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)



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 (Promoted by St. Augustine who will influence Thomas Aquinas) :  The forms are in the mind of God. Sometimes called 'divine ideas' or ‘divine exemplars'.

    But note that Christian philosophers will unanymously deny platonic dualism -- a.) You are a unity of soul and body, so b.) your body will be resurrected.


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.  

    a. Principle of Parsimony (Ockham's Razor)

    b. "Participation" an empty term.

    c. Change!

3. Forms exist only in the in individual things.  Substances are composed of matter and form; "Hylomorphism".  Form gives nature.  Matter is what individuates.

4. 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.

5. 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 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, no potentiality...perfectly engaged in best activity

2. Pure thought...thinking the best thing...

3. ...thinking itself.

4. Final cause. Everything moves from potential to actual in imitation of the Unmoved Mover. (Remember everything has a final cause in itself. But the ultimate final cause is the 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.  change, yes, but the process is the same forever...kitten>cat>kitten>cat...

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 (traditional) Jews, Christians and Muslims.

1.  Perfect, Standard of all value, Immutable, Source of all (in a that it explains the teleological change in the universe).

2.  But not a person of any kind, omnipotent, omniscient, providential, creator, acting in the world.


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

I. The One (or the Good)  (Sounds a bit like the Good from Plato's Republic, but then so does Nous, below.)

 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. Whatever terms we might use would imply circumscription, so it's 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. 

    1.A kind of "flowing forth", where the source is not diminished. Ancient and Medieval image of the sun.

    2. A necessary process. Not the product of a will or a choice. (But don't think in mechanistic terms, either.)

    3. Going on changelessly all the time.

II. Nous.

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

B. Looks back to the One. The Neoplatonic "return" operates at all levels of the universe. The more unified produces the less unified, the lesser turns back upwards towards it source.

C. Thought thinking the One and thinking itself (most minimal multiplicity) and World of Forms in single, unified thought. 

    1.In that it is thought thinking itself it sounds like Aristotle's Unmoved Mover. 

    2. 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. Plotinus is deliberately ambivalent towards matter.

    1. It's just the last and the least...the lower boundary of the universe. Below being as the One is above being.

    2. The principle of evil. 

    3. The ambivalence carries upwards to the World Soul -- good to wrap matter in "golden chains",  improper self-assertion to involve oneself in this nasty stuff.

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?  

   A.  In the Latin-speaking part of the Roman Empire there're few that read Greek. Boethius plans to translate all of Plato and Aristotle, but he gets killed by the king before he can do it.  So the earlier Christian philosophers in Europe just don't have access to these         Greek philosophers.

    B. But the works are preserved in the libraries of the Christian monasteries in the Greek-speaking part of the Roman Empire.

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 Muhammad 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 and Averroes' work catalyst for enormous amount of philosophy, 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 (Ibn Sina 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. (Essences are real and "there" in the universe, existing in separation from the individuals who have the essence. There are always individuals with the 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 (a being which is inconceivable in the sense of containing some contradiction = impossible)
2. might or might not exist (How do we tell? Its existence is conceivable and its nonexistence is conceivable.)
3. essence and existence separate (If it is to exist it needs something to give it existence, to add existence to its essence.)
4. if it exists it does so because it is caused to exist (sufficient reason)

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

1. thinkable (no contradiction involved. Which is not to say that it is imaginable...that our minds can comprehend it.)
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. Must produce the next best, most unified, thing.)


  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. (Hierarchical causal sequence as opposed to temporal causal sequence.)

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.

D. Whatever is not necessary does not exist.

E. Only One -- If there were two, they'd have the shared property of being related to each other, thus each ones existence would depend on this property, and on the existence of the other.

F. Simple -- if it were composed --  the whole would in some sense depend upon the existence of its parts, so the whole could not be necessary.

IV. The Soul  

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

The Proof

1. A material thing must be divisible. (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.)

2. 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)

M=Material D=Divisible S=Substratum of rational concepts


D> --S

S> --D

--D > --M

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. a.) Matter individuates. That's what it does.  b.) Also, 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. But we don't get the knowledge of Fluffy's form from Fluffy. Though sense data from Fluffy is necessary to prepare the passive intellect to receive the 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, if by "create" we mean that He chooses to make it, and to make all of it? (Eternal Emanation). Does God know what you're doing now? (At the most He knows universals.) Can God ACT in the universe? (No. He's immutably thought thinking itself. No change, no reaching down and acting in the universe.) Bodily resurrection? (No. It is your immaterial soul that survives, so long as it has amassed knowledge.)


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! 

How can there be miracles? 

III. Algazali's second (less radical) solution (H p.281) allows the following background assumptions:  (Note that this is not Algazali's actual view!) There are necessary causal connections, in that things have natures and there are "laws of nature".

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. (On the standard Christian view...) Things are good. And they're even cooler since they have their own causal powers.  So God would not undermine or act contrary to the natures of things or the laws of nature. (The modern definition of a miracle as God acting against the laws of nature was not the medieval definition!) 

D. The medieval Christian definition -- God produces a surprising and unusual effect in order to make a point. (There are no "unobserved" miracles.)

E. Algazali -- 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. (In addition to the claim that it demeans God's power to say that He hasn't or can't make things with secondary causal power.)

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. 

(See Katherin Rogers, “What’s Wrong with Occasionalism?”  American Catholic Philosophical Quarterly 75 (Summer 2001) 345-369).


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. (We will use the term "form" as a shorthand for "intention of the universal form").

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. (This is in your text, but is after the required reading.)

1. Shouldn't we all just know the same thing? If I understand "cat" shouldn't all human beings understand "cat"? (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, can 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. I will feel free to ask you to compare and contrast.


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. The Form of the Good. Creation story in the Timeaus.  How is the Demiurge like and unlike the Judeo-Christian God?

Augustine (Christian Platonist): Forms (divine exemplars). 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, 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 (i.e. Avicenna's universe)--God, Intelligences, emanation and return, how our physical world comes into being.

Two Proofs for an intrinsically necessary being.

    The first one we did starts with the premise, "Something exists" and involves the premise that there cannot be an infinite series of possible causes. What kind of cause is he talking about when he says there can't be an infinite series?

    The second one we did asks you to consider the set of all possible beings.

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?  file:///C:/Users/Kate%20Rogers/Documents/rogerswebpage/312one.htm 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?