The philosophers agree-exactly as do the Mu’tazilites-that it is impossible to ascribe to the First Principle knowledge, power, and will, and they affirm that we have received these terms through the Divine Law, and that they may be used as verbal expressions, but that they refer to one essence as we have explained previously, and that it is not permissible to accept an attribute additional to its essence in the way we may consider, as regards ourselves, our knowledge, power, and will, as attributes of ourselves, additional to our essence. And they affirm that this causes a plurality, because if these attributes are supposed to occur to us in the course of our development, we know that they are additional to our essence, because they constitute new facts; on the other hand, if they are supposed to be simultaneous with our existence without any time-lag, their simultaneity does not prevent them from being an addition to our essence. ; For when one thing is added to another and it is known that they are not identical, it is thought, even if they are simultaneous, that they are two. Therefore the fact that these qualities would be simultaneous with the essence of the First does not prevent them from being extraneous to its essence, and this causes a plurality in the necessary existent, and this is impossible; and therefore they all agree in the denial of the attributes.
The difficulty for the man who denies a plurality of attributes consists in this: that different attributes are reduced to one essence, so that for instance knowledge, will, and power would mean one and the same thing and signify one single essence, and that also knowledge and knower, power and possessing power, will and willer would have one and the same meaning. The difficulty for the man, however, who affirms that there exist both an essence and attributes additional to the essence, consists in this: that the essence becomes a condition for the existence of the attributes and the attributes a condition for the perfection of the essence, and that their combination would be a necessary existent, that is, one single existent in which there is neither cause nor effect. And this latter difficulty cannot be really solved when it is assumed that there exists an essentially necessary existent, for this implies that it must be one in every way and can in no way be composed of the condition and the conditioned and of cause and effect, for such a composition would have to be either necessary or possible; (t) if necessary, it would be necessary through another, not through itself, since it is difficult to assume an eternal compound as existing through itself, i. e. as not having a cause for its composition, and this is especially difficult for the man who believes that every accident is temporal, ‘ since the fact of being a compound would be an eternal accident; (2) if possible, a cause would be needed to join together the effect and the cause. Now, according to philosophical principles it is quite impossible that there should be a compound existing by itself, having eternal attributes, since the composition would be a condition of its existence; and its parts could not be agents for the composition, for the composition would have to be a condition for their existence. Therefore, when the parts of any natural compound are disjoined, their original name can be only applied to them equivocally, e. g. the term `hand’, used of the hand which is a part of the living man and the hand which has been cut off; and every compound is for Aristotle transitory and a fortiori cannot be without a cause?
But as to the system of Avicenna, with its division of the necessary existent from the possible existent, it does not lead to the denial of an eternal compound; for when we assume that the possible ends in a necessary cause and that the necessary cause must either have a cause or not, and in the former case must end in a necessary existent which has no cause, this reasoning leads through the impossibility of an infinite regress to a necessary existence which has no efficient causenot, however, to an existent which has no cause at all, for this existent might have a formal or a material cause, unless it is assumed that everything which has matter and form, or in short every compound, must have an external cause; but this needs a proof which the demonstration based on the principle of the necessary existent does not contain, even if we do not consider the mistake in it we have already mentioned. And for exactly the same reason the proof of the Ash’arites that every temporal occurrence needs a cause does not lead to an eternal First Principle which is not composite, but only to a First Principle which is not temporal.
As to the fact that knower and knowledge are one, it is not impossible, but necessary, that such pairs of things lead up to the unity of their concepts; e. g. if the knower knows through knowledge, that through which he becomes a knower is more apt to be a knower, for the quality which any thing acquires from another is in itself more apt to possess the concept which is acquired, e. g. if the living bodies in our sublunary world are not alive by themselves, but through a life which inheres in them, then necessarily this life through which the non-living acquires life is alive by itself, or there would be an infinite regress; and the same is the case with knowledge and the other attributes.
Now, it cannot be denied that one essence can have many attributes related, negative, or imaginary, in different ways without this implying a plurality in the essence, e. g. that a thing is an existent and one and possible or necessary, l for when the one identical entity is viewed in so far as something else proceeds from it, it is called capable and acting, and in so far as it is viewed as differentiating between two opposite acts, it is called willing, and in so far as it is viewed as perceiving its object, knowing, and in so far as it is viewed as perceiving and as a cause of motion, it is called living, since the living is the perceiving and the self-moving. What is impossible is only a single simple existence with a plurality of attributes, existing by themselves, and especially if these attributes should be essential and exist in act, and as to these attributes existing in potency, it is not impossible, according to the philosophers, that something should be one in act and a plurality in potency, and this is the case according to them, with the parts of the definition in their relation to the thing defined.
And as to Ghazali’s words:
And they affirm that this causes a plurality . . . that they are two.
He means by them that the fact that these attributes are simultaneous with the essence does not prevent them from being necessarily a plurality by themselves, just as, if their existence were posterior to the essence, or if some of them were posterior to others, mind would not conceive them as being one.
After stating the view of the philosophers, Ghazali says:
But it must be said to the philosophers: How do you know the impossibility of plurality of this kind? for you are in opposition to all the Muslims, the Mu’tazilites excepted, and what is your proof of it? If someone says: ‘Plurality is impossible, since the fact that the essence is regarded as one is equivalent to the impossibility of its having a plurality of attributes’ this is just the point under discussion, and the impossibility is not self-evident, and a proof is needed. They have indeed two proofs. The first is that they say that, when subject and attribute are not identical, either both, subject and attribute, can exist independently of the other, or each will need the other, or only one of them will depend on the other. In the first case they will both be necessary existents, and this implies an absolute duality and is impossible. In the second case neither of them will be a necessary existent, because the meaning of a necessary existent is that it exists by itself and does not depend in any way on anything else, and when a thing requires something else, that other is its cause, since, if this other were annulled, its existence would be impossible and it would therefore exist not by itself but through another. In the third case the one which was dependent would be an effect and the necessary existent would be the other, on which it would be dependent, and that which was an effect would need a cause and therefore this would necessarily involve connecting the essence of the necessary existent with a cause. ‘
When their opponents concede to the philosophers that there is an existent necessary by itself and that the meaning of the necessary existent is that it has no cause at all, neither in its essence through which it subsists, or through something external, they cannot escape the conclusion which the philosophers forced upon them: that if the attributes existed through the essence, the essence would be an existent necessary through itself, and the attributes would be necessary through something different from themselves, and the essence of the necessary existent would exist by itself, but the attributes would be necessary through something different from themselves, and essence and attributes together would form a compound. z But the Ash’arites do not concede to the philosophers that the existence of a necessary existent, subsisting by itself, implies that it has no cause whatsoever, for their argument leads only to the denial of an efficient cause additional to the essence. ;
The objection against this is to say: The case to be accepted is the last, but we have shown in the fifth discussion that you have no proof for your denial of the first case, that of absolute duality; what is affirmed by you in the fifth discussion can only be justified by basing it upon your denial of plurality in this and the following discussions: how can you therefore base this discussion upon what” is itself the upshot of this discussion?’ But the correct solution is to say: `The essence does not need the attributes for its subsistence, whereas the attributes need a subject, as is the case with us ourselves. ‘ There remains their statement that what is in need of something else is not a necessary existent.
