To prove their incapacity to demonstrate that the world has a creator and a cause, and that in fact they are forced to admit atheism

Ghazali says:

Their statement that body needs a creator and a cause can be understood from the theory of those’ who argue that all bodies are temporal, because they cannot exist without what is temporal. But what keeps you philosophers from the doctrine of the materialists, namely that the world is eternal in the condition in which it actually is, and that it has no cause and no creator, that there is only a cause for temporal events and that no body comes into existence and no body is annihilated, and that only forms and accidents come into existence, for the bodies are the heavens (which are eternal) and the four elements, which are the stuff of the sublunary world, and their bodies and matters are eternal too, and there is only a change of forms in them through mixtures and alterations ;and that the souls of men and animals and plants come into existence, that all the causes of these temporal events terminate in the circular movement, and that the circular movement is eternal and its source the eternal soul of the sphere. Therefore there is no cause for the world and no creator for its bodies, but since the world, as it is, is eternal, there is no cause for it, i. e. no cause for its bodies. For indeed, what sense is there in the doctrine of the philosophers that these bodies exist through a cause, although they are eternal?

I say:

The philosophers assert that the man who says that all bodies have been produced (and by ‘produced’ must be understood creation ex nihilo) gives a meaning to the term ‘produced’ which is never found in the empirical world, and his statement surely stands in need of a proof. As to his attacks on the philosophers in this passage, so that he even forces on them the implication of atheism, we have already answered them previously and there is no sense in repeating ourselves, but, in short, the philosophers hold that body, be it temporal or eternal, cannot be independent in existence through itself; and this principle is, according to the philosophers, binding for the eternal body in the same way as for the temporal, although imagination does not help to explain how this is the case with the eternal body in the way it is with the temporal body. Aristotle therefore, in the second book of De caelo et mundo, when he wanted to explain the fact that the earth was circular by nature, first assumed it to have come into being in time so that the intellect might imagine its cause, and then transferred its existence to eternity.

Having forced on the philosophers these reprehensible deductions, Ghazali now gives an answer in defence of them and objects then to their answer.

Ghazali says:

And if the philosophers say: ‘Everything that has no cause is of a necessary existence, and we philosophers have already mentioned the qualities of the necessary existent through which it is proved that body cannot be the necessary existent, ‘ we answer: We have shown the mistake in your claim about the attributes of the necessary existent, and that your proof does not demonstrate anything but the termination of a causal series, and this termination also exists for the materialists at the beginning of things, , for they say that there is no cause for the bodies, and the forms and accidents are causes for each other and terminate in the circular movement part of which is the cause of another part in the same way as it takes place according to the doctrine of the philosophers, and this causal series’ ends in this circular movement.

And the man who observes what we have related will understand the inability of those who believe in the eternity of bodies to claim at the same time that they have a cause, and the consequence of their theory is atheism and apostasy, which one party has clearly admitted, those namely who rely solely on the determinations of the intellect.

I say:

All this has been already answered, and its degree of truth has been stated, and there is no reason to repeat ourselves. And as to the materialists, they rely only on the senses, and when according to them the movements had terminated in the heavenly body and through this the causal series was ended, they thought that where sensation had come to a limit, the intellect also had come to a limit; but this is not true. But the philosophers considered the causes till they ended in the heavenly body, then they considered the intelligible causes and arrived at an existent which cannot be perceived and which is the principle of perceptible being, and this is the meaning of the words: ‘Thus did we show Abraham the Kingdom of Heaven and of the earth . . . . ‘The Ash’arites, however, rejected sensible causes; that is, they denied that certain sensible things are the causes of other sensible things, and they made the cause of sensible being a nonsensible being by a way of becoming which is neither experienced nor perceived, and they denied causes and effects; and this is a kind of view which is inconsistent with the nature of man in so far as he is man.

Ghazali says, objecting to the argument of the philosophers:

If it is said that the proof that body is not a necessary existent is that, if it were a necessary existent, it would have neither an external nor an internal cause, but if it has a cause for its being composed, it will be possible in respect of its essence, and every possible needs a necessary existent, we answer: The terms ‘necessary existent’ and ‘possible existent’ are devoid of sense, and your whole confusion lies in these terms; but let us revert to their plain sense, which is the denial and the affirmation of a cause, for then your words amount to nothing else but saying that bodies either have a cause or not, and the materialists affirm the latter, ‘ and why should you deny it? And when this is understood by ‘possibility’ and ‘necessity’, we say body is necessary and not possible, and your statement that body cannot be necessary is pure presumption without any foundation.

I say:

We have already said that if by ‘necessary existent’ is understood the causeless and by ‘possible existent’ is understood that which has a cause, the division of being into these two sections is not acknowledged, and opponents might say that this division is not true, but that, indeed, all existents are causeless. But when by ‘necessary existent’ is understood absolute necessary being and by ‘possible’ the genuinely possible, then we must arrive at a being which has no cause, for we can say that every being is either possible or necessary; if possible, it has a cause, and if this cause is of the nature of the possible, we have a series which ends in a necessary cause. Then, concerning this necessary cause it may be asked again whether some necessary beings might have a cause and other necessary beings none, and if a cause is ascribed to the nature of the necessary being which can have a cause, there will follow a series which ends in a necessary being which has no cause. Avicenna wanted by this division only to conform to the opinion of the philosophers concerning existents, for all philosophers agree that the body of the heavens is necessary through something else; whether, however, this thing necessary through another is possible by itself is a problem which has to be studied.  And this argument is therefore faulty when this method is followed, and this method is of necessity faulty, because being is not primarily divided into the genuinely possible and the necessary, for this is a division which is only known through the nature of existing things.

Then Ghazali answers the philosophers’ statement that body cannot be a necessary existent by itself, because it has parts which are its cause.

If it is said: ‘It cannot be denied that body has parts, and that the whole is only constituted through the parts, and that the parts in a thing are prior to the whole, ‘ we answer: ‘Let it be so; certainly, the whole is constituted by the parts and their aggregation, but there is no cause for the parts nor for their aggregation, which on the contrary are eternally in the condition in which they are without an efficient cause. ‘ And the philosophers cannot refute this, except by the argument of theirs which we have mentioned, which is based on the denial of plurality in the First; we have shown its futility, and apart from it there is no other method. It is therefore clear that for the man who does not believe in the temporal creation of bodies there is no foundation for believing in a creator at all.

I say:

This argument is, without doubt, binding for the man who follows the method of a necessary existent to prove the existence of an incorporeal being, but this is not the method followed by the ancient philosophers, and the first, so far as we know, who used it was Avicenna. He said that it was superior to the proof of the ancients, because the ancients arrived only at an immaterial being, the principle of the universe, through derivative things, namely motion and time; whereas this proof, according to Avicenna, arrives at the assertion of such a principle as the ancients established, through the investigation of the nature of the existent in so far as it is an existent. If indeed it did arrive at such an affirmation, what Avicenna says would be true; however, it does not. ‘ For the most that could be affirmed of the existent necessarily existing by itself would be that it is not composed of matter and form, and generally speaking that it has no definition. But if it is supposed to exist as composed of eternal parts which are continuous by nature, as is the case with the world and its parts, it may indeed be said of the world with its parts that it is a necessary existent, z it being of course understood that there is a necessary existent. And we have already said that the method Avicenna followed to establish an existent of this description is not demonstrative and does not by nature lead to it, except in the way we have stated. The utmost consequence of this argument-and this constitutes its weakness-is the theory of those, namely the Peripatetics, who assume that there exists a simple body not composed of matter and form. For the man who assumes an eternal compound of actual parts must necessarily acknowledge that it is essentially one, and every oneness in a compound is one through an essential unity, namely a simple, and through this unity the world becomes one, and therefore Alexander of Aphrodisias says that there must exist a spiritual force which is diffused in all the parts of the universe in the same way as there is a force in all the parts of a single animal which binds them together, and the difference between the two forces is that the binding force in the world is eternal, because the conjoining principle is eternal, whereas the conjunction between the parts of the sublunary animal is individually transitory-although, through the eternal conjunction, not specifically transitory-since it cannot be individually imperishable like the world . z And through this theory the Creator will be deprived of that very kind of perfection which nothing else can equal, as Aristotle says in his book De animalibus. And we see nowadays that many of Avicenna’s followers because of this aporia ascribe this opinion to him, and they say that he does not believe that there exists a separate existence, and they assert that this can be seen from what he says about the necessary existent in many passages, and that this is the view which he has laid down in his Oriental Philosophy, and they say that he only called this book Oriental Philosophy’ because it is the doctrine of the Orientals; for they believed that according to the Orientals divinity is located in the heavenly bodies, as Avicenna himself had come to believe. However, notwithstanding this they accept Aristotle’s argument to prove the First Principle through movement.

And as for ourselves, we have discussed this argument at other times and have shown in what sense it can be regarded as evident, and we have solved all the doubts concerning it; we have also discussed Alexander’s argument on this question, namely the one he uses in his book called On the printiples. s For Alexander imagined that he was turning from Aristotle’s argument to another; his argument, however, is taken from the principles which Aristotle proved, and both arguments are sound, though the more usual is Aristotle’s.

And when the argument for a necessary existent is verified, it is true according to me in the way I shall describe it, although it is used too generally and its different senses must be distinguished. It must, namely, be preceded by knowledge of the different kinds of possible existents in substance and the different kinds of necessary existents in substance. And then this argument takes this form: The possible existent in bodily substance must be preceded by the necessary existent in bodily substance, and the necessary existent in bodily substance must be preceded by the absolute necessary existent which does not possess any potency whatsoever, either in its substance or in any other of the different kinds of movements, and such an entity is not a body. For instance, it appears from the nature of the body of the heavens that it is a necessary existent in its bodily substance, ‘ for otherwise there would have to be a body prior to it, and it appears also from its nature that it is a possible existent in its local movement; it is therefore necessary that its mover should be a necessary existent in its substance, and that there should be in it no potency whatsoever, either as regards movement or in any other respect, and that neither movement nor rest could be ascribed to it nor any other kind of change, and such an entity is absolutely without body and without any potency in a body. But the eternal parts of the world are only necessary existents in their substance, either universally like the four elements, or individually like the heavenly bodies. ,


To show the incapacity of those philosophers who believe that the First knows other things beside its own self and that it knows the genera and the species in a universal way, to prove that this is so

Ghazali says:

Since for the Muslims existence is confined to the temporal and the eternal, and there is for them nothing eternal except God and His attributes, and everything besides Him is temporally created by Him through His will, according to them the existent of necessity exists previously in His knowledge, for the object willed must be known by the willer. They deduced from this that the universe is known to Him, for the universe was willed by Him and produced by Him, and nothing comes into existence but what is produced through His will, and nothing is everlasting but His essence alone. And when once it was established that God wills and knows what He wills, He must be necessarily living, ; and every living being is conscious of its own self, and He is the most capable of knowing Himself. Therefore the whole universe is known to God, and they understood this through this argument, since they had found that He willed everything that happens in the world.

