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Some Aspects of Avicenna's Theory of God's Knowledge of Particulars Author(s): Michael E. Marmura Source: Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 82, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1962), pp. 299- 312 Published by: American Oriental Society Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/597641 Accessed: 15/10/2009 11:32 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available at http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Cond
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  Some Aspects of Avicenna's Theory of God's Knowledge of ParticularsAuthor(s): Michael E. MarmuraSource: Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 82, No. 3 (Jul. - Sep., 1962), pp. 299-312Published by: American Oriental SocietyStable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/597641 Accessed: 15/10/2009 11:32 Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use, available athttp://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp. JSTOR's Terms and Conditions of Use provides, in part, that unlessyou have obtained prior permission, you may not download an entire issue of a journal or multiple copies of articles, and youmay use content in the JSTOR archive only for your personal, non-commercial use.Please contact the publisher regarding any further use of this work. Publisher contact information may be obtained athttp://www.jstor.org/action/showPublisher?publisherCode=aos.Each copy of any part of a JSTOR transmission must contain the same copyright notice that appears on the screen or printedpage of such transmission.JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new formsof scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.  American Oriental Society  is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to  Journal of the American Oriental Society. http://www.jstor.org  GREENFIELD: Studies in Aramaic Lexicography I REENFIELD: Studies in Aramaic Lexicography I gins with I of so frequent on Aramaic and Hebrew seals: I'rtym (seal) of Artimas. 91 A seal with a typical Achaemenian design and with the legend: 'hyqr, I'hyqr, or htm 'hyqr would fit the needs of a sbyt 'zqh of an Assyrian king as Cameron, op. cit., 53, n. 52. Cf. too htm dtm (OIP LXIX, P1. 7, no. 20); htm prsndt br 'rtdt (CIS II, 100); the Biblicist will be reminded of Esther 9, 7: Parshan- data and 9,8: Aridate [for Artadata?]. Cf. further CIS II 101, 105. On the basis of the usual style of this seal type- the seal of X son of Y -one may wonder if the restoration of the seal of Arsham proposed by gins with I of so frequent on Aramaic and Hebrew seals: I'rtym (seal) of Artimas. 91 A seal with a typical Achaemenian design and with the legend: 'hyqr, I'hyqr, or htm 'hyqr would fit the needs of a sbyt 'zqh of an Assyrian king as Cameron, op. cit., 53, n. 52. Cf. too htm dtm (OIP LXIX, P1. 7, no. 20); htm prsndt br 'rtdt (CIS II, 100); the Biblicist will be reminded of Esther 9, 7: Parshan- data and 9,8: Aridate [for Artadata?]. Cf. further CIS II 101, 105. On the basis of the usual style of this seal type- the seal of X son of Y -one may wonder if the restoration of the seal of Arsham proposed by envisioned by Aramaic speaking troops of the Persian military garrison in Egypt. In any event it would be from these types of royal seals and personal seals of high administrative officials that the seal held by Ahiqar would come. Driver (Aramaic Documents of the Fifth Century B. a., Oxford 1954, p. 2, n. 4): htm ['rim] br b[yt'] is correct. We would expect, instead of the title br byt', a patro- nymic br Y. The only justification for the restoration br byt' is the assumption that Arsham was the son of an Achaemenian ruler. 91 Cf. Bivar's article cited in n. 88. envisioned by Aramaic speaking troops of the Persian military garrison in Egypt. In any event it would be from these types of royal seals and personal seals of high administrative officials that the seal held by Ahiqar would come. Driver (Aramaic Documents of the Fifth Century B. a., Oxford 1954, p. 2, n. 4): htm ['rim] br b[yt'] is correct. We would expect, instead of the title br byt', a patro- nymic br Y. The only justification for the restoration br byt' is the assumption that Arsham was the son of an Achaemenian ruler. 