One may ask them: Why do you make such a statement, if you understand by `necessary existent’ only that which has no efficient cause, and why is it impossible to say that, just as there is no agent for the essence of the necessary existent, which is eternal, there is no agent for its attributes, which are equally eternal? If, however, you understand by `necessary existent’ that which has no receptive cause, we answer that that is not implied in this conception of the necessary existent, which, according to this conception is all the same eternal and has no agent; and what is wrong with this conception?
If it is answered that the absolute necessary existent is that which has no efficient cause and no receptive cause, x for if a receptive cause for it were conceded, it would be conceded that it was an effect-we say: To call the receptive essence a receptive cause is one of your technical terms, and there is no proof of the real existence of a necessary existent corresponding to your terminology; all that. is proved is that there must be a final term to the series of causes and effects, and no more, and this series can end in a unit with eternal attributes which have no more an agent than the essence itself, and are supposed to be in the essence itself. But let us put aside this term ‘necessary existent’, which is full of possible confusion. The proof indeed only demonstrates the end of the series and nothing more, and your further claims are pure presumption.
If it is said: In the same way as the series of efficient causes must have an end, the series of receptive causes must have an end, since if every existent needed a substratum to inhere in it and this substratum again needed a substratum, this would imply an infinite series, just as this would be the case if every existent needed a cause and this cause again another cause-we answer: You are perfectly right and for this very reason we say that the series has an end and that the attribute exists in its essence and that this essence does not exist in something else, just as our knowledge exists in our essence and our essence is its substratum, but does not exist itself in a substratum. The series of efficient causes comes to an end for the attribute at the same time as for the essence, since the attribute has an agent no more than the essence has, still the essence provided with this attribute does not cease to exist, although neither itself nor its attribute has a cause. As to the receptive causes, its series can only end in the essence, for how could the negation of a cause imply the negation of a substratum? The proof does not demonstrate anything but the termination of the series, and every method by which this termination can be explained is sufficient to establish the proof which demands the existence of the necessary existent. But if by `necessary existent’ is understood something besides the existent which has no efficient cause and which brings the causal series to an end, we do not by any means concede that this is necessary. And whenever the mind regards it as possible to acknowledge an eternal existent which has no cause for its existence, it regards it as possible to acknowledge an eternal subject for which there is no cause, either for its essence or for its attribute.
As to Ghazali’s words:
We have shown in the fifth discussion that you have no proof for your denial of the first case, that of absolute duality; what is affirmed by you in the fifth discussion can only be justified by basing it upon your denial of plurality.
Ghazali means the philosophers’ denial that subject and attribute are both subsistent by themselves, for from this it follows that they are independent of each other and that both are independent gods, which is a dualistic theory, since there is no connexion through which attribute and subject could become a unity. And since the philosophers used as an argument for the denial of this kind of plurality the fact that it has dualism as its consequence, ‘ and a demonstration ought to proceed in the opposite sense, namely, that dualism would have to be denied, because of the impossibility of plurality, he says that their proof is circular and that they proved the principle by the conclusion.
Their objection, however, was not based upon the facts themselves, but on the theory of their opponents who deny dualism. And you have learned in another place that there are two kinds of refutation, one based on the objective facts, the other based on the statement of the opponent, and although the former is the true kind of refutation, the second type may also be used .
As to Ghazali’s words:
But the correct solution is to say: ‘The essence does not need the attributes for its subsistence, whereas the attributes need a subject, as is the case with us ourselves. ‘ There remains their statement that what is in need of another is not a necessary existent.
Ghazali means that, when this tripartite division which they use to deny plurality is submitted to them, the facts lead them to establish that (i) the necessary existent cannot be a compound of attribute and subject; (2) the essence cannot be a plurality of attributes, for they cannot accept these things according to their principles. Then he starts to show that the impossibility which they strive to deduce from this division is not strict.
As to Ghazali’s words:
One may ask them: Why do you make such a statement, if you understand by `necessary existent’ only that which has no efficient cause, and why is it impossible to say that, just as there is no agent for the essence of the necessary existent, which is eternal, there is no agent for its attributes, which are equally eternal?
All this is an objection to Avicenna’s method of denying the attributes by establishing the necessary existent which exists by itself, but in this question the most convincing method of showing the necessity of unity and forcing it as a consequence upon the Ash’arites is the method of the Mu’tazilites. For the latter understand by ‘possible existence’ the truly possible, ‘ and they believe that everything below the First Principle is such. Their opponents, the Ash’arites, accept this, and believe also that every possible has an agent, and that the series comes to an end through what is not possible in itself. The Mu’tazilites concede this to them, but they believe that from this concession it follows that the First, which is the final term of the series of possibility, is not a possible, and that this implies its absolute simplicity. The Ash’arites, however, say that the denial of true possibility does not imply simplicity, but only eternity and the absence of an efficient cause, and therefore there is among the Ash’arites no proof of the simplicity of the First through the proof based on the necessary existent. z
And Ghazali says:
If it is answered that the absolute necessary existent is that which has no efficient cause and no receptive cause, for if a receptive cause for it were conceded, it would be conceded that it was an effect.