I say:

He says this only as an introduction and preparation for the comparison between his theory and that of the philosophers about eternal

knowledge, because his theory seems at first sight more satisfactory than that of the philosophers. But when the theory of the theologians is tested, and shown up to him for whom such an exposure is necessary, it becomes clear that they only made God an eternal man, , for they compared the world with the products of art wrought by the will and knowledge and power of man. And when it was objected against them that He must then have a body, they answered that He is eternal and that all bodies are temporal. They were therefore forced to admit an immaterial man who produces all existents. But this theory is nothing but a metaphor and a poetical expression; and metaphorical expressions are certainly very convincing, till they are explored, but then their deficiency becomes evident. For indeed there is no nature more distant from that of the transitory than that of the eternal. And if this is true, it cannot be that there should exist one single species which is differentiated by eternity and non-eternityz as one single genus is differentiated through the various differences into which it is divided. For the distance between the eternal and the temporal is far greater than that between the different species which participate in temporality. And if the distance between eternity and non-eternity is greater than that between the various species, how then is it possible to apply a judgement about the empirical world to the invisible: for those two are opposite extremes? And when you have understood the sense of the attributes which exist in the visible world and those which exist in the invisible world, it will be clear to you that through the ambiguity of the terms they are so equivocal that they do not permit a transference from the visible to the invisible.

Life, for instance, added to the intellect of man only applies to the potentiality of motion in space through will and sense-perception, ; but senses are impossible for the Creator and still more impossible for Him is motion in space. But the theologians ascribe to the Creator the faculty of sense-perception without sense-organs, and deny His movement absolutely. Therefore either they do not ascribe life to the Creator in the sense it has in the animal and which is a condition for the existence of knowledge in man, or they identify it with perception in the way the philosophers say that perception and knowledge in the First are identical with life. Further, the meaning of ‘will’ in man and in animal is a desire which rouses movement and which happens in animal and man to perfect a deficiency in their essence, and it is impossible that there should be in the Creator a desire because of an imperfection in His essence, which could be a cause of movement and action either in Himself or in something different from Himself. And how could an eternal will be imagined which should be the cause of an act occurring without an increase of the desire at the time of the act, , or how could a will and a desire be imagined which would be before, during, and after the act in the same state without any change occurring to them? And again, desire (in so far as it is _the cause of movement) and movement are only found in body, and desire is only found in the animate body. Therefore according to the philosophers the meaning of ‘will’ in God is nothing but that every act proceeds from Him through knowledge, and knowledge in so far as it is knowledge is the knowledge of opposites, either of which can proceed from Him. And the Knower is called excellent by the fact that there always proceeds from Him the better of the opposites to the exclusion of the worse. Therefore the philosophers say that three attributes are most appropriate to the Creator, namely that He has knowledge, excellence, and power. And they say that His power is not inferior to His will, as is the case with man.

All this is the theory of the philosophers on this problem and in the way we have stated it here with its proofs, it is a persuasive not a demonstrative statement. It is for you to inquire about these questions in the places where they are treated in the books of demonstration, if you are one of the people of perfect eudaemonia, and if you are one of those who learn the arts the function of which is proof. For the demonstrative arts are very much like the practical; for just as a man who is not a craftsman cannot perform the function of craftsmanship, in the same way it is not possible for him who has not learned the arts of demonstration to perform the function of demonstration which is demonstration itself: indeed this is still more necessary for this art than for any other-and this is not generally acknowledged in the case of this practice only because it is a mere act-and therefore such a demonstration can proceed only from one who has learned the art. The kinds of statement, however, are many, some demonstrative, others not, and since non-demonstrative statements can be adduced without knowledge of the art, it was thought that this might be also the case with demonstrative statements; but this is a great error. And therefore in the spheres of the demonstrative arts, no other statement is possible but a technical statement which only the student of this art can bring, just as is the case with the art of geometry. Nothing therefore of what we have said in this book is a technical demonstrative proof; they are all non-technical statements, some of them having greater persuasion than others, and it is in this spirit that what we have written here must be understood. So this book of Ghazali might be best given the name of the ‘Incoherence of both parties together’.

All this in my opinion is in excess of the Holy Law, and an inquiry into something not ordered by a religious law because human power does not suffice for it. For not all knowledge about which the Holy Law is silent needs to be explored and explained to the masses as being, according to speculative thought, part of the dogmas of religion; for from this the greatest confusion arises. One must not speak about those things concerning which the Holy Law is silent; the masses must learn that human understanding is not sufficient to treat these problems, and must not go beyond what the teaching of the Holy Law explains in its texts, since this is teaching in which all can participate and which suffices for the attainment of their happiness. And just as the physician investigates the measure of health which agrees most with the healthy for the preservation of their health, and with the sick for the curing of their illness, so the Lord of the Holy Law instructs the masses only in so far as is needed for their acquisition of happiness. And the same thing holds in respect of the facts of human behaviour, only the investigation of these facts in so far as the Holy Law is silent about them is more legitimate, especially when they are of the same genus as those about which the Law pronounces judgement. For this reason the lawyers disagree about this kind of facts; some of them, the Zahirites, deny the use of analogy, whereas others, the analogists, admit it, , and this is absolutely the same thing as happens in the sphere of knowledge, only perhaps the Zahirites are happier in the purely intellectual sphere than in the practical.

And anyone amongst the two opposing parties who inquires after these questions must either belong to the followers of proof, i. e. the rationalists, or not; in the former case he will speak about them and base his statements on demonstration, he will know that this way of discussion is limited to the followers of proof, and he will know the places in which the Holy Law gives to the people who possess this kind of knowledge a hint about the conclusions to which demonstration leads; in the latter case he will be either a believer or an unbeliever: if he is a believer he will know that to discuss those questions is forbidden by the Holy Law, and if he is an unbeliever, it is not difficult for the followers of proof to refute him with the stringent proofs they possess. The rationalist must act in this way in every religion, but especially in our Divine Revelation, which although it is silent on certain intellectual problems nevertheless hints at the conclusions about them to which demonstration leads, without, however, mentioning these problems in its instruction of the masses.

Since this is established, we shall revert now to our subject, which is forced upon us by necessity-for otherwise, by God, the Knower, the Witness, the Revealer, we should not think it permissible to discuss such questions in this way. And Ghazali, having described the arguments through which the theologians prove the attribute of knowledge and other attributes, and shown that they are very evident because they are generally admitted and extremely easy to accept, begins to compare these arguments with those of the philosophers about these attributes, and this is an act of rhetoric. ‘

Ghazali says, addressing the philosophers:

And you, philosophers, when you affirm that the world is eternal and not produced by God’s will, how do you know that He knows something beside His essence, for you require a proof of this?

Then Ghazali says:

And the summary of what Avicenna says to prove this in the course of his argument can be reduced to two heads: First, that the First does not exist in matter, and everything which does not exist in matter is pure intellect and all the intelligibles are revealed to it, for the obstacle to perceiving all things is attachment to matter and being occupied with matter, and the human soul is occupied by directing matter, i. e. its body, and when this occupation is terminated and it is not any longer defiled by the bodily passions and the despicable conditions which affect it through the things of nature, all the realities of the intelligibles are revealed to it, and therefore is it asserted that all the angels know all the intelligibles without exception, for they too are pure immaterial intellects.

And having related their theory; Ghazali argues against them:

But we say: If by your assertion that the First does not exist in matter, you mean that it is not a body, nor impressed on a body, but exists by itself not comprised by space nor locally specified by a direction, this is admitted by us. There remains then your answer to the question what its attribute is, namely that it is pure intellect-and what do you understand by ‘intellect’? If you mean by it that which thinks all the other things, this is just what we are trying to find out and the point under discussion, and how, therefore, can you take it as the premiss of a syllogism which must prove it? And if you mean by it something else, namely that it thinks its own self-and some of your fellow-philosophers may concede this to you, but this amounts again to your saying that what thinks its own self thinks other things also-the answer to be made is ‘Why do you claim this? For this is not known by necessity, and only Avicenna of all the philosophers affirmed it; and how can you claim this as necessary knowledge, or, if you know it by deduction, what is your proof? ‘

And if the assertion is made: ‘Because what prevents the perception of things is matter, and the First is not matter’, we answer: We concede that matter is an impediment, but we do not admit that it is the only impediment; and let them arrange their syllogism in the figure of the hypothetical syllogism and say: ‘If this First is in matter it cannot think things, but it is not in matter, therefore it thinks things’. ‘ And this is the assumption as a minor premiss of the opposite of the antecedent, but such an assumption does not lead to a conclusion in all cases, for it is like saying: ‘If this is a man, it is an animal, but it is not a man, therefore it is not an animal’. But this is not a necessary conclusion, for although not a man, it might be a horse, and therefore an animal. The assumption as a minor premiss of the opposite of the antecedent is valid only conditionally, as we have shown in our logic-namely, when the consequent is universally convertible with the antecedent, as when the logicians say: ‘If the sun has risen, it is day, but the sun has not risen, therefore it is not day’, for the only cause of its being day is the fact that the sun has risen-an example in which antecedent and consequent are convertible with each other-and the explanation of these theories and terms can be understood from our book ‘The Touchstone of Knowledge’, which we have written as an appendix to this book. If, however, they say ‘We claim that antecedent and consequent are here convertible, and that the one and only obstacle to thinking is being in matter’, we answer: ‘This is a pure presumption; where is your proof? ‘

I say:

The first mistake he makes here is that, in relating the theory and the proof, he regards the premisses he mentions as first principles, whereas for the philosophers they are conclusions from many premisses. For the philosophers had seen that every sensible existent is composed of matter and form, and that the form is the entity through which the existent becomes existentand that it is the form which is designated by the name and the definitions and that the specific act proceeds from the form in every existent, and it is this act which shows the existence of the forms in the existent. b For they had found that in substances there are active potencies, particular to every single existent, and passive potencies, either particular or common, ? and that a thing cannot be passive by reason of the same thing as it is active; for activity is the opposite of passivity, and opposites do not admit each other, and it is only their substratum which admits them successively, e. g. hotness does not accept coldness, it is simply the hot body that accepts coldness by divesting itself of hotness and accepting coldness, and vice versa. Now when the philosophers found that this was the case with activity and passivity, they understood that all existents of this description were composed of two substances, a substance which is the act and a substance which is the potency, and they realized that the substance in act is the perfection of the substance in potency and that the substance in act stands in relation to the substance in potency as if it were the end of its actualization, for there is no actual difference between them. ‘ Then, when they looked through all the different forms of existents, they found that all these substances must necessarily lead up to a substance in act which is absolutely devoid of matter, and this substance must necessarily be active and cannot have any passivity and cannot be subject to exhaustion, weariness, and decay; for such things occur to the substance in act only because it is the perfection of the substance in potency, not because it is pure act. For since the substance in potency only goes forth into act through a substance in act, the series of substances which are at the same time both active and passive must terminate in a substance which is pure act, and the series must terminate in that substance. And the proof of the existence of this substance, in so far as it is a mover and agent, through essential particular premisses, can be found in the eighth book of Aristotle’s Physics.

