scripture..

C. A rather confused version of Aristotle in that some books of Plotinus had been mistakenly attributed to him, The Theology of Aristotle.  So get synthesis of Aristotle and Neoplatonism.  It will take a while to sort things out.  Aquinas is one of those who sets the record straight.

AVICENNA (980-1037)

Background: Born in modern day Uzbekistan.  Lives in the near east.  Becomes a physician by the age of 16.  Involved in various court intrigues.  At one point he is imprisoned and has to escape.  Writes volumes on all sorts of topics...lots of science.  We only have time to skim over a few topics: Being, Cosmology, Proof for God, Epistemology.

I. Being.

A. The flying man: You're "born" full-grown with all your intellectual abilites in a sensory deprivation tank.  What would you know? (W p.112)

1. That you exist.

2. Therefore Being is the primary, most basic concept.  It's the foundation.  Can't define or describe Being.

3. You'd also know something else about yourself.  You're essentially a thinking thing... "essentially" in the strong sense, i.e. to be a thinking thing is what your essence consists in.  (Note foreshadowing of Descartes.)

B. Divisions of Being

1. Existence v. essence. Essence is the nature, the what something is. Existence is its actually being.  For almost everything (1 exception) essence and existence are separate.  Existence is something which is "added to" essence.

2. Necessary v. possible being.

a. An intrinsically possible being-- (Possible, per se, considered in itself. A possible being which exists can also be called a "contingent" being.)

1. thinkable (inconceivable = impossible)
2. might or might not exist (its nonexistence is conceivable)
3. essence and existence separate (it needs something to give it existence)
4. if it exists it does so because it is caused (sufficient reason)

b. An intrinsically necessary being. (Necessary per se, through itself)

1. thinkable
2. must exist (its nonexistence is inconceivable)
3. its essence = its existence. Its very nature is to be.
4. it must be uncaused.....and this all men call God. (But why suppose such a being exists. Just wait!)

II. Cosmology -- What the cosmos (our ordered system) is like.  (synthesis of Aristotle and Neoplatonism, W p.116-117)


  GOD (Thinker, thinking itself. Thought and thinking are One.  Overflowing with  Being.)


  FIRST INTELLIGENCE      (Thinks three things:   a. God (Neoplatonic return),    b. Itself as necessary because it is eternally caused by a necessary being.
                            c. Itself as possible because it depends on something else. Intrinsically or per se it is a possible being.)


  SECOND INTELLIGENCE (by thinking a.)
  Form (soul)of the outermost celestial sphere (by thinking b.)
  Body of outermost celestial sphere (by thinking c.)

  Second Intelligence thinks three things: a. First Intelligence, b. Itself as necessary,   and c. Itself as possible.


  THIRD INTELLIGENCE (by thinking a.)
  Form (soul) of the sphere of the fixed stars (by thinking b.)
  Body of the sphere of the fixed stars (by thinking c.)

  emanates (five planets, sun,...)

  TENTH INTELLIGENCE (and soul and sphere of moon): a.k.a. Agent Intellect.   (Too weak to produce another intelligence, produces instead the world around us.    Emanates forms into the four elements to produce corporeal objects and universal   form into the human intellect to produce understanding.)

Note: This whole process is necessary and everlasting.  It must be because an immutable cause produces an immutable effect.  God is not an actor in the world at all. 

Significant: 1. contradicts apparent meaning of Scripture, and 2. immutable cause produces immutable effect says that things have always been going on pretty much the way they are now.  Gives the whole thing an ahistorical cast.  This is a problem for religions of the book.

III. Proving a necessary being (W p.115)

A. Proof 1 (Anlogous to the Proof for the Unmoved Mover) Assuming that there can be a causal sequence of possible beings...I'd say he doesn't mean a temporal sequence.

(Note that "necessary" means "necessary per se" and "possible" means "possible per se".)