Ghazali means that, if the philosophers say that the proof has led to a necessary existent which has no efficient cause, it has, according to them, no receptive cause either, and that according to the philosophers the assumption of essence and attributes implies the assumption of a receptive cause.
Then Ghazali, answering this, says:.
We say: To call the receptive essence a receptive cause is one of your technical terms, and there is no proof for the real existence of a necessary existent corresponding to your terminology; all that is proved is that there must be a final term to the series of causes and effects.
Ghazali means that the Ash’arites do not concede that this essence in which the attributes inhere is a receptive cause, ‘ so as to be forced to admit an efficient cause for it. He says that the proof of the philosophers does not lead to an existent which has no receptive cause, let alone proving the existence of what has no essence and no attributes. It only proves that it has no efficient cause. This objection is a necessary consequence of their own proof. Even if the Ash’arites had accepted the philosophical theory that what has no efficient cause has no receptive cause, their own statement would not have been overthrown, for the essence which they assume only receives attributes which do not belong to the First, since they assume that the attributes are additional to the essence of the First, and they do not admit essential attributes in the way the Christians do.
And as to Ghazali’s words:
If it is said: In the same way as the series of efficient causes must have an end, the series of receptive causes must have an end, since if every existent needed a substratum to inhere in it and this substratum again needed a substratum, this would imply an infinite series, just as this would be the case if every existent needed a cause and this cause again another causewe answer: You are perfectly right and for this very reason we say that the series has an end and that the attribute exists in its essence and that this essence does not exist in something else, just as our knowledge exists in our essence and our essence is its substratum, but does not exist itself in a substratum.
This statement has no connexion with this discussion either with respect to the philosophical theories he mentions or with respect to the answers he gives, and it is a kind of sophism, for there exists no relation between the question, whether the receptive causes must or must not have an end, and the problem which is under discussion, namely whether it is a condition of the First Agent that it should have a receptive cause. For the inquiry about the finiteness of receptive causes differs from the inquiry about the finiteness of efficient causes, since he who admits the existence of receptive causes admits necessarily that their series must end in a primary receptive cause which is necessarily external to the First Agent, just as he admits the existence of a First Agent external to the receptive matter. For if the First Agent possessed matter, this matter would not exist numerically and individually either in the first recipient or in the inferior recipients of other things; ‘ no, if the First Agent possessed matter, this matter would have to be a matter peculiar to it, and in short it would belong to it; that is, either it would be its primary matter or we should arrive at a first recipient, and this recipient would not be of the genus which is the condition for the existence of all the other existents proceeding from the First Agent. ‘ But if matter were the condition for the existence of the First Agent, it would be a condition for the existence of all agents in their actions, and matter would not only be a condition for the existence of the agent’s act-since every agent acts only on a recipient -but it would be a condition for the existence of the agent itself, and therefore every agent would be a body. ;
All this the Ash’arites neither admit nor deny. But when the philosophers tell them that an essence to which such an attribute is ascribed must be a body, they answer: `Such an attribute is ascribed by you to the soul and yet, according to you, the soul is not a body. ‘ This is the limit to which dialectical arguments in this question can be carried. But the demonstrations are in the works of the ancients which they wrote about this science, and especially in the books of Aristotle, not in the statements of Avicenna about this problem and of other thinkers belonging to Islam, if anything is to be found in them on this question. For their metaphysical theories are pure presumptions, since they proceed from common, not particular, notions, i. e. notions which are extraneous to the nature of the inquiry.
And as to Ghazali’s words:
The series of efficient causes comes to an end for the attribute at the same time as for the essence, since the attribute has an agent no more than the essence has, still the essence provided with this attribute does not cease to exist, although neither itself nor its attribute has a cause.
This is a statement which is not accepted by their opponents, the philosophers; on the contrary, they affirm that it is a condition of the First Agent that it should not receive an attribute, because reception indicates matter and it is therefore not possible to assume as the final term of the causal series an agent of any description whatsoever, but only an agent which has absolutely no agent, and to which no attribute-from which it would follow that it had an agent-can be ascribed. For the assumption of the existence of an attribute of the First Agent existing in a receptive cause which would be a condition for its existence is thought by the philosophers to be impossible. Indeed, anything for the existence of which there is a condition can only be connected with this condition through an external cause, for a thing cannot itself be the cause of its connexion with the condition of its existence, just as it cannot be the cause of its own existence. For the conditioned, if it were not connected with its condition, would have to exist by itself, and it needs an efficient cause to connect the condition with it, since a thing cannot be the cause of the existence of the condition of its own existence; but all these are common notions. And in general one cannot imagine that it is possible to arrive by this method, as applied to this problem, at something near evidence, because of the equivocation in the term `existent necessary by itself’, and in the term `possible by itself, necessary through another’, and the other preliminary notions which are added to them.
The second proof of the philosophers is that they say that the knowledge and the power in us do not enter the quiddity of our essence, but are accidental, and when these attributes are asserted of the First, they too do not enter the quiddity of its essence, but are accidental in their relation to it, even if they are lasting; for frequently an accident does not separate itself from its quiddity and is a necessary attribute of it, but still it does not therefore become a constituent of its essence. And if it is an accident, it is consequent on the essence and the essence is its cause, and it becomes an effect, and how can it then be a necessary existent?’
Then Ghazali says, refuting this:
This proof is identical with the first, notwithstanding the change of expression. For we say: If you mean by its being consequent on the essence, and by the essence’s being its cause, that the essence is its efficient cause, and that it is the effect of the essence, this is not true, for this is not valid of our knowledge in relation to our essence, since our essence is not an efficient cause of our knowledge. If you mean that the essence is a substratum and that the attribute does not subsist by itself without being in a substratum, this is conceded, and why should it be impossible? For if you call this `consequent’ or `accident’ or `effect’ or whatever name you want to give it, its meaning does not change, since its meaning is nothing but `existing in the essence in the way attributes exist in their subjects’. And it is by no means impossible that it should exist in the essence, and be all the same eternal and without an agent. All the proofs of the philosophers amount to nothing but the production of a shock by the use of a depreciating expression: `possible’, `permissible’, ‘consequent’, `connected’, `effect’-but all this may be ignored. For it must be answered: If by this you mean that it has an agent, it is not true, and if only it is meant that it has no agent, but that it has a substratum in which it exists, then let this meaning be indicated by any expression you want, and still it will not become impossible.