Having established the existence of this substance by special and general arguments according to what is known in their books, the philosophers now investigated the nature of the forms in matter which produce motion, and they found some of them nearer to actuality and farther from potency because they are less than others involved in passivity, which is the special sign of the matter which exists in them. And they realized that that which among these forms is most destitute of matter is the soul, and especially the intellect, so that they started to doubt whether the intellect belongs to the forms which are in matter or not. z But when they investigated the perceiving forms amongst the forms of the soul and found that they were free from matter, they understood that the cause of perception consists in freedom from matter, ; and since they discovered that the intellect is without passivity they understood that the reason why one form is inorganic and another perceptive consists in the fact that when it is the perfection of a potency it is inorganic or not percipient, ‘ and when it is pure perfection with which no potency is mixed it is intellect. ‘ All this they proved in a demonstrative order and by natural deductions which cannot be reproduced here in this demonstrative sequence, for this would involve collecting in one place what by its nature is treated in many different books, and anyone who has the slightest experience of the science of logic will acknowledge that this is an impossibility. Through arguments of this kind they came to realize that what has no passivity whatever is intellect and not body, for what is passive is body which exists in matter according to them.

An objection against the philosophers in these questions ought to be made only against the first principles they use in the proof of these conclusions, not against those conclusions themselves, as it is made by Ghazali. Through this they came to understand that there exists here an existent which is pure intellect, and when they saw further that the order which reigns in nature and in the act of nature follows an intellectual plan very much like the plan of the craftsman, they realized that there must exist an intellect which causes these natural potencies to act in an intellectual way, and through these two points they received the conviction that this existent which is pure intellect is that which bestows on the existents the order and arrangement in their acts. And they understood from all this that its thinking its own self is identical with its thinking all existents, and that this existent is not such that its thinking its own self is something different from the thought by which it thinks other things, as is the case with the human intellect. And about this intellect the disjunction assumed as a premiss, that every intellect either thinks its own self or thinks something else or thinks both together, is not valid. For when this disjunction is admitted, what is said is: ‘If it thinks other things, it is self-evident that it must think its own self; however, if it thinks its own self, it is not at all necessary that it should think other things. ‘ And we have discussed this previously.

And all the things which he says about the hypothetical syllogism which he formed in the figure he explained are not true. For the hypothetical syllogism is only valid when the minor and the legitimacy of the inferenceare proved through one or more categorical syllogisms. For correct hypothetical inference in this question is: ‘If what does not think is in matter, then what is not in matter thinks. ‘ But, of course, first the truth of this conjunction and disjunction must be proved. ‘ And these are the premisses of which we said that they are according to the philosophers conclusions, whereas Ghazali pretends they are first principles for them, or nearly so. And when it is explained as we have done, it is a syllogism of a legitimate figure and of true premisses. As to its legitimate form, the minor is the opposite of the consequent and the conclusion is the opposite of the antecedent, not as Ghazali believed, the minor the opposite of the antecedent and the conclusion the opposite of the consequent. ‘ But since they are not first principles, nor generally acknowledged, nor evident at first sight, they are regarded, no doubt, by those who have never heard anything of these things as very much open to objection. But indeed Ghazali confused the sciences in a most terrible way, and he uprooted science from its foundation and its method.

Ghazali says:

The second argument is that the philosophers say: ‘Although we assert neither that the First wills temporal production nor that it produces the world in time by secondary intention, we nevertheless affirm that the First has made the world and that indeed the world has its existence through the First only, the First never losing its character as an agent and never ceasing to act; our theory only distinguishes itself from others in this point, in no way however with respect to the principle of the act. And since the agent must have knowledge in conformity with its act, the universe, according to us, exists through its act. ‘

But there are two ways to answer this, of which the first is: ‘There are two kinds of action: voluntary, like the action of animal and man; and involuntary, like the action of the sun in producing light, of fire in producing heat, of water in producing cold. Now knowledge of the act is only necessary in voluntary acts, as in the human products of art, not in the acts of nature. But according to you philosophers, God has made the world consequent on His essence by nature and by necessity, not through will and choice; indeed, the universe is consequent on His essence, as light is on the sun, and just as the sun has no power to check its light, nor fire to repress its producing heat, so the First cannot check its acts. Now this kind of occurrence, although it may be called an act, does not imply knowledge at all. ‘ And if it is answered that there is a difference between the two things, in that the procession of the universe from God’s essence occurs through His knowledge of the universe and His representing the universal order in the course of the emamation of the universe, and He has no other cause than His knowledge of the universe, and His knowledge of the universe is identical with His essence, and if He had not this knowledge of the universe, the universe would not exist through Him, which is not the case with light in relation to the sun, we answer: ‘In this you are in contradiction to your fellow-philosophers, for they say that His essence is the essence from which the existence of the universe in its order follows naturally and necessarily, and it is not because He knows this. ‘ And what is wrong with this conception, once you agree with them in denying His will? And since the sun’s knowledge of its light is no condition for its light, but its light is necessarily consequent on the sun, so let us accept this also in the case of the First; and nothing prevents this. ‘

I say:

In this section Ghazali begins by saying something reprehensible about the philosophers, namely that the Creator possesses a will neither with respect to the things produced nor with respect to the universe as a whole, because His act proceeds from His essence necessarily like the procession of light from the sun. Then he says of them that they say that through His acting He must have knowledge. The philosophers, however, do not deny the will of God, nor do they admit that He has a human will, for the human will implies a deficiency in the willer and a being affected by the object willed, and when the object is attained, the deficiency is completed and the passivity, which is called will, ceases. The philosophers only attribute a will to God in the sense that the acts which proceed from Him proceed through knowledge, and everything which proceeds through knowledge and wisdom proceeds through the will of the agent, not, however, necessarily and naturally, since the nature of knowledge does not imply (as he falsely affirms of the philosophers) the proceeding of the act. For if the nature of knowledge did imply this, then, when we say that God knows the opposites, it would be necessary that the opposites should proceed from Him together, and this is absurd. The fact that only one of the opposites proceeds from Him shows that there is another attribute present beside knowledge, namely will, and it is in this way that the affirmation of will in the First must be understood according to the philosophers. z For God, according to the philosophers, necessarily knows and wills through His knowledge. As to Ghazali’s assertion that the act can be subdivided into two, into a natural act and a voluntary act, this is false. God’s act according to the philosophers is in a certain way not natural, nor is it absolutely voluntary; it is voluntary without having the deficiency which is attached to the human will. Therefore the term ‘will’ is attributed to the Divine Will and the human in an equivocal way, just as the term ‘knowledge ‘is attributed equivocally to eternal knowledge and to temporal. For the will in animals and man is a passivity which occurs to them through the object of desire

and is caused by it. This is the meaning of ‘will’ in the case of the human will, but the Creator is too exalted to possess an attribute which should be an effect. Therefore by ‘will’ in God only the procession of the act joined to knowledge can be understood. And ‘knowledge’, as we said, refers to the two opposites, and in the knowledge of God there is knowledge of the opposites in a certain way, and His performing only the one shows that there exists in Him another attribute which is called ‘will’.

Ghazali says:

The second way of answering is to concede that the procession of a thing from the agent implies knowledge of the thing which proceeds. Now, according to them, the act of God is one, namely the effect which is pure intellect, and God can only know this effect. The first effect again will only know what proceeds from it. For the universe does not proceed from God immediately, but through mediators and derivation and a series of consequences. For that which proceeds from what proceeds from Him need not be known to Him, and from Him Himself only one thing proceeds. And how should He know everything that proceeds mediately from Him? For this is not even necessary in voluntary acts, and how could it be necessary in natural acts? For the movement of a stone from the top of a mountain can occur through a voluntary propulsion which implies knowledge of the principle of motion, but does not imply knowledge of all the consequences which may occur through its knocking and breaking something. ‘ And to this again the philosophers have no answer.

I answer:

The answer to this is that the Agent whose knowledge is of the highest perfection knows everything which proceeds from Him and which proceeds from that which proceeds from Him, and so from the first term to the last. And if the knowledge of the First is of the highest perfection, the First must know everything that proceeds from it either mediately or immediately, and its knowledge need not be of the same kind as our knowledge, for our knowledge is imperfect and posterior to the thing known.

Then Ghazali says, answering the objection he brought forward against the philosophers:

If, however, the philosophers should say: ‘If we declared that the First only knows its own self, this would be a very reprehensible doctrine, for all other beings know themselves and know the First, and would therefore be superior to it; and how can the effect be superior to the cause?

I say:

This is an insufficient answer, for it opposes a rational argument with a moral one. 

Then Ghazali answers this and says:

We should answer: ‘This reprehensible doctrine is a necessary consequence for those who follow the philosophers in denying the Divine Will and the production of the world, and one must either adhere to it as the other philosophers do, or abandon the philosophers and acknowledge that the world is produced through will. ‘

I say:

Ghazali means that if they belong to those who affirm that God knows His work, only to avoid the reprehensible doctrine that He does not know anything but His own self, they are forced to acknowledge this reprehensible doctrine just as well, since they affirmed another reprehensible doctrine, namely the eternity of the world and the denial of the Will. ‘ However, the philosophers do not deny the Will, and only deny that part of it which implies a deficiency.