1. Something exists (deny it if you dare!)

2. Either it's a necessary being or a possible being.

3. If it's necessary, QED (quod erat demonstrandum...which was to be demonstrated)

4. If it's a possible being, it's existence must be caused by some other being. (definition of "possible being")

5. This being must be either necessary or possible.

6. There cannot be an infinite causal series of possible beings.

7. Therefore, there must be a necessary being.

B. To justify #6 need to understand the kind of causation Avicenna is talking about.

1. He is not talking about a temporal succession of causes where A precedes B temporally...e.g. parent to child/parent to child...

a. You could have an infinite series of this sort of causes.  In fact you do!  Aristotle has shown that if the cause exists eternally (i.e. everlastingly) then what's caused must be equally eternal.  There is no beginning to the world.  

b. Moreover, with a temporal series, the cause can cease to exist while the effect continues, so you couldn't argue from the existence of the effect to the present existence of the cause.

c.  The temporally preceding cause, like the parent, does not really explain the existence of the thing. Parents put together already existent things.

2. He is talking about a hierarchical series where the cause must exist now for the effect to exist now.

a. A present cause for the present form of the thing. 

b. As merely possible the form must be caused.  It would just blink out if something weren't keeping it in being.  Where do forms come from?  The Tenth Intelligence located in the sphere of the moon.

3. Why can't there be an infinite series?  The mirror analogy again.  A possible being can pass being along (as the various intelligences do) but there must be something that can generate being.
 C. Alternate proof (H 246) : Take the whole set of possible beings

1. The set is either necessary or it's possible.

2. It can't be necessary. (Necessity cannot be produced by summing the merely possible.)

3. So it's possible. 

4. It requires a cause.

5. Cause must be outside the set. (Nothing can cause itself.)

6. Therefore cause is necessary. (All the possible beings are INSIDE the set.)

Therefore, QED There is a necessary being.

IV. The Soul  

A. The substratum (explain) of rational concepts is immaterial (H p.256-258)

The Proof

1. If it were material it would have to be either indivisible or divisible.

2. A material thing can't be indivisible.  (This is just what it means for something to be's extended, some here, some there.  All that business about the point is to show that it's really not a material thing.)

3. A divisible thing can't be the substratum of a rational concept.   (The concept certainly cannot be divided the way a corporeal thing can.  Some concepts are perfectly unified, e.g. the number 1.)

Therefore the soul must be immaterial. (and indivisible)

B. The soul does not preexist

( How does the soul come into being? (H p.258)   (With Aristotle) The soul is the form of the human being.  Like all other forms it becomes multiple through matter.  The individual soul comes into being when there is a body ready for it.)

The Proof

1. If human souls existed before their bodies they'd either be one or many.

2. Can't be many (form, "quiddity", absolutely identical so can't be many)

3. Can't be one because then either a.) one soul turns into two (impossible since it's indivisible) or b.) a soul which is numerically one is in two bodies.  (He doesn't give an argument, but seems pretty easy.  If we all had same soul, wouldn't we all think the same thing?)

Therefore souls do not preexist

C. Soul is incorruptible. (H p.259-261)

The Proof

1. For a thing to be corruptible means it must possess two attributes; the actuality of persistence, and the potentiality of corruption.

2. But something which is absolutely simple and unified like the soul can't have these two simultaneously.

3. We know it's got the actuality of persistence.

4. Therefore it can't have the potentiality of corruption.  It is incorruptible.

D. A problem: It is body which individuates soul.  How then can the individual soul survive the death of the body? 

Response: Once it's come into being it has unique experiences which distinguish it from other members of the same species, other souls.

(Avicenna's idea of who goes to heaven -- Those who have "joined" themselves most fully to the 10th intelligence by amassing knowledge. Doesn't sound much like the Koran!)

V. Knowledge (Abstraction)

A. To know is to know the forms of things.  But knowledge begins with the senses, and all that the senses have access to is individual things.

B. In things the form exists, but as individuated through matter.  In the particulars the form is not universal and because  matter is unintelligible, the form in matter cannot be grasped intellectually.