This is using many words for one idea. But in this question the difference between the opponents consists in one point, namely: `Can a thing which has a receptive cause be without an agent or not?’ Now it belongs to the principles of the theologians that the connexion of condition and conditioned appertains to the domain of the permissible’ and that whatever is permissible needs for its realization and actualization an agent which actualizes it and connects the condition with the conditioned, and that the connexion is a condition for the existence of the conditioned and that it is possible neither that a thing should be the cause of the condition of its existence, nor that the condition should be the efficient cause of the existence of the conditioned, for our essence is not the efficient cause of the existence of the knowledge which exists in it, but our essence is a condition for the existence of the knowledge existing in it. And because of all these principles it is absolutely necessary that there should exist an efficient cause which brings about the connexion of condition and conditioned, and this is the case with every conjunction of a condition and a conditioned. But all these principles are annulled by the philosophical theory that heaven is eternal, although it possesses essence and attributes, for the philosophers do not give it an agent of the kind which exists in the empirical world, as would be the consequence of these principles; they only assume that there is a proof which leads to an eternal connexion through an eternal connecting principle, and this is another kind of connexion, differing from that which exists in transitory things. But all these are problems which need a serious examination. And the assumption of the philosophers that these attributes do not constitute the essence is not true, for every essence is perfected by attributes through which it becomes more complete and illustrious, and, indeed, it is constituted by these attributes, since through knowledge, power, and will we become superior to those existents which do not possess knowledge, and the essence in which these attributes exist is common to us and to inorganic things. How therefore could such attributes be accidents consequent on our essence? All these are statements of people who have not studied well the psychological and accidental attributes.
And often they shock by the use of a depreciating expression in another way, and they say: This leads to ascribing to the First a need for these attributes, so that it would not be self-sufficient absolutely, since the absolutely self-sufficient is not in need of anything else. ‘
Then Ghazali says, refuting this:
This is an extremely weak verbal argument, for the attributes of perfection do not differ from the essence of the perfect being in such a way that he should be in need of anything else. And if he is eternally perfect through knowledge, power, and life, how could he be in need of anything, or how could his being attached to perfection be described as his being in need? It would be like saying that the perfect needs no perfection and that he who is in need of the attributes of perfection for his essence is imperfect; the answer is that perfection cannot mean anything but the existence of perfection in his essence, and likewise being self-sufficient does not mean anything but the existence of attributes that exclude every need in his essence. How therefore can the attributes of perfection through which divinity is perfected be denied through such purely verbal arguments?
There are two kinds of perfection: perfection through a thing’s own self and perfection through attributes which give their subject its perfection, and these attributes must be in themselves perfect, for if they were perfect through perfect attributes, we should have to ask whether these attributes were perfect through themselves or through attributes, and we should have therefore to arrive at that which is perfect by itself as a final term. Now the perfect through another will necessarily need, according to the above principles if they are accepted, a bestower of the attributes of perfection; otherwise it would be imperfect. But that which is perfect by itself is like that which is existent by itself, and how true it is that the existent by itself is perfect by itself!If therefore there exists an existent by itself, it must be perfect by itself and self-sufficient by itself; otherwise it would be composed of an imperfect essence and attributes perfecting this essence. If this is true, the attribute and its subject are one and the same, and the acts which are ascribed to this subject as proceeding necessarily from different attributes exist only in a relative way.
Ghazali says, answering the philosophers:
And if it is said by the philosophers: When you admit an essence and an attribute and the inherence of an attribute in the essence, you admit a composition, and every compound needs a principle which composes it, and just because a body is composed, God cannot be a body-we answer:
Saying that every compound needs a composing principle is like saying that every existent needs a cause for its existence, and it may be answered
The First is eternal and exists without a cause and without a principle for its existence, and so it may be said that it is a subject, eternal, without a cause for its essence, for its attribute and for the existence of its attribute in its essence; indeed all this is eternal without a cause. But the First cannot be a body, because body is a temporal thing which cannot be free from what is temporal’: however, he who does not allow that body has a beginning must be forced to admit that the first cause can be a body, and we shall try later to force this consequence on the philosophers.
Composition is not like existence, because composition is like being set in motion, namely, a passive quality, additional to the essence of things which receive the composition, z but existence is a quality which is the essence itself, and whoever says otherwise is mistaken indeed. Further, the compound cannot be divided into that which is compound by itself and that which is compound through another, so that one would finally come to an eternal compound in the way one arrives, where existents are concerned, at an eternal existent, and we have treated this problem in another place. ; And again: If it is true, as we have said, that composition is something additional to existence, then one may say, if there exists a compound by itself, . then there must exist also something moved by itself, and if there exists something moved by itself, then also a privation will come into existence by itself, for the existence of a privation is the actualization of a potency, and the same applies to motion and the thing moved. But this is not the case with existence, for existence is not an attribute additional to the essence, and every existent which does not exist sometimes in potency and sometimes in act is an existent by itself, whereas the existence of a thing as moved occurs only when there is a moving power, and every moved thing therefore needs a movers
The distinctive point in this problem is that the two parts in any compound must be either (i) mutually a condition for each other’s existence, as is, according to the Peripatetics, the case with those which are composed of matters and forms, b or (2) neither of them a condition for the existence of the other, or (3) exclusively one the condition for the other.
In the first case the compound cannot be eternal, because the compound itself is a condition for the existence of the parts and the parts cannot be the cause of the compound, nor the compound its own cause, for otherwise a thing might be its own cause, and this kind of compound, therefore, is transitory and needs an agent for its actualization. ‘
In the second case-and for these compounds it is not in the nature of either of their parts that it implies the other-there is no composition possible without a composing factor, external to the parts, since the composition is not of their own nature so that their essence might exist through their nature or be a consequence of their nature; and if their nature determined the composition and they were both in themselves eternal, their composition would be eternal, but would. need a cause which would give it unity, since no eternal thing can possess unity accidentally.