Then Ghazali says:

How will you refute those philosophers who say that this knowledge does not add to God’s dignity, since other beings need knowledge only in order to acquire perfection (for in their essence there is a deficiency) and man receives dignity through the intelligibles either that he may see his advantage in the coming events of this world and the next, or that his obscure and insufficient essence may be perfected, and likewise all the other creatures, but that the essence of God does not stand in need of perfection: nay, if a knowledge could be imagined through which He would be perfected, His essence, in so far as it is His essence, would be imperfect’

This is just the same kind of remark as your assertions, Avicenna, concerning His hearing and seeing and His knowing the particular beings which fall under the concept of time, for you agree with all the other philosophers in saying that God is too exalted for that, and that the changes which fall under the concept of time and which are divided into past and future events are not known to the First, since this would imply a change in its essence and a being influenced, and the denial of this does not imply an imperfection, but rather a perfection, and there is only an imperfection in the senses and the need for them. ‘ If there were not this human imperfection, man would not be in need of the senses to guard himself against any change which might affect him. And in the same way you affirm that the knowledge of particular events is an imperfection. And if it is true that we can know all particular events and perceive all sensible things, whereas the First cannot know anything of the particulars nor perceive anything of sensible things without this implying any imperfection in the First, it may also be permitted to ascribe to others knowledge of the intelligible universals but to deny it of the First without this implying any imperfection in the First. There is no way out of this.

I say:

This is the proof of those who say that the First knows only itself, and we have already spoken of the theory of those who combine the doctrine that the First knows only itself with the theory that it knows all existents; and for this reason some of the best known philosophers affirm that God the Creator is Himself all existents and that He grants them in His benevolence, and there is no sense in repeating ourselves. The premisses used in this section are common dialectical propositions, since they all belong to those which compare the Divine to the empirical, although no common genus unites these two spheres and they do not possess any common factor at all. In general his discussion in this section, when he argues with Avicenna, who adduces the argument of those philosophers who believe that God in knowing Himself must know other things, since He must necessarily know what proceeds from Himself, and all the other assertions of Avicenna to prove this, which he relates, and which he uses himself again to refute Avicenna, are all taken from human conditions which he tries to refer to the Creator; and this is false, since the terms of these two types of knowledge are predicated equivocally.

Avicenna’s assertion that any intelligent being from whom an act proceeds knows this act is a true proposition; not, however, in the sense in which the word ‘knowledge’ is used of the human intellect, when it understands a thing, for the human intellect is perfected by what it perceives and knows, and is affected by it, and the cause of action in man is the representation he forms in his intellect. ‘ And Ghazali argues against this kind of proposition by saying that when a man acts and there follows from his act another act and from the second act a third and from the third a fourth, it is not necessary that the conscious agent should know all the consequences which follow from his first act; and Ghazali says to his opponent this is a fact which concerns voluntary acts, but how is it when one assumes an agent whose acts are not voluntary? And he only says this because he means that the affirmation of God’s knowledge implies the affirmation of God’s will.

And therefore Ghazali says:

To this again the philosophers have no answer.

I say:

Ghazali means that it does not follow that the First according to Avicenna thinks anything but the act which proceeds from it primarily, and this act is the second cause and the first effect. Neither is there an answer to the other difficulty which he states that if the First thinks only itself and nothing else, man would be more noble than it. And the reason why Ghazali’s words carry a certain conviction is that if one imagines two men, one of whom thinks only his own self, whereas the other thinks his own self and other things besides, the latter intellect is regarded as superior to the former. However, as the term ‘intellect’ is applied to the human intellect and to this Divine Intellect in a purely equivocal way, since the latter is an agent and not a patient and the former a patient and not an agent, this analogy does not hold any longer.

Having given as Avicenna’s argument the maxim which Avicenna applies to every intelligent being, ‘ that the more knowledge an intellect possesses the nobler it is, and having affirmed that, according to him (Ghazali), it is just the philosophers’ denial of God’s will and of temporal creation which forces them to deny to God a knowledge of anything but Himself, since the conscious agent knows his effect only in so far as it differs from himself by being an object of his will, he says that this reprehensible assertion, i. e. the assertion that the effect which is man must be nobler than the cause which is the Creator, is a consequence for the philosophers only, sincc as the philosophers deny the coming into being of the world, they deny the Divine Will, as he affirms, and as they deny the Divine Will, they deny that God knows what proceeds from Him. But all this, namely the denial of God’s will, has been shown previously not to be true; for they deny only His temporal will. And having repeated Avicenna’s arguments, which he regarded as being applicable both to the knowledge of the temporal and the knowledge of the eternal, he begins to argue against him, showing the distinction which the philosophers established on this point between these two sciences, and indeed this consequence is incumbent on Avicenna.

And Ghazali says:

How will you refute those philosophers who say that this knowledge does not add to God’s dignity, for only other beings need knowledge. . . ?

I say:

The summary of this is that, if all these perceptions exist only because of man’s imperfection, then God is too exalted for them; and therefore Ghazali says to Avicenna: Just as you acknowledge with your fellow-philosophers that God’s not perceiving individual things is not a consequence of an imperfection in Him, for you have proved

that the perception of individuals rests on an imperfection in the perceiver, in the same way the perception of other things than Himself need not derive from an imperfection in Him, since the perception of these other things depends on the imperfection of the perceiver. ‘

The answer to all this is that God’s knowledge cannot be divided into the opposites of true and false in which human knowledge is divided; for instance, it may be said of a man that either he knows or he does not know other things, because these two propositions are contradictory, and when the one is true the other is false; but in the case of God both propositions, that He knows what He knows and that He does not know it, are true, for He does not know it through a knowledge which determines an imperfection, namely human knowledge, but knows it through a knowledge which does not carry with it any imperfection, and this is a knowledge the quality of which nobody but God Himself can understand. And concerning both universals and individuals it is true of Him that He knows them and does not know them. This is the conclusion to which the principles of the ancient philosophers led; but those who make a distinction, and say that God knows universals but does not know particulars have not fully grasped their theory, and this is not a consequence of their principles. For all human sciences are passivities and impressions from the existents, and the existents operate on them. But the knowledge of the Creator operates on existents, and the existents receive the activities of His knowledge.

Once this is established, the whole quarrel between Ghazali and the philosophers comes to an end in regard to this chapter as well as the next two. We shall, however, give an account of these chapters and mention in them both what is particular to them and those arguments which have been already discussed above.


About the impotence of the philosophers to prove that God knows Himself

Ghazali says:

We say that when the Muslims understood that the world was created through the will of God, they proved His knowledge from His will, then His life from His will and His knowledge together, ‘ then from His life, according to the principle that every living being knows itself, they proved that He too must know His own essence, since He is alive. And this is a rational procedure of extreme force. For you philosophers, however, since you deny the divine will and the world’s coming into existence, and since you affirm that what proceeds from Him proceeds in a necessary and natural sequence, why should it be impossible that His essence should be of such a nature that only the first effect proceeded from it, and that then the second effect followed the first till the whole order of existents was completed, but, notwithstanding this, the First would not know itself, just as neither fire from which heat proceeds, nor the sun from which light proceeds, know themselves or anything else? For only that which knows itself knows what proceeds from itself, and therefore knows other things besides itself. And we have already shown that, according to the theory of the philosophers the First does not know other things, and we have forced those who do not agree with them on this point to acknowledge this consequence which follows from their assumption. And if it does not know others, it is not absurd to suppose that it does not know its own self.

If they say: ‘Everyone who does not know himself is dead, and how could the First be dead? ‘-we answer: ‘This is indeed a conclusion which follows from your theory, since there is no difference between you and those who say that every one who does not act through will, power and choice, who neither hears nor sees, is dead, and he who does not know other things is dead. And if it is possible that the First is destitute of all these attributes, what need has it of knowing itself? ‘ And if they return to the doctrine that everything which is free from matter is intellect by itself and therefore thinks itself, we have shown that this is an arbitrary judgement without any proof.

And if they say: ‘The proof is that what is existent is divided into what is alive and what is dead, and what is alive is prior and superior to what is dead, and the First is prior and superior: therefore let it be alive; and every living being knows itself, since it is impossible that the living should be amongst its effects and should not itself be alive’, we answer: ‘All this is pure presumption, for we affirm that it is not impossible that that which knows itself should follow from that which does not, either through many intermediaries or without mediation. And if the reason for its impossibility is that in that case the effect would be superior to the cause, well, it is not impossible that the effect should be superior to the cause, for the superiority of the cause to the effect is not a fundamental principle. Further, how can you refute the view that its superiority might consist not in its knowledge but in the fact that the existence of the universe is a consequence of its essence? For the proof is that, whereas the First neither sees nor hears, there are many other beings who know other things than themselves and who do see and hear. ‘

And if it were said, ‘Existents are divided into the seeing and the blind, the knowing and the ignorant’, we answer: ‘Well, let the seeing then be superior and let the First see and have knowledge of things!” But the philosophers deny this, and say that its excellence does not consist in seeing and knowing things, but in not being in need of sight and knowledge and being the essence from which there proceeds the universe in which the knowing and the seeing beings exist. And in the same way it may be said that this essence does not possess excellence because it has knowledge itself, but because it is the principle of essences which possess knowledge, and this is an excellence which is peculiar to it.

The philosophers are therefore forced to deny also that the First knows itself, for nothing proves such a knowledge but will, and nothing proves will except the temporal beginning of the world, and if this principle is destroyed, all these things are destroyed which are accepted through the speculation of the mind alone. For, they do not possess a proof for any thing they affirm or deny concerning the attributes of the First, but they make only such guesses and conjectures as lawyers would despise in their suppositions. However, no wonder that the intellect should be perplexed about the divine attributes; one should wonder only at the wonderful self-complacency of the philosophers, at their satisfaction with their proofs and their belief that they know those things through evident proofs, notwithstanding the mistakes and the errors in them.

I say:

The most wonderful thing is the claim of the theologians that the temporal becoming of the world implies that it has been willed by a will, for we find that temporal things occur through nature, through will, and by chance. x Those that occur through will are the products of art, and those that occur through nature are natural things, and if temporal things occurred only through will, will would have to be included in the definition of the temporal, whereas it is well known that the definition of temporal becoming is ‘existence succeeding non-existence’. If indeed the world had come into being temporally, it would be more appropriate that it should have come into being, in so far as it was a natural existent, from principles appropriate to natural things, rather than from principles appropriate to artificial things, i. e. the will. Since, however, it is established that the world exists through a First Agent which preferred its existence to its nonexistence, it is necessary that this agent should be a willer, and if this First Agent does not cease to prefer the world’s existence to its nonexistence, and the willer-as Ghazali says-must have knowledge, the philosophers are in complete agreement with the theologians about this fundamental point. The whole theological argument, however, which he gives has only persuasive power, because it compares natural things to artificial.