----Here's what happens----

C. Through our senses we receive the images of individual things.

D. Possessing these images prepares the soul to receive knowledge of the form.

E.  Which knowledge must come from the same place the form came from...the Tenth Intelligence, the sphere of the moon!

F. Individual soul is the passive intellect in that it does the receiving ...of sense images and of universal forms.  The Tenth Intelligence is the active or agent intellect in that it has to act on my mind for me to understand. (Active and passive intellect is Aristotelian language. Lots of debate on how it works for Aristotle.)

VI. Universals (standard to call him a moderate realist in that Fluffy's catness is in Fluffy, individuated by Fluffy's matter.)

A. Form exists as universal in the Tenth Intelligence. (Difference from Plato is that the 10th Intelligence "bestows" Fluffy's form on Fluffy, so that Fluffy really has her own form.)

B. Form exists as individual in the individual object.

C. Form exists as universal in the mind.

D. So is it one or many?  "Horseness is just horseness."  It is possible to consider the essence in abstraction from the different ways in which it is instantiated.

ALGAZALI (1058-1111) 

Algazali will be MOST unhappy with Avicenna's view of God and of the relationship of God to the universe! 

Does God create the universe? Does God know what you're doing now? Can God ACT in the universe?


I.   Islamic fideist (You have to take things on faith.  Philosophy can't prove much of anything.) and  proto-Hume (British empiricist).

---Another chapter in ongoing internal debate among religious people. We don't need philosophy. Philosophy is corrupting.  Opens up a new anti-Aristotelian thread which will impact protestant reformers and continues to present day.---

II. Faith vs. Philosophy (The Incoherence of the Philosophers)

A. Philosophical critique of philosophy (i.e. Avicenna and Aristotle)  (periodic phenomenon...good to keep us honest...of course we're still doing philosophy, so you can see it didn't take...except maybe in Islam?)

-- We're just going to look at his defense of miracles because it entails his argument about causation and his overall world view. --

B. Special problem: Everything happens by necessity in Avicenna's world.  God necessarily does what he does, etc.

C. Necessary causal connections between things in the world.  (Typical scientific assumption.)

D. No miracles!

III. Second (less radical) solution (H p.281) allows the following background assumptions:  (Note that this is not Algazali's actual view!)

A. Things have given natures and there are "laws of nature".  (Note that the "laws of nature" are more than just consistent regularities. The reason that there are these regularities is because things have natures, and these natures include forces or powers, such that the cause produces the effect.) 

B. (This is the standard Christian view, although Ockham disputes it.) There are natural and necessary processes -- secondary causes -- which God sustains in being from moment to moment as the primary cause.  So, it is quite correct to say that the fire burns the cotton. The fire is the secondary cause of the cotton burning. And God is the primary cause of the existence of the whole system with its causal powers and potencies.

C. But even if it is the case that there are secondary causes, God can still work miracles that DO NOT UNDERMINE THESE CAUSES OR THE NATURES OF THINGS!

1. add something to the talc...281

2. speed up a process...281

3. draw out some effect of which we happened to be ignorant. ..282
IV. Radical solution!  There are no necessary causal connections! (You might have thought that it was the fire that burned the cotton, but it wasn't...and you didn't have any reason to think otherwise!)

A. No logical connection. (H p.278) We can think of the "cause" and the "effect" as occurring without one another, so there is no conceptual necessity in associating the two.

B. No observational proof! (H p.278) What we observe, and all we observe, is A happening and then B happening. We do not observe B happening because of A.

V. Everything is caused immediately by the will of God.

A. God is not limited or determined by anything but the laws of logic.  (Even God "cannot" do the logically impossible. H p.283)

B. Atomist-- world is made of atoms,  and occasionalist -- on the "occasion" of God's causing A, God subsequently causes B..

