CHANCE AND DETERMINISM IN AVICENNA AND AVERROES
  • Book Title:
 Chance And Determinism In Avicenna And Averroes Islamic Philosophy Theology And Science Texts And Studies
  • Book Author:
AvicennaCatarina Beloibn rushd (Averroes)
  • Total Pages
265
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CHANCE AND DETERMINISM IN AVICENNA AND AVERROES – Book Sample

Determinism: the problem and some historical aspects

The problem of determinism has engaged the attention of thinkers and philosophers since times immemorial and is rightly considered as one of philosophy’s perennial issues, regarding which the most disparate views have been held without a definite conclusion.

Whilst this can render the task of anyone dealing with determinism frustrating it also provides a wide range of alternatives as to a possible solution.

While some philosophers have explicitly tackled the issue of determinism or else have strong determinist or indeterminist proclivities, others do not display in their works a special interest in or explicit awareness of the issue.

During the period of classical Islam, when philosophy was heavily influenced by developments in Islamic theology which had included the problem of God’s omnipotence and predestination, it was natural for Muslim philosophers to address the issue of determinism.

In this sense it is important to see how Muslim philosophers, trained in the Aristotelian tradition and living and working in an Islamic milieu, stood in connection with determinism. Medieval philosophy, be it Christian, Jewish or Islamic, had strong religious and theological underpinnings.

In this sense in studying views of medieval philosophers it is appropriate not to lose sight of the intellectual and religious context that formed the background of their philosophical activity.

The present volume aims at discussing determinism in the works of Avicenna, known in Arabic as Ibn Sìnà (d. 428/1037) and Averroes, known in Arabic as Ibn Rushd (d. 595/1198), and ascertaining whether they are determinists, and if so in what way.

 Together with Alfarabi (Ar. al-Fàràbì, d. 339/950) they were arguably the most renowned and most influential philosophers of medieval Islam, since their works and theories were studied not only within the frontiers of the Islamic empire but also made an important mark in medieval Christian and Jewish philosophy.

This influence made itself felt both in the choice of discussed topics by Christian and Jewish philosophers as well as the method used in that discussion…

Contemporary scholarship on Avicenna and Averroes with reference to the issue of determinism – CHANCE AND DETERMINISM IN AVICENNA AND AVERROES

 Avicenna’s views on necessary causation have been broached by many a scholar and disparate, even contradictory conclusions have been reached as to whether he unambiguously embraces determinism as a satisfactory explanation of reality or, on the contrary, acknowledges the occurrence of true chance events in the world.

In his work on Avicenna, L. E. Goodman summarises some of the positions, in particular those of scholars who argue for Avicenna’s determinism. Gardet is one such scholar: ‘although he [Avicenna] affirms the essential contingency of all that is other than the Necessary Being, [he] leaves no place for existential freedom.

The emanation of the world, willed by God, is necessary emanation. The secondary causes are all determined; there is no contingent future. As the text of the Najat puts it “If any man could know all events and phenomena of earth and heaven and understand their nature, he would know with certainty how all that is to come in the future will come to be”’[01]Goodman, Avicenna, p. 86. See also Gardet, La pensée religieuse d’Avicenne, pp. 45–46..

According to Gardet the very structure of Avicenna’s metaphysical system, underpinned as it is by a strict notion of necessary causality, leaves no place for true freedom. Other scholars mentioned by Goodman as defending that Avicenna is a determinist are G. F. Hourani and M. Marmura. Hourani defends the same view as Gardet in his article entitled ‘Ibn Sىnà’s ‘Essay on the Secret of Destiny’ on the basis of Avicenna’s treatise on God’s determination (qadar) [02]Hourani, ‘Ibn Sىnà’s ‘Essay on the Secret of Destiny’, pp. 25–48. ‘Ibn Sىnà asserts emphatically the complete determination … Continue reading;

CHANCE AND DETERMINISM IN AVICENNA AND AVERROES

M. Marmura argues for the philosopher’s determinism on the strength of his assertion that existing contingent beings are necessitated [03]Marmura, ‘The Metaphysics of Efficient Causality in Avicenna (Ibn Sىnà)’, pp. 172–187, in particular p. 180, where Marmura argues that for … Continue reading. Moreover, the view that his system…

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References / Footnotes

01Goodman, Avicenna, p. 86. See also Gardet, La pensée religieuse d’Avicenne, pp. 45–46.
02Hourani, ‘Ibn Sىnà’s ‘Essay on the Secret of Destiny’, pp. 25–48. ‘Ibn Sىnà asserts emphatically the complete determination of the world by God. We must understand this qadar in the Neoplatonic sense of the necessary emanation of everything else from the Supreme Being. Thus it is clear that in seeking a solution to the problem of divine justice he is not going to abandon or weaken this doctrine of destiny, even though he understands it very differently from theological “predestination”’, p. 36.
03Marmura, ‘The Metaphysics of Efficient Causality in Avicenna (Ibn Sىnà)’, pp. 172–187, in particular p. 180, where Marmura argues that for Avicenna ‘the contingent, if it exists, must have a cause’, and p. 185, where he speaks of Avicenna’s concept of causality in nature to the effect that ‘when Avicenna speaks of the [nat-…