As to what he says of the philosophers, that they believe that what proceeds from the Creator proceeds in a natural way, this is a wrong imputation. What they really believe is that existents proceed from Him in a way superior to nature and to the human will, for both these ways are subject to an imperfection, but they are not the only possible ways, since it has been proved that the act of God can proceed from Him neither in a natural way nor in a voluntary, in the sense in which this is understood in the sublunary world. For will in an animal is the principle of movement, and if the Creator is devoid of movement, He is devoid of the principle of movement in the way a voluntary agent in the empirical world moves. ‘ What proceeds from God proceeds in a nobler way than the voluntary, a way which nobody can understand but God Himself. And the proof that He wills is that He knows the opposites, and if He were an agent in absolutely the same way as He is a knower, He would carry out the two contrary acts together, and this is impossible; and therefore it is necessary that He should perform one of the two contraries through choice.

The error of the theologians with regard to this question is that they say that every act is either natural or voluntary, but do not understand the meaning of either of these words. For nature, according to the philosophers, has different meanings, the primary being the ascending of fire and the descending of earth, ‘ and an existent only has this movement when something has prevented it from being in its natural place, and there was therefore something that constrained it; but the Creator is too high for this kind of nature. The philosophers also apply the term ‘nature’ to every potency from which an intellectual act proceeds, in the same way as the acts which proceed from the arts, and some of the philosophers ascribe intellect to this nature, and some say that this nature does not possess intellect but acts only by natures And they say that this nature proceeds from an intellect, because they compare it to artificial things which move themselves and from which orderly well-arranged acts proceed . And therefore their master Aristotle asserts that it is manifest that the nature of intellect rules the universe. ? And how far is this belief from what Ghazali ascribes to them!

Who, however, assumes as a universal maxim that he who knows himself must know other things which proceed from him, must conclude that he who does not know other things cannot know himself.

And having refuted Avicenna’s theory that God knows other things, by the arguments of the philosophers on this point which he adduces against him, ‘ he concludes against him that the First does not know itself; and this conclusion is valid. ,

And as to what he relates of the argument of the philosophers on this point, namely that they say that he who does not know himself is dead and the First cannot be dead, this is a persuasive argument composed of common propositions, for he who is not alive is not dead unless it is in his nature to receive life’-or one must mean by ‘dead’ what is meant by ‘inanimate’ and ‘inorganic’, and then this is a true dichotomy, for every existent is either alive or inorganic, provided we understand by ‘life’ a term which is equivocally used of the eternal and the corruptible.

And as to Ghazali’s words:

And if they return to the doctrine that everything which is free from matter is intellect by itself and therefore thinks itself, we have shown that this is an arbitrary judgement without any proof.

I say:

We have already shown the manner in which this proof of the philosophers must be taken, in so far as this proof preserves its power by being given in this book-I mean its power is diminished, as is necessary when a thing is removed from its natural context. And as to what he says of their arguing on this point against the philosophers that the existent is either alive or dead, and that which is alive is more noble than that which is dead, and that the principle is nobler than that which is alive and that it is therefore necessarily alive, if by ‘dead’ is understood the inanimate, these propositions are common and true.

His assertion, however, that life can proceed from the lifeless and knowledge from what does not possess knowledge, and that the dignity of the First consists only in its being the principle of the universe, is false. For if life could proceed from the lifeless, then the existent might proceed from the non-existent, and then anything whatever might proceed from anything whatever, and there would be no congruity between causes and effects, either in the genus predicated analogically or in the species. 4

As to his assertion that, when the philosophers say that what is nobler than life must be alive, it is like saying that that which is nobler than what has hearing and seeing must have hearing and seeing: the philosophers do not say so, for they deny that the First Principle can hear and see. And Ghazali’s argument that, since, according to the philosophers, that which is superior to what hears and sees . need not hear and see, then also what is superior to the living and the knowing need not itself be alive and possessed of knowledge and that, just as according to the philosophers that which possesses sight can proceed from what has no sight, so it is possible that knowledge should proceed from what has no knowledge: this is a very sophistical and false argument.

For according to the philosophers that which has no hearing or seeing is not absolutely superior to that which has hearing and seeing, but only because it has a perception superior to seeing and hearing, namely knowledge. ‘ But, since there is nothing superior to knowledge, it is not possible that that which does not possess knowledge should be superior to that which does, be it a principle or not. For since some of the principles possess knowledge, others not, it is not permissible that those which do not know should be superior to those that do, just as little as this is possible in regard to effects which do and do not possess knowledge. And the nobility of being a principle cannot surpass the nobility of knowledge, unless the nobility of a principle that does not possess knowledge could surpass the nobility of a principle that does. And the excellence of being a principle cannot surpass the excellence of knowledge. And therefore it is necessary that the principle which has the utmost nobility should possess the utmost excellence, which is knowledge. The philosophers only avoid ascribing to the First hearing and seeing, because this would imply its possessing a soul. The Holy Law ascribes hearing and seeing to God to remind us that God is not deprived of any kind of knowledge and understanding, and the masses cannot be made to grasp this meaning except by the use of the terms ‘hearing’ and ‘seeing’, and for this reason this exegesis is limited to the learned, and therefore cannot be taken as one of the dogmas of the Holy Law common to the masses. And the same is the case with many questions the solutions of which the Holy Law leaves to science.

Everything this chapter contains is the confusion and the incoherence of Ghazali himself. But, we appeal to God on account of the mistakes the learned have made, and that He may pardon them because of their wish to glorify His name in all such questions, and we pray God that He may not place us among those who are excluded from the next world through their faults in this, or from the highest through their desire for the lowest, and that He may bestow on us final blessedness!


To refute those who affirm that God is ignorant of the individual things which are divided in time into present, past, and future

Ghazali says:

About this theory they all agree; for as to those who believe that God only knows Himself, this is implied in their belief; and as to those who believe that He knows things besides Himself (and this is the theory which Avicenna has chosen) they believe that God knows other things in a universal knowledge which does not fall under the concept of time and which is not differentiated through past, future, and present although, nevertheless, Avicenna affirms that not the weight of a grain escapes God’s knowledge either on earth or in the heavens, since He knows individual things in a universal way. ‘

Now we must first understand this theory, and then occupy ourselves with refuting it. We shall explain this through an example, namely that the sun, for example, suffers an eclipse, after not having been eclipsed, and afterwards recovers its light. There are therefore in an eclipse three moments: the moment when there was not yet an eclipse but the eclipse was expected in the future, the time when the eclipse was actually there, its being, and thirdly, the moment the eclipse had ceased but had been. Now we have in regard to these three conditions a threefold knowledge: we know first that there is not yet an eclipse, but that there will be one, secondly that it is now there, and thirdly, that it has been present but is no longer present. This threefold knowledge is numerically distinguishable and differentiated and its sequence implies a change in the knowing essence, for if this knowing essence thought after the cessation of the eclipse that the eclipse was present as before, this would be ignorance, not knowledge, and if it thought during its presence that it was absent, this again would be ignorance, and the one knowledge cannot take the place of the other.

The philosophers affirm now that the condition of God is not differentiated by means of these three moments, for this would imply a change, and that He whose condition does not change cannot be imagined to know these things, for knowledge follows the object of knowledge, and when the object of knowledge changes, the knowledge changes, and when the knowledge changes, without doubt the knower changes too; but change in God is impossible. However, notwithstandng this, the philosophers affirm that God knows the eclipse and all its attributes and accidents, but through a knowledge which is attributed to Him in an eternal attribution and is unchangeable: God knows for instance that the sun exists and that the moon exists, and that they have emanated from God Himself through the medium of angels whom the philosophers in their technical terminology call ‘separate intellects’, and God knows that the sun and moon move in circles and that between their orbits there is an intersection at two points, the ascending and the descending node, ‘ and that at certain times the sun and moon are together in these nodes and that then the sun is eclipsedi. e. the body of the moon comes between the sun and the eyes of the observer, and the sun is concealed from his eyes, and that when the sun has passed a certain distance beyond this node, say a year, it is eclipsed again, and that this eclipse is either total or for a third or for a half, and that it will last an hour or two hours, and God knows equally all other time determinations and all other accidents of the eclipse; and nothing of this escapes God’s knowledge. However, God’s knowledge before, during, and after the eclipse is all of one kind without any differentiation and without any implication of a change in His essence. And such is His knowledge of all temporal occurrences which take place through causes which have other causes terminating finally in the circular movement of the heavens, and the cause of this movement is the soul of the heavens, and the cause of the soul’s movement is its desire to assimilate itself to God and to the angels near Him . z And the whole universe is known to Him, that is, it is manifested to Him in one single congruous manifestation which is not influenced by time. Still, at the time of the eclipse it cannot be said that He knows that the eclipse is taking place now, nor does He know when it has passed that it has passed now, for He cannot be imagined to know anything which for its definition needs a relation to time, since this implies a change. This is their solution in so far as it concerns a division in time.

And as concerns their theory about what is divided in matter and space, like individual men and animals, they say that God does not know the accidents of Zaid, Amr, and Khalid and that He knows only man in general, through a universal knowledge, and that He knows the accidents and properties of man in general, namely that he must have a body composed of limbs, some to grasp with, some to walk with, some to perceive with, some of which form a pair while some are single, and that the bodily faculties must be dispersed in all parts of the body. And the same applies to all the qualities which are inside and outside man’s body and all its accidents, attributes, and consequences, so that there is nothing that is hidden from God in His knowledge of the universal. But the individual Zaid can only be distinguished from Amr through the senses, not through the intellect, and this distinction is based on pointing to a special direction, whereas the intellect can only understand direction and space absolutely as universals. And when we say ‘this’ and ‘that’, this is a case of pointing to a special relation of a sensible thing to the observer as being near to him or far from him, or in a definite place, and this is impossible where God is concerned.