VI.  Why do we believe in necessary causes?  Habit (H p.280).

-----The philosopher tries to respond-----

VII. Impossible conclusions...conclusions we just can't live with! (H p.280).  Aka "The Problem of Skepticism"

VIII. Algazali responds: Such things are possible, but...

A. God can and does create within us knowledge that they won't happen.

B. And He can create within the prophet knowledge that the "miraculous" will occur.

C. So, barring a divine revelation of the miraculous, I can trust my everyday beliefs.

IX. Problems remain.

A. Averroes (Incoherence of the Incoherence): Algazali did not dispute the fact that things exist...horses, books, lemons etc.  What he denies is that they are involved in necessary causal relationships.  But to be is to be something, i.e. to be some kind of thing.  And all or most of what it is to be a certain kind of thing is to engage in certain sorts of behaviour, act and be acted upon.  E.g. to be a lemon is (among many other things) to taste sour, roll, and come from a lemon tree.  These all describe causal relationships.  No causal relationships, no lemon.  A scepticism so radical that it renders all thought incoherent.

B. Rogers: It is logically possible that God might deceive me ...on Algazali's understanding I know He has since I have been deceived and God is the causal source of even if God implants an indubitable conviction in my mind, it may be false.  Anything might happen, and we have no trustworthy knowledge at all.

AVERROES (1126-1198) Spain

I. Thinks Aristotle is just the best...almost divine.  Writes a series of commentaries on the work of Aristotle which accompany him to Paris.  He's known to the Latin west as "the Commentator."
He's so keen on Aristotle that he gets into hot water with religious authorities.  Aristotle at odds with apparent meaning of Koran.  A group of his Christian followers, the Latin Averroists, get in trouble as well.   So much so that there is debate in the thirteenth century over whether or not we should even allow Aristotle to be taught.  (Ironic given Aquinas).  To my knowledge he is the last great "Muslim" philosopher, and a piece in the puzzle for why philosophy did not thrive in the Islamic world after the 12th century.

II. Denies emanation.  

A. God creates all things (or at least all of the Intelligences?) immediately.  

B. Does God know individuals? (Algazali had rightly accused Avicenna of saying "No".) Averroes' answer is that God's knowledge is not like our knowledge.  Scholars disagree on Averroes' answer to the specific issue of God's knowledge of individuals.

---The three theses that will get him into the most trouble, 1. The world is eternal (He does say that) 2. No personal immortality  (Apparently he did say that, although Weinberg says he didn't). 3. The double truth (Didn't hold it.)

III. The double truth.  Averroes and his followers accused of saying that something could be "true in philosophy, but false in theology" and vice versa.  E.g. Aristotle has proven that the world always existed.  Religion shows that the world came into being in time.  There was a first day.  Both are true.  This is nuts and Averroes didn't hold it.  What he does say is,... (Not a philosophical point per se, but question of the relationship of faith and reason is so crucial and influential that we need to look at it.)

A. There certainly do seem to be conflicts.

B. There can't be any genuine conflict.  Truth is truth.  If philosophy yields truth and so does Scripture, they can't really disagree.  What of the apparent conflict? (292)

C. The apparent meaning of Scripture is just that, only apparent.  When the Scriptural text is seen as allegorical it will be seen to agree with the philosophical understanding. (292)

-- Everybody who takes their scripture seriously agrees that we need to interpret.--- (293)

D. Why did God set it up this way?  Wouldn't it have been better for God just to say what He means?

E. No. Scripture is written for everybody, but there are different intellectual classes of people.  The vast majority of people can't understand the philosophical truths.  Scripture gives them as much as they could grasp and yet leads the more intellectually gifted, i.e. the philosophers who've studied Aristotle, to look beyond the apparent meaning to the hidden meaning. (293)

F. Difficult questions: 1. Which texts should we take at face value and which require allegorical interpretations?  2. If we're supposed to interpret a text allegorically, which interpretation is correct?

1. In Islam you don't have a single church with a structured hierarchy to deal with these questions as you do in the Christian west.

2. What you're supposed to do is go with the unanimous agreement among the learned, (293)  but this is very problematic, as Averrroes points out.

a. Can you be sure you got all the learned?
b. Can you be sure that their opinions have been faithfully handed down?
c. Can you be sure that you have their full opinion?  Maybe they put out one view for the general public and another "inner doctrine" which they thought ought to be hidden from those unfit to receive it.