91 Cf. Bivar's article cited in n. 88. SOME ASPECTS OF AVICENNA'S THEORY OF GOD'S KNOWLEDGE OF PARTICULARS MICHAEL E. MARMURA UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO SOME ASPECTS OF AVICENNA'S THEORY OF GOD'S KNOWLEDGE OF PARTICULARS MICHAEL E. MARMURA UNIVERSITY OF TORONTO INTRODUCTION * THE THEORY OF AVICENNA (Ibn Sina) that God knows particulars in a universal way has long engaged the attention of the Muslim and * Texts frequently referred to in the notes will be abbreviated as follows: 'Aqd'id: Al-Dawani, Al-Siyalkfiti (sic), Muhammad Abdu, Sharh al-'Aqd'id al-'Adu.diyya (Cairo, 1327 A. H.). This text consists of a commentary on the al-'Aqd'id al-'Adudiyya, a brief catechism written by al-Iji (d. 1355), by al-Dawani and the commentaries of Siyalkiti and Muhammad Abdu on al-Dawani's commentary. Commentary: Ibn Sina, al-Ishdrdt wa-l-Tanbihdt ma'a Sharh Na.sr al-Din al-Tusi, ed. S. Dunya (2 vols; Cairo, 1958). This is the Cairene edition of the sections on natural philosophy and metaphysics of the al-Ishdrdt that includes the commentary of Nasir al-Din al-Tufsi. Commentary will refer to Tisi's exposition, not to Avi- cenna's text. Demonstration: Ibn Sina, Al-Shifd; Logic V.; Demon- stration, ed. A. E. Affifi, revised by I. Madkur (Cairo, 1956). Ildhiyydt: Ibn Sina, Al-Shifd: al-Ildhiyydt. (Meta- physics), edited by C. C. Anawati, S. Dunya and S. Zayd, revised and introduced by I. Madkur (2 vols; Cairo, 1960). Ishdrdt: Ibn Sina, Kitdb al-Ishardt wa-l-Tanbihdt, ed. J. Forget (Leiden, 1892). Mabahith: Fakhr al-DIn al-Razi, al-Mabdhith al-Mashriqiyya (2 vols; Hyderabad, 1343 A.H.). Mu'tabar: Abu'l Barakat al-Bagdadi, Kitdb al-Mu'ta- bar (3 vols; Hyderabad, 1939). Nihdyat: Al-Shahrastani, Nihayat al-Iqddm Fi 'Ilm al-Kaldm, ed. A. Guillaume (London, 1934). INTRODUCTION * THE THEORY OF AVICENNA (Ibn Sina) that God knows particulars in a universal way has long engaged the attention of the Muslim and * Texts frequently referred to in the notes will be abbreviated as follows: 'Aqd'id: Al-Dawani, Al-Siyalkfiti (sic), Muhammad Abdu, Sharh al-'Aqd'id al-'Adu.diyya (Cairo, 1327 A. H.). This text consists of a commentary on the al-'Aqd'id al-'Adudiyya, a brief catechism written by al-Iji (d. 1355), by al-Dawani and the commentaries of Siyalkiti and Muhammad Abdu on al-Dawani's commentary. Commentary: Ibn Sina, al-Ishdrdt wa-l-Tanbihdt ma'a Sharh Na.sr al-Din al-Tusi, ed. S. Dunya (2 vols; Cairo, 1958). This is the Cairene edition of the sections on natural philosophy and metaphysics of the al-Ishdrdt that includes the commentary of Nasir al-Din al-Tufsi. Commentary will refer to Tisi's exposition, not to Avi- cenna's text. Demonstration: Ibn Sina, Al-Shifd; Logic V.; Demon- stration, ed. A. E. Affifi, revised by I. Madkur (Cairo, 1956). Ildhiyydt: Ibn Sina, Al-Shifd: al-Ildhiyydt. (Meta- physics), edited by C. C. Anawati, S. Dunya and S. Zayd, revised and introduced by I. Madkur (2 vols; Cairo, 1960). Ishdrdt: Ibn Sina, Kitdb al-Ishardt wa-l-Tanbihdt, ed. J. Forget (Leiden, 1892). Mabahith: Fakhr al-DIn al-Razi, al-Mabdhith al-Mashriqiyya (2 vols; Hyderabad, 1343 A.H.). Mu'tabar: Abu'l Barakat al-Bagdadi, Kitdb al-Mu'ta- bar (3 vols; Hyderabad, 1939). Nihdyat: Al-Shahrastani, Nihayat al-Iqddm Fi 'Ilm al-Kaldm, ed. A. Guillaume (London, 1934). Western exegete and scholar. For, with al-Gha- zal's severe criticism of it in the thirteenth dis- cussion of his Tahafut al-Falasifal and his pro- nouncing it irreligious at the conclusion of this work,2 it became a cardinal issue in the dispute between Muslim philosophy and theology.3 More- over, St. Thomas Aquinas had some pertinent things to say about the theory,4 which explains in part the interest of the Western scholar and phi- losopher, not always the student of Islam. Al- though some of the exegesis has been undertaken for its own sake-and this is more true of some modern scholarship-more often it has formed an integral part of the arguments for or against the theory.5 The antagonists would often charge each Al-Radd: Ibn Taymiyya, al-Radd 'ald al-Mantiqiyyin, ed. S. Nadawi (Bombay, 1949). Tahdfut: Al-Ghazali, Tahdfut al-Faldsifa, ed. M. Bouyges (Beirut, 1927). 