This then is the principle in which they believe, and through it they uproot the Divine Laws absolutely, for this principle implies that God cannot know whether Zaid obeys or disobeys Him, since God cannot know any new occurrences that happen to Zaid, as He does not know the individual Zaid; for the individual and his acts come into existence after nonexistence, and as God does not know the individual, He cannot know his conditions and his acts-indeed, He cannot know that Zaid becomes a heretic or a true believer, for He can know only the unbelief and the belief of man in general, not as it is specified in individuals. Yes, God cannot know Muhammad’s proclaiming himself a prophet at the time he did, nor can God know this of any definite prophet; He can only know that some people proclaim themselves prophets and that they have such-and-such qualities, but any individual prophet He cannot know, for he can only be known by sense-perception. Nor can He know the acts which proceed from the prophets, since they are divided as acts of a definite man through the division of time, and their perception with their diversity implies a change in the observer.

This is what we wanted to do first, namely to expound their view, then to render it intelligible, thirdly to show the perversities implied in it.

We shall now pass on to relate the artfulness of their theory and the point where it fails. Their artfulness lies in the fact that they say: ‘There are here three different moments, and a sequence of different things in one single subject no doubt implies a change in it. For if at the moment of the eclipse God thought that what was happening was like what had been before, He would be ignorant; if, on the other hand, He knew that it was happening and knew previously that it was not happening, but would happen, His knowledge and His condition would have become different, and this would imply a change, for “change” means only a difference in the knowledge and a difference in the knowledge implies a difference in the knower, for he who did not know a thing and then knows it, has changed; previously he had no knowledge that it was happening, and then his knowledge was realized: therefore he changed. ‘

And they have elaborated this by saying that there are three kinds of conditions;, first a condition which is a mere relation, as when we say right and left, for this does not refer to an essential attribute, but is a mere relation; for if you change a thing from your right to your left, your relation to it changes, but the condition of your essence does not change, for the relation changes with respect to the essence, but the essence does not change. The second kind of condition is of the same type, i. e. when you have the capacity to move bodies in front of you, and those bodies or part of them disappear, your innate power and your capacity does not change, for your capacity is first the capacity to move body in general and secondly to move a definite body in so far as it is a body; and the relation of the capacity to the definite body is not an essential attribute, but a mere relation, and the disappearance of the body determines the cessation of the relation, but not a change in the condition of the one who possesses this capacity. The third kind of condition, however, is a change in the essence, for when one who had no knowledge acquires knowledge and one who had no power becomes powerful there is indeed a change. ‘

And the change in the object known causes a change in the knowledge, for the relation to the definite object known enters into the essence of the knowledge itself, since the essence of the definite knowledge is attached to the definite object known as it exists in reality, and when the knowledge attaches itself to it in another relation, it becomes necessarily another knowledge and this succession implies a differentiation in the essence of the knowledge. And it cannot be said that God has one single knowledge which, having been knowledge of the future event, could become knowledge of the present event, and having been knowledge of the present event, could become knowledge of the past event, for although the knowledge would be one and the same and have similar conditions, there would be a change of relation to Him and the change of relation would enter into the essence of the knowledge; and this change would imply a change in the essence of the knowledge, and from this there would result a change (which is impossible) in God.

The objection to this is twofold.

First one can say: How will you refute one who says that God has one single knowledge of the eclipse, for instance, at a definite time, and that this knowledge before the occurrence of the eclipse is the knowledge that the eclipse will occur, and during the eclipse is identical with the knowledge that it is occurring, and after the eclipse identical with the knowledge that it has ceased, and that these differences refer to relations which imply neither a change in the essence of the knowledge nor a change in the essence of the knower, and that this is exactly like a mere relation? For one single person can be at your right and then turn in front of you and go to your left, and there is a succession of relations with respect to you; but that which is changing is the person who takes up different positions, and God’s knowledge must be understood in this way, for indeed we admit that God comprehends things in one single knowledge in everlasting eternity, and that His condition does not change; with their intention, the denial of His change, we do agree, but their assertion that it is necessary to regard the knowledge of an actual becoming and its cessation as a change, we refuse to accept. For how do you know this? Indeed, suppose God had created in us a knowledge that Zaid will arrive tomorrow at daybreak, and had made this knowledge permanent without creating for us another knowledge or the forgetfulness of this knowledge; then, by the mere previous knowledge, we should know at daybreak that at present Zaid is arriving and afterwards that he had arrived, and this one permanent knowledge would suffice to comprehend these three moments.

There still remains their assertion that the relation to a definite object known enters into the essence of the knowledge of this object, and that whenever the relation becomes different the thing which has this essential relation becomes different, and that whenever this differentiation and this sequence arise there is a change. ‘

We say: If this is true, then rather follow the path of your fellow-philosophers when they say that God knows only Himself and that knowing Himself is identical with His essence, for if He knew man and animal and the inorganic in general (and these are undoubtedly different things), His relation to them would undoubtedly be different too; and one single knowledge cannot be a knowledge of different things, since the object related is differentiated, and the relation is differentiated, and the relation to the object known is essential to the knowledge, and this implies a multiplicity and a differentiation-not a mere multiplicity with a similarity, for similar things are things which can be substituted for each other, but the knowledge of an animal cannot be substituted for the knowledge of the inorganic, nor the knowledge of white for the knowledge of black, for they are two different things. ‘ Besides, these species and genera and universal accidents are infinite and they are different, and how can different sciences fall under one science? Again, this knowledge is the essence of the knower without any addition, and I should like to know how an intelligent man can regard the unity of the knowledge of one and the same thing, when this knowledge is divided through its relations with the past, the future, and the present, as impossible, and uphold the unity of the knowledge which is attached to all genera and all different species! For the diversity and the distance between the genera and the remote species is far greater than the difference which occurs in the conditions of one thing which is divided through the division of time; and if the former does not imply a plurality and differentiation, why then does the latter? And as soon as it is proved that the diversity of times is less important than the diversity of genera and species, and that the latter does not imply a plurality and a diversity, the former also will not imply this. And if this does not imply a diversity, then it will be possible that the whole universe should be comprehended in one everlasting knowledge in everlasting time, and that this should not imply a change in the essence of the knower.

I say:

This sophistry is based on the assimilation of Divine Knowledge to human and the comparison of the one knowledge with the other, for man perceives the individual through his senses, and universal existents through his intellect, and the cause of his perception is the thing perceived itself, and there is no doubt that the perception changes through the change in the things perceived and that their plurality implies its plurality.

As to his answer that it is possible that there should exist a knowledge the relation of which to the objects known is that kind of relation which does not enter into the essence of the thing related, like the relation of right and left, to that which has a right and a left his is an answer which cannot be understood from the nature of human knowledge. ‘ And his second objection, that those philosophers who affirm that God knows universals must, by admitting in His knowledge a plurality of species, conclude that a plurality of individuals and a plurality of conditions of one and the same individual is permissible for His knowledge, is a sophistical objection. For the knowledge of individuals is sensation or imagination, and the knowledge of universals is intellect, z and the new occurrence of individuals or conditions of individuals causes two things, a change and a plurality in the perception; whereas knowledge of species and genera does not imply a change, since the knowledge of them is invariable and they are unified in the knowledge which comprehends them, and universality and individuality only agree in their forming a plurality.

And his statement that those philosophers who assume one simple knowledge, which comprehends genera and species without there existing in it a plurality and diversity which the differentiation and diversity of the species and genera would imply, will have also to admit one simple knowledge which will comprehend different individuals and different conditions of one and the same individual, is like saying that if there is an intellect which comprehends species and genera, and this intellect is one, there must be one simple genus which comprehends different individuals; and this is a sophism, since the term ‘knowledge’ is predicated equivocally of divine and human knowledge of the universal and the individual. But his remark that the plurality of species and genera causes a plurality in the knowledge is true, and the most competent philosophers therefore do not call God’s knowledge of existents either universal or individual, for knowledge which implies the concepts of universal and individual is a passive intellect and an effect, whereas the First Intellect is pure act and a cause, and His knowledge cannot be compared to human knowledge; for in so far as God does not think other things as being other than Himself His essence is not passive knowledge, and in so far as He thinks them as being identical with His essence, His essence is active knowledge. ‘

And the summary of their doctrine is that, since they ascertained by proofs that God thinks only Himself, His essence must of necessity be intellect. And as intellect, in so far as it is intellect, can only be attached to what exists, not to what does not exist, and it had been proved that there is no existent but those existents which we think, it was necessary that His intellect should be attached to them, since it was not possible that it should be attached to non-existence and there is no other kind of existent to which it might be attached. ‘ And since it was necessary that it should be attached to the existents, it had to be attached either in the way our knowledge is attached to it, or in a superior way, and since the former is impossible, this knowledge must be attached in a superior way and according to a more perfect existence of existents than the existence of the existents to which our intellect is attached. For true knowledge is conformity with the existent, z and if His knowledge is superior to ours and His knowledge is attached to the existent in a way superior to our attachment to the existent, then there must be two kinds of existence, a superior and an inferior, and the superior existence must be the cause of the inferior.

And this is the meaning of the ancient philosophers, when they say that God is the totality of the existents which He bestows on us in His bounty and of which He is the agent. And therefore the chiefs of the Sufis say: there is no reality besides Him. But all this is the knowledge of those who are steadfast in their knowledge, and this must not be written down and it must not be made an obligation of faith, and therefore it is not taught by the Divine Law. And one who mentions this truth where it should not be mentioned sins, and one who withholds it from those to whom it should be told sins too. And that one single thing can have different degrees of existence can be learned from the different degrees of existence of the sou1.

Ghazali says:

The second refutation is: ‘What prevents you, according to your doctrine, from affirming God’s knowledge of individuals, even if this implies His changing, for why do you not believe that this kind of change is not impossible in God, just as Jahm, one of the Mu’tazilites, says that His knowledge of temporals is temporal’ and the later Karramites say that God is the substratum of the temporal’? The true believers refute these theories only by arguing that what changes cannot be without change, and what cannot be without change and without temporal occurrences is itself temporal and not eternal. ‘ For you, however, according to your doctrine the world is eternal but not without change, and if you acknowledge an eternal which changes, nothing prevents you from accepting this theory. ‘

If you replied: We only regard this as impossible, because the temporal knowledge in His essence must either derive from Himself or from something else; that it should derive from Himself is impossible, for we have shown that from the eternal no temporal can proceed and that God cannot become active after having been at rest, for this would imply a change, and we have established this in treating the question of the temporal becoming of the world; and if it were to arise in His essence from something else, how could something else influence and change Him so that His conditions changed as if under the power and necessity of something different from Him? -we answer: Neither of these alternatives is impossible, according to your doctrine. As to your assertion that it is impossible that from the eternal a temporal being should proceed, we refuted this sufficiently when we treated this problem. According to you it is impossible that from the eternal there should proceed a temporal being which is the first of a series of temporal beings and it is only impossible that there should be a first temporal being. ‘ However, these temporal beings have no infinite number of temporal causes, but by means of the circular movement they terminate in something eternal which is the soul and life of the sphere; and the soul of the sphere is eternal and the circular movement arises temporally from it and each part of this movement begins and ends, and that which follows it is surely a new occurrence. Therefore, according to you the temporal beings arise from the eternal. ‘ However, since the conditions of the eternal are uniform, the emanation of temporal occurrences from Him will be eternally uniform, just as the conditions of the movement are uniform, since they proceed from an eternal being whose conditions are uniform; and all the philosophical sects acknowledge that from an eternal being a temporal being can proceed, when this happens in a proportionate way and eternally. Therefore let the different types of His knowledge proceed from Him in this way.

