The aim of this book is to show the different degrees of assent and conviction attained by the assertions in The Incoherence of the Philosophers, and to prove that the greater part has not reached the degree of evidence and of truth.



Concerning the Eternity of the World


Ghazali, speaking of the philosophers’ proofs for the eternity of the world, says:


Let us restrict ourselves in this chapter to those proofs that make an impression on the mind.

This chapter contains four proofs.


The philosophers say: It is impossible that the temporal should proceed from the absolutely Eternal. For it is clear if we assume the Eternal existing without, for instance, the world proceeding from Him, then, at a certain moment, the world beginning to proceed from Him-that it did not proceed before, because there was no determining principle for its existence, but its existence was pure possibility. When the world begins in time, a new determinant either does or does not arise. If it does not, the world will stay in the same state of pure possibility as before; if a new determinant does arise, the same question can be asked about this new determinant, why it determines now, and not before, and either we shall have an infinite regress or we shall arrive at a principle determining eternally.


I say: This argument is in the highest degree dialectical and does  not reach the pitch of demonstrative proof. For its premisses are common notions, and common notions approach the equivocal, whereas demonstrative premisses are concerned with things proper to the same genus.

For the term ‘possible’ is used in an equivocal way of the possible that happens more often than not, of the possible that happens less often than not, and of the possible with equal chances of happening, and these three types of the possible do not seem to have the same need for a new determining principle. For the possible that happens more often than not is frequently believed to have its determining principle in itself, not outside, as is the case with the possible which has equal chances of happening and not happening. Further, the possible resides sometimes in the agent, i.e. the possibility of acting, and sometimes in the patient, i.e. the possibility of receiving, and it does not seem that the necessity for a determining principle is the same in both cases. For it is well known that the possible in the patient needs a new determinant from the outside; this can be perceived by the senses in artificial things and in many natural things too, although in regard to natural things there is a doubt, for in most natural things the principle of their change forms part of them. Therefore it is believed of many natural things that they move themselves, and it is by no means self-evident that everything that is moved has a mover and that there is nothing that moves itself.; But all this needs to be examined, and the old philosophers have therefore done so. As concerns the possible in the agent, however, in many cases it is believed that it can be actualized without an external principle, for the transition in the agent from inactivity to activity is often regarded as not being a change which requires a principle; e.g. the transition in the geometer from non-geometrizing to geometrizing, or in the teacher from non-teaching to teaching.

Further, those changes which are regarded as needing a principle of change can sometimes be changes in substance, sometimes in quality, or in quantity, or in place.

In addition, ‘eternal’ is predicated by many of the eternal-by-itself and the eternal-through-another. According to some, it is permissible to admit certain changes in the Eternal, for instance a new volition in the Eternal, according to the Karramites, and the possibility of generation and corruption which the ancients attribute to primary matter, although it is eternal. Equally, new concepts are admitted in the possible intellect although, according to most authors, it is eternal.  But there are also changes which are inadmissible, especially according to certain ancients, though not according to others.

Then there is the agent who acts of his will and the agent which acts by nature, and the manner of actualization of the possible act is not the same for both agents, i.e. so far as the need for a new determinant is concerned. Further, is this division into two agents complete, or does demonstration lead to an agent which resembles neither the natural agent nor the voluntary agent of human experience?

All these are multifarious and difficult questions which need, each of them, a special examination, both in themselves and in regard to the opinions the ancients held about them. To treat what is in reality a plurality of questions as one problem is one of the well known seven sophisms, and a mistake in one of these principles becomes a great error by the end of the examination of reality.

Ghazali says:

There are two objections to this. The first objection is to say: why do you deny the theory of those who say that the world has been created by an eternal will which has decreed its existence in the time in which it exists; that its non-existence lasts until the moment it ceases and that its existence begins from the moment it begins; that its existence was not willed before and therefore did not happen, and that at the exact moment it began it was willed by an eternal will and therefore began? What is the objection to this theory and what is absurd in it?

I say:

This argument is sophistical: although it is not allowable for him to admit the possibility of the actual effect being delayed after the actual cause, and in a voluntary agent, after the decision to act, he regards it as possible that the effect should be delayed after the will of the agent. It is possible that the effect should be delayed after the will of the agent, but its being delayed after the actual cause is impossible, and equally impossible is its being delayed after a voluntary agent’s decision to act. The difficulty is thus unchanged, for he must of necessity draw one of these two conclusions: either that the act of the agent does not imply in him a change which itself would need an external principle of change, or that there are changes which arise by themselves, without the necessity of an agent in whom they occur and who causes them, and that therefore there are changes possible in the Eternal without an agent who causes them. And his adversaries insist on these two very points: ( 1 ) that the act of the agent necessarily implies a change  and that each change has a principle which causes it; (2) that the Eternal cannot change in any way. But all this is difficult to prove.

The Ash’arites are forced to assume either a first agent or a first act of this agent, for they cannot admit that the disposition of the agent, relative to the effect, when he acts is the same as his disposition, when he does not act. This implies therefore a new disposition or a new relation, and this necessarily either in the agent, or in the effect, or in both? But in this case, if we posit as a principle that for each new disposition there is an agent, this new disposition in the first agent will either need another agent, and then this first agent was not the first and was not on his own account sufficient for the act but needed another, or the agent of the disposition which is the condition of the agent’s act will be identical with the agent of the act. Then this act which we regarded as being the first act arising out of him will not be the first, but his act producing the disposition which is the condition of the effect will be anterior to the act producing the effect. This, you see, is a necessary consequence, unless one allows that new dispositions may arise in the agents without a cause. But this is absurd, unless one believes that there are things which happen at haphazard and by themselves, a theory of the old philosophers who denied the agent,; the falsehood of which is self-evident.

In Ghazali’s objection there is a confusion. For our expressions ‘eternal will’ and ‘temporal will’ are equivocal, indeed contrary. For the empirical will is a faculty which possesses the possibility of doing equally one of two contraries and then of receiving equally one of the two contraries willed.  For the will is the desire of the agent towards action. When the agent acts, the desire ceases and the thing willed happens, and this desire and this act are equally related to both the contraries. But when one says: ‘There is a Wilier who wills eternally one of two contraries in Himself’, the definition of the will is abandoned, for we have transferred its nature from the possible to the necessary. If it is objected that in an eternal will the will does not cease through the presence of the object willed, for as an eternal will has no beginning there is no moment in it which is specially determined for the realization of the object willed, we answer: this is not obvious, unless we say that demonstrative proof leads to the existence of an agent endowed with a power which is neither voluntary nor natural, which, however, the Divine Law calls ‘will’, in the same way as demonstrative proof leads to middle terms between things which seemed at first sight to be contrary, without being really so, as when we speak of an existence which is neither inside nor outside the world.

Ghazali answers, on behalf of the philosophers:

The philosophers say: This is clearly impossible, for everything that happens is necessitated and has its cause, and as it is impossible that there should be an effect without a necessitating principle and a cause, so it is impossible that there should exist a cause of which the effect is delayed, when all the conditions of its necessitating, its causes and elements are completely fulfilled. On the contrary, the existence of the effect, when the cause is realized with all its conditions, is necessary, and its delay is just as impossible as an effect without cause. Before the existence of the world there existed a Wilier, a will, and its relation to the thing willed. No new wilier arose, nor a new will, nor a new relation to the will-for all this is change; how then could a new object of will arise, and what prevented its arising before? The condition of the new production did not distinguish itself from the condition of the non-production in any way, in any mode, in any relation-on the contrary, everything remained as it was before. At one moment the object of will did not exist, everything remained as it was before, and then the object of will existed. Is not this a perfectly absurd theory?

I say:

This is perfectly clear, except for one who denies one of the premisses we have laid down previously. But Ghazali passes from this proof to an example based upon convention,’ and through this he confuses this defence of the philosophers.

Ghazali says:

This kind of impossibility is found not only in the necessary and essential cause and effect but also in the accidental and conventional. If a man pronounces the formula of divorce against his wife without the divorce becoming irrevocable immediately, one does not imagine that it will become so later. For he made the formula through convention and usage a cause of the judgement, and we do not believe that the effect can be delayed, except when the divorce depends on an ulterior event, e.g. on the arrival of tomorrow or on someone’s entering the house, for then the divorce does not take place at once, but only when tomorrow arrives or someone enters the house; in this case the man made the formula a cause only in conjunction with an ulterior event. But as this event, the coming of tomorrow and someone’s entering the house, is not yet actual, the effect is delayed until this future event is realized. The effect only takes place when a new event, i.e. entering the house or the arrival of tomorrow, has actually happened. Even if a man wanted to delay the effect after the formula, without making it dependent on an ulterior event, this would be regarded as impossible, although it is he himself who lays down the convention and fixes its modalities. If thus in conventional matters such a delay is incomprehensible and inadmissible, how can we admit it in essential, rational, and necessary causal relations? In respect of our conduct and our voluntary actions, there is a delay in actual volition only when there is some obstacle. When there is actual volition and actual power and the obstacles are eliminated, a delay in the object willed is inadmissible.; A delay in the object willed is imaginable only in decision, for decision is not sufficient for the existence of the act; the decision to write does not produce the writing, if it is not, as a new fact, accompanied by an act of volition, i.e. an impulse in the man which presents itself at the moment of the act. If there is thus an analogy between the eternal Will and our will to act, a delay of the object willed is inadmissible, unless through an obstacle, and an antecedent existence of the volition is equally inadmissible, for I cannot will to get up tomorrow except by way of decision. If, however, the eternal Will is analogous to our decision, it does not suffice to produce the thing decided upon, but the act of creation must be accompanied by a new act of volition, and this brings us again to the idea of a change. But then we have the same difficulty all over again. Why does this impulse or volition or will or whatever you choose to call it happen just now and not before? There remain, then, only these alternatives: either something happening without a cause, or an infinite regress. This is the upshot of the discussion: There is a cause the conditions of which are all completely fulfilled, but notwithstanding this the effect is delayed and is not realized during a period to the beginning of which imagination cannot attain and for which thousands of years would mean no diminution; then suddenly, without the addition of any new fact, and without the realization of any new condition, this effect comes into existence and is produced. And this is absurd.

I say:

This example of divorce based on convention seems to strengthen the argument of the philosophers, but in reality it weakens it. For it enables the Ash’arites to say: In the same way as the actual divorce is delayed after the formula of divorce till the moment when the condition of someone’s entering the house, or any other, is fulfilled, so the realization of the world can be delayed after God’s act of creation until the condition is fulfilled on which this realization depends, i.e. the moment when God willed it. But conventional things do not behave like rational. The Literalists, comparing these conventional things to rational, say: This divorce is not binding and does not become effective through the realization of the condition which is posterior to the pronouncement of the divorce by the divorcer, since it would be a divorce which became effective without connexion with the act of the divorcer. But in this matter there is no relation between the concept drawn from the nature of things and that which is artificial and conventional.

Then Ghazali says, on behalf of the Ash’arites:

The answer is: Do you recognize the impossibility of connecting the eternal Will with the temporal production of anything, through the necessity of intuitive thought or through a logical deduction, or-to use your own logical terminology-do you recognize the clash between these two concepts through a middle term or without a middle term?  If you claim a middle term-and this is the deductive method-you will have to produce it, and if you assert that you know this through the necessity of thought, why do your adversaries not share this intuition with you? For the party which believes in the creation of the world in time through an eternal Will includes so many persons that no country can contain them and no number enumerate them, and they certainly do not contradict the logically minded out of obstinacy, while knowing better in their hearts. A proof according to the rules of logic must be produced to show this impossibility, as in all your arguments up till now there is only a presumption of impossibility and a comparison with our decision and our will; and this is false, for the eternal Will does not resemble temporal volitions, and a pure presumption of impossibility will not suffice without proof.

I say:

This argument is one of those which have only a very feeble persuasive power. It amounts to saying that one who claims the impossibility of delay in an effect, when its cause with all its conditions is realized, must assert that he knows this either by a syllogism or from first principles; if through a syllogism, he must produce it-but there is none; if from first principles, it must be known to all, adversaries and others alike. But this argument is mistaken, for it is not a condition of objective truth that it should be known to all. That anything should be held by all does not imply anything more than its being a common notion, just as the existence of a common notion does not imply objective truth.

Ghazali answers on behalf of the Ash’arites:

If it is said, ‘We know by the necessity of thought that, when all its conditions are fulfilled, a cause without effect is inadmissible and that to admit it is an affront to the necessity of thought,’ we answer: what is the difference between you and your adversaries, when they say to you, ‘We know by the necessity of thought the impossibility of a theory which affirms that one single being knows all the universals, without this knowledge forming a plurality in its essence or adding anything to it, and without this plurality of things known implying a plurality in the knowledge’? For this is your theory of God, which according to us and our science is quite absurd. You, however, say there is no analogy between eternal and temporal knowledge. Some of you acknowledge the impossibility involved, and say that God knows only Himself and that He is the knower, the knowledge and the known, and that the three are one. One might object: The unity of the knowledge, the knower, and the known is clearly an impossibility, for to suppose the Creator of the world ignorant of His own work is necessarily absurd, and the Eternal-who is far too high to be reached by your words and the words of any heretics-could, if He knows only Himself, never know His work.

I say

This amounts to saying that the theologians do not gratuitously and without proof deny the admitted impossibility of a delay between the effect and its cause, but base themselves on an argument which leads them to believe in the temporal creation of the world, and that they therefore act in the same way as the philosophers, who only deny the well-known necessary plurality of knowledge and known, so far as it concerns their unity in God, because of a demonstration which, according to them, leads them to their theory about Him. And that this is still more true of those philosophers who deny it to     be necessary that God should know His own work, affirming that He knows only Himself. This assertion belongs to the class of assertions whose contrary is equally false., For there exists no proof which refutes anything that is evidently true, and universally acknowledged. Anything that can be refuted by a demonstrative proof is only supposed to be true, not really true.] Therefore, if it is absolutely and evidently true that knowledge and known form a plurality, both in the visible and in the invisible world, we can be sure that the philosophers cannot have a proof of this unity in God; but if the theory of the plurality of knowledge and known is only a supposition, then it is possible for the philosophers to have a proof. Equally, if it is absolutely true that the effect of a cause cannot be delayed after the causation and the Ash’arites claim that they can advance a proof to deny it, then we can be absolutely sure that they cannot have such a proof. If there is a controversy about questions like this, the final criterion rests with the sound understanding’ which does not base itself on prejudice and passion, when it probes according to the signs and rules by which truth and mere opinion are logically distinguished. Likewise, if two people dispute about a sentence and one says that it is poetry, the other that it is prose, the final judgment rests with the ‘sound understanding’ which can distinguish poetry from prose, and with the science of prosody. And as, in the case of metre, the denial of him who denies it does not interfere with its perception by him who perceives it, so the denial of a truth by a contradictor does not trouble the conviction of the men to whom it is evident.

This whole argument is extremely inept and weak, and Ghazali ought not to have filled his book with such talk if he intended to convince the learned.

And drawing consequences which are irrelevant and beside the point, Ghazali goes on to say:

But the consequences of this argument cannot be overcome. And we say to them: How will you refute your adversaries, when they say the eternity of the world is impossible, for it implies an infinite number and an infinity of unifies for the spherical revolutions, although they can be divided by six, by four, and by two.’ For the sphere of the sun revolves in one year, the sphere of Saturn in thirty years, and so Saturn’s revolution is a thirtieth and Jupiter’s revolution-for Jupiter revolves in twelve years-a twelfth of the sun’s revolution. But the number of revolutions of Saturn has the same infinity as the revolutions of the sun, although they are in a proportion of one to thirty and even the infinity of the sphere of the fixed stars which turns round once in thirty-six thousand years is the same as the daily revolution which the sun performs in twenty-four hours. If now your adversary says that this is plainly impossible, in what does your argument differ from his? And suppose it is asked: Are the numbers of these revolutions even or uneven or both even and uneven or neither even nor uneven? If you answer, both even and uneven, or neither even nor uneven, you say what is evidently absurd. If, however, you say ‘even’ or ‘uneven’, even and uneven become uneven and even by the addition of one unit and how could infinity be one unit short? You must, therefore, draw the conclusion that they are neither even nor uneven.

I say:

This too is a sophistical argument. It amounts to saying: In the same way as you are unable to refute our argument for the creation of the world in time, that if it were eternal, its revolutions would be neither even nor uneven, so we cannot refute your theory that the effect of an agent whose conditions to act are always fulfilled cannot be delayed. This argument aims only at creating and establishing a ; doubt, which is one of the sophist’s objectives.