1 Tahdfut, pp. 223-38. 2 Ibid., p. 376. 8 As an issue amongst the theologians themselves, the problem of God's knowledge of things (al-ashyd') had a long history in Islam and was one of the main problems debated by the Mu'tazila. See A. Nader. Le Systeme Philosophique des Mu'tazila. (Beirut, 1956), pp. 63-74. 4 In particular, Summa Theologica, I, 14, 11: See also Summa Contra Gentiles, I. 49-59, 63-71. 5 The criticisms directed by Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (d. 1274) throughout his Commentary against the inter- pretation of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1209); and the Western exegete and scholar. For, with al-Gha- zal's severe criticism of it in the thirteenth dis- cussion of his Tahafut al-Falasifal and his pro- nouncing it irreligious at the conclusion of this work,2 it became a cardinal issue in the dispute between Muslim philosophy and theology.3 More- over, St. Thomas Aquinas had some pertinent things to say about the theory,4 which explains in part the interest of the Western scholar and phi- losopher, not always the student of Islam. Al- though some of the exegesis has been undertaken for its own sake-and this is more true of some modern scholarship-more often it has formed an integral part of the arguments for or against the theory.5 The antagonists would often charge each Al-Radd: Ibn Taymiyya, al-Radd 'ald al-Mantiqiyyin, ed. S. Nadawi (Bombay, 1949). Tahdfut: Al-Ghazali, Tahdfut al-Faldsifa, ed. M. Bouyges (Beirut, 1927). 1 Tahdfut, pp. 223-38. 2 Ibid., p. 376. 8 As an issue amongst the theologians themselves, the problem of God's knowledge of things (al-ashyd') had a long history in Islam and was one of the main problems debated by the Mu'tazila. See A. Nader. Le Systeme Philosophique des Mu'tazila. (Beirut, 1956), pp. 63-74. 4 In particular, Summa Theologica, I, 14, 11: See also Summa Contra Gentiles, I. 49-59, 63-71. 5 The criticisms directed by Nasir al-Din al-Tusi (d. 1274) throughout his Commentary against the inter- pretation of Fakhr al-Din al-Razi (d. 1209); and the 299 99  MARMURA: Avicenna's Theory of God's Knowledge of Particulars other with either misunderstanding or misrepre- senting it. And explanation of the theory was needed and is still needed. For it is difficult,6 per- haps ultimately inconsistent,7 and certainly suffers from ambiguity. At the root of the divergencies in interpretation is the ambiguous use of the terms particular and universal in such statements of Avicenna as the Necessary Existent conceives everything in a universal way 8 and God apprehends par- ticulars in as much as they are universal. 9 The ambiguous usage has not been entirely overlooked and attempts at semantic clarifications are to be found in the commentaries. But these attempts are incomplete, conditioned at times by such fac- tors as the desire to exonerate the Muslim philoso- phers from the charge of irreligion. The fifteenth- century philosopher Jalal al-Din al-Dawani is a case in point. He insists in his interpretation of the theory that God knows every particular. The difference between God's knowledge of the par- ticular and ours, he maintains, is that the former is conceptual while the latter is sensory. The difference, then, lies in the manner of apprehen- sion, not in the things apprehended. He writes: What we apprehend through the senses and the imagina- tion God, the exalted, apprehends conceptually. The difference here is in the manner of apprehension, not in the thing apprehended. True inquiry would establish that universality and particularity are attributes of knowledge. The object of knowledge might be so criticisms of al-Dawani (d. ca. 1502), Siyalkuiti (d. 1657) and Muhammad Abdu (d. 1905) against the interpretations of Abu'l Barakat al-Baghdadi (d. ca. 1164) and al-Tusi are examples of this. See 'Aqd'id, pp. 110-16. 