And as to the other alternative, that His knowledge should proceed from another, we answer: Why is that impossible according to you? There are here only three difficulties. The first is the changing, but we have already shown that this is a consequence of your theory.

The second difficulty, that one thing should be the cause of a change in another, is not impossible according to you; for let the occurrence of the thing be the cause of the occurrence of its being known, just as you say that the appearance of a coloureds figure in front of the pupil of the eye is the cause of the impression of the image of this figure on the vitreous humour of the pupil through the medium of the transparent air between the pupil and the figure seen ;b and if therefore an inanimate object can be the cause of the impression of the form on the pupil-and this is the meaning of sight-why should it be impossible that the occurrence of temporal beings should cause the First to acquire its knowledge of them? And just as the potency of seeing is disposed to perceive, and the appearance of the coloured figure, when the obstacles are removed, is the cause of the actualization of the perception, so let according to you the essence of the First Principle be disposed to receive knowledge and emerge from potency into act through the existence of this temporal being. And if this implies a change in the eternal, a changing eternal is not impossible according to you. And if you protest that this is impossible in the necessary existent, you have no other proof for establishing the necessary existent than the necessity of a termination to the series of causes and effects, as has been shown previously, and we have proved that to end this series with an eternal being which can change is not impossible.

The third difficulty in the problem is that if the Eternal could change through another, this would be like subjection and the control of another over Him.

But one may say: Why is this impossible according to you? For it only means that the Eternal is the cause of the occurrence of the temporal beings through intermediaries, and that afterwards the occurrence of these temporal beings becomes the cause of the knowledge which the Eternal has of them. It is therefore as if Hemere Himself the cause of this knowledge reaching Him, although it reaches Him through intermediaries. And if you say that this is like subjection, let it be so, for this conforms to your doctrine, since you say that what proceeds from God proceeds in the way of necessity and nature, and that He has no power not to do it, and this too resembles a kind of bondage, and indicates that He is as it were under necessity as to that which proceeds from Him. And if it is said that this is no constraint, since His entelechy consists in the fact that He makes everything proceed from Himself, and that this is no subjection, then we answer that His entelechy consists in knowing everything, and if it is true to say that the knowledge which we receive in conjunction with everything that happens is a perfection for us, , not an imperfection or subjection, let the same be the case with respect to God.

I say:

The summary of this first objection against the philosophers, which is a refutation of their theories, not of the fact itself, is that ‘according to your principles, philosophers, there exists an eternal being in which temporal beings inhere, namely the sphere; how can you therefore deny that the First Eternal is a subject in which temporal beings inhere? ‘ The Ash’arites deny this only because of their theory that any subject in which temporal beings inhere is itself a temporal being. And this objection is dialectical, for there are temporal beings which do not inhere in the eternal, namely the temporal beings which change the substance in which they inhere; and there are temporal beings which inhere in the eternal, namely the temporal beings which do not change the substance of their substratum, like the local movement of the moving body and transparency and illumination;’ and further there is an eternal in which no movements and no changes inhere at all, namely the incorporeal eternal; and there is an eternal in which only some movements inhere, namely the eternal which is a body like the heavenly bodies, and when this distinction, which the philosophers require, is made, this objection becomes futile, for the discussion is only concerned with the incorporeal eternal.

Having made this objection against the philosophers, he gives the answer of the philosophers about this question, and the summary is that they are only prevented from admitting temporal knowledge in the First, because temporal knowledge must arise through itself or through another; and in the former case there would proceed from the eternal a temporal being, and according to the principles of the philosophers no temporal being can proceed from the eternal. Then he argues against this assertion that from the eternal no temporal being can proceed, by showing that they assume that the sphere is eternal and that they assume that temporal beings proceed from it.

But their justification of this is that the temporal cannot proceed from an absolutely eternal being, but only from an eternal being which is eternal in its substance, but temporal in its movements, namely the celestial body; and therefore the celestial body is according to them like an intermediary between the absolutely eternal and the absolutely temporal, for it is in one way eternal, in another way temporal, and this intermediary is the celestial circular movement according to the philosophers, and this movement is according to them eternal in its species, temporal in its parts. And so far as it is eternal, it proceeds from an eternal, and in so far as its parts are temporal, there proceed from them infinite temporal beings. And the only reason that prevented the philosophers from accepting an existence of temporal beings in the First was that the First is incorporeal and temporal beings only exist in body, for only in body, according to them, there is receptivity, and that which is free from matter has no receptivity.

And Ghazali’s objection to the second part of the argument of the philosophers, namely that the First Cause cannot be an effect, is that it is possible that God’s knowledge should be like the knowledge of man, that is that the things known should be the cause of His knowledge and their occurrence the cause of the fact that He knows them, just as the objects of sight are the cause of visual perception and the intelligible the cause of intellectual apprehension; so that in this way God’s producing and creating existents would be the cause of His apprehending them, and it would not be His knowledge that would be the cause of His creating them.

But it is impossible, according to the philosophers, that God’s knowledge should be analogous to ours, for our knowledge is the effect of the existents, whereas God’s knowledge is their cause, and it is not true that eternal knowledge is of the same form as temporal. He who believes this makes God an eternal man’ and man a mortal God, and in short, it has previously been shown that God’s knowledge stands in opposition to man’s, for it is His knowledge which produces the existents, and it is not the existents which produce His knowledge.


T’o refute their proof that heaven is an animal moving in a circle in obedience to God

Ghazali says:

The philosophers say also that heaven is an animal and possesses a soul which has the same relation to the body of heaven as our souls to our bodies, and just as our bodies move by will to their ends through the moving power of the soul, heaven acts. And the aim of the heavens in their essential movement is to serve the Lord of the world in a way we shall relate.

Their doctrine in this question is something that cannot be refuted, and we shall not declare that it is impossible; for God has the power of creating life in any body, and neither the size of a body nor its circular shape is a hindrance to its being animated, for the condition of the existence of life is not limited to a particular shape, since animals, notwithstanding their different shapes, all participate in the reception of life. But we claim their incapacity to reach this knowledge by rational proof, even if it is true, and only the prophets through divine revelation or inspiration could apprehend such a knowledge, but rational argument does not prove it; indeed, we do not even assert that it is impossible that such a thing should be known by proof, if there is a proof and this proof is valid, but we must say that what they have given as a proof has only the value of a conjecture, but lacks all strictness.

Their device is that they say that heaven is moved, and this is a premiss given by perception. And every body moved has a mover, which is a premiss established by reason, since if body were moved merely by being body, every body would be in motion. ‘ Every mover receives its impulse either from the moved itself, like the nature in the stone which falls and the will in the movement of the animal conjoined with its power to move, or from an external mover which moves through constraint, as when a stone is flung upwards. Everything that is moved by something existing in itself is either unconscious of its movement (and we call this nature), like the falling of the stone, or conscious (and we call this voluntary or animated). This disjunction, that a movement is either constrained or natural or voluntary, comprises all the cases completely, so that if a movement does not fall under two of these divisions it must be of the third type. Now the movement of heaven cannot be constrained, because the mover of a movement by constraint is either (i) another body which is moved by constraint or by will, and in this case we must finally no doubt arrive at a will as mover, and when in the heavenly bodies a body moved through will is established, then our aim is reached, for what use is it to assume movements through constraint when finally we must admit a will? or (2) God is the mover of its movement by constraint without intermediary, and this is impossible; for if it moves through Him in so far as it is a body and in so far as He is its creator, then necessarily every body ought to be moved. ;

This movement, therefore, must be distinguished by a quality which marks this body off from all other bodies; and this quality will be its proximate mover, either by will or by nature. And it cannot be said that God moves it through His will, because His will has the same relation to all bodies, and why should this body be specially disposed so that God should move it rather than another? One cannot suppose this; for it is impossible, as has been shown in the question about the temporal beginning of the world. When it is therefore established that this body needs as a principle of movement a special qualification, the first division, that of the movement through constraint, is ruled out.

So there remains the possibility that this movement occurs by nature. But this is not possible, for nature by itself is not the cause of motion, because the meaning of ‘motion’ is the withdrawal from one place to another place; and a body does not move from the place in which it is when that place is its proper place. For this reason a bladder full of air on the surface of the water does not move, but when it is immersed it moves towards the surface of the water, and then it has found its proper place and has come to rest and its nature is stabilized; when, however, it is transferred to a place which is not its proper one, it withdraws to its proper place, just as it withdraws from mid-water to the border of the air. Now it cannot be imagined that the circular movement is natural, since it returns to every position and place which it would be supposed to abandon, and it is not by nature that a body seeks the place which it abandons, and therefore the bladder of air does not seek the interior of the water, nor the stone when it has come to rest on the earth the air. Thus only the third division remains, that of movement by will. ‘

I say:

What he lays down in this section, that every thing moved either is moved by itself or through a body from outside and that it is this which is called constraint, is self-evident. But that for every thing which is moved by itself there is no mover but the movedz is not a self-evident proposition; it is only a common notion, and the philosophers indeed try to prove that every thing moved by itself has an interior mover different from it, through the use of other premisses which are self-evident, and of premisses which are the conclusions of other proofs, and this is something which may be ascertained in their books. And likewise it is not self-evident that every thing moved by an exterior mover must finally terminate in a thing moved by itself: what is posed here as a set of self-evident premisses is, as a matter of fact, a mixture of the two kinds of assertions; that is to say they are partly conclusions and partly self-evident. Indeed, that what is moved by itself and not by an external body is moved either by its substance and nature or by an interior principle, and that it cannot be moved by something which cannot be seen or touched and which is connected with it from the outside (or in other words by an incorporeal entity) is self-evident. You can claim to have a proof for this, namely by saying that if this were not so, upward movement would not be proper to fire rather than to earth; but it is, indeed, evident in itselfAnd as to that which does not move by its own substance and nature, this is evident in the things which are sometimes in motion and sometimes at rest, since that which is by nature cannot perform both of two opposites;’ for those things, however, which are perceived to move continually, a proof is necessary.