3. His conclusion is that fundamentalists should leave the learned alone.

IV. The eternity of the world.  "Eternity" here means "everlastingness."

A. Philosophers and theologions agree on the basic descriptions of created objects and of's the world as a whole that causes the trouble. (H pp.295) The only point of disagreement is really just how many days there were in the past, a finite or an infinite number.  Hardly worth disagreeing about. (295)  (It is important, as Maimonides will show.)

--- We all agree ---

1. Corporeal objects are "originated" -- brought into being 

    a. by an efficient cause 

    b. through some matter.

    c. in time...its existence is preceded by time.

2. God

    a. not brought into being by anything

    b. not preceded by time.

3. The universe taken as a whole

    a. not made from preexisting things.

    b. not preceded by time.

    c. but brought into being. 

4. The future is infinite.

B. So the only disagreement, really, is how many days there were in the past. Not worth calling names. (296)

V. Personal immortality.  To see why it looks like Averroes denied it we have to look at his epistemology.

A. The issue, as usual, is the fact that to know is to know the universal.  Knowledge of an individual won't do the job.

B. Avicenna...image from the individual prepares the mind to receive the universal from the 10th intelligence.  Active intelligence is the same for all.

C. Averroes...Right, the active intelligence is the same for all...and so is the passive intelligence!   Why would he say this?

1. Terminology: He calls the passive intellect the "material" intellect.  

    a. It is not corporeal, not body. It is "unmixed" (304)

    b. Howeever it is analogous to prime matter which is what receives the form to make an object.  The material intellect receives a form to make a concept.

2. If what received the form in the intellect were individual then the form would be received as differentiated and particular...the way prime matter receives individuated forms to form particular objects in the world...not as universal. (H pp.306-307)

3. And if this were the case then one person's concept would differ from another's...we couldn't understand the same fact we couldn't really understand at all because to understand is to know the universal and a particular version or instance of the form is not the universal. 

---So, there is one active and one passive intellect for all of us, and these intellects have always existed. ---

--- Problems with the position --- 

D. If us all having the same active and the same passive intellect were the end of the story there would be at least three problems, which Averroes raises against himself.

1. Shouldn't we all just know the same thing?  (308 -- A)

2. The intelligibles (form or species as understood and existing in the intellect) ought to be eternal, but we see that they come into and pass out of being for us as individuals. (308 -- B)

3. Multiplicity of bodies just useless and superfluous. (313)

--- So this is not the end of the story ---

E. Well...there's the theoretical intellect (H p.314) produced when the active intellect produces form in the material intellect.

1. Human intellect both one and in that there's one receiving and one producing...many produced.

2. Human intellect both eternal and finite...the active and the passive intellects are both eternal because the human race has always existed.  The produced/theoretical intellect comes in to being when the two intersect at a given body.

F. How can each of us have our own theoretical intellect?

1. Knowledge starts with the senses. 

    a.  Get an image.  

    b. So the connection of the active and passive occurs at this particular body when it's come into contact with particular corporeal things. 

    c. Senses of the individual body start the process and so it is not the case that body is useless and superfluous.

2. So the collection of concepts I'll have in my theoretical intellect will be different from the collection in yours. It depends on what we've come into contact with physically. 

3. But the intelligibles themselves will always exist and will always exist in the material intellect (321). 

V. So, how do we solve the problem of personal immortality?  Things still look bad. Worse than for Avicenna.  Once the body is gone why not suppose that the theoretical intellect just resolves itself into its two eternal constituents.  Apparently for a long time it was thought that a work which proposes the doctrine of a resurrection of the body...a celestial body... was written by Averroes.  Weinberg holds this.  Subsequent scholarship says that this work was not really written by Averroes, and so the charge of denying personal immortality sticks.


This is just a list of the most important topics for those who feel comforted by study guides. What you need to know is all the issues we discussed in class. Tests cover the material we finish by the class period preceding the test. 