But you, reader of this book, you have already heard the arguments of the philosophers to establish the eternity of the world and the refutation of the Ash’arites. Now hear the proofs of the Ash’arites for their refutation and hear the arguments of the philosophers to refute those proofs in the wording of Ghazali!

[Here, in the Arabic text, the last passage of Ghazali, which previously was given only in an abbreviated form, is repeated in full.]

I say:

This is in brief that, if you imagine two circular movements in one and the same finite time and imagine then a limited part of these movements in one and the same finite time, the proportion between the parts of these two circular movements and between their wholes will be the same. For instance, if the circular movement of Saturn in t the period which we call a year is a thirtieth of the circular movement of the sun in this period, and you imagine the whole of the circular movements of the sun in proportion to the whole of the circular movements of Saturn in one and the same period, necessarily the proportion between their wholes and between their parts will be the same. If, however, there is no proportion between two movements in their totality, because they are both potential, i.e. they have neither beginning nor end but there exists a proportion between the parts, because they are both actual, then the proportion between the wholes is not necessarily the same as the proportion between the parts-although many think so, basing their proof on this prejudice -for there is no proportion between two magnitudes or quantities which are both taken to be infinite. When, therefore, the ancients believed that, for instance, the totality of the movements of the sun and of Saturn had neither beginning nor end, there could be no proportion between them, for this would have implied the finitude of both these totalities, just as this is implied for the parts of both. This is self-evident. Our adversaries believe that, when a proportion of more and less exists between parts, this proportion holds good also for the totalities, but this is only binding when the totalities are finite. For where there is no end there is neither ‘more’ nor ‘less’. The admission in such a case of the proportion of more and less brings with it another absurd consequence, namely that one infinite could be greater than another. This is only absurd when one supposes two things actually infinite, for then a proportion does exist between them. When, however, one imagines things potentially infinite, there exists no proportion at all. This is the right answer to this question, not what Ghazali says in the name of the philosophers.

And through this are solved all the difficulties which beset our adversaries on this question, of which the greatest is that which they habitually formulate in this way: If the movements in the past are infinite, then no movement in the actual present can take place, unless an infinite number of preceding movements is terminated., This is true, and acknowledged by the philosophers, once granted that the anterior movement is the condition for the posterior movement’s taking place, i.e. once granted that the existence of one single movement implies an infinite number of causes. But no philosopher allows the existence of an infinite number of causes, as accepted by the materialists, for this would imply the existence of an effect without cause and a motion without mover. But when the existence of an eternal prime mover had been proved, whose act cannot be posterior to his being, it followed that there could as little be a beginning for his act as for his being; otherwise his act would be possible, not necessary, and he would not be a first principle.’ The acts of an agent who has no beginning have a beginning as little as his existence, and therefore it follows necessarily that no preceding act of his is the condition for the existence of a later, for neither of them is an agent by itself and their sequence is accidental. An accidental infinite, not an essential infinite, is admitted by the philosophers; nay, this type of infinite is in fact a necessary consequence of the existence of an eternal first principle., And this is not only true for successive or continuous movements and the like, but even where the earlier is regarded as the cause of the later, for instance the man who engenders a man like himself. For it is necessary that the series of temporal productions of one individual man by another should lead upwards to an eternal agent, for whom there is no beginning either of his existence or of his production of man out of man. The production of one man by another ad infinitum is accidental, whereas the relation of before and after in it is essential. The agent who has no beginning either for his existence or for those acts of his which he performs without an instrument, has no first instrument either to perform those acts of his without beginning which by their nature need an instrument .

But since the theologians mistook the accidental for the essential, they denied this eternal agent; the solution of their problem was difficult and they believed this proof to be stringent. But this theory of the philosophers is clear, and their first master Aristotle has explained that, if motion were produced by motion, or element by element, motion and element could not exists For this type of infinite the philosophers admit neither a beginning nor an end, and therefore one can never say of anything in this series that it has ended or has begun, not even in the past, for everything that has an end must have begun and what does not begin does not end. This can also be understood from the fact that beginning and end are correlatives. Therefore one who affirms that there is no end of the celestial revolutions in the future cannot logically ascribe a beginning to them, for what has a beginning has an end and what has no end has no beginning, and the same relation exists between first and last; i.e. what has a first term has also a last term, and what has no first term has no last term, and there is in reality neither end nor beginning for any part of a series that has no last term, and what has no beginning for any of its parts has no end for any of them either. When, therefore, the theologians ask the philosophers if the movements which precede the present one are ended, their answer is negative, for their assumption that they have no beginning implies their endlessness. The opinion of the theologians that the philosophers admit their end is erroneous, for they do not admit an end for what has no beginning.’ It will be clear to you that neither the arguments of the theologians for the temporal creation of the world of which Ghazali speaks, nor the arguments of the philosophers which he includes and describes in his book, suffice to reach absolute evidence or afford stringent proof. And this is what we have tried to show in this book. The best answer one can give to him who asks where in the past is the starting-point of His acts, is: The starting-point of His acts is at the starting-point of His existence; for neither of them has a beginning.

And here is the passage of Ghazali in which he sets forth the defence of the philosophers against the argument built on the difference in speed of the celestial spheres, and his refutation of their argument.

Ghazali says:

If one says, ‘The error in your argument consists in your considering those circular movements as an aggregate of units, but those movements have no real existence, for the past is no more and the future not yet; “aggregate” means units existing in the present, but in this case there is no existence.’

Then he says to refute this:

We answer: Number can be divided into even and uneven; there is no third possibility, whether for the numbered permanent reality, or for the numbered passing event. Therefore whatever number we imagine, we must believe it to be even or uneven, whether we regard it as existent or non-existent; and if the thing numbered vanishes from existence, our judgement of its being even or uneven does not vanish or change.

I say:

This is the end of his argument. But this argument-that the numbered thing must be judged as even or uneven, whether it exists or not-is only valid so far as it concerns external things or things in the soul that have a beginning and an end. For of the number which exists only potentially, i.e. which has neither beginning nor end, it cannot truly be said that it is even or uneven, or that it begins or ends; it happens neither in the past nor in the future, for what exists potentially falls under the law of non-existence. This is what the philosophers meant when they said that the circular movements of the past and the future are non-existent. The upshot of this question is: Everything that is called a limited aggregate with a beginning and an end is so called either because it has a beginning and end in the world exterior to the soul, or because it is inside, not outside, the soul. Every totality, actual and limited in the past, whether inside or outside the soul, is necessarily either even or uneven. But an unlimited aggregate existing outside the soul cannot be other than limited so far as it is represented in the soul, for the soul cannot represent unlimited existence. Therefore also this unlimited aggregate, as being limited in the soul, can be called even or uneven; in so far, however, as it exists outside the soul, it can be called neither even nor uneven. Equally, past aggregates which are considered to exist potentially outside the soul, i.e. which have no beginning, cannot be called even or uneven unless they are looked upon as actual, i.e. as having beginning and end. No motion possesses totality or forms an aggregate, i.e. is provided with a beginning or an end, except in so far as it is in the soul, as is the case with time.’ And it follows from the nature of circular movement that it is neither even nor uneven except as represented in the soul. The cause of this mistake is that it was believed that, when something possesses a certain quality in the soul, it must possess this quality also outside the soul, and, since anything that has happened in the past can only be represented in the soul as finite, it was thought that everything that has happened in the past must also be finite outside the soul. And as the circular movements of the future are regarded by the imagination as infinite, for it represents them as a sequence of part after part, Plato and the Ash’arites believed that they might be infinite, but this is simply a judgement based on imagination, not on proof. Therefore those who believe-as many theologians have done-that, if the world is supposed to have begun, it must have an end, are truer to their principles and show more consistency.

Ghazali says after this:

And we say moreover to the philosophers: According to your principles it is not absurd that there should be actual units, qualitatively differentiated, which are infinite in number; I am thinking of human souls, separated through death from their bodies. These are therefore realities that can neither be called even nor uneven. How will you refute the man who affirms that this is necessarily absurd in the same way as you claim the connexion between an eternal will and a temporal creation to be necessarily absurd? This theory about souls is that which Avicenna accented. and it is perhaps Aristotle’s.

I say:

This argument is extremely weak. It says, in brief, ‘You philosophers need not refute our assertion that what is a logical necessity for you is not necessary, as you consider things possible which your adversaries consider impossible by the necessity of thought. That is to say, just as you consider things possible which your adversaries consider impossible, so you consider things necessary which your adversaries do not consider so. And you cannot bring a criterion for judging the two claims.’ It has already been shown in the science of logic that this is a weak rhetorical or sophistical kind of argument., The answer is that what we claim to be necessarily true is objectively true, whereas what you claim as necessarily absurd is not as you claim it to be. For this there is no other criterion than immediate intuitive apprehension, just as, when one man claims that a line is rhythmical and another denies it, the criterion is the intuition of the sound understanding.

As for the thesis of a numerical plurality of immaterial souls, this is not a theory acknowledged by the philosophers, for they regard matter as the cause of numerical plurality and form as the cause of congruity in numerical plurality. And that there should be a numerical plurality without matter, having one unique form, is impossible. For in its description one individual can only be distinguished from another accidentally, as there is often another individual who participates in this descriptions but only through their matter do individuals differ in reality. And also this: the impossibility of an actual infinite is an acknowledged axiom in philosophical theory, equally valid for material and immaterial things. We do not know of any one who makes a distinction here between the spatial and the non-spatial, with the single exception of Avicenna. I do not know of any other philosopher who affirms this, it does not correspond with any of their principles and it makes no sense, for the philosophers deny the existence of an actual infinite equally for material and for immaterial things, as it would imply that one infinite could be greater than another. Perhaps Avicenna wanted only to satisfy the masses, telling them what they were accustomed to hear about the soul. But this theory is far from satisfactory. For if there were an actual infinite and it were divided in two, the part would equal the whole; e.g. if there were a line or a number actually infinite in both directions and it were divided in two, both the parts and the whole would be actually infinite; and this is absurd. All this is simply the consequence of the admission of an actual and not potential infinite.

Ghazali says:

If it is said, ‘The truth lies with Plato’s theory of one eternal soul which is only divided in bodies and returns after its separation from them to its original unity’, we answer: This theory is still worse, more objectionable and more apt to be regarded as contrary to the necessity of thought. For we say that the soul of Zaid is either identical with the soul of Amr or different from it; but their identity would mean something absurd, for everyone is conscious of his own identity and knows that he is not another, and, were they identical, their knowledge, which is an essential quality of their souls and enters into all the relations into which their souls enter, would be identical too. If you say their soul is unique and only divided through its association with bodies, we answer that the division of a unity which has no measurable volume is absurd by the necessity of thought. And how could the one become two, and indeed a thousand, and then return to its unity? This can be understood of things which have volume and quantity, like the water of the sea which is distributed into brooks and rivers and flows then back again into the sea, but how can that which has no quantity be divided? We seek to show by all this that the philosophers cannot shake the conviction of their adversaries that the eternal Will is connected with temporal creation, except by claiming its absurdity by the necessity of thought, and that therefore they are in no way different from the theologians who make the same claim against the philosophical doctrines opposed to theirs. And out of this there is no issue.

I say:

Zaid and Amr are numerically different, but identical in form. If, for example, the soul of Zaid were numerically different from the soul of Amr in the way Zaid is numerically different from Amr, the soul of Zaid and the soul of Amr would be numerically two, but one in their form, and the soul would possess another soul. The necessary conclusion is therefore that the soul of Zaid and the soul of Amr are identical in their form. An identical form inheres in a numerical, i.e. a divisible, multiplicity, only through the multiplicity of matter. If then the soul does not die when the body dies, or if it possesses an immortal element, it must, when it has left the bodies, form a numerical unity. But this is not the place to go deeper into this subject.

His argument against Plato is sophistical. It says in short that the soul of Zaid is either identical with the soul of Amr or different from it; but that the soul of Zaid is not identical with the soul of Amr and that therefore it is different from it. But ‘different’ is an equivocal term, and ‘identity’ too is predicated of a number of things which are also called ‘different’. The souls of Zaid and Amr are one in one sense and many in another; we might say, one in relation to their form, many in relation to their substratum. His remark that division can only be imagined of the quantitative is partially false; it is true of essential division, but not of accidental division, i.e. of those things which can be divided, because they exist in the essentially divisible. The essentially divisible is, for example, body; accidental division is, for instance, the division of whiteness, when the bodies in which it is present are divided, and in this way the forms and the soul are accidentally divisible, i.e. through the division of the substrate. The soul is closely similar to light: light is divided by the division of illuminated bodies, and is unified when the bodies are annihilated, and this same relation holds between soul and bodies. To advance such sophistical arguments is dishonest, for it may be supposed that he is not a man to have overlooked the points mentioned. What he said, he said only to flatter the masses of his times, but how far removed is such an attitude from the character of those who seek to set forth the truth! But perhaps the man may be forgiven on account of the time and place in which he lived; and indeed he only proceeded in his books in a tentative way.

And as these arguments carry no evidence whatsoever, Ghazali says:

We want to show by all this that the philosophers cannot shake the conviction of their adversaries that the eternal Will is connected with temporal creation, by claiming its absurdity by the necessity of thought, and that therefore they do not distinguish themselves from the theologians, who make the same claim against the philosophical doctrines opposed to theirs. And out of this there is no issue.

I say:

When someone denies a truth of which it is absolutely certain that it is such-and-such, there exists no argument by which we can come to an understanding with him; for every argument is based on known premisses about which both adversaries agree. When each point advanced is denied by the adversary, discussion with him becomes impossible, but such people stand outside the pale of humanity and have to be educated. But for him who denies an evident truth, t because of a difficulty which presents itself to him there is a remedy, i.e. the solution of this difficulty. He who does not understand evident truth, because he is lacking in intelligence, cannot be taught anything, nor can he be educated. It is like trying to make the blind imagine colours or know their existence.

Ghazali says:

The philosophers may object: This argument (that the present has been preceded by an infinite past) can be turned against you, for God before the creation of the world was able to create it, say, one year or two years before He did, and there is no limit to His power; but He seemed to have patience and did not create. Then He created. Now, the duration of His inactivity is either finite or infinite. If you say finite, the existence of the Creator becomes finite; if you say infinite, a duration in which there is an infinite number of possibilities receives its termination. We answer: Duration and time are, according to us, created, but we shall explain the real answer to this question when we reply to the second proof of the philosophers.

I say:

Most people who accept a temporal creation of the world believe time to have been created with it. Therefore his assertion that the duration of His inactivity was either limited or unlimited is untrue. For what has no beginning does not finish or end. And the opponent does not admit that the inactivity has any duration at all. What one has to ask them about the consequences of their theory is: Is it possible, when the creation of time is admitted, that the term of its beginning may lie beyond the real time in which we live? If they answer that it is not possible, they posit a limited extension beyond which the Creator cannot pass, and this is, in their view, shocking and absurd. If, however, they concede that its possible beginning may lie beyond the moment of its created term, it may further be asked if there may not lie another term beyond this second. If they answer in the affirmative-and they cannot do otherwise-it will be said: Then we shall have here a possible creation of an infinite number of durations, and you will be forced to admit-according to your argument about the spherical revolutions-that their termination is a condition for the real age which exists since them. If you say what is infinite does not finish, the arguments you use about the spherical revolutions against your opponents your opponents will use against you on the subject of the possibility of created durations. If it is objected that the difference between those two cases is that these infinite possibilities belong to extensions which do not become actual, whereas the spherical revolutions do become actual, the answer is that the possibilities of things belong to their necessary accidents and that it does not make any difference, according to the philosophers, if they precede these things or are simultaneous with them, for of necessity they are the dispositions of things. If, then, it is impossible that before the existence of the present spherical revolution there should have been infinite spherical revolutions, the existence of infinite possible revolutions is equally impossible. If one wants to avoid these consequences, one can say that the age of the world is a definite quantity and cannot be longer or shorter than it is, in conformity with the philosophical doctrine about the size of the world. Therefore these arguments are not stringent, and the safest way for him who accepts the temporal creation of the world is to regard time as of a definite extension and not to admit a possibility which precedes the possible; and to regard also the spatial extension of the world as finite. Only, spatial extension forms a simultaneous whole; not so time.