In the third case, and this is the case of the non-essential attribute and its subject, if the subject were eternal and were such as never to be without this attribute, the compound would be eternal. But if this were so, and if an eternal compound were admitted, the Ash’arite proof that all accidents are temporal would not be true, since if there were an eternal compound there would be eternal accidents, one of which would be the composition, whereas the principle on which the Ash’arites base their proof of the temporality!of accidents is the fact that the parts of which a body, according to them, is composed must exist first separately; if, therefore, they allowed an eternal compound, it would be possible that there should be a composition not preceded by a separation, and a movement, not preceded by a rest, and if this were permissible, it would be possible that a body possessing eternal accidents should exist, and it would no longer be true for them that what cannot exist without the temporal is temporal. And further, it has already been said that every compound is only one because of a oneness existing in it, and this oneness exists only in it through something which is one through itself. And if this is so, then the one, in so far as it is one, precedes every compound, and the act of this one agent-if this agent is eternal-through which it gives all single existents which exist through it their oneness, is everlasting and without a beginning, not intermittent; for the agent whose act is attached to its object at the time of its actualization is temporal and its object is necessarily temporal, but the attachment of the First Agent to its object is everlasting and its power is everlastingly mixed with its object. And it is in this way that one must understand the relation of the First, God, praise be to Him, to all existents. But since it is not possible to prove these things here, let us turn away from them, since our sole aim was to show that this book of Ghazali does not contain any proofs, but mostly sophisms and at best dialectical arguments. But proofs are very rare, and they stand in relation to other arguments as unalloyed gold to the other minerals and the pure pearl to the other jewels. ‘ And now let us revert to our subject.
All their proofs where this problem is concerned are imaginary. Further, they are not able to reduce all the qualities which they admit to the essence itself, for they assert, that it is knowing, and so they are forced to admit that this is something additional to its mere existence, and then one can ask them: `Do you concede that the First knows something besides its essence?’ Some of them concede this, whereas others affirm that it only knows its own self. The former position is that taken by Avicenna, for he affirms that the First knows all things in a universal timeless way, but that it does not know individuals, because to comprehend their continual becoming would imply a change in the essence of the knower. z But, we ask, is the knowledge which the First has of all the infinite number of species and genera identical with its self-knowledge or not? If you answer in the negative, you have affirmed a plurality and have contradicted your own principle; if you answer in the affirmative, you are like a man claiming that man’s knowledge of other things is identical with his self-knowledge and with his own essence, and such a statement is mere stupidity. And it may be argued: `The definition of an identical thing is that its negation and affirmation cannot be imagined at the same time, and the knowledge of an identical thing, when it is an identical thing, cannot at the same time be imagined as existing and not existing. And since it is not impossible to imagine a man’s self-knowledge without imagining his knowledge of something else, it may be said that his knowledge of something else is different from his self-knowledge, since, if they were the same, the affirmation or negation of the one would imply the affirmation or negation of the other. For it is impossible that Zaid should be at one and the same time both existing and not existing, but the existence of self-knowledge simultaneously with the non-existence of the knowledge of something else is not impossible, nor is this impossible with the self-knowledge of the First and its knowledge of something else, for the existence of the one can be imagined without the other and they are therefore two things, whereas the existence of its essence without the existence of its essence cannot be imagined, and if the knowledge of all things formed a unity, it would be impossible to imagine this duality. Therefore all those philosophers who acknowledge that the First knows something besides its own essence have undoubtedly at the same time acknowledged a plurality.
The summary of this objection to the proposition that the First knows both itself and something else is that knowing one’s self is different from knowing something else. But Ghazali falls here into confusion. For this can be understood in two ways: first, that Zaid’s knowledge of his own individuality is identical with his knowledge of other things, and this is not true; secondly, that man’s knowledge of other things, namely of existents, is identical with the knowledge of his own essence, and this is true. ‘ And the proof is that his essence is nothing but his knowledge of the existents. z For if man like all other beings knows only the quiddity which characterizes him, and if his quiddity is the knowledge of things, then man’s self-knowledge is necessarily the knowledge of all other things, for if they were different his essence would be different from his knowledge of things. This is clear in the case of the artisan, for his essence, through which he is called an artisan, is nothing but his knowledge of the products of art. ; And as to Ghazali’s words, that if his self-knowledge were identical with his knowledge of other things, then the negation of the one would be the negation of the other and the affirmation of the one the affirmation of the other, he means that if the self-consciousness of man were identical with his knowledge of other things, he could not know his own self without knowing the other things; that is, if he were ignorant of other things, he would not know his own self, and this proposition is in part true, in part false. For the quiddity of man is knowledge, and knowledge is the thing known in one respect and is something different in another. And if he is ignorant of a certain object of knowledge, he is ignorant of a part of his essence, and if he is ignorant of all knowables, he is ignorant of his essence; and to deny man this knowledge is absolutely the same as to deny man’s selfconsciousness, for if the thing known is denied to the knower in so far as the thing known and knowledge are one, man’s self-consciousness itself is denied. But in so far as the thing known is not knowledge, it is not man, and to deny man this knowledge does not imply the denial of man’s self-consciousness. And the same applies to individual men. For Zaid’s knowledge of Amr is not Zaid himself, and therefore Zaid can know his own self, while being ignorant of Amr.
If it is said: `The First does not know other things in first intention. No, it knows its own essence as the principle of the universe, and from this its knowledge of the universe follows in second intention, since it cannot know its essence except as a principle, for this is the true sense of its essence, and it cannot know its essence as a principle for other things, without the other things entering into its knowledge by way of implication and consequence; it is not impossible that from its essence consequences should follow, and this does not imply a plurality in its essence, and only a plurality in its essence is impossible’-there are different ways of answering this. First your assertion that it knows its essence to be a principle is a presumption; it suffices that it knows the existence of its essence, and the knowledge that it is a principle is an addition to its knowledge of its essence, since being a principle is a relation to the essence and it is possible that it should know its essence and not this relation, and if this being-a-principle were not a relation, its essence would be manifold and it would have existence and be a principle, and this forms a duality. And just as a man can know his essence without knowing that he is an effect, for his being an effect is a relation to his cause, so the fact that the First is a cause is a relation between itself and its object. This consequence is implied in the mere statement of the philosophers that it knows that it is a principle, since this comprises the knowledge of its essence and of its being a principle, and this is a relation, and the relation is not the essence, and the knowledge of the relation is not the knowledge of the essence and we have already given the proof of this, namely that we can imagine knowledge of the essence, without the knowledge of its being a principle, but knowledge of the essence without the knowledge of the essence cannot be imagined, since the essence is an identical unity.