6 How knowledge of plurality on the part of God in Avicenna's theory does not imply plurality in the divine essence was one of the chief difficulties in understanding it. This has been dramatized by al-Suhrawardi (d. 1191) who reports that it was only after a kindly but pedagogic visitation by the first teacher, Aristotle, that he understood how this was possible. Al-Suhrawardi, Opera Metaphysica et Mystica, ed. H. Corbin (Istanbul, 1945), pp. 70ff. Al-Baghdadi finds the whole theory difficult because of Avicenna's obscure language. Mu'ta- bar, III, p. 84. 7 Critics like al-Ghazali (d. 1111), al-Shahrastani (d. 1153) and Ibn Taymiyya (d. 1328) have striven to show it inconsistent. See Tahafut, pp. 231-38; Nihayat, pp. 223-32; al-Radd, pp. 476-77. See below notes, 18, 23 and 35. 8 Ildhiyyat, p. 359, 11. 12-13. 9 Ibid., p. 360, 1. 3. designated by these terms but only when viewed in terms of knowledge. As such, the philosophers do not deserve the charge of irreligion.10 Whatever the limitations of this interpretation, it still shows an awareness of the semantic problem and suggests necessary and valid distinctions. But the analysis is not entirely correct and is certainly incomplete. For in the theory universal and particular cover a far wider range of meanings. It is through the attempt to separate these mean- ings that we hope to arrive at a clearer understand- ing of what the theory involves. I. GOD'S UNIVERSAL KNOWLEDGE. Al-Dawanl's remarks point to the necessary dis- tinction between the object known and knowledge of the object. The two expressions most frequently used by Avicenna to describe God's knowledge of particulars, in as much as they are universal (mmn hayth hiya kculliyya) and in a universal way ('ald nahwin kulliyy), conve this distinction. The second of these expressions is used not only to characterize the manner of God's knowing, but also the nature of God's knowledge as such. Now these two meanings are interrelated and overlap. This is particularly true when we characterize God's knowledge as being universal in the sense that it is conceptual or intellectual. God's knowledge as such is intellectual because God is pure intellect. But the conceptual process of His knowing should be treated separately and in contrast with the human process of abstracting concepts. In other words, when we speak of God's universal knowledge we must differentiate, whenever possible, the metaphysical from the epistemological sense that this expression in Avicenna conveys. Thus a careful reading of the context in which these expressions occur in the main passages concerned with this theory1 will disclose three things the term universal refers to: (a) the nature of God's knowledge as such; (b) the manner of God's knowing; (c) the object known by God. The Nature of God's knowledge.-As a char- acteristic of the nature of God's knowledge, uni- versal, in turn, stands for several related things. 10'Aqa'id, p. 110. 11 Ilhiyyat, pp. 358-62; Isharat, pp. 182-85. The pas- sage in the Ildhiyyat is reproduced in the Najat. Ibn Sina, al-Najat (Cairo: 1938), pp. 246-49. 300  MARMURA: Avicenna's Theory of God's Knowledge of Particulars To begin with, God's knowledge is universal in the sense that it is conceptual, or intellectual. The verb to conceive ('aqala) is used inter- changeably with the verb to know ('alima), a synonymous use objected to by Avicenna's theo- logian critics.l2 But for Avicenna, knowledge in its strict sense is by definition conceptual. More- over, sensation and imagination required by man to arrive at concepts are not and cannot be re- quired by God. It is soul, not intellect, that is the recipient of the material images: God is intellect not soul.13 Sensation requires a particular organ of apprehension14 and such an organ cannot be attributed to God. Furthermore, sensory appre- hension is the apprehension of the changing and implies change in the apprehender.15 God is eternal and changeless. And indeed, that God's knowledge is changeless and outside time, is another fundamental meaning of universal when applied to God's knowledge. It is the mean- ing stressed most by the commentators. God's changeless and eternal knowledge is dis- cussed in many contexts, but most articulately in