Ghazali expounds a certain kind of argument attributed to the philosophers on this subject against the theologians when they denied that the impossibility of delay in the Creator’s act after His existence is known by primitive intuition:

How will you defend yourselves, theologians, against the philosophers, when they drop this argument, based on the necessity of thought, and prove the eternity of the world in this way, saying that times are equivalent so far as the possibility that the Divine Will should attach itself to them is concerned, for what differentiates a given time from an earlier or a later time? And it is not absurd to believe that the earlier or the later might be chosen when on the contrary you theologians say about white, black, movement, and rest that the white is realized through the eternal Will although its substrate accepts equally black and white. Why, then, does the eternal Will attach itself to the white rather than to the black, and what differentiates one of the two possibles from the other for connexion with the eternal Will? But we philosophers know by the necessity of thought that one thing does not distinguish itself from a similar except by a differentiating principle, for if not, it would be possible that the world should come into existence, having the possibility both of existing and of not existing, and that the side of existence, although it has the same possibility as the side of non-existence, should be differentiated without a differentiating principle. If you answer that the Will of God is the differentiating principle, then one has to inquire what differentiates the Will, i.e. the reason why it has been differentiated in such or such way. And if you answer: One does not inquire after the motives of the Eternal, well, let the world then be eternal, and let us not inquire after its Creator and its cause, since one does not inquire after the motives of the Eternal! If it is regarded as possible that the Eternal should differentiate one of the two possibles by chance, it will be an extreme absurdity to say that the world is differentiated in differentiated forms which might just as well be otherwise, and one might then say that this has happened by chance in the same way as you say that the Divine Will has differentiated one time rather than another or one form rather than another by chance. If you say that such a question is irrelevant, because it refers to anything God can will or decide, we answer that this question is quite relevant, for it concerns any time and is pertinent for our opponents to any decision God takes.

We answer: The world exists, in the way it exists, in its time, with its qualities, and in its space, by the Divine Will and will is a quality which has the faculty of differentiating one thing from another,’ and if it had not this faculty, power in itself would suffice But, since power is equally related to two contraries’ and a differentiating principle is needed to differentiate one thing from a similar, it is said that the Eternal possesses besides His power a quality which can differentiate between two similars. And to ask why will differentiates one of two similars is like asking why knowledge must comprehend the knowable, and the answer is that ‘knowledge’ is the term for a quality which has just this nature. And in the same way, ‘will’ is the term for a quality the nature or rather the essence of which is to differentiate one thing from another.

The philosophers may object: The assumption of a quality the nature of which is to differentiate one thing from a similar one is something incomprehensible, nay even contradictory, for ‘similar’ means not to be differentiated, and ‘differentiated’ means not similar. And it must not be believed that two blacks in two substrates are similar in every way, since the one is in one place and the other in another, and this causes a distinction; nor are two blacks at two times in one substrate absolutely similar, since they are separated in time, and how could they therefore be similar in every way? When we say of two blacks that they are similar, we mean that they are similar in blackness, in their special relation to it-not absolutely. Certainly, if the substrate and the time were one without any distinction, one could not speak any more of two blacks or of any duality at all. This proves that the term ‘Divine Will’ is derived from our will, and one does not imagine that through our will two similar things can be differentiated.’ On the contrary, if someone who is thirsty has before him two cups of water, similar in everything in respect to his aim, it will not be possible for him to take either of them. No, he can only take the one he thinks more beautiful or lighter or nearer to his right hand, if he is right-handed, or act from some such reason, hidden or known. Without this the differentiation of the one from the other cannot be imagined.

I say:

The summary of what Ghazali relates in this section of the proofs of the philosophers for the impossibility of a temporal proceeding from an eternal agent is that in God there cannot be a will. The philosophers could only arrive at this argument after granting to their opponents that all opposites-opposites in time,b like anterior and posterior, as well as those in quality, like white and black-are equivalent in relation to the eternal Will. And also non-existence and existence are, according to the theologians, equivalent in relation to the Divine Will. And having granted their opponents this premiss, although they did not acknowledge its truth, they said to them: It is of the nature of will that it cannot give preponderance to one thing rather than to a similar one, except through a differentiating principle and a cause which only exist in one of these two similar things; if not, one of the two would happen by chance-and the philosophers argued for the sake of discussion, as if they had conceded that, if the Eternal had a will, a temporal could proceed from an eternal. As the theologians were unable to give a satisfactory answer, they took refuge in the theory that the eternal Will is a quality the nature of which is to differentiate between two similar things, without there being for God a differentiating principle which inclines Him to one of two similar acts; that the eternal Will is thus a quality like warmth which gives heat or like knowledge which comprehends the knowable. But their opponents, the philosophers, answered: It is impossible that this should happen, for two similar things are equivalent for the wilier, and his action can only attach itself to the one rather than to the other through their being dissimilar, i.e. through one’s having a quality the other has not. When, however, they are similar in every way and when for God there is no differentiating principle at all, His will will attach itself to both of them indifferently and, when this is the case-His will being the cause of His act-the act will not attach itself to the one rather than to the other, it will attach itself either to the two contrary actions simultaneously or to neither of them at all, and both cases are absurd. The philosophers, therefore, began their argument, as if they had it granted to them that all things were equivalent in relation to the First Agent, and they forced them to admit that there must be for God a differentiating principle which precedes Him, which is absurd. When the theologians answered that will is a quality the nature of which is to differentiate the similar from the similar, in so far as it is similar, the philosophers objected that this is not understood or meant by the idea of will. They therefore appear to reject the principle which they granted them in the beginning.’ This is in short the content of this section. It waves the argument from the original question to the problem of the will; to shift one’s ground, however, is an act of sophistry.

Ghazali answers in defence of the theological doctrine of the Divine Will:

There are two objections: First, as to your affirmation that you cannot imagine this, do you know it by the necessity of thought or through deduction? You can claim neither the one nor the other. Your comparison with our will is a bad analogy, which resembles that employed on the question of God’s knowledge. Now God’s knowledge is different from ours in several ways which we acknowledge. Therefore it is not absurd to admit a difference in the will. Your affirmation is like saying that an essence existing neither outside nor inside the world, neither continuous with the world nor separated from it, cannot be understood, because we cannot understand this according to our human measure; the right answer is that it is the fault of your imagination, for rational proof has led the learned to accept its truth. How, then, will you refute those who say that rational proof has led to establishing in God a quality the nature of which is to differentiate between two similar things? And, if the word ‘will’ does not apply, call it by another name, for let us not quibble about words! We only use the term ‘will’ by permission of the Divine Law. It may be objected that by its conventional meaning ‘will’ designates that which has desire, and God has no desire, but we are concerned here with a question not of words but of fact. Besides, we do not even with respect to our human will concede that this cannot be imagined. Suppose two similar dates in front of a man who has a strong desire for them, but who is unable to take them both. Surely he will take one of them through a quality in him the nature of which is to differentiate between two similar things. All the distinguishing qualities you have mentioned, like beauty or nearness or facility in taking, we can assume to be absent, but still the possibility of the taking remains. You can choose between two answers: either you merely say that an equivalence in respect to his desire cannot be imagined-but this is a silly answer, for to assume it is indeed possible or you say that if an equivalence is assumed, the man will remain for ever hungry and perplexed, looking at the dates without taking one of them, and without a power to choose or to will, distinct from his desire. And this again is one of those absurdities which are recognized by the necessity of thought. Everyone, therefore, who studies, in the human and the divine, the real working of the act of choice, must necessarily admit a quality the nature of which is to differentiate between two similar things.

I say:

This objection can be summarized in two parts: In the first Ghazali concedes that the human will is such that it is unable to differentiate one thing from a similar one, in so far as it is similar, but that a rational proof forces us to accept the existence of such a quality in the First Agent. To believe that such a quality cannot exist would be like believing that there cannot exist a being who is neither inside nor outside the world. According to this reasoning, will, which is attributed to the First Agent and to man, is predicated in an equivocal way, like knowledge and other qualities which exist in the Eternal in a different way from that in which they exist in the temporal, and it is only through the prescription of the Divine Law that we speak of the Divine Will. It is clear that this objection cannot have anything more than a dialectical value. For a proof that could demonstrate the existence of such a quality, i.e. a principle determining the existence of one thing rather than that of a similar, would have to assume things willed that are similar; things willed are, however, not similar, but on the contrary opposite, for all opposites can be reduced to the opposition of being and not being, which is the extreme form of opposition; and opposition is the contrary of similarity. The assumption of the theologians that the things to which the will attaches itself are similar is a false one, and we shall speak of it later. If they say: we affirm only that they are similar in relation to the First Wilier, who in His holiness is too exalted to possess desires, and it is through desires that two similar things are actually differentiated, we answer: as to the desires whose realization contributes to the perfection of the essence of the wilier, as happens with our desires, through which our will attaches itself to the things willed-those desires are impossible in God, for the will which acts in this way is a longing for perfection when there is an imperfection in the essence of the wilier; but as to the desires which belong to the essence of the things willed, nothing new comes to the wilier from their realization. It comes exclusively to the thing willed, for instance, when a thing passes into existence from non-existence, for it cannot be doubted that existence is better for it than non-existence. It is in this second way that the Primal Will is related to the existing things, for it chooses for them eternally the better of two opposites, and this essentially and primally. This is the first part of the objection contained in this argument.

In the second part he no longer concedes that this quality cannot exist in the human will, but tries to prove that there is also in us, in the face of similar things, a will which distinguishes one from the other; of this he gives examples. For instance, it is assumed that in front of a man there are two dates, similar in every way, and it is supposed that he cannot take them both at the same time. It is supposed that no special attraction need be imagined for him in either of them, and that nevertheless he will of necessity distinguish one of them by taking it. But this is an error. For, when one supposes such a thing, and a wilier whom necessity prompts to eat or to take the date, then it is by no means a matter of distinguishing between two similar things when, in this condition, he takes one of the two dates. It is nothing but the admission of an equivalence of two similar things; for whichever of the two dates he may take, his aim will be attained and his desire satisfied. His will attaches itself therefore merely to the distinction between the fact of taking one of them and the fact of leaving them altogether; it attaches itself by no means to the act of taking one definite date and distinguishing this act from the act of leaving the other (that is to say, when it is assumed that the desires for the two are equal); he does not prefer the act of taking the one to the act of taking the other, but he prefers the act of taking one of the two, whichever it may be, and he gives a preference to the act of taking over the act of leaving.’ This is self-evident. For distinguishing one from the other means giving a preference to the one over the other, and one cannot give a preponderance to one of two similar things in so far as it is similar to the other-although in their existence as individuals they are not similar since each of two individuals is different from the other by reason of a quality exclusive to it. If, therefore, we assume that the will attaches itself to that special character of one of them, then it can be imagined that the will attaches to the.-one rather than the other because of the element of difference existing in both. But then the will does not attach itself to two similar objects, in so far as they are similar. This is, in short, the meaning of Ghazali’s first objection. Then he gives his second objection against those who deny the existence of a quality, distinguishing two similar objects from one another.

Ghazali says:

The second objection is that we say: You in your system also are unable to do without a principle differentiating between two equals, for the world exists in virtue of a cause which has produced it in its peculiar shape out of a number of possible distinct shapes which are equivalent; why, then, has this cause differentiated some of them? If to distinguish two similar things is impossible, it is irrelevant whether this concerns the act of God, natural causality, or the logical necessity of ideas. Perhaps you will say: the universal order of the world could not be different from what it is; if the world were smaller or bigger than it actually is, this order would not be perfect, and the same may be asserted of the number of spheres and of stars. And perhaps you will say: The big differs from the small and the many from the few, in so far as they are the object of the will, and therefore they are not similar but different; but human power is too feeble to perceive the modes of Divine Wisdom in its determination of the measures and qualities of things; only in some of them can His wisdom be perceived, as in the obliquity of the ecliptic in relation to the equator, and in the wise contrivance of the apogee and the eccentric sphere.’ In most cases, however, the secret is not revealed, but the differences are known, and it is not impossible that a thing should be distinguished from another, because the order of the world depends on it; but certainly the times are absolutely indifferent in relation to the world’s possibility and its order, and it cannot be claimed that, if the world were created one moment later or earlier, this order could not be imagined; and this indifference is known by the necessity of thought.-But then we answer: Although we can employ the same reasoning against your argument in the matter of different times, for it might be said that God created the world at the time most propitious for its creation, we shall not limit ourselves to this refutation, but shall assume, according to your own principle, a differentiation in two points about which there can be no disagreement: (1) the difference in the direction of spherical movement; (2) the definite place of the poles in relation to the ecliptic in spherical movement. The proof of the statement relating to the poles is that heaven is a globe, moving on two poles, as on two immovable points, whereas the globe of heaven is homogeneous and simple, especially the highest sphere, the ninth, which possesses no stars at all, and these two spheres move on two poles, the north and the south. We now say: of all the opposite points, which are infinite, according to you philosophers, there is no pair one could not imagine as poles. Why then have the two points of the north and south pole been fixed upon as poles and as immovable; and why does the ecliptic not pass through these two poles, so that the poles would become the opposite points of the ecliptic? And if wisdom is shown in the size and shape of heaven, what then distinguishes the place of the poles from others, so that they are fixed upon to serve as poles, to the exclusion of all the other parts and points? And yet all the points are similar, and all parts of the globe are equivalent. And to this there is no answer.

One might say: Perhaps the spot in which the point of the poles is, is distinguished from other points by a special quality, in relation to its being the place of the poles and to its being at rest, for it does not seem to change its place or space or position or whatever one wishes to call it; and all the other spots of the sphere by turning change their position in relation to the earth and the other spheres and only the poles are at rest; perhaps this spot was more apt to be at rest than the others. We answer: If you say so, you explain the fact through a natural differentiation of the parts of the first sphere; the sphere, then, ceases to be homogeneous, and this is in contradiction with your principle, for one of the proofs by which you prove the necessity of the globular shape of heaven, is that its nature is simple, homogeneous, and without differentiation, and the simplest shape is the globe; for the quadrangle and the hexagon and other figures demand a salience and a differentiation of the angles,’ and this happens only when its simple nature is added to. But although this supposition of yours is in contradiction with your own theory, it does not break the strength of your opponents’ argument; the question about this special quality still holds good, namely, can those other parts accept this quality or not? If the answer is in the affirmative, why then is this quality limited to a few only of those homogeneous parts? If the answer is negative, we reply: the other parts, in so far as they constitute bodies, receiving the form of bodies, are homogeneous of necessity, and there is no justification for attributing this special quality to this spot exclusively on account of its being a part of a body and a part of heaven, for the other parts of heaven participate in this qualification. Therefore its differentiation must rest on a decision by God, or on a quality whose nature consists in differentiating between two similars. Therefore, just as among philosophers the theory is upheld that all times are equivalent in regard to the creation of the world, their opponents are justified in claiming that the parts of heaven are equivalent for the reception of the quality through which stability in position becomes more appropriate than a change of position. And out of this there is no issue.

I say:

This means in brief that the philosophers must acknowledge that there is a quality in the Creator of the world which differentiates between two similars, for it seems that the world might have had another shape and another quantity than it actually has, for it might have been bigger or smaller. Those different possibilities are, therefore, equivalent in regard to the determination of the existence of the world. On the other hand, if the philosophers say that the world can have only one special shape, the special quantity of its bodies and the special number of them it actually has, and that this equivalence of possibilities can only be imagined in relation to the times of temporal creation-since for God no moment is more suitable than another for its creation-they may be told that it is possible to answer this by saying that the creation of the world happened at its most propitious moment. But we, the theologians say, want to show the philosophers two equivalent things of which they cannot affirm that there exists any difference between them; the first is the particular direction of the spherical movement and the second the particular position of the poles, relative to the spheres; for any pair whatever of opposite points, united by a line which passes through the centre of the sphere, might constitute the poles. But the differentiation of these two points, exclusive of all other points which might just as well be the poles of this identical sphere cannot happen except by a quality differentiating between two similar objects. If the philosophers assert that it is not true that any other place on the sphere might be the seat for these poles, they will be told: such an assertion implies that the parts of the spheres are not homogeneous and yet you have often said that the sphere is of a simple nature and therefore has a simple form, viz. the spherical. And again, if the philosophers affirm that there are spots on the sphere which are not homogeneous, it will be asked how these spots came to be of a heterogeneous nature; is it because they are a body or because they are a celestial body? But the absence of homogeneity cannot be explained in this way. Therefore-Ghazali says just as among philosophers the theory is upheld that all times are equivalent in regard to the creation of the world, the theologians are justified in claiming that the parts of heaven are equivalent in regard to their serving as poles, and that the poles do not seem differentiated from the other points through a special position or through their being in an immovable place, exclusive of all other places.