Nature of God: Why must a perfect God be immutable?  Omnipotence--What can and can't God do?  What is God's relationship to the Laws of Logic?  Goodness--does God conform to some external standard of value?  What are the two other options?  Two theories of time and Three understandings of divine Eternity. Creation: ex nihilo, always going on -- there's agreement -- but is it immediate or through intermediaries?

Plato: We know more than raw sense data would give us.  Explain. (Aristotle and Augustine would agree so far.) Forms. Recollection. Platonic Dualism. Creation story in the Timeaus.  How is the Demiurge like and unlike the Judeo-Christian God?

Augustine (Christian Platonist): Forms (divine exemplars). Illumination. Dualism, but not Platonic.

Aristotle: Forms. Abstraction. Nature of Human Being. Four Causes. Proof for the Unmoved Mover--premises and conclusion.  What's the Unmoved Mover like? How is it like and unlike the Judeo-Christian God?

Universals: Extreme Realism, Exemplarism, Moderate Realism, Conceptualism, Nominalism.

Plotinus: One, Nous, World Soul, Emanation and return. Ambivalence regarding matter. Place and goal of human being.


The Flying Man: What two things does it prove?

The Divisions of Being: Existence and Essence, Necessary and Possible (be able to thoroughly describe.)

Cosmology--God, Intelligences, emanation and return.

Proof for an absolutely necessary being--six premises and conclusion. What kind of cause is he talking about when he says there can't be an infinite series?

Soul: [Proof of immateriality of soul.] Why say that individual soul cannot exist before it is born into body? [Proof of incorruptibility of soul.] How is a disembodied personal immortality possible?

Epistemology: How do we know the dogness of the dog?

Universals: Is "horseness" one or many?


Miracles: Why does Avicenna's view seem to rule them out?  How does Algazali analyze miraculous events on the assumption that there are genuine, necessary causal connections?

How does Algazali show that we are not justified in believing in  Causal Connections?   No conceptual evidence for.... No observational evidence for....What is happening when it looks like the fire burned the cotton? Occasionalism. Why do we believe in necessary connections? What are the "limitations" on God's power?

Problem of Skepticism: Why does the view that there are no causal connections between created objects lead to skepticism?  How does Algazali try to solve the problem?  Why, according to Rogers, does Algazali's response not do the job?

Explain Averroes argument that Algazali's theory does away with the objects of our experience altogether.


Can demonstrated truth and Scripture (the Koran) conflict?  What should we do when there is an apparent contradiction?  Why didn't God just send the works of Aristotle to Mohammed? Why, according to Averroes, can the "fundamentalists" not prove that his (Averroes') claims are inconsistent with the established teaching of Islam?

Regarding the nature of objects, of God, and of the physical universe as a whole, what do the Aristotelian and the more "fundamentalist" Muslims all agree on, according to Averroes?  What's the one little area of disagreement?

Why does Averroes hold that Avicenna's epistemic picture fails, i.e. why can it not be the case that each individual has his own passive intellect?  What is the situation, according to Averroes, regarding the number and nature of intellects required for human knowing? Where does this leave personal immortality?

PHIL 312: Later Medieval Philosophy

Guidelines for research papers. Please read all of the guidelines very carefully, and comply! I will be counting off for failure to follow the instructions.

Requirements are Two 5-7 page research papers; one due at mid-term, one due at the end.

Paper requirements: 5-7 pages, double-spaced, reasonable margins. (See below for suggested topics) The topic (unless I have okay’ed it otherwise) will focus on what a philosopher’s view was on a given issue. I do not absolutely require a philosophical evaluation of the view you discuss, but I admire philosophical creativity and am likely to look favorably on your paper if you include some original comments, such as interesting and plausible analysis of why you think the view you discuss could be right or wrong, or why it might or might not fit with the philosopher’s overall view.

Sources. You must use at least one primary text – that is, writing by the philosopher himself. If you are doing a comparison between two philosophers or one philosopher in different works, you’ll have to use at least two primary texts. You can use your Hyman and Walsh book for the primary text if it suits your topic.