the passages explaining how God knows such a par- ticular temporal event as an eclipse.16 Avicenna differentiates between the immediate sensory ex- periencing of such a phenomenon and the intel- lectual knowledge that a particular eclipse occurs and that it has such and such characteristics. In the case of God, this intellectual knowledge does not require sensation. But it is knowledge of a particular event, though the knowledge itself is not particular. Anticipating objections to his use of terms, he then writes: If someone refuses to name this knowing the par- ticular from a universal point of view (mmin iha kul- liyya), we will not argue with him since our purpose here is something else, i. e., to show how particulars can 12 Nihdyat, p. 223. 1 Ildhiyydt, pp. 356-57; 362-63. 4 Ibid., p. 359, 1. 11. The proof that sensation re- quires a particular organ of apprehension is given in Avicenna's De Anima, ed. F. Rahman (London, 1959), pp. 182-92. 15 Ilahiyyat, p. 359, 11. 2-7. This point is discussed in more detail in Ishdrdt, pp. 183-85. The exposition involves an analysis of the kinds of relations between two things that might imply change in one of them. For al-Ghazali's clear exposition of Avicenna on this problem see Tahdfut, pp. 229-31. 16 Ildhiyyat, pp. 360-62; Ishdrdt, pp. 182-83. be known and apprehended without this involving change in the knower.7 God's knowledge is also universal in the sense that it is one. This has several meanings per- taining to both the nature of God's knowledge as such and to the manner of His knowing. With reference to the nature of God's knowledge, in its most fundamental sense, it means that divine knowledge is identical with divine essence. Di- vine essence is simple. There is no multiplicity in it. In this sense, God's knowledge is one. But the things known by God are multiple. As such, his critics argued, God's knowledge must consist of a multiplicity of concepts and hence there is multi- plicity in the divine essence.18 Indeed, it is this aspect of Avicenna's theory which has been found most vulnerable to attack and even some of his staunchest disciples found it necessary to reformu- late the theory on behalf of their master so as to meet this objection.19 Here we cannot go into the 17 Ilahiyydt, p. 360, 11. 8-10. 8 See Tahdfut, pp. 118-19; 223-34. Al-Shahrastani argues that if knowledge of genera and species are not to constitute multiplicity in divine essence, they would have to be subsumed under one universal concept which, in turn, would have to be identified with the divine intellect. As such, God will know only Himself. Nihayat, pp. 231-34. 1* Al-Tuisi sums up some of the main objections to the theory as suggested by al-Razi. He then attempts to meet these objections by modifying the theory. Al-Tusi's account of the objections and his reply (Commentary, pp. 714-16) can be paraphrased as follows: If God knows everything, He must have concepts of everything. These concepts, in their relation to the divine essence, will have to be considered as either negative attributes, additional attributes, or essential attributes. If considered as negative attributes, then God would not know anything. If considered additional attributes, then Avicenna would have to accept the Ash'arite doctrine that divine attributes are additional to essence-a doctrine he rejects. If considered as essential attributes, then God's essence is not one. The alter- natives to these positions are three: (a) the doctrine of the ancients (the Plotinian) that God (the One) does not know; (b) the Platonic doctrine that the ideas are self-subsistent; (c) the Aristotelian view that God knows only Himself. None of these alternatives is acceptable to al-Tusi. To meet these criticisms and unacceptable alterna- tives, al-Tfsi takes it upon himself to amend the theory on behalf of his master, Avicenna: the ideas exist in the intelligences that proceed from God. God knows these ideas without these existing as concepts in His essence. Since God's knowledge is the cause of the idea's exis- tence, He does not require them as concepts. 301
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