The proposition which the philosophers defend against Ghazali in this question is based on philosophical principles which must be discussed first. For if the principles they have assumed and the deductions to which, according to them, their demonstration leads, are conceded, none of the consequences which Ghazali holds against them follows. The philosophers hold, namely, that the incorporeal existent is in its essence nothing but knowledge, for they believe that the forms’ have no knowledge for the sole reason that they are in matter; but if a thing does not exist in matter, it is known to be knowing, and this is known because they found that when forms which are in matter are abstracted in the soul from matter they become knowledge and intellect, for intellect is nothing but the forms abstracted from matter, z and if this is true for things which by the principle of their nature are not abstracted, then it is still more appropriate for things which by the principle of their nature are abstracted to be knowledge and intellect. And since what is intelligible in things is their innermost reality, and since intellect is nothing but the perception of the intelligibles, our own intellect is the intelligible by itself, in so far as it is an intelligible, and so there is no difference between the intellect and the intelligible, except in so far as the intelligibles are intelligibles of things in the nature of which there is no intellect and which only become intellect because the intellect abstracts their forms from their matters, and through this our intellect is not the intelligible in every respect. But if there is a thing which does not exist in matter, then to conceive it by intellect is identical with its intelligible in every respect, and this is the case with the intellectual conception of the intelligibles. And no doubt the intellect is nothing but the perception of the order and arrangement of existing things, but it is necessary for the separate intellect that it should not depend on the existing things in its intellectual conception of the existing things and of their order, and that its intelligible should not be posterior to them, for every other intellect is such that it follows the order which exists in the existents and perfects itself through it, and necessarily falls short in its intellectual conception of the things, and our intellect, therefore, cannot adequately fulfil the demands of the natures of existing things in respect of their order and arrangement. But if the natures of existing things follow the law of the intellect and our intellect is inadequate to perceive the natures of existent things, there must necessarily exist a knowledge of the arrangement and order which is the cause of the arrangement, order and wisdom which exist in every single being, and it is necessary that this intellect should be the harmony which is the cause of the harmony which exists in the existents, and that it should be impossible to ascribe to its perception knowledge of universals, let alone knowledge of individuals, ‘ because universals are intelligibles which are consequent on and posterior to existents, z whereas on the contrary the existents are consequent on this intellect. And this intellect necessarily conceives existents by conceiving the harmony and order which exist in the existents through its essence, not by conceiving anything outside its essence, for in that case it would be the effect, not the cause, of the existent it conceives, and it would be inadequate.
And if you have understood this philosophical theory, you will have understood that the knowledge of things through a universal knowledge is inadequate, for it knows them in potency, and that the separate intellect only conceives its own essence, and that by conceiving its own essence it conceives all existents, since its intellect is nothing but the harmony and order which exist in all beings, and this order and harmony is received by the active powers which possess order and harmony and exist in all beings and are called natures by the philosophers. For it seems that in every being there are acts which follow the arrangement and order of the intellect, and this cannot happen by accident, nor can it happen through an intellect which resembles our intellect; no, this can only occur through an intellect more exalted than all beings, and this intellect is neither a universal nor an individual. And if you have understood this philosophical theory, all the difficulties which Ghazali raises here against the philosophers are solved; but if you assume that yonder intellect resembles our own, the difficulties mentioned follow. For the intellect which is in us is numerable and possesses plurality, but this is not the case with yonder intellect, for it is free from the plurality which belongs to our intelligibles and one cannot imagine a difference in it between the perceiver and the perceived, whereas to the intellect which is in us the perception of a thing is different from the perception that it is a principle of a thing, and likewise its perception of another is different in a certain way from the perception of itself. Still, our intellect has a resemblance to yonder intellect, and it is yonder intellect which gives our intellect this resemblance, for the intelligibles which are in yonder intellect are free from the imperfections which are in our intellect: for instance, our intellect only becomes the intelligible in so far as it is an intelligible, because there exists an intellect which is the intelligible in every respect. The reason for this is that everything which possesses an imperfect attribute possesses this attribute necessarily through a being which possesses it in a perfect way. For instance, that which possesses an insufficient warmth possesses this through a thing which possesses a perfect warmth, and likewise that which possesses an insufficient life or an imperfect intellect possesses this through a thing which possesses a perfect life or a perfect intellect. ‘ And in the same way a thing which possesses a perfect rational act receives this act from a perfect intellect, and if the acts of all beings, although they do not possess intellects, are perfect rational acts, then there exists an intellect through which the acts of all beings become rational acts.
It is weak thinkers who, not having understood this, ask whether the First Principle thinks its own essence or if it thinks something outside its essence. But to assume that it thinks something outside its essence would imply that it is perfected by another thing, and to assume that it does not think something outside its essence would imply that it is ignorant of existents. One can only wonder at these people who remove from the attributes which are common to the Creator and the created, all the imperfections which they possess in the created, and who still make our intellect like His intellect, whereas nothing is more truly free from all imperfection than His intellect. This suffices for the present chapter, but now let us relate the other arguments of Ghazali in this chapter and call attention to the mistakes in them.