This then in short is the objection; it is, however, a rhetorical one, for many things which by demonstration can be found to be necessary seem at first sight merely possible.’ The philosophers’ answer is that they assert that they have proved that the world is composed of five bodies: a body neither heavy nor light, i.e. the revolving spherical body of heaven and four other bodies, two of which are earth, absolutely heavy, which is the centre of the revolving spherical body, and fire, absolutely light, which is seated in the extremity of the revolving sphere; nearest to earth is water, which is heavy relatively to air, light relatively to earth; next to water comes air, which is light relatively to water, heavy relatively to fire. The reason why earth is absolutely heavy is that it is farthest away from the circular movement, and therefore it is the fixed centre of the revolving body; the reason why fire is absolutely light is that it is nearest to the revolving sphere; the intermediate bodies are both heavy and light, because they are in the middle between the two extremes, i.e. the farthest point and the nearest. If there were not a revolving body, surely there would be neither heavy nor light by nature, and neither high nor low by nature, and this whether absolutely or relatively; and the bodies would not differ by nature in the way in which, for instance, earth moves by nature to its specific place and fire moves by nature to another place, and equally so the intermediary bodies. And the world is only finite, because of the spherical body, and this because of the essential and natural finiteness of the spherical body, as one single plane circumscribes it.’ Rectilinear bodies are not essentially finite, as they allow of an increase and decrease; they are only finite because they are in the middle of a body that admits neither increase nor decrease, and is therefore essentially finite. And, therefore, the body circumscribing the world cannot but be spherical, as otherwise the bodies would either have to end in other bodies, and we should have an infinite regress, or they would end in empty space, and the impossibility of both suppositions has been demonstrated. He who understands this knows that every possible world imaginable can only consist of these bodies, and that bodies have to be either circular-and then they are neither heavy nor light-or rectilinear-and then they are either heavy or light, i.e. either fire or earth or the intermediate bodies; that these bodies have to be either revolving, or surrounded by a revolving periphery, for each body either moves from, towards, or round the centre; that by the movements of the heavenly bodies to the right and to the left all bodies are constituted and all that is produced from opposites is generated; and that through these movements the individuals of these four bodies never cease being in a continual production and corruption. Indeed, if a single one of these movements should cease, the order and proportion of this universe would disappear, for it is clear that this order must necessarily depend on the actual number of these movements-for if this were smaller or greater, either the order would be disturbed, or there would be another order-and that the number of these movements is as it is, either through its necessity for the existence of this sublunary world, or because it is the best .

Do not ask here for a proof for all this, but if you are interested in science, look for its proof, where you can find it. Here, however, listen to theories which are more convincing than those of the theologians and which, even if they do not bring you complete proof, will give your mind an inclination to lead you to proof through scientific speculation. You should imagine that each heavenly sphere is a living being, in so far as it possesses a body of a definite measure and shape and moves itself in definite directions, not at random. Anything of this nature is necessarily a living being; i.e. when we see a body of a definite quality and quantity move itself in space, in a definite direction, not at random, through its own power, not through an exterior cause, and move in opposite directions at the same time, we are absolutely sure that it is a living being, and we said only ‘not through an exterior cause’ because iron moves towards a magnet when the magnet is brought to it from the outside-and besides, iron moves to a magnet from any direction whatever., The heavenly bodies, therefore, possess places which are poles by nature, and these bodies cannot have their poles in other places, just as earthly animals have particular organs in particular parts of their bodies for particular actions, and cannot have them in other places, e.g. the organs of locomotion, which are located in definite parts. The poles represent the organs of locomotion in animals of spherical form, and the only difference in this respect between spherical and non-spherical animals is that in the latter these organs differ in both shape and power, whereas in the former they only differ in power. For this reason it has been thought on first sight that they do not differ at all, and that the poles could be in any two points on the sphere. And just as it would be ridiculous to say that a certain movement in a certain species of earthly animal could be in any part whatever of its body, or in that part where it is in another species, because this movement has been localized in each species in the place where it conforms most to its nature, or in the only place where this animal can perform the movement, so it stands with the differentiation in the heavenly bodies for the place of their poles. For the heavenly bodies are not one species and numerically many, but they form a plurality in species, like the plurality of different individuals of animals where there is only one individual in the species.

Exactly the same answer can be given to the question why the heavens move in different directions: that, because they are animals, they must move in definite directions, like right and left, before and behind, which are directions determined by the movements of animals, and the only difference between the movements of earthly animals and those of heavenly bodies is that in the different animals these movements are different in shape and in power, whereas in the heavenly animals they only differ in power. And it is for this reason that Aristotle thinks that heaven possesses the directions of right and left, before and behind, high and low. The diversity of the heavenly bodies in the direction of their movements rests on their diversity of species, and the fact that this difference in the directions of their movements forms the specific differentia of their species is something proper to them. Imagine the first heaven as one identical animal whose nature obliges it-either by necessity or because it is for the best-to move with all its parts in one movement from east to west. The other spheres are obliged by their nature to have the opposite movement. The direction which the body of the universe is compelled to follow through its nature is the best one, because its body is the best of bodies and the best among the moving bodies must also have the best direction. All this is explained here in this tentative way, but is proved apodictically in its proper place. This is also the manifest sense of the Divine Words, ‘There is no changing the words of God’, and ‘There is no altering the creation of God’. If you want to be an educated man, proceeding by proof, you should look for the proof of this in its proper place.

Now if you have understood all this, it will not be difficult for you to see the faults in Ghazali’s arguments here about the equivalence of the two opposite movements in relation to each heavenly body and to the sublunary world. On first thoughts it might be imagined that the movement from east to west might also belong to other spheres besides the first, and that the first sphere might equally well move from west to east. You might as well say that the crab could be imagined as having the same direction of movement as man. But, as a matter of fact, such a thought will not occur to you about men and crabs, because of their difference in shape, whereas it might occur to you about the heavenly spheres, since they agree in shape. He who contemplates a product of art does not perceive its wisdom if he does not perceive the wisdom of the intention embodied in it, and the effect intended. And if he does not understand its wisdom, he may well imagine that this object might have any form, any quantity, any configuration of its parts, and any composition whatever. This is the case with the theologians in regard to the body of the heavens, but all such opinions are superficial. He who has such beliefs about products of art understands neither the work nor the artist, and this holds also in respect of the works of God’s creation. Understand this principle, and do not judge the works of God’s creation hastily and superficially-so that you may not become one of those about whom the Qur’an says: ‘Say, shall we inform you of those who lose most by their works, those who erred in their endeavour after the life of this world and who think they are doing good deeds?’ May God make us perspicacious and lift from us the veils of ignorance; indeed He is the bounteous, the generous! To contemplate the various actions of the heavenly bodies is like contemplating the kingdom of heaven, which Abraham contemplated, according to the words of the Qur’an: ‘Thus did we show Abraham the kingdom of heaven and of the earth, that he should be of those who are sure.’ And let us now relate Ghazali’s argument about the movements.

Ghazali says:

The second point in this argument concerns the special direction of the movement of the spheres which move partially from east to west, partially in the opposite direction, whereas the equivalence of the directions in relation to their cause is exactly the same as the equivalence of the times. If it is said: If the universe revolved in only one direction, there would never be a difference in the configuration of the stars, and such relations of the stars as their being in trine, in sextile, and in conjunction would, never arise, but the universe would remain in one unique position without any change; the difference of these relations, however, is the principle of all production in the world-we answer: Our argument does not concern the difference in direction of movement; no, we concede that the highest sphere moves from east to west and the spheres beneath it in the opposite direction, but everything that happens in this way would happen equally if the reverse took place, i.e. if the highest sphere moved from west to east and the lower spheres in the opposite direction. For all the same differences in configuration would arise just as well. Granted that these movements are circular and in opposite directions, both directions are equivalent; why then is the one distinguished from the other, which is similar to it?’ If it is said: as the two directions are opposed and contrary, how can they be similar?-we answer: this is like saying ‘since before and after are opposed in the existing world, how could it be claimed that they are equivalent?’ Still, it is asserted by you philosophers that the equivalence of times, so far as the possibility of their realization and any purpose one might imagine in their realization is concerned, is an evident fact. Now, we regard it as equally evident that spaces, positions, situations, and directions are equivalent so far as concerns their receiving movement and any purpose that might be connected with it. If therefore the philosophers are allowed to claim that notwithstanding this equivalence they are different, their opponents are fully justified in claiming the same in regard to the times.

I say:

From what I have said previously, the speciousness of this argument and the way in which it has to be answered will not be obscure to you. All this is the work of one who does not understand the exalted natures of the heavenly bodies and their acts of wisdom for the sake of which they have been created, and who compares God’s knowledge with the knowledge of ignorant man.

Ghazali says:

If it is said: as the two directions are opposed and contrary, how can they be similar?-we answer: this is like saying ‘since before and after in the existing world are opposed, how could it be claimed that they are equivalent?’ Still, it is asserted by you philosophers that the equivalence of times so far as the possibility of their realization, and any purpose one might imagine in their realization is concerned, is an evident fact. Now, we regard it as equally evident that spaces, positions, situations, and directions are equivalent so far as concerns their receiving the movement and any purpose that might be connected with it.

I say:

The falsehood of this is self-evident. Even if one should admit that the possibilities of man’s existence and non-existence are equivalent in the matter out of which he has been created, and that this is a proof for the existence of a determining principle which prefers his existence to his non-existence, still it cannot be imagined that the possibilities of seeing and not seeing are equivalent in the eye. Thus no one can claim that the opposite directions are equivalent, although he may claim that the substratum for both is indifferent, and that therefore out of both directions similar actions result. And the same holds good for before and after: they are not equivalent, in so far as this event is earlier and that event later; they can only be claimed to be equivalent so far as their possibility of existence is concerned. But the whole assumption is wrong: for essential opposites also need essentially opposite substrata and a unique substratum giving rise to opposite acts at one and the same time is an impossibility. The philosophers do not believe that the possibilities of a thing’s existence and of its non-existence are equivalent at one and the same time; no, the time of the possibility of its existence is different from the time of the possibility of its non-existence, time for them is the condition for the production of what is produced, and for the corruption of what perishes. If the time for the possibility of the existence of a thing and the time for the possibility of its non-existence were the same, that is to say in its proximate matter, its existence would be vitiated, because of the possibility of its non-existence, and the possibility of its existence and of its non-existence would be dependent only on the agent, not on the substratum.

Thus he who tries to prove the existence of an agent in this way gives only persuasive, dialectical arguments, not apodictic proof. It is believed that Farabi and Avicenna followed this line to establish that every act must have an agent, but it is not a proof of the ancient philosophers, and both of them merely took it over from the theologians of our religion. In relation, however, to the temporal creation of the world-for him who believes in it-before and after cannot even be imagined, for before and after in time can only be imagined in relation to the present moment, and as, according to the theologians, there was before the creation of the world no time, how could there be imagined something preceding the moment when the world was created? A definite moment cannot be assigned for the creation of the world, for either time did not exist before it, or there was an infinite time, and in neither case could a definite time be fixed to which the Divine could attach itself. Therefore it would be more suitable to call this book ‘Incoherence’ without qualification rather than ‘The Incoherence of the Philosophers’, for the only profit it gives the reader is to make him incoherent.

Ghazali says:

If, therefore, the philosophers are allowed to claim that, notwithstanding this equivalence, they are different, their opponents are fully justified in claiming the same in regard to times.

I say:

He wants to say: If the philosophers are justified in claiming a difference in the direction of movement, the theologians have the right to assert a difference in times, notwithstanding their belief in their equivalence. This is only a verbal argument, and does not refer to the facts themselves, even if one admits an analogy between the opposite directions and the different times, but this is often objected to, because there is no analogy between this difference in times and directions. Our adversary, however, is forced to admit that there is an analogy between them, because they are both claimed to be different, and both to be equivalent! These, therefore, are one and all only dialectical arguments.

Ghazali says:

The second objection against the basis of their argument is that the philosophers are told: ‘You regard the creation of a temporal being by an eternal as impossible, but you have to acknowledge it too, for there are new events happening in the world and they have causes. It is absurd to think that these events lead to other events ad infinitum, and no intelligent person can believe such a thing. If such a thing were possible, you need not acknowledge a creator and establish a necessary being on whom possible existences depend. If, however, there is a limit for those events in which their sequence ends, this limit will be the eternal and then indubitably you too acknowledge the principle that a temporal can proceed from an eternal being.’

I say:

If the philosophers had introduced the eternal being into reality from the side of the temporal by this kind of argument, i.e. if they had admitted that the temporal, in so far as temporal, proceeds from an eternal being, there would be no possibility of their avoiding the difficulty in this problem. But you must understand that the philosophers permit the existence of a temporal which comes out of a temporal being ad infinitum in an accidental way, when this is repeated in a limited and finite matter-when, for instance, the corruption of one of two things becomes the necessary condition for the existence of the other. For instance, according to the philosophers it is necessary that man should be produced from man on condition that the anterior man perishes so as to become the matter for the production of a third. For instance, we must imagine two men of whom the first produces the second from the matter of a man who perishes; when the second becomes a man himself, the first perishes, then the second man produces a third man out of the matter of the first, and then the second perishes and the third produces out of his matter a fourth, and so we can imagine in two matters an activity continuing ad infinitum, without any impossibility arising. And this happens as long as the agent lasts, for if this agent has neither beginning nor end for his existence, the activity has neither beginning nor end for its existence, as it has been explained before. And in the same way you may imagine this happening in them in the past: When a man exists, there must before him have been a man who produced him and a man who perished, and before this second man a man who produced him and a man who perished, for everything that is produced in this way is, when it depends on an eternal agent, of a circular nature in which no actual totality can be reached. If, on the other hand, a man were produced from another man out of infinite matters, or there were an infinite addition of them, there would be an impossibility, for then there could arise an infinite matter and there could be an infinite whole. For if a finite whole existed to which things were added ad infinitum without any corruption taking place in it, an infinite whole could come into existence, as Aristotle proved in his Physics. For this reason the ancients introduce an eternal absolutely unchanging being, having in mind not temporal beings, proceeding from him in so far as they are temporal, but beings proceeding from him as being eternal generically, and they hold that this infinite series is the necessary consequence of an eternal agent, for the temporal needs for its own existence only a temporal cause. Now there are two reasons why the ancients introduce the existence of an eternal numerically unique being which does not suffer any change. The first is that they discovered that this revolving being is eternal, for they discovered that the present individual is produced through the corruption of its predecessor and that the corruption of this previous individual implies the production of the one that follows it, and that it is necessary that this everlasting change should proceed from an eternal mover and an eternal moved body, which does not change in its substance, but which changes only in place so far as concerns its parts, and approaches certain of the transitory things and recedes from certain of them, and this is the cause of the corruption of one half of them and the production of the other half. And this heavenly body is the being that changes in place only, not in any of the other kinds of change, and is through its temporal activities the cause of all things temporal; and because of the continuity of its activities which have neither beginning nor end, it proceeds from a cause which has neither beginning nor end. The second reason why they introduce an eternal being absolutely without body and matter is that they found that all the kinds of movement depend on spatial movement, and that spatial movement depends on a being moved essentially by a prime mover, absolutely unmoved, both essentially and accidentally, for otherwise there would exist at the same time an infinite number of moved movers, and this is impossible. And it is necessary that this first mover should be eternal, or else it would not be the first. Every movement, therefore, depends on this mover and its setting in motion essentially, not accidentally. And this mover exists simultaneously with each thing moved, at the time of its motion, for a mover existing before the thing moved-such as a man producing a man-sets only in motion accidentally, not essentially; but the mover who is the condition of man’s existence from the beginning of his production till its end, or rather from the beginning of his existence till its end, is the prime mover. And likewise his existence is the condition for the existence of all beings and the preservation- of heaven and earth and all that is between them. All this is not proved here apodictically, but only in the way we follow here and which is in any case more plausible for an impartial reader than the arguments of our opponents.

If this is clear to you, you certainly are in no need of the subterfuge by which Ghazali in his argument against the philosophers tries to conciliate them with their adversaries in this matter; indeed these artifices will not do, for if you have not understood how the philosophers introduce an eternal being into reality, you have not understood how they settle the difficulty of the rise of the temporal out of the eternal; they do that, as we said, either through the medium of a being eternal in its essence but generable and corruptible in its particular movements, not, however, in its universal circular movement, or through the medium of what is generically eternal-i.e. has neither beginning nor end-in its acts.