You must use at least two, good secondary sources – that is, writing about the philosopher’s views. (You can use both of your text books, and you may also use internet sources, but you must find two good sources in addition to these. That means you cannot just use sources off the internet – unless it is articles online from established and respectable journals which are in our library. You may use dictionaries and encyclopedias, but I do not consider these GOOD sources, so if you use these, you need TWO GOOD SOURCES in addition! When in doubt, ask me.) The easiest way to know that you have a good source is to go to the library and get out a book from a good publisher (Oxford, Cambridge, and Brill are examples of good publishers, as are major American University presses), or get an article from a journal the library carries. (One of the jobs of librarians is to decide what to get for the library, so they’ve already done some of the job for you.) If you find a collection of papers, each paper counts as a separate secondary source. You should probably look at the secondary sources first, since they can tell you what primary text(s) will be of use to you. If you have trouble finding sources I may be able to lend you some.

Citations may take the form of parentheses in the text with a full bibliography, or complete footnotes or endnotes. Citations should include the specific page numbers where you found your information. I will count off if you do not include full and correct citations. If you have any doubt at all about what constitutes a full and correct citation, go online under “Chicago Manual of Style Citations”. The first thing that pops up is examples of all the different sorts of sources you might need to cite and how to do citations.

Helpful Hints: 1.) Focus your thesis on a narrow topic.  Saying just a little on a lot of different issues, even if they are related, does not make for a good paper. 2.) Start researching early to be sure you find two good secondary sources that really have something to say on your (narrowly focused!) topic. I will count off if you actually use only one secondary source and just mention or quote a sentence from another.

You will have the opportunity to rewrite your paper once I have returned it. Rewriting will be optional, and I will likely insist upon a quick turnaround time to facilitate my grading. If there is significant improvement, I will raise the paper grade. Tweaking a minor point or two, or just getting rid of the occasional offending sentence will probably not constitute significant improvement.

Paper deadlines and suggested topics: You can bring your paper to class or e-mail it to me. It would be a great help to me if you could get your paper in before the due date. If the time sent is later than midnight of the deadline date, and you have not already received an extension from me (I don’t mind giving extensions for any reasonable reason), I will count off a grade for each day late. (So, for example, if your paper would have been a B-, but is one day late, it’s a C+.)

I have listed some suggested topics based on issues I’d like to hear about which I haven’t researched myself. Most of these we have not discussed in class. I will mention others as they occur to me. You are welcome to write on a topic other than one among those I’ve suggested, but check with me first! And I’m quite happy to have a paper on some issue we spend time on in class, just so you go well beyond what we do in class.

Mid-term Due Date: April 8

Some suggestions for topics (feel free to think of other topics, but check with me if you decide to do a topic not on this list).

These are topics which I find interesting, but which I have not researched myself, so, as your first task, you will need to make sure you can find two, good secondary sources plus a primary source on the topic. 

What does Avicenna (or Algazali, or Averroes, or Maimonides) have to say about the existence of evil? Does Avicenna hold that human beings have free will? How does Avicenna argue that the human soul is immaterial (pp.256-258 in H)? That it does not preexist (258-259 in H)? That it is incorruptible (259-261 in H)? Does Algazali hold that human beings have free will? Algazali has a lot to say against “the philosopher” who claims that the world must be eternal (268-277 in H). Pick some aspect of his argument (you might want to start with secondary sources to help you narrow it down) and discuss it. Does Averroes hold that human beings have free will? Why does Averroes disagree with Avicenna’s proof for the existence of a being necessary through itself? How does Averroes’ view of creation differ from Avicenna’s? What does Averroes have to say about politics? How does Averroes criticize Algazali’s arguments against the eternity of the world (324-353 in H)? (There’s a lot here, so job one is to narrow it down to a few arguments.) Does Maimonides hold that human beings have free will? How does Maimonides try to prove the existence of God? How does Maimonides try to prove that God must be unified? How does Maimonides try to prove that God must be incorporeal?


Feel free to ask if you have any questions on what’s expected or on sources.

After the middle of the semester I will hand out these guidelines again, with due date and suggested topics for the final paper.