The second way to answer this assertion is to say that their expression that everything is known to it in second intention is without sense, for as soon as its knowledge comprehends a thing different from itself, in the way it comprehends its own essence, this First Principle will have two different objects of knowledge and it will know them both, for the plurality and the difference of the object known imply a plurality in the knowledge, since each of the two objects known receives in the imagination the discrimination which distinguishes it from the other. And therefore the knowledge of the one cannot be identical with the knowledge of the other, for in that case it would be impossible to suppose the existence of the one without the other, and indeed there could not be an other at all, since they would both form an identical whole, and using for it the expression `second intention’ does not make any difference. Further, I should be pleased to know how he who says that not even the weight of an atom, either in heaven or earth, escapes God’s knowledge, ‘ intends to deny the plurality, unless by saying that God knows the universe in a universal way. However, the universals which form the objects of His knowledge would be infinite, and still His knowledge which is attached to them would remain one in every respect, notwithstanding their plurality and their differentiation.
The summary of this is found in two questions. The first is, `How can its knowledge of its own self be identical with its knowledge of another?’ The answer to this has already been given, namely that there is something analogous in the human mind which has led us to believe in the necessity of its being in the First Intellect.
The second question is whether its knowledge is multiplied through the plurality of its objects known and whether it comprehends all finite and infinite knowables in a way which makes it possible that its knowledge should comprehend the infinite. The answer to this question is that it is not impossible that there should exist in the First Knowledge, notwithstanding its unity, a distinction between the objects known, and it is not impossible, according to the philosophers, that it should know a thing, different from itself, and its own essence, through a knowledge which differs in such a way that there should exist a plurality of knowledge. The only thing which is absolutely impossible according to them is that the First Intellect should be perfected through the intelligible and caused by it, and if the First Intellect thought things different from itself in the way we do, it would be an effect of the existent known, not its cause, and it has been definitely proved that it is the cause of the existent. The plurality which the philosophers deny does not consist in its knowing through its own essence, but in its knowing through a knowledge which is additional to its essence; the denial, however, of this plurality in God does not imply the denial of a plurality of things known, except through dialectics, and Ghazali’s transference of the problem of the plurality which is in the knowledge, according to the philosophers, to the problem of plurality which is in the things known themselves, is an act of sophistry, because it supposes that the philosophers deny the plurality which is in the knowledge through the things known, in the way they deny the plurality which arises through the duality of substratum and inherent.
But the truth in this question is that there is not a plurality of things known in the Eternal Knowledge like their numerical plurality in human knowledge. For the numerical plurality of things known in human knowledge arises from two sources: first the representations, and this resembles spatial plurality;’ secondly the plurality of what is known in our intellect, namely the plurality which occurs in the first genus-which we may call being-through its division into all the species which are subsumed under it, for our intellect is one; with respect to the universal genus which comprises all species existing in the world, whereas it becomes manifold through the plurality of the species. And it is clear that when we withhold the idea of the universal from the Eternal Knowledge, this plurality is in fact abandoned and there only remains in the Divine a plurality the perception of which is denied to our intellect, for otherwise our knowledge would be identical with this eternal knowledge, and this is impossible. And therefore what the philosophers say is true, that for the human understanding there is a limit, where it comes to a stand, and beyond which it cannot trespass, and this is our inability to understand the nature of this knowledge. And again, our intellect is knowledge of the existents in potency, not knowledge in act, and knowledge in potency is less perfect than knowledge in act; and the more our knowledge is universal, the more it comes under the heading of potential knowledge and the more its knowledge becomes imperfect . But it is not true of the Eternal Knowledge that it is imperfect in any way, and in it there is no knowledge in potency, for knowledge in potency is knowledge in matter. Therefore the philosophers believe that the First Knowledge requires that there should be a knowledge in act and that there should be in the divine world no universal at all and no plurality which arises out of potency, like the plurality of the species which results from the genus. And for this reason alone we are unable to perceive the actually infinite, that the things known to us are separated from each other, and if there exists a knowledge in which the things known are unified, then with respect to it the finite and the infinite are equivalent.
The philosophers assert that there are definite proofs for all these statements, and if we understand by `plurality in knowledge’ only this plurality and this plurality is denied of the Divine, then the knowledge of God is a unity in act, but the nature of this unity and the representation of its reality are impossible for the human understanding, for if man could perceive the unity, his intellect would be identical with the intellect of the Creator, and this is impossible. And since knowledge of the individual is for us knowledge in act, we know that God’s knowledge is more like knowledge of the individual than knowledge of the universal, although it is neither the one nor the other. And he who has understood this understands the Divine Words: `Nor shall there escape from it the weight of an atom, either in the heavens or in the earth’, and other similar verses which refer to this idea.
Avicenna, however, has put himself in opposition to all the other philosophers who, in order not to commit themselves to the consequence of plurality, took the view that the First only knows itself; how, then, can he share with them the denial of plurality’ Still he distinguished himself from them by admitting its knowledge of other things, since he was ashamed to say that God is absolutely ignorant of this world and the next and knows only His own self-whereas all others know Him, and know also their own selves and other things, and are therefore superior to Him in knowledge-and he abandoned that blasphemous philosophical theory, refusing to accept it. Still he was not ashamed of persisting in the denial of this plurality in every respect, and he affirmed that God’s knowledge of Himself and of other things, yes, of the totality of things, is identical with His essence without this implying any contradiction, and this is the very contradiction which the other philosophers were ashamed to accept, because of its obviousness. And thus no party among the philosophers could rid itself of a blasphemous doctrine, and it is in this manner that God acts towards the man who strays from His path and who believes that he has the power through his speculation and imagination to fathom the innermost nature of the Divine.
The answer to all this is clear from what we have said already, namely that the philosophers only deny that the First Principle knows other things than its own self in so far as these other things are of an inferior existence, so that the effect should not become a cause, nor the superior existence the inferior; for knowledge is identical with the thing known. They do not, however, deny it, in so far as it knows these other things by a knowledge, superior in being to the knowledge by which we know other things; on the contrary, it is necessary that it should know them in this way, because it is in this way that the other things proceed from the First Agent. As to the inquiry about the possibility of a plurality of things known in the Eternal Knowledge, that is a second question, and we have mentioned it, and it is not because of this that the philosophers sought refuge in the theory that the First knows only its own self, as Ghazali wrongly supposes; no, only because in short-as we have dcclared already-its knowledge should not be like our knowledge which differs from it in the extreme. And Avicenna wanted only to combine these two statements, that it knows only its own essence and that it knows other things by a knowledge superior to man’s knowledge of them, since this knowledge constitutes its essence, and this is clear from Avicenna’s words that it knows its own self and other things besides itself, and indeed all things which constitute its essence, although Avicenna does not explain this, as we have done. And, therefore, these words of his are not a real contradiction, nor are the other philosophers ashamed of them; no, this is a statement about which, explicitly or implicitly, they all agree. And if you have grasped this well, you will have understood Ghazali’s bad faith in his attack on the philosophers, although he agrees with them in the greater part of their opinions.