Ghazali answers in the name of the philosophers:

The philosophers may say, ‘we do not consider it impossible that any temporal being, whatever it may be, should proceed from an eternal being, but we regard it as impossible that the first temporal should proceed from the eternal, as the mode of its procession does not differ from that which precedes it, either in a greater inclination towards existence or through the presence of some particular time, or through an instrument, condition, nature, accident, or any cause whatever which might produce a new mode. If this therefore is not the first temporal, it will be possible that it should proceed from the eternal, when another thing proceeds from it, because of the disposition of the receiving substratum, or because the time was propitious or for any other reason.

Having given this reply on the part of the philosophers, Ghazali answers it:

This question about the actualization of the disposition, whether of the time and of any new condition which arises in it, still holds good, and we must either come to an infinite regress or arrive at an eternal being out of which a first temporal being proceeds.

I say:

This question is the same question all over again as he asked the philosophers first,’ and this is the same kind of conclusion as he made them draw then, namely that a temporal proceeds from an eternal, and having given as their answer something which does not correspond with the question, i.e. that it is possible that a temporal being should proceed from the Eternal without there being a first temporal being, he turns the same question against them again. The correct answer to this question was given above: the temporal proceeds from the First Eternal, not in so far as it is temporal but in so far as it is eternal, i.e. through being eternal generically, though temporal in its parts. For according to the philosophers an eternal being out of which a temporal being proceeds essentially’ is not the First Eternal, but its acts, according to them, depend on the First Eternal; i.e. the actualization of the condition for activity of the eternal, which is not the First Eternal, depends on the First Eternal in the same way as the temporal products depend on the First Eternal and this is a dependence based on the universal, not on individuals.

After this Ghazali introduces an answer of the philosophers, in one of the forms in which this theory can be represented, which amounts to this: A temporal being proceeding from an eternal can only be represented by means of a circular movement which resembles the eternal by not having beginning or end and which resembles the temporal in so far as each part of it is transient, so that this movement through the generation of its parts is the principle of temporal things, and through the eternity of its totality the activity of the eternal.

Then Ghazali argues against this view, according to which in the opinion of the philosophers the temporal proceeds from the First Eternal, and says to them:

Is this circular movement temporal or eternal? If it is eternal, how does it become the principle for temporal things? And if it is temporal, it will need another temporal being and we shall have an infinite regress. And when you say that it partially resembles the eternal, partially the temporal, for it resembles the eternal in so far as it is permanent and the temporal in so far as it arises anew, we answer: Is it the principle of temporal things, because of its permanence, or because of its arising anew? In the former case, how can a temporal proceed from something because of its permanence? And in the latter case, what arises anew will need a cause for its arising anew, and we have an infinite regress.

I say:

This argument is sophistical. The temporal does not proceed from it in so far as it is eternal, but in so far as it is temporal; it does not need, however, for its arising anew a cause arising anew, for its arising anew is not a new fact, but is an eternal act, i.e. an act without

o beginning or end. Therefore its agent must be an eternal agent, for an eternal act has an eternal agent, and a temporal act a temporal agent. Only through the eternal element in it can it be understood that movement has neither beginning nor end, and this is meant by its permanence, for movement itself is not permanent, but changing.

And since Ghazali knew this, he said:

In order to elude this consequence the philosophers have a kind of artifice which we will expose briefly.


Ghazali says:


They assert that he who affirms that the world is posterior to God and God prior to the world cannot mean anything but that He is prior not temporally but essentially like the natural priority of one to two, although they can exist together in temporal existence, or like the priority of cause to effect, for instance the priority of the movement of a man to the movement of his shadow which follows him, or the movement of the hand to the movement of the ring, or the movement of the hand in the water to the movement of the water, for all these things are simultaneous, but the one is cause, the other effect, for it is said that the shadow moves through the movement of the man and the water through the hand in the water, and the reverse is not said although they are simultaneous. If this is what you mean by saying that God is prior to the world, then it follows that they must both either be temporal or eternal, for it is absurd that the one should be temporal and the other eternal. If it is meant that God is prior to the world and to time, not essentially, but temporally, then there was, before the existence of the world and of time, a time in which the world was non-existent, since non-existence preceded the world and God preceded it during a long duration which had a final term but no initial one, and then there was before time an infinite time, which is self-contradictory. Therefore the assertion that time had a beginning is absurd. And if time-which is the expression of the measure of movement -is eternal, movement must be eternal. And the necessity of the eternity of movement implies the necessity of the eternity of the thing in motion, through the duration of which time endures.


I say:

The mode of their reasoning which he reproduces does not constitute a proof. It amounts to saying that the Creator, if He is prior to the world, must either be prior not in time, but in causation, like the priority of a man to his shadow, or prior in time, like a builder to a wall. If He is prior in the same way as the man is prior to his shadow, and if the Creator is eternal, then the world too is eternal. But if He is prior in time, then He must precede the world by a time which has no beginning, and time will be eternal, for if there is a time before the actual, its starting-point cannot be imagined. And if time is eternal, movement too is eternal, for time cannot be understood without motion. And if motion is eternal, the thing in motion will be eternal, and its mover will necessarily be eternal too. But this proof is unsound, for it is not of the nature of the Creator to be in time, whereas it belongs to the nature of the world to be so; and for this very reason it is not true that He is either simultaneous with it or prior to it in time or in causation.

Ghazali says

The objection to this is: Time is generated and created, and before it there was no time at all. The meaning of our words that God is prior to the world and to time is: He existed without the world and without time, then He existed and with Him there was the world and there was time. And the meaning of our words that He existed without the world is: the existence of the essence of the Creator and the non-existence of the essence of the world, and nothing else. And the meaning of our words that He existed and with Him there was the world is: the existence of the two essences, and nothing else. And the meaning of priority: the uniqueness of His existence, and nothing else. And the world is like a singular person; if we should say, for instance: God existed without Jesus, then He existed with Jesus-these words contain nothing but, first, the existence of an essence and the non-existence of an essence, then, the existence of two essences, and there is no need to assume here a third essence, namely time, although imagination cannot desist from assuming it. But we should not heed the errors of the imagination.


I say:

These words are erroneous and mistaken, for we have already proved that there are two kinds of existence: one in the nature of which there is motion and which cannot be separated from time; the other in the nature of which there is no motion and which is eternal and cannot be described in terms of time. The first is known by the senses and by reason; the existence of the second-in the nature of which there is neither motion nor change-is known by proof to everyone who acknowledges that each motion needs a mover and each effect a cause, and that the causes which move each other do not regress infinitely, but end in a first cause which is absolutely unmoved. And it has also been established that the entity in the nature of which there is no movement is the cause of the entity in the nature of which there is movement. And it has been proved also that the entity in the nature of which there is motion cannot be separated from time, and that the entity in the nature of which there is no movement is entirely free from time. Therefore the priority of the one entity over the other is based neither on a priority in time, nor on the priority of that kind of cause and effect, which belongs to the nature of things in motion, like the priority of a man to his shadow. For this reason anyone who compares the priority of the unmoved being to the thing in motion to the priority existing between two things in motion is in error; since it is only true of each one in pairs of moving things that, when it is brought in relation to the other, it is either simultaneous with it or prior or posterior in time to it. It is the later philosophers of Islam who made this mistake, since they enjoyed but slight comprehension of the doctrine of the ancients. So the priority of this one being to the other is the priority of the unchanging timeless existence to the changing existence which is in time, and this is an altogether different type of priority. It is therefore not true of these existences that they are simultaneous, or that the one precedes the other, and Ghazali’s observation that the priority of the Creator to the world is not a temporal priority is true. But the posteriority of the world to the Creator, since He does not precede the world in time, can only be understood as the posteriority of effect to cause,’ for posteriority and priority are opposites which are necessarily in one genus, as has been shown in the sciences.’ Since therefore this priority is not in time, the posteriority also cannot be in time, and we have the same difficulty all over again: how can the effect be delayed after the cause when the conditions of acting are fulfilled? The philosophers, however, since they do not recognize a beginning in the totality of this existence in moti/n, are not touched by this difficulty, and it is possible for them to indicate in what way the temporal beings proceed from the eternal. One of their proofs that existence in motion has no beginning, and that in its totality it does not start, is that, when it is assumed to start, it is assumed to exist before its existence, for to start is a movement, and movement is of necessity in the thing in motion, equally whether the movement is regarded as taking place in time or at an instants Another proof is that everything that becomes has the potentiality of becoming before it actually becomes, although the theologians deny this (a discussion with them on this point will follow); now potentiality is a necessary attribute of being in motion, and it follows necessarily that, if it were assumed to become, it would exist before its existence. What we have here are only dialectical arguments; they have, however, a much greater plausibility than what the theologians advance.

As for Ghazali’s words:


If we should say, for instance, that God existed without Jesus, and then He existed with Jesus, these words contain nothing but, first, the existence of an essence and the non-existence of an essence, then, the existence of two essences, and there is no need to assume here a third essence, namely time.

I say:

This is true, provided that Jesus’ posteriority is not regarded as an essential temporal posteriority, but, if there is a posteriority, it is an accidental posteriority, for time precedes this posterior entity, i.e. it is a necessity of Jesus’ existence that time should precede Him and that His existence should have begun, but the world is not subject to such a necessity, except in so far as it is a part of a moving existence beyond which time extends in two directions,’ as happens to Jesus and other transitory individuals.z Nothing of this is proved here; here it is simply explained that the objection is not valid. In addition, what he says afterwards of the proofs of the philosophers is untrue.

Answering in the name of the philosophers, Ghazali says:

One might say that our expression ‘God existed without the world’ means a third thing, besides the existence of one being and the non-existence of another, because, if we should suppose that in the future God should exist without the world, there would be in the future the existence of one being and the non-existence of another, still it would not be right to say ‘God existed without the world’, but we should say ‘God will exist without the world’, for only of the past do we say ‘God existed without the world’; and between the words ‘existed’ and ‘will exist’ there is a difference, for they cannot replace each other. And if we try to find out where the difference between the two sentences lies, it certainly does not lie in the words ‘existence of one being’ and ‘non-existence of another being’, but in a third entity, for if we say of the non-existence of the world in the future ‘God was without the world’, it will be objected: this is wrong, for ‘was’ refers only to the past. This shows therefore that the word ‘was’ comprises a third entity, namely the past, and the past by itself is time, and through another existent it is movement, for movement passes only through the passing of time. And so it follows necessarily that, before the world, a time finished which terminated in the existence of the world.

I say:

In this in brief he shows that when it is said ‘such-and-such was without such-and-such’ and then ‘such-and-such was with such-and-such’ a third entity is understood, namely time. The word ‘was’ shows this, because of the difference in the meaning of this concept in the past and in the future, for if we assume the existence of one thing with the non-existence of another in the past, we say ‘such a thing existed without such a thing’, but when we assume the non-existence of the one with the existence of the other in the future, we say ‘such a thing will exist without such a thing’, and the change in meaning implies that there is here a third entity. If in our expression ‘such-and-such existed without such-and-such’ the word ‘existed’ did not signify an entity, the word ‘existed’ would not differ from ‘will exist’. All this is self-evident, but it is only unquestionable in relation to the priority and posteriority of things which are by nature in time. Concerning the timeless the word ‘was’ and the like indicate in such a proposition nothing but the copula between predicate and subject, when we say, for example, ‘God was indulgent and compassionate’;’ and the same holds when either predicate or subject is timeless, e.g. when we say ‘God was without the world, then God was with the world’. Therefore for such existents the time-relation to which he refers does not hold. This relation is, however, unquestionably real when we compare the non-existence of the world with its existence, for if the world is in time, the non-existence of the world as to be in time too. And since the non-existence and the existence of the world cannot be in one and the same time, the non-existence must precede; the non-existence must be prior and the world posterior to it, for priority and posteriority in the moving can only be understood in this relation to time. The only flaw in this argument is to assume this relation between God and the world. Only in this point is the argument which Ghazali relates faulty and does it fail to constitute a proof.

Then Ghazali gives the theologians’ objection to this argument of the philosophers:’

The primitive meaning of the two words is the existence of one thing and the non-existence of another. The third element which is the connexion between the two words is a necessary relation to us. The proof is that, if we should suppose a destruction of the world in the future and afterwards a second existence for us, we should then say ‘God was without the world’, and this would be true, whether we meant its original non-existence or the second non-existence, its destruction after its existence. And a sign that this is a subjective relation is that the future can become past and can be indicated by the word ‘past’.’ All this is the consequence of the inability of our imagination to imagine the beginning of a thing without something preceding it, and this ‘before’ of which the imagination cannot rid itself is regarded as a really existing thing, namely time. This resembles the inability of the imagination to admit a limited body, e.g. overhead, without anything beyond its surface, so that it is imagined that behind the world there is a space either occupied or empty; and when it is said there is above the surface of the world no beyond and no farther extension, this is beyond the grasp of the imagination. Likewise, when it is said that there is no real anterior to the existence of the world, the imagination refuses to believe it. But the imagination may be called false in allowing above the world an empty space which is an infinite extension by our saying to it: empty space cannot be understood by itself, for extension is the necessary attribute of a body whose sides comprise space;’ a finite body implies the finiteness of extension, which is its attribute and the limitation of occupied space; empty space is unintelligible, therefore there is neither empty nor occupied space behind the world, although the imagination cannot admit this. And in the same way as it is said that spatial extension is an attribute of body, temporal extension is an attribute of motion, for time is the extension of movement just as the space between the sides of a body is the extension of space. And just as the proof that the sides of a body are finite prevents the admission of a spatial extension behind the world, so the proof of the finite character of movement in both directions prevents the supposition of a temporal extension behind the world, although the imagination, subject to its illusion and supposition, admits it and does not hold back from it. There is no difference between temporal extension, which is apprehended as divided through the relation of before and after, and spatial extension, which is apprehended as divided through the relation of high and low. If it is therefore permissible to admit a highest point above which there is nothing, it is equally permissible to admit a beginning, not preceded by anything real, except through an illusion similar to that which permits a beyond for the highest space. This is a legitimate consequence; notice it carefully, as the philosophers themselves agreed that behind the world there is neither empty nor occupied space.

I say:

There are two parts to this objection; the first is that, when we imagine the past and the future, i.e. the prior and the posterior, they are two things existing in relation to our imagination, because we can imagine a future event as becoming past and a past event as having been future. But if this is so, past and future are not real things in themselves and do not possess existence outside the soul; they are only constructs of the soul. And when movement is annihilated, the relation and measure of time will not have sense any more.

The answer is that the necessary connexion of movement and time is real and time is something the soul constructs in movement, but neither movement nor time is annihilated: they are only abolished in those things which are not subject to motion, but in the existence of moving things or in their possible existence time inheres necessarily. For there are only two kinds of being, those that are subject to motion and those that are not, and the one kind cannot be converted into the other, for otherwise a conversion of the necessary into the possible would become possible. For if movement were impossible and then afterwards occurred, the nature of things which arc not subject to motion would have changed into the nature of things subject to motion, and this is impossible. This is a consequence of the fact that motion inheres necessarily in a substratum. If movement were possible before the existence of the world, the things which are subject to movement would be necessarily in time, for movement is only possible in what is subject to rest,’ not in absolute non-existence, for in absolute non-existence there is no possibility whatever, or one would have to admit that absolute non-existence could be converted into existence. Therefore, the non-existence or privation which necessarily precedes the occurrence of a thing has to be connected with a substratum, and will be disconnected from it when the substratum actually receives this occurrence, as happens with all contraries. For instance, when a warm thing becomes cold, the essence of warmth does not change into coldness; it is only the receptacle and the substratum of warmth that exchange their warmth for coldness.

The second part of this objection-and it is the most important of these objections-is sophistical and malicious. It amounts to saying that to imagine something before the beginning of this first movement (which is not preceded by any moving body) is like the illusion that the end of the world, for example, its highest part, ends necessarily either in another body or in empty space, for extension is a necessary attribute of body, as time is a necessary attribute of movement. And if it is impossible that there should be an infinite body, it is impossible that there should be an infinite extension, and, if it is impossible that there should be infinite extension, it is impossible that every body should end in another body or in something which has the potentiality of extension, i.e. for instance, emptiness, and that this should continue without end. And the same applies to movement which has time as a necessary attribute, for if it is impossible that there should be infinite past movements and there exists therefore a first movement with a finite initial term, it is impossible that there should exist a ‘before’ before it, for, if so, there would be another movement before the first.