Again, as to his assertion that what is moved by itself is moved through a principle in itself, either a principle called ‘nature’ or a principle called ‘soul’ and ‘choice’, this is true, when previously it has been proved that nothing exists which is moved by itself. As concerns his affirmation that the principle called nature does not move by itself in space, except when it is not its proper place (for then it moves to its proper place and stays there), this is true. And his further remark that what moves in a circle has neither an improper nor a proper place, so that it could move from the one to the other either totally or partially, this is nearly self-evident and easy to uphold, and he has in this section mentioned something of its explanation and proof; and therefore, when we understand ‘nature’ in the sense he has established here, circular movement cannot move by nature.

And as to his further remark that, when it does not move by nature, it moves through soul or through a potency which resembles the soul, it appears that the term ‘soul’ is predicated only equivocally of the soul in the celestial bodies, ‘ and the learned for the most part apply the term ‘nature’ to every potency which performs a rational act, namely an act which conforms to the order and arrangement which exist in rational things; but they exclude heaven from this kind of potency, because according to them it is heaven which provides this directing power for all existents?

However, the argument of the ancients he relates here has only dialectical value, partly because much in it which is in reality a conclusion of a proof is assumed to be self-evident and partly because things are opposed in it which are not really in opposition. It is also dialectical because its premisses are probable and common notions. This was Avicenna’s method of proving that the heavenly body was an animated body, but for this the ancients have a more efficient and clearer proof.

Ghazali says:

The objection is that we can assume besides your theory three hypotheses which cannot be proved to be untrue. The first is that we assume the movement of heaven to take place through constraint by another body which desires its movement and makes it turn eternally, and that this body which sets it in motion is neither a sphere nor a circumference nor a heaven; their assertion is therefore false that the movement of heaven is voluntary and that heaven is animated, and what we have said is possible, and it cannot be denied except by a presumption of impossibility.

I say:

This is false, for the philosophers have proved that outside heaven there is no other body, and it cannot be inside heaven; besides, were this body to set it in motion, it would necessarily have to be moved itself, and we should have an infinite regress.

Ghazali says:

The second hypothesis is to say: ‘The movement occurs by constraint and its principle is the will of God, and indeed we say that the downward movement of a body also occurs by constraint, through God’s creating this movement in this body; and the same can be said of all the other movements of those bodies which are not living. ‘

There still remains the fact that the philosophers regard this as impossible, because they ask why the will should have distinguished just this body, whereas all other bodies participate in bodiliness. But we have already explained that it is of the nature of the eternal Will to differentiate one thing from a similar one, and that the philosophers are forced to admit such a quality for the determination of the direction of the circular movement and for the determination of the place of the poles and their points, and we shall not repeat this; but our argument is, in short, that when they deny that a body can be differentiated for the attachment of the will to it without a distinctive attribute, this can be turned against them in regard to this distinctive attribute, for we ask them: ‘Why is the body of heaven distinguished by this attribute, which sets it apart from all other bodies, although all other bodies are also bodies; and how can anything occur to it which does not occur to other bodies? ‘ If this is caused by another attribute, we must repeat the same question about this other attribute, and in this way we should get an infinite series, and they would be forced in the end to acknowledge an arbitrary judgement of the will and the fact that in the principles there is something that distinguishes one thing from a similar one.

I say:

That a stone moves downwards through a quality which has been created in it, and fire upwards, and that these qualities are opposed -this is a self-evident fact, and to contradict it is pure folly. But it is still more foolish to say that the eternal Will causes the movement in these things everlastingly-without any act He deliberately choseIand that this movement is not implanted in the nature of the thing, and that this is called constraint; for if this were true, things would have no nature, no real essence, no definition at all. For it is selfevident that the natures and definitions of things only differ through the difference of their acts, just as it is self-evident that every movement forced on a body comes from a body outside it. And this argument has no sense whatever.

And as to his affirmation ‘that to assume that the act which proceeds from an existent requires a special attribute makes it necessary to ask about this attribute also why it characterizes this existent rather than any other of its kind’, this is like saying that one ought to ask a man who asserted that earth and fire, which participate in bodiliness, were distinguished only by an attribute added to their bodiliness, why the attribute of fire characterizes fire and the attribute of earth, earth, and not rather the reverse. These, indeed, are the words of a man who does not assume for the attributes themselves a particular subject, but on the contrary believes that any attribute can be in any subject. ‘ He who speaks like this denies also the definition and the differentiation of subjects, and their characterization through special attributes, which is the first cause of the specification of existents through particular attributes, and this assumption belongs to the principles of the Ash’arites who tried thereby to annul both religious and rational wisdom and, in short, reason itself.

Ghazali says:

The third hypothesis is to admit that heaven is differentiated by an attribute and that this attribute is the principle of the movement, in the way they believe this of the downward movement, although in this case it is not known, as it is known in the case of the stone.

And their assertion that a thing cannot by its nature abandon the place sought by its nature rests on a confusion. For according to them there is here no numerical difference; on the contrary, the body is one and the circular movement is one, and neither the body nor the movement has an actual part; they are only divided by imagination, and this movement is not there to seek its place or to abandon it-indeed, it may well be that God creates a body in the essence of which there is something which determines a circular movement. The movement itself will then be determined by this attribute, not, however, the aiming at the place, for that would imply that arrival at the place would be the aim of the movement. And if your assertion that every movement takes place in seeking a place or abandoning it is a necessary principle, it is as if. you made the seeking of the place the goal of nature, not the movement itself which will in this case only be a means. ‘ But we say it is not absurd that the movement, not the seeking of a place, should be the goal itself; and why should that be impossible? And it is clear that, simply because they regard their hypothesis as the most plausible, we are not obliged to deny any other hypothesis absolutely; for to assert absolutely that heaven is a living being is pure presumption, for which there is no support.

I say:

The assertion of the philosophers that this movement is not a natural potency resembling the natural movement in earth and fire is true. And this is clear from their saying that this potency desires the place suitable to the body which possesses existence through this potency, and that the heavenly body, since all space is suitable to it, is not moved through such a potency, and the learned do not call this potency heavy or light. b Whether this potency depends on perception or not, and if so which kind of perception, is shown by other arguments. 

And the summary of this is to say: The inanity of the first hypothesis, namely that the mover of heaven might be another body which is not heaven, is self-evident or nearly so. For this body cannot set the heavenly body in a circular movement without being moved by itself, as if one were to say that a man or an angel turned the heavens from east to west. , And if this were true, this animated body would have to be either outside the world or inside it; and it is impossible that it should be outside the world, since outside the world there is neither place nor emptiness, as has been shown in many passages, and it would also be necessary that when this body set it in motion it should rest upon a body supporting it, and this latter body again upon another, and so ad infinitum. But that it should be inside the world is also impossible, for then it ought to be perceived by the senses, since any body inside the world can be perceived, and this body, besides needing a body which would make it turn, would also need a body to carry it or perhaps the body conveying it and the body setting it in motion might be identical, and the conveying body would need a body to convey it, and the number of animated bodies which set things in motion would have to be equal to the number of heavenly bodies. And one would also have to ask about these bodies whether they were composed of the four elements, in which case they would be transitory, or whether they might be simple; and, if they were simple, what their nature was. All this is impossible, especially for one who has ascertained the natures of the simple bodies and learned their number and the species of bodies composed of them, and there is no sense in occupying ourselves with this matter here, for it has been proved in another place that this movement does not take place by constraint, since it is the principle of all movements, and through its intermediary, not only movements, but lifer is distributed to all beings.

As to the second hypothesis, that God moves the heavens without having created a potency in them through which they move, this also is a very reprehensible doctrine, far from man’s understanding. It would mean that God touches and moves everything which is in this sublunary world, and that the causes and effects which are perceived are all without meaning, and that man might be man through another quality than the quality God has created in him and that the same would be true for all other things. But such a denial would amount to a denial of the intelligibles, for the intellect perceives things only through their causes. This theory resembles the theory of those ancient philosophers, the Stoics, ? who say that God exists in everything; and we shall engage in a discussion with them’ when we treat the question of the denial of causes and effects.

The third objection which assumes a natural movement is to suppose that the movement of heaven is caused by a natural potency in it and through an essential attribute, not through a soul. It says that the argument of the philosophers in denying this is false, in so far as they build their proof on the following argument. The philosophers, that is, say that if the movement of heaven occurred by nature, the place sought by its natural movement would be identical with the place which it abandoned, because every part of heaven moves to places from which it has moved, since its movement is circular. The place, however, from which natural local movement retires is different from the place it aims at, for the place from which it moves is an accidental place, while the place to which it moves is its natural place, in which it will come to rest. But, says Ghazali, this is a false assumption of the philosophers, for although they assume that the parts of heaven have many movements through many movers, this cannot be correct according to their own principles, for they affirm that the circular movement is unique, and that the body moved by it is unique, and therefore heaven is not in search of a place through its circular movement, and it is thus possible that in heaven there should be something through which it aims at the movement itself.

But the justification of the philosophers is that they only say this to such people as believe that the stars change their place through a natural movement, similar to the change of place found in things moved by nature. And the true assumption of the philosophers is that through the circular movement the thing moved is not in search of a place, but only seeks the circular movement itself, and that things which behave in this way have of necessity as their mover a soul and not nature. Movement, that is to say, has existence only in the intellect, since outside the soul there exists only the thing moved and in it there is only a particular movement without any lasting existence. ; But what is moved towards movement in so far as it is movement must of necessity desire this movement, and what desires movement must of necessity represent it.

And this is one of the arguments through which it is evident that the heavenly bodies are provided with intellect and desire; and this is clear also from various other arguments, one of which is that we find that circular bodies move with two contrary movements at the same time, towards the east and towards the west; and this cannot happen through nature, for that which moves through nature moves in one movement alone. ‘

And we have already spoken of what caused the philosophers to believe that heaven possesses intellect, and their plainest proof is that, having understood that the mover of heaven is free from matter, they concluded that it can only move through being an object of thought and representation, and therefore the thing moved must be capable of thought and representation. And this is clear also from the fact that the movement of the heavens is a condition of the existence and preservation of the existents in the sublunary world, which cannot take place by accident. But these things can only be explained here in an informative and persuasive fashion.