This objection is, as we said, malicious, and belongs to the class of sophistical substitutions-you will recognize what I mean if you have read the book On sophistic refutations. In other words, Ghazali treats the quantity which has no position and does not form a totality, i.e. time and motion, as the quantity which possesses position and totality, i.e. body. He makes the impossibility of endlessness in the latter a proof of its impossibility in the former, and he deals with the act of the soul when it imagines an increase in the one quantity which is assumed to be actual, i.e. body, as if it concerned both quantities. This is a manifest error. For to imagine an increase in actual spatial magnitude, so that it must end in another actual spatial magnitude, is to imagine something which does not exist in the essence and definition of spatial magnitude, but to imagine priority and posteriority in a movement that occurs is to imagine something that belongs to its essence. For a movement can only occur in time, i.e. time has to pass beyond its beginning. For this reason one cannot represent a time the initial term of which is not the final term of another time, for the definition of ‘the instant’ is that it is the end of the past and the beginning of the future,’ for the instant is the present which necessarily is the middle between the past and the future, and to represent a present which is not preceded by a past is absurd. This, however, does not apply to the point, for the point is the end of the line and exists at the same time as the line, for the line is at rest. Therefore one can imagine a point which is the beginning of a line without its being the end of another line, but the instant cannot exist without the past and tile future, and exists necessarily after the past and before the future, and what cannot subsist in itself cannot exist before the existence of the future without being the end of tile past. The cause of this error is the comparison of the instant with the point. The proof that each movement which occurs is preceded by time is this: everything must come to exist out of a privation, and nothing can become in the instant-of which it can be truly said that its becoming is a vanishing-and so it must be true that its privation must be in another moment than that in which it itself exists, and there is time between each pair of instants, because instant is not continuous with instant, nor point continuous with point. This has been proved in the sciences. Therefore before the instant in which the movement occurs there must necessarily be a time, because, when we represent two instants in reality, there must necessarily be time between them.

And what is said in this objection that ‘higher’ resembles ‘before’ is not true, nor does the instant resemble the point, nor the quantity which possesses position the quantity which does not possess position.’ He who allows the existence of an instant which is not a present, or of a present which is not preceded by a past, denies time   and the instant, for he assumes an instant as having the description which we have mentioned, and then assumes a time which has no beginning-which is a self-contradictory assumption. It is, therefore, wrong to ascribe to an act of imagination the fact that there is a prior event for every occurrence, for he who denies priority denies the event in time. The contrary is the case with the man who denies the real character of the high, for he denies the absolutely high and, when he denies the absolutely high, he denies also the absolutely low,’ and when these two are denied, also the heavy and the light are denied’, and the act of the imagination that a body with straight dimensions must end in another body is not false; no, this is a necessary truth, for the body with straight dimensions has the possibility of increasing, and what has this possibility is not limited by nature. Therefore the body with straight surfaces must end in the circumscribing circular body, since this is the perfect body which is liable neither to increase nor to decrease. Therefore when the mind seeks to imagine that the circular body must end in another body, it imagines the impossible. These are all matters of which the theologians and those who do not start their inquiry in the proper scientific order are unaware.

Further, the relation between time and motion is not the same as that between spatial limit and spatial magnitude, for the spatial limit is an attribute of spatial magnitude, in so far as it inheres in it, in the way that the accident inheres in its substratum and is individualized by the individuality of its substratum and is indicated by pointing at its substratum and by its being in the place in which its substratum is. But this is not the case with the necessary relation between time and motion. For the dependence of time on motion is much like the dependence of number on the thing numbered: just as number does not become individualized through tire individuation of the thing numbered, nor pluralized through its plurality, so it stands with the relation between time and movement. Time, therefore, is unique for all movement and for each thing moving, and exists everywhere, so that if we should suppose people confined from youth in a cave in the earth, still we should be sure that they would perceive time, even if they did not perceive any of the movements which are perceived in the world. Aristotle therefore thought that the existence of movements in time is much like the existence of the things numbered in numbers for number is not pluralized through the plurality of the things numbered, nor is it localized through the individuation of the places numbered. He thought, therefore, that its specific quality was to mesaure the movements and to measure the existence of moving things, in so far as they are moving, as number counts the individual moving things, and therefore Aristotle says in his definition of time that it is the number of movement according to the relations of anterior and posterior.’ Therefore, just as the supposition that a thing numbered occurs does not imply that number comes into existence, but it is a necessary condition for the occurrence of a thing numbered that number should exist before it, so the occurrence of movement implies that there was time before it. If time occurred with the occurrence of any individual movement whatever, time would only be perceived with that individual movement. This will make you understand how different the nature of time is from the nature of spatial magnitude.

Ghazali answers on behalf of the philosophers:

It may be said: This comparisons is lame, for there is neither above nor below in the world; for the world is spherical, and in the sphere there is neither above nor below; if the one direction is called above, because it is overhead, and the other below, because it is under foot, this name is always determined in relation to you, and the direction which is below in relation to you is above in relation to another, if you imagine him standing on the other side of the terrestrial globe with the sole of his foot opposite the sole of your foot. Yes, these parts of heaven which you reckon above during the day are identical with what is below during the night, and what is below the earth comes again above the earth through the daily revolution. But it cannot be imagined that the beginning of the world becomes its end. If we imagined a stick with one thick and one thin end and we agreed to call the part nearest the thin end ‘above’ and the other ‘below’, there would not arise from this an essential differentiation in the parts of the world; it would simply be that different names would have been applied to the shape of the stick, so that if we substituted the one name for the other, there would be an exchange of names, but the world itself would remain unchanged. So ‘above’ and ‘below’ are a mere relation to you without any differentiation in the parts and places of the world. The non-existence, however, preceding the world and the initial term of its existence are essential realities, a substitution or a change of which cannot be imagined. Nor can it be imagined that the non-existence which is supposed to occur at the disappearance of the world and which follows the world can become the non-existence preceding it. The initial and final terms of the world’s existence are permanent essential terms, in which no change can be imagined through the change of the subjective relation to them, in contrast with ‘above’ and ‘below’. Therefore we philosophers, indeed, are justified in saying that in the world there is neither ‘above’ nor ‘below’, but you theologians have not the right to assert that the existence of the world has neither a ‘before’ nor an ‘after’.

And when the existence of ‘before’ and ‘after’ is proved, time cannot mean anything but what is apprehended through the anterior and the posterior.

I say:

This answer given in the name of the philosophers is extremely unsound. It amounts to saying that ‘above’ and ‘below’ are relative to us and that therefore imagination can treat them as an infinite sequence, but that the sequence of ‘before’ and ‘after’ does not rest on imagination-for there is here no subjective relation-but is a ~ purely rational concept. This means that the order of above and below in a thing may be reversed in imagination, but that the privation before an event and the privation after an event, its before and its after, are not interchangeable for imagination. But by giving this answer the problem is not solved, for the philosophers think that i there exists a natural above; to which light things move and a natural below to which heavy things move, or else the heavy and the light would be relative and exist by convention, and they hold that in imagination the limit of a body, having by nature its place above, may end either in occupied or in empty space. And this argument is in-  valid as a justification of the philosophers for two reasons. First, that the philosophers assume an absolute above and an absolute below, but no absolute beginning and no absolute end; secondly that their opponents may object that it is not the fact of their being relative that causes the imagination to regard the sequence of low and high as an infinite series, but that this happens to the imagination because it observes that every spatial magnitude is continuous with another spatial magnitude, just as any event is preceded by another event. n Therefore Ghazali transfers the question from the words ‘above’ and ‘below’ to ‘inside’ and ‘outside’s and he says in his answer to the philosophers:

There is no real difference in the words ‘above’ and ‘below’, and therefore there is no sense in defining them, but we will apply ourselves rather to the words ‘inside’ and ‘outside’. We say: The world has an inside and an outside; and we ask: Is there outside the world an occupied or empty space? The philosophers will answer: There is outside the world neither occupied nor empty space, and if you mean by ‘outside’ its extreme surface, then there is an outside, but if you mean anything else, there is no outside. Therefore if they ask us theologians if there is anything before the existence of the world, we say: If you mean by it the beginning, i.e. its initial term, then there is a before, just as there is an outside to the world according to your explanation that that is its ultimate limit and its final plane, but if you mean anything else, then there is not, in analogy with your answer.

If you say: A beginning of existence, without anything preceding it, cannot be understood, we say: A limit of a body existing without anything outside it cannot be understood.’ If you say: Its exterior is its furthest plane and nothing else, we say: Its before is the beginning of its existence, nothing else. The conclusion is that we say: We affirm that God has an existence without the world’s existing, and this assumption again does not force us to accept anything else. That to assume more rests on the act of imagination is proved by the fact that imagination acts in the same way in regard to time as in regard to place, for although our opponents believe in the eternity of the world, their imagination is willing to suppose it created; whereas we, who believe in its creation, are often allowed by our imagination to regard it as eternal. So much as far as body is concerned; but to revert to time, our opponents do not regard a time without a beginning as possible, and yet in opposition to this belief their imagination can represent it as a possible assumption, although time cannot be represented by the imagination in the way that body is represented, for neither the champion nor the opponent of the finitude of body can imagine a body not surrounded by empty or occupied space; the imagination simply refuses to accept it. Therefore one should say: a clear thinker pays no attention to the imagination when he cannot deny the finitude of body by proof, nor does he give attention to the imagination when he cannot deny the beginning of an existence without anything preceding it, which the imagination cannot grasp. For the imagination, as it is only accustomed to a body limited by another body or by air, represents emptiness in this way, although emptiness, being imperceptible, cannot be occupied by anything. Likewise the imagination, being only accustomed to an event occurring after another event, fears to suppose an event not preceded by another event which is terminated. And this is the reason of the error.

I say:

Through this transference, by his comparing the time-limit with the spatial limit in his argument against the philosophers, this argument becomes invalid and we have already shown the error through which it is specious and the sophistical character of the argument, and we need not repeat ourselves.

Ghazali says:

The philosophers have a second way of forcing their opponents to admit the eternity of time. They say: You do not doubt that God was able to create the world one year, a hundred years, a thousand years, and so ad infinitum, before He created it and that those possibilities are different in magnitude and number. Therefore it is necessary to admit before the existence of the world a measurable extension, one part of which can be longer than another part, and therefore it is necessary that something should have existed before the existence of the world. If you say the word ‘years’ cannot be applied before the creation and revolution of heaven, let us drop the word ‘years’ and let us give another turn to our argument and say: If we suppose that from the beginning of the world till now the sphere of the world has performed, for instance, a thousand revolutions, was God able to create a second world before it, which, for example, would have performed eleven hundred revolutions up to now? If you deny it, it would mean that the Eternal had passed from impotence to power or the world from impossibility to possibility, but if you accept it, and you cannot but accept it, it may be asked if God was able to create a third world which would have performed twelve hundred revolutions up to now and you will have to admit this. We philosophers say: Then, could the world which we called by the order of our supposition the third, although as a matter of fact it is the first, have been created at the same time as the world we called the second, so that the former would have performed twelve hundred revolutions and the latter eleven hundred revolutions, it being understood that both, in revolving, complete the same distance at the same speed? If you were to admit this, you would be admitting something absurd, for it would be absurd that in that case the number of the two revolutions, having the same speed and finishing at the same moment, should be different. But, if you answer that it is impossible that the third world which has up to now performed twelve hundred revolutions could have been created at the same time as the second world which has up to now performed eleven hundred revolutions, and that on the contrary it must have been created the same number of years earlier than the second, as the second has been created before the first-we call it first, as it comes first in order, when in imagination we proceed from our time to it-then there exists a quantity of possibility double that of another possibility, and there is doubtless another possibility which doubles the whole of the others. These measurable quantitative possibilities, of which some are longer than others by a definite measure, have no other reality than time, and those measurable quantities are not an attribute of the essence of God, who is too exalted to possess measure,’ nor an attribute of the non-existence of the world, for non-existence is nothing and therefore cannot be measured with different measures. Still, quantity is an attribute which demands a substratum, and this is nothing other than movement, and quantity is nothing but the time which measures movement. Therefore also for you theologians there existed before the world a substratum of differentiated quantity, namely time, and according to you time existed before the world.’

I say:

The summary of this argument is that, when we imagine a movement, we find with it an extension which measures it, as if it were its measurement, while reciprocally the movement measures the extension, and we find that we can assume in this measure and this extension a movement longer than the first supposed movement, and we affirm through the corresponding and congruous units of this extension that the one movement is longer than the other.’ If therefore for you theologians the world has a certain extension from its beginning till now-let us suppose, for instance, a thousand years and since God according to you is able to create before this world another world, we may suppose that the extension He can give it will be longer than the extension of the first world by a certain definite quantity, and that He can likewise create a third world before this second and that the existence of each of them must be preceded by an extension through which its existence can be measured. If this is true, and there is an infinite regress of this possibility of anterior worlds, there is an extension which precedes all these worlds. And this extension which measures all of them cannot be absolute nonexistence, for non-existence cannot measure; it has, therefore, to be a quantity, for what measures a quantity has to be quantity itself, and the measuring quantity is that which we call time. And it is clear that this must precede in existence anything we imagine to occur, just as the measure must precede the measured in existence. If this extension which is time were to occur at the occurrence of the first movement, then it would have to be preceded by an extension which could measure it, in which it could occur, and which could be like its measurement. And in the same way any world which could be imagined would have to be preceded by an extension which measures it. Therefore this extension has no beginning, for if it had a beginning it would have to have an extension which measured it, for each event which begins has an extension which measures it and which we call time.

This is the most suitable exposition of this argument, and this is the method by which Avicenna proves infinite time, but there is a difficulty in understanding it, because of the problem that each possible has one extension and each extension is connected with its own possible and this forms a point of discussion;’ or one must concede that the possibilities prior to the world are of the same nature as the possible inside the world, i.e. as it is of the nature of this possible inside the world that time inheres in it, so also with the possible which is prior to the world. This is clear concerning the possible inside the world, and therefore the existence of time may be imagined from it.

Ghazali says:

The objection is that all this is the work of imagination, and the most convenient way of refuting it is to compare time with place; therefore we say: Was it not in God’s power to create the highest sphere in its heaven a cubit higher than He has created it? If the answer is negative, this is to deny God’s power, and if the answer is affirmative, we ask: And by two cubits and by three cubits and so on ad infinitum? Now we affirm that this amounts to admitting behind the world a spatial extension which has measure and quantity, as a thing which is bigger by two or three cubits than another occupies a space bigger by two or three cubits, and by reason of this there is behind the world a quantity which demands a substratum and this is a body or empty space. Therefore, there is behind the world empty or occupied space. And how can you answer this? And likewise we may ask, whether God was not able to create the sphere of the world smaller than He has created it by a cubit or two cubits? And is there no difference between those two magnitudes in regard to the occupied space taken away from them and the space they still occupy, for the occupied space withdrawn is bigger when two cubits are taken away than when one cubit is taken away? And therefore empty space has measure. But emptiness is nothing; how can it have measure? And our answer is: ‘It belongs to the illusion of imagination to suppose possibilities in time before the existence of the world’, just as your answer is: ‘It belongs to the illusion of imagination to suppose possibilities in space behind the existence of the world.’ There is no difference between those two points of view.’

I say:

This consequence is true against the theory which regards an infinite increase in the size of the world as possible, for it follows from this theory that a finite thing proceeds from God which is preceded by infinite quantitative possibilities. And if this is allowed for possibility in space, it must also be allowed in regard to the possibility in time, and we should have a time limited in both directions, although it would be preceded by infinite temporal possibilities. The answer is, however, that to imagine the world to be bigger or smaller does not conform to truth but is impossible. But the impossibility of this does not imply that to imagine the possibility of a world before this world is to imagine an impossibility, except in case the nature of the possible were already realized and there existed before the existence of the world only two natures, the nature of the necessary and the nature of the impossible? But it is evident that the judgement of reason concerning the being of these three natures is eternal, like its judgement concerning the necessary and the impossible.

This objection, however, does not touch the philosophers, because they hold that the world could not be smaller or bigger than it is,

If it were possible that a spatial magnitude could infinitely increase, then the existence of a spatial magnitude without end would be possible and a spatial magnitude, actually infinite, would exist, and this is impossible and Aristotle has already shown the impossibility of this.’ But against the man who believes in this possibility, because the contrary would imply a denial of God’s power, this argument is valid, for this spatial possibility is just as much a purely rational concept as the possibility of temporal anteriority according to the philosophers. Therefore, he who believes in the temporal creation of the world and affirms that all body is in space, is bound to admit that before the creation of the world there was space, either occupied by body, in which the production of the world could occur, or empty, for it is necessary that space should precede what is produced.’ The man who denies empty space and affirms the finiteness of body-like certain later Ash’arites who, however, separated themselves from the principles of the theologians; but I have not read it in their books and it was told to me by some who studied their doctrines-cannot admit the temporal production of the world. If the fact of this extension which measures movement and which stands in relation to it as its measurement were indeed the work of an illusion-like the representation of a world bigger or smaller than it really is-time would not exist, for time is nothing but what the mind perceives of this extension which measures movement. And if it is self-evident that time exists, then the act of the mind must necessarily be a veracious one, embodying reason, not one embodying illusion.

Ghazali says:

It has been objected: we declare that what is not possible is what cannot be done and increase or decrease in the size of the world is impossible, and therefore could not be brought about .

I say

This is the answer to the objection of the Ash’arites that to admit that God could not have made the world bigger or smaller is to charge Him with impotence, but they have thereby compromised themselves, for impotence is not inability to do the impossible, but inability to do what can be done.

Ghazali, opposing this, says:

This excuse is invalid for three reasons: The first is that it is an affront to reason, for when reason regards it as possible that the world might be bigger or smaller than it is by a cubit, this is not the same as regarding it as possible to identify black with white and existence with non-existence; impossibility lies in affirming the negative and the positive at the same time, and all impossibilities amount to this. This is indeed a silly and faulty assertion.’

I say:

This statement is, as he says, an affront to reason, but only to the reason of him who judges superficially; it is not an affront to true reason, for a statement about its being possible or not’ requires a proof. And therefore he is right when he declares that this is not impossible in the way in which the assumption that black might be white is impossible, for the impossibility of the latter is self-evident. The statement, however, that the world could not be smaller or larger than it is is not self-evident. And although all impossibilities can be reduced to self-evident impossibilities, this reduction can take place in two ways. The first is that the impossibility is self-evident; the second is that there follows sooner or later from its supposition an impossibility of the same character as that of self-evident impossibilities.’ For instance, if it is assumed that the world might be larger or smaller than it is, it follows that outside it there would be occupied or empty space. And from the supposition that there is outside it occupied or empty space, some of the greatest impossibilities follow: from empty space the existence of mere extension existing by itself; from occupied space a body moving either upward or downward or in a circle which therefore must be part of another world. Now it has been proved in the science of physics that the existence of another world at the same time as this is an impossibility and the most unlikely consequence would be that the world should have empty space: for any world must needs have four elements and a spherical body revolving round them. He who wants to ascertain this should look up the places where its exposition is demanded-this, of course, after having fulfilled the preliminary conditions necessary for the student to understand strict proof .

Then Ghazali mentions the second reason:

If the world is in the state it is, without the possibility of being larger or smaller than it is, then its existence, as it is, is necessary, not possible. But the necessary needs no cause. So say, then, as the materialists do that you deny the creator and that you deny the cause of causes! But this is not your doctrine.

I say:

To this the answer which, Avicenna gives in accordance with his doctrine is quite appropriate.’ According to him necessity of existence is of two kinds: the necessary, existent by itself, and the necessary, existent through another. But my answer on this question is still more to the point: things necessary in this sense need not have an agent or a maker; take, for example, a saw which is used to saw wood-it is a tool having a certain determined quantity, quality, and matter, that is, it is not possible for it to be of another material than iron and it could not have any other shape than that of a saw or any other measure than the measure of a saw. Still nobody would say that the saw has a necessity of being= See, therefore, how crude this mistake is! If one were to take away the necessity from the quantities, qualities, and matters of things produced by art, in the way the Ash’arites imagine this to happen concerning the created in relation to the creator, the wisdom which lies in the creator and the created would have been withdrawn, any agent could be an artificer and any cause in existence a creator. But all this is a denial of reason and wisdom.

Ghazali says:

The third reason is that this faulty argument authorizes its opponent to oppose it by a similar one, and we may say: The existence of the world was not possible before its existence, for indeed possibility-according to your theory-is coextensive with existence, neither more nor less. If you say: ‘But then the eternal has passed from impotence to power’, we answer:

‘No, for the existence was not possible and therefore could not be brought about and the impossibility of a thing’s happening that could not happen does not indicate impotence.’ If you say: ‘How can a thing which is impossible become possible?’ We answer: ‘But why should it be impossible that a thing should be impossible at one moment and possible at another?’ If you say: ‘The times are similar,’ the answer is: ‘But so are the measures, and why should one measure be possible and another, bigger or smaller by the width of a nail, impossible?’ And if the latter assumption is not impossible, the former is not impossible either.’ And this is the way to oppose them.

But the true answer is that their supposition of possibilities makes no sense whatever. We concede only that God is eternal and powerful, and that His action never fails, even if He should wish it. And there is nothing in this power that demands the assumption of a temporal extension, unless imagination, confusing God’s power with other things, connects it with time.

I say:

The summary of this is that the Ash’arites say to the philosophers: this question whether the world could be larger or smaller is impossible according to us; it has sense only for the man who believes in a priority of possibility in relation to the actualization of a thing, i.e. the realization of the possible. We, the Ash’arites, however, say: ‘Possibility occurs together with the actuality as it is, without adding or subtracting anything.’

Now my answer is that he who denies the possibility of the possible before its existence denies the necessary, for the possible is the contrary of the impossible without there existing a middle term, and, if a thing is not possible before its existence, then it is necessarily impossible.’ Now to posit the impossible as existing is an impossible falsehood, but to posit the possible as existing is a possible, not an impossible, falsehood.’ Their assertion that possibility and actuality exist together is a falsehood, for possibility and actuality are contradictory, and do not exist together in one and the same moment. The necessary consequence for them is that possibility exists neither at the same time as the actuality nor before it. The true consequence for the Ash’arites in this discussion is not that the eternal passes from impotence to power, for he who cannot do an impossible act is not called impotent, but that a thing can pass from the nature of the i impossible to the nature of existence, and this is like the changing of the necessary into the possible. To posit a thing, however, as impossible at one time and possible at another does not cut it off from the nature of the possible, for this is the general character of the possible; the existence of anything possible, for instance, is impossible at the moment when its contrary exists in its substratum. If the opponent concedes that a thing impossible at one time is possible at another, then he has conceded that this thing is of the nature of the absolutely possible’ and that it has not the nature of the impossible. If it is assumed that the world was impossible for an infinite time before its production, the consequence is that, when it was produced, it changed over from impossibility to possibility. This question is not the problem with which we are concerned here, but as we have said before, the transference from one problem to another is an act of sophistry.

And as to his words:

But the true answer is that their supposition of possibilities makes no sense whatever. We concede only that God is eternal and powerful and that His action never fails, even if He should wish it. And there is nothing in  this power that demands the assumption of a temporal extension, unless imagination confusing God’s power with other things connects with it time.

I say:

Even if there were nothing in this supposition-as he says-that implies the eternity of time, there is something in it that demands that the possibility of the occurrence of the world and equally of time should be eternal. And this is that God never ceases to have power for action, and that it is impossible that anything should prevent His act from being eternally connected with His existence; and perhaps the opposite of this statement indicates the impossibility better still, namely, that He should have no power at one time but power at another, and that He could be called powerful only at definite limited times, although He is ark eternal and perpetual being. And then we have the old question again whether the world may be either eternal or temporal, or whether the world cannot be eternal, or whether the world cannot be temporal, or whether the world may be temporal but certainly cannot be eternal, and whether, if the world is temporal, it can be a first act or not. And if reason has no power to pronounce for one of these opposite propositions, let us go back to tradition, but do not then regard this question as a rational one! We say that the First Cause cannot omit the best act and perform an inferior, because this would be an imperfection; but can there be a greater imperfection than to assume the act of the Eternal as finite and limited, like the act of a temporal product, although a limited act can only be imagined of a limited agent, not of the eternal agent whose existence and action are unlimited? .All this, as you see, cannot be unknown to the man who has even the slightest understanding of the rational. And how can it be thought that the present act proceeding from the Eternal cannot be preceded by another act, and again by another, and so in our thinking infinitely, like the infinite continuation of His existence? For it is a necessary consequence that the act of Him whose existence time cannot measure nor comprehend in either direction cannot be comprehended in time nor measured by a limited duration. For there is no being whose act is delayed after its existence, except when there is an impediment which prevents its existence from attaining its perfection,’ or, in voluntary beings, when there is an obstruction in the execution of their choice. He, therefore, who assumes that from the Eternal there proceeds only a temporal act presumes that His act is constrained in a certain way and in this way therefore does not depend on His choice.


Ghazali says:

They insist on saying: The existence of the world is possible before its existence, as it is absurd that it should be impossible and then become possible; this possibility has no beginning, it is eternally unchangeable and the existence of the world remains eternally possible, for at no time whatever can the existence of the world be described as impossible; and if the possibility never ceases, the possible, in conformity with the possibility, never ceases either; and the meaning of the sentence, that the existence of the world is possible, is that the existence of the world is not impossible; and since its existence is eternally possible, it is never impossible, for if it were ever impossible, it would not be true that the existence of the world is eternally possible; and if it were not true that the existence of the world is eternally possible, it would not be true that its possibility never ceases; and if it were not true that its possibility never ceases, it would be true that its possibility had begun; and if it were true that its possibility had begun, its existence before this beginning would not be possible and that would lead to the assumption of a time when the world was not possible and God had no power over it.

I say:

He who concedes that the world before its existence was of a never-ceasing possibility must admit that the world is eternal, for the assumption that what is eternally possible is eternally existent implies no absurdity. What can possibly exist eternally must necessarily exist eternally, for what can receive eternity cannot become corruptible, except if it were possible that the corruptible could become eternal. Therefore Aristotle has said that the possibility in the eternal beings is necessary.’

Ghazali says:

The objection is that it is said that the temporal becoming of the world never ceased to be possible, and certainly there is no time at which its becoming could not be imagined. But although it could be at any time, it did not become at any time whatever, for reality does not conform to possibility, but differs from it. You yourself hold, for instance, in the matter of place, that the world could be bigger than it is or that the creation of an infinite series of bodies above the world is possible, and that there is no limit to the possibilities of increase in the size of the world, but still the actual existence of absolutely infinite occupied space and of any infinite and limitless being is impossible. What is said to be possible is an actual body of a limited surface, but the exact size of this body, whether it is larger or smaller, is not specified. In the same way, what is possible is the coming into existence of the world in time, but the exact time of its coming into existence whether earlier or later, is not specified. The principle of its having come into being is specified and this is the possible, nothing else.’

I say:

The man who assumes that before the existence of the world there was one unique, never-ceasing possibility must concede that the world is eternal. The man who affirms, like Ghazali in his answer, that before the world there was an infinite number of possibilities of worlds, has certainly to admit that before this world there was another world and before this second world a third, and so on ad infinitum, as is the case with human beings, and especially when it is assumed that the perishing of the earlier is the necessary condition for the existence of the later. For instance, if God had the power to create another world before this, and before this second world yet another, the series must continue infinitely, or else we should arrive at a world before which no other world could have been created (however, the theologians do not affirm this nor use it as a proof for the temporal production of the world). Although the assumption that before this world there might be an infinite number of others does not seem an impossible one, it appears after closer examination to be absurd, for it would follow from it that the universe had the nature of an individual person in this transitory world, so that its procession from the First Principle would be like the procession of the individual person from Him-that is to say, through an eternal moving body and an eternal motion. But then this world would be part of another world, like the transient beings in this world, and then necessarily either we end finally in a world individually eternal or we have an infinite series. And if we have to bring this series to a standstill, it is more appropriate to arrest it at this world, by regarding it as eternally unique.


Ghazali says:

The fourth proof is that they say everything that becomes is preceded by the matter which is in it, for what becomes cannot be free from matter.’ For this reason matter never becomes; what becomes is only the form, the accidents and the qualities which add themselves to matters The proof is that the existence of each thing that becomes must, before its becoming, either be possible, impossible, or necessary: it cannot be impossible, for the essentially impossible will never exist; it cannot be necessary, for the essentially necessary will never be in a state of non-existence, and therefore it is the essentially possible.’ Therefore, the thing which becomes has before its becoming the possibility of becoming, but the possibility of becoming is an attribute which needs a relation and has no subsistence in itself.’ It needs, therefore, a substratum with which it can be connected, and there is no substratum except matter, and it becomes connected with it in the way in which we say this matter receives warmth and coldness, or black and white, or movement and rest, i.e. it is possible that these qualities and these changes occur in it and therefore possibility is an attribute of matter. Matter does not possess other matter, and cannot become; for, if it did, the possibility of its existence would precede its existence, and possibility would subsist by itself without being related to anything else, whereas it is a relative attribute which cannot be understood as subsisting by itself. And it cannot be said that the meaning of possibility amounts to what can be done and what the Eternal had the power to do, because we know only that a thing can be done, because it is possible, and we say ‘this can be done because it is possible and cannot be done because it is not possible’; and if ‘this is possible’ meant ‘this can be done’, to say ‘this can be done because it is possible’ would mean ‘this is possible because it is possible’, and this is a circular definition; and this shows that ‘this is possible’ is a first judgement in the mind, evident in itself, which makes the second judgement ‘that it can be done’ intelligible. It cannot be said, either, that to be possible refers to the knowledge of the Eternal, for knowledge depends on a thing known, whereas possibility is undoubtedly an object of knowledge, not knowledge; further, it is a relative attribute, and needs something to which it can be related, and this can only be matter, and everything that becomes is preceded by matter.

I say:

The summary of this is that everything that becomes is possible before it becomes, and that possibility needs something for its subsistence, namely, the substratum which receives that which is possible. For it must not be believed that the possibility of the recipient is the same as the possibility of the agent. It is a different thing to say about Zaid, the agent, that he can do something and to say about the patient that it can have something done to it. Thus the possibility of the patient is a necessary condition for the possibility of the agent, for the agent which cannot act is not possible but impossible. Since it is impossible that the possibility prior to the thing’s becoming should be absolutely without substratum, or that the agent should be its substratum or the thing possible-for the thing possible loses its possibility, when it becomes actual-there only remains as a vehicle for possibility the recipient of the possible, i.e. matter. Matter, in so far as it is matter, does not become; for if it did it would need other matter and we should have an infinite regress. Matter only becomes in so far as it is combined with form. Everything that comes into being comes into being from something else, and this must either give rise to an infinite regress and lead directly to infinite matter which is impossible, even if we assume an eternal mover, for there is no actual infinite; or the forms must be interchangeable in the ingenerable and incorruptible substratum, eternally and in rotation.’ There must, therefore, be an eternal movement which produces this interchange in the eternally transitory things. And therefore it is clear that the generation of the one in each pair of generated beings is the corruption of the other; otherwise a thing could come into being from nothing, for the meaning of ‘becoming’ is the alteration of a thing and its change, from what it has potentially, into actuality. It is not possible that the privation itself should change into the existent, and it is not the privation of which it is said that it has become. There exists, therefore, a substratum for the contrary forms, and it is in this substratum that the forms interchange.

Ghazali says:

The objection is that the possibility of which they speak is a judgement of the intellect, and anything whose existence the intellect supposes, provided no obstacle presents itself to the supposition, we call possible and, if there is such an obstacle, we call it impossible and, if we suppose that it cannot be supposed not to be, we call it necessary. These are rational judgements which need no real existent which they might qualify. There are three proofs of this. The first is: If possibility needed an existent to which it could be related, and of which it could be said that it is its possibility, impossibility also would need an existent of which it might be said that it is its impossibility; but impossibility has no real existence, and there is no matter in which it occurs and to which it could be related.

I say:

That possibility demands an existing matter is clear, for all true intellectual concepts need a thing outside the soul, for truth, as it has been defined, is the agreement of what is in the soul with what is outside the soul.’ And when we say that something is possible, we cannot but understand that it needs something in which this possibility can be. As regards his proof that the possible is not dependent on an existent, because the impossible is not dependent on an existent, this is sophistical. Indeed the impossible demands a substratum just as much as the possible does, and this is clear from the fact that the impossible is the opposite of the possible and opposite contraries undoubtedly require a substratum. For impossibility is the negation of possibility, and, if possibility needs a substratum, impossibility which is the negation of this possibility requires a substratum too, e.g. we say that the existence of empty space is impossible, because the existence of independent dimensions outside or inside natural bodies is impossible, or that the presence of opposites at the same time in the same substratum is impossible, or that the equivalence of one to two is impossible, i.e. in reality. All this is self-evident, and it is not necessary to consider the errors here committed.

Ghazali says:

The second proof is that the intellect decides that black and white are possible before they exist.’ If this possibility were related to the body in which they inhere, so that it might be said that the meaning is that this body can be black and white, then white would not be possible by itself and possibility would be related only to the body. But we affirm, as concerns the judgement about black in itself, as to whether it is possible, necessary, or impossible, that we, without doubt, will say that it is possible. And this shows that the intellect in order to decide whether something is possible need not admit an existing thing to which the possibility can be related.

I say

This is a sophism. For the possible is predicated of the recipient and of the inherent quality. In so far as it is predicated of the substratum, its opposite is the impossible, and in so far as it is predicated of the inherent, its opposite is the necessary.’ Thus the possible which is described as being the opposite of the impossible is not that which abandons its possibility so far as it is actualized, when it becomes actual, because this latter loses its possibility in the actualizing process.’ This latter possible is only described by possibility in so far as it is in potency, and the vehicle of this potency is the substratum which changes from existence in potency into existence in actuality.’ This is evident from the definition of the possible that it is the nonexistence which is in readiness to exist or not to exists This possible non-existent is possible neither in so far as it is non-existent nor in so far as it is actually existent. It is only possible in so far as it is in potency, and for this reason the Mu’tazilites affirm that the nonexistent is a kind of entity. For non-existence is the opposite of existence, and each of the two is succeeded by the other, and when the non-existence of a thing disappears it is followed by its existence, and when its existence disappears it is succeeded by its non-existence. As non-existence by itself cannot change into existence, and existence

by itself cannot change into non-existence, there must be a third entity which is the recipient for both of them, and that is what is described by ‘possibility’ and ‘becoming’ and ‘change from the quality of non-existence to the quality of existence’. For non-existence itself is not described by ‘becoming’ or ‘change’; nor is the thing that has become actual described in this way, for what becomes loses the quality of becoming, change, and possibility when it has become actual. Therefore there must necessarily be something that can be described by ‘becoming’ and ‘change’ and ‘transition from nonexistence to existence’, as happens in the passage of opposites into opposites; that is to say, there must be a substratum for them in which they can interchange-with this one difference, however, that this substratum exists in the interchange of all the accidents in actuality, whereas in the substance it exists in potency.’

And we cannot think of regarding what is described by ‘possibility’ and ‘change’ as identical with the actual, i.e. which belongs to the becoming in so far as it is actual, for the former again vanishes and the latter must necessarily be a part of the product. Therefore there must necessarily be a substratum which is the recipient for the possibility and which is the vehicle of the change and the becoming, and it is this of which it is said that it becomes, and alters, and changes from non-existence into existence. Nor can we think of making this substratum of the nature of the actualized, for if this were the case the existent would not become, for what becomes comes into being from the non-existent not from the existent.’ Both philosophers and Mu’tazilites agree about the existence of this entity; only the philosophers are of the opinion that it cannot be exempt from a form actually existent, i.e. that it cannot be free from existence, like the transition, for example, from sperma to blood and the transition from blood to the members of the embryo. The reason is that if it were exempt from existence it would have an existence of its own, and if it had an existence of its own, becoming could not come from it. This entity is called by the philosophers ‘lyle’, and it is the cause of generation and corruption. And according to the philosophers an existent which is free from Kyle is neither generable nor corruptible.

Ghazali says:

The third proof is that the souls of men, according to the philosophers, are substances which subsist by themselves’ without being in a body or in matter or impressed on matters they had a beginning in time, according to the theory of Avicenna and the acknowledged philosophers, they had possibility before their beginning, but they have neither essence nor matter’ and their possibility is a relative attribute, dependent neither on God’s power nor on the Agent;’ but on what then is it dependent? The difficulties are therefore turned against them themselves.

I say:

I do not know any philosopher who said that the soul has a beginning in the true sense of the word and is thereafter everlasting except -as Ghazali relates-Avicenna. All other philosophers agree that in their temporal existence they are related to and connected with the bodily possibilities, which receive this connexion like the possibilities which subsist in mirrors for their connexion with the rays of the suns According to the philosophers this possibility is not of the nature of the generable and corruptible forms, but of a kind to which, according to them, demonstrative proof leads, and the vehicle of this possibility is of another nature than the nature of the Kyle. He alone can grasp their theories in these matters who has read their books and fulfilled the conditions there laid down by them, and has besides a sound understanding and a learned master. That Ghazali should touch on such questions in this way is not worthy of such a man, but there are only these alternatives: either he knew these matters in their true nature, and sets them out here wrongly, which is wicked; or he did not understand their real nature and touched on problems he had not grasped, which is the act of an ignoramus. However, he stands too high in our eyes for either of these qualifications. But even the best horse will stumble’ and it was a stumble of Ghazali’s that he brought out this book. But perhaps he was forced to do so by the conditions of his time and his situation.

Ghazali says, speaking on behalf of the philosophers:

It may be said: To reduce possibility to a judgement of the intellect is absurd, for the meaning of ‘judgement of the intellect’ is nothing but the knowledge of possibility, and possibility is an object of knowledge, not knowledge itself; knowledge, on the contrary, comprises possibility and follows it and depends on it as it is, and if knowledge vanished the object of knowledge would not, but the disappearance of the object of knowledge would imply the disappearance of knowledge. For knowledge and the object-known are two things, the former dependent on the latter, and if we supposed rational beings to turn away from possibility and neglect it, we should say: ‘It is not possibility that is annulled, for the possibilities subsist by themselves, but it is simply that minds neglect them or that minds and rational beings have disappeared; but possibility remains, without any doubt.’ And the three proofs are not valid, for impossibility requires an existent to which it can be related, and impossibility means identifying two opposites, and if the substratum were white it could not become black as long as the white existed, and therefore we need a substratum, qualified by the quality during the inherence of which its opposite is spoken of as impossible in this substratum, and therefore impossibility is a relative attribute subsistent in a substratum and related to it. And where the necessary is concerned it is evident that it is related to necessary existence.

As concerns the second proof, that black is in itself possible, this is a mistake, for if it is taken, abstracted from the substratum in which it inheres, it is impossible, not possible; it only becomes possible when it can become a form in a body; the body is then in readiness for the interchange, and the interchange is possible for the body; but in itself black has no individuality, so as to be characterizable by possibility.

As concerns the third proof about the soul, it is eternal for one school of philosophers, and is only possible in the attaching of itself to bodies, and therefore against those philosophers the argument does not apply= But for those who admit that the soul comes into existence-and one school of philosophers has believed that it is impressed on matter and follows its temperament, as is indicated by Galen in certain passages-it comes into existence in matter and its possibility is related to its matter.’ And according to the theory of those who admit that it comes into existence, although it is not impressed on matter-which means that it is possible for the rational soul to direct matter-the possibility prior to the becoming is relative to matter , and although the soul is not impressed on matter, it is attached to it, for it is its directing principle and uses it as an instrument, and in this way its possibility is relative to matters

I say

What he says in this section is true, as will be clear to you from our explanation of the nature of the possible.

Then Ghazali, objecting to the philosophers, says:

And the answer is: To reduce possibility, necessity, and impossibility to rational concepts is correct, and as for the assertion that the concepts of reason form its knowledge, and knowledge implies a thing known, let them be answered: it cannot be said that receptivity of colour and animality and the other concepts, which are fixed in the mind according to the philosophers-and this is what constitutes the sciences-have no objects ; still these objects have no real existence in the external world, and the philosophers arc certainly right in saying that universals exist only in the mind, not in the external world, and that in the external world there arc only particular individuals, which arc apprehended by the senses, not by reason; and yet these individuals arc the reason why the mind abstracts from them a concept separated from its rational matter; therefore receptivity of colour is a concept, separate in the mind from blackness and whiteness, although in reality a colour which is neither black nor white nor of another colour cannot be imagined,’ and receptivity of colour is fixed in the mind without any specification-now, in the same way, it can be said that possibility is a form which exists in minds, not in the exterior world, and if this is not impossible for other concepts,, there is no impossibility in what we have said.

I say:

This argument is sophistical because possibility is a universal which has individuals outside the mind like all the other universals, and knowledge is not knowledge of the universal concept, but it is a knowledge of individuals in a universal way which the mind attains in the case of the individuals, when it abstracts from them one common nature which is distributed among the different matters. The nature, therefore, of the universal is not identical with the nature of the things of which it is a universal. Ghazali is here in error, for he assumes that the nature of possibility is the nature of the universal, without there being individuals on which this universal, i.e. the universal concept of possibility, depends. The universal, however, is not the object of knowledge; on the contrary through it the things become known, although it exists potentially in the nature of the things known;’ otherwise its apprehension of the individuals, in so far as they are universals, would be false. This apprehension would indeed be false if the nature of the object known were essentially individual, not accidentally individual, whereas the opposite is the case: it is accidentally individual, essentially universal. Therefore if the mind did not apprehend the individuals in so far as they are universal, it would be in error and make false judgements about them. But if it abstracts those natures which subsist in the individual things from their matter, and makes them universal, then it is possible that it judges them rightly; otherwise it would confuse those natures, of which the possible is one.

The theory of the philosophers that universals exist only in the mind, not in the external world, only means that the universals exist actually only in the mind, and not in the external world, not that they do not exist at all in the external world, for the meaning is that they exist potentially, not actually in the external world; indeed, if they did not exist at all in the outside world they would be false. Since universals exist outside the mind in potency and possibilities exist outside the soul in potency, the nature of universals in regard

to this resembles that of possibilities. And for this reason Ghazali tried to deceive people by a sophism, for he compared possibility to the universals because of their both being potentially in reality, and then he assumed that the philosophers assert that universals do not exist at all outside the soul; from which he deduced that possibility does not exist outside the soul. What an ugly and crude sophism!

Ghazali says:

As regards their assertion that, if it were assumed that rational beings had vanished or had neglected possibility, possibility itself would not have disappeared, we answer: ‘If it were assumed that they had vanished, would not the universal concepts, i.e. the genera and species, have disappeared too?’ and if they agree to this, this can only mean that universals are only concepts in the mind; but this is exactly what we say about possibility, and there is no difference between the two cases; if they, however, affirm that they are permanent in the knowledge of God,’ the same may be said about possibility, and the argument is valid, and our aim of showing the contradiction in this theory has been attained.

I say:

This argument shows his foolishness and proneness to contradiction. The most plausible form in which it might be expressed would be to base it on two premisses: the first, that the evident proposition that possibility is partially individual, namely, outside the soul, partially universal, namely, the universal concept of the individual possibles, is not true; and the second, that it was said that the nature of the individual possibles outside the soul is identical with the nature of the universal of possibility in the mind; and in this case the possible would have neither a universal nor an individual nature, or else the nature of the individual would have to be identical with that of the universal. All this is presumptuous, and how should it be else, for in a way the universal has an existence outside the soul.

Ghazali says:

And as regards their subterfuge where the impossible is concerned, that it is related to the matter qualified by its opposite, as it cannot take the place of its opposite this cannot be the case with every impossible, for that God should have a rival is impossible, but there is no matter to which this impossibility could be related. If they say the impossibility of God’s having a rival, means that the solitude of God in His essence and His uniqueness are necessary and that this solitude is proper to Him, we answer: This is not necessary, for the world exists with Him, and He is therefore not solitary. And if they say that His solitude so far as a rival is concerned is necessary, and that the opposite of the necessary is the impossible, and that the impossible is related to Him, we answer: In this case the solitude of God in regard to the world is different from His solitude in regard to His equal and in this case His solitude in regard to His rival is necessary, and in regard to the created world not necessary.’

I say:

All this is vain talk, for it cannot be doubted that the judgments of the mind have value only in regard to the nature of things outside the soul. If there were outside the soul nothing possible or impossible, the judgment of the mind that things are possible or impossible would be of as much value as no judgment at all, and there would be no difference between reason and illusion. And that there should be a rival to God is just as impossible in reality as God’s existence is i necessary in reality. But there is no sense in wasting more words on this question.

Ghazali says:

The subterfuge concerning the becoming of the souls is worthless too, for they have individual essences and a possibility prior to their becoming, and at that time there is nothing with which they could be brought into relation. Their argument contends that it is possible for matter that the souls direct it is a remote relation and, if this satisfies you, you might as well say that the possibility of the souls becoming lies in the power of Him who can on His own authority produce them, for the souls are then  related to the Agent-although they are not impressed on Him-in the same way as to the body, on which they are not impressed either. And since the imprint is made neither on the one substrate nor on the other, there is no difference between the relation to the agent and that to the patient.

I say:

He wants to force those who assume the possibility of the soul’s becoming without there being an imprint in matter to concede that the possibility in the recipient is like the possibility in the agent, because the act proceeds from the agent and therefore these two possibilities are similar. But this is a shocking supposition, for, according to it, the soul would come to the body as if it directed it from the outside, as the artisan directs his product, and the soul would not be a form in the body, just as the artisan is not a form in his product. The answer is that it is not impossible that there should be amongst i the entelechies which conduct themselves like formsb something that is separate from its substratum as the steersman is from his ships and the artisan from his tool, and if the body is like the instrument of the

soul, the soul is a separate form, and then the possibility which is in the instrument is not like the possibility which is in the agent; no, the instrument is in both conditions, the possibility which is in the patient and the possibility which is in the agent, and therefore the instruments are the mover and the moved, and in so far as they are the mover, there is in them the possibility which is in the agent, and in so far as they are moved, the possibility which is in the recipient.’ But the supposition that the soul is a separate entity does not force them into the admission that the possibility which is in the recipient is identical= with the possibility which is in the agent. Besides, the possibility which according to the philosophers is in the agent is not only a rational judgement, but refers to something outside the soul. Therefore his argument does not gain by assimilating one of these two possibilities to the other. And since Ghazali knew that all these arguments have no other effect than to bring doubts and perplexity to those who cannot solve them-which is an act of wicked sophists, he says:

And if it is said you have taken good care in all your objections to oppose the difficulties by other difficulties, but nothing of what you yourself have adduced is free from difficulty, we answer: the objections do show the falsity of an argument, no doubt, and certain aspects of the problem are solved in stating the opposite view and its foundation. We have not committed ourselves to anything more than to upsetting their theories, and to showing the faults in the consequence of their proofs so as to demonstrate their incoherence. We do not seek to attack from any definite point of view, and we shall not transgress the aim of this book, nor give full proofs for the temporal production of the world, for our intention is merely to refute their alleged knowledge of its eternity. But after finishing this book we shall, if it pleases God, devote a work to establishing the doctrine of truth, and we call it ‘The Golden Mean in Dogmatic Beliefs’,’ in which we shall be engaged in building up, as in this book we have been in destroying.

I say:

To oppose difficulty with difficulty does not bring about destruction, but only perplexity and doubts in him who acts in this way, for why should he think one of the two conflicting theories reasonable and the opposite one vain? Most of the arguments with which this man Ghazali opposes the philosophers are doubts which arise when certain parts of the doctrine of the philosophers come into conflict with others, and when those differences are compared with each other; but this is an imperfect refutation. A perfect refutation would be one that succeeded in showing the futility of their system according to the facts themselves, not such a one as, for instance, his assumption that it is permissible for the opponents of the philosophers to claim that possibility is a mental concept in the same way as the philosophers claim this for the universal. For if the truth of this comparison between the two were conceded, it would not follow that it was untrue that possibility was a concept dependent on reality, but only either that the universal existed in the mind only was not true, or that possibility existed in the mind only was not true. Indeed, it would have been necessary for him to begin by establishing the truth, before starting to perplex and confuse his readers, for they might die before they could get hold of that book, or he might have died himself before writing it. But this book has not yet come into my hands’ and perhaps he never composed it, and he only says that he does not base this present book on any doctrine, in order that it should not be thought that he based it on that of the Ash’arites. It appears from the books ascribed to him that in metaphysics he recurs to the philosophers. And of all his books this is most clearly shown and most truly proved in his book called The Niche for Lights.