Ghazali says, on behalf of the philosophers:
It may be said that if it is asserted that the First knows its own self as a principle by way of relation, the knowledge of two correlatives is one and the same, for the man who knows the son knows him through one single knowledge in which the knowledge of the father, of fatherhood, and sonhood are comprised, so that the objects of knowledge are manifold, but the knowledge is one. ‘ And in the same way the First knows its essence as a principle for the other things besides itself and so the knowledge is one, although what is known is manifold. Further, if the First thinks this relation in reference to one single effect and its own relation towards it, and this does not imply a plurality, then a plurality is not implied by an addition of things which generically do not imply a plurality. ‘ And likewise he who knows a thing and knows his knowing this thing, knows this thing through this knowledge, and therefore all knowledge is self-knowledge connected with the knowledge of the thing known, ‘ and the known is manifold, but knowledge forms a unity. ; An indication of this is also that you theologians believe that the things known to God are infinite, but His knowledge is one, and you do not attribute to God an infinite number of cognitions; if, indeed, the manifoldness of the known implied a plurality in the knowledge itself, well, let there then be an infinite number of cognitions in the essence of God. But this is absurd.
Then Ghazali says, answering the philosophers:
We say: Whenever knowledge is one in every respect, it cannot be imagined that it should be attached to two things known; on the contrary, this determines a certain plurality, according to the assumption and tenet of the philosophers themselves about the meaning of ‘plurality’, so that they even make the excessive claim that if the First had a quiddity to which existence were attributed, this would imply a plurality. And they do not think that to a single unity possessing reality existence also can be attributed; no, they assert that the existence is brought in relation to the reality and differs from it and determines a plurality, and on this assumption it is not possible that knowledge should attach itself to two objects of knowledge without this implying a greater and more important kind of plurality than that which is intended in the assumption of an existence, brought in relation to a quiddity. And as to the knowledge of a son and similarly of other relative concepts, there is in it a plurality, since there must necessarily be knowledge of the son himself and the father himself, and this is a dual knowledge, and there must be a third knowledge, and this is the relation; indeed, this third knowledge is implied in the dual knowledge which precedes it, as they are its necessary condition, for as long as the terms of relation are not known previously, the relation itself cannot be known, and there is thus a plurality of knowledge of which one part is conditioned through another. Likewise when the First knows itself as related to the other genera and species by being their principle, it needs the knowledge of its own essence and of the single genera and it must further know that there exists between itself and those genera and species the relation of being a principle, for otherwise the existence of this relation could not be supposed to be known to it. And as to their statement that he who knows something knows that he is knowing through this knowledge itself, so that the thing known can be manifold, but the knowledge remains one, this is not true; on the contrary, he knows that he knows through another knowledge, and this ends in a knowledge to which he does not pay attention and of which he is no longer conscious, and we do not say that there is an infinite regress, but there is a final term of knowledge attached to the thing known, and he is unconscious of the existence of the knowledge, but not of the existence of the known, like a man who knows the colour black and whose soul at the moment of his knowing it is plunged in the object of his knowledge, the colour black, and who is unconscious of his knowing this colour black and whose attention is not centred on it, for if it were, he would need another knowledge till his attention came to a stand. ‘ And as to the affirmation of the philosophers that this can be turned against the theologians concerning the things known by God, for they are infinite, whereas God’s knowledge according to the theologians is one, we answer, `We have not plunged ourselves into this book to set right, but to destroy and to refute, and for this reason we have called this book “The Incoherence of the Philosophers”, not “The Establishment of the Truth”, and this argument against us is not conclusive. ‘
And if the philosophers say: `We do not draw this conclusion against you theologians in so far as you hold the doctrine of a definite sect but in so far as this problem is applied to the totality of mankind, and the difficulty for all human understanding is the same, and you have no right to claim it against us in particular, for it can be turned against you also, and there is no way out of it for any party’-we answer: `No, but our aim is to make you desist from your claim to possess knowledge of the essential realities through strict proofs, and to make you doubt. And when your impotence becomes evident, we say that there are men who hold that the divine realities cannot be attained through rational inquiry, for it is not in human power to apprehend them and it was for this reason that Muhammad, the Lord of the Law, said “Ponder over God’s creation, but do not ponder over God’s essence”. Why then do you oppose this group of men who believe in the truth of the prophet through the proof of his miracles, ‘ who confine the judgement of the intellect to a belief in God, the Sender of the Prophets, who guard themselves against any rational speculation about the attributes, who follow the Lord of the Law in his revelations about God’s attributes, who accept his authority for the use of the terms “the knowing” “the wifer”, “the powerful”, “the living”, who refuse to acknowledge those meanings which are forbidden and who recognize our impotence to reach the Divine Intellect? You only refute these men in so far as they are ignorant of the methods of demonstration and of the arrangement of premisses according to the figures of the syllogisms, and you claim that you know these things by rational methods; but now your impotence, the breakdown of your methods, the shamelessness of your claim to knowledge, have come to light, and this is the intention of our criticism. And where is the man who would dare to claim that theological proofs have the strictness of geometrical proofs?’;
All this prolix talk has only a rhetorical and dialectical value. And the arguments which he gives in favour of the philosophers about the doctrine of the unity of God’s knowledge are two, the conclusion of which is that in our concepts there are conditions which do not through their plurality bring plurality into the concepts themselves, just as there appear in the existents conditions which do not bring plurality into their essences, for instance that a thing should be one and exist and be necessary or possible. And all this, if it is true, is a proof of a unique knowledge comprising a multitude, indeed an infinite number, of sciences.
The first argument which he uses in this section refers to those mental processes which occur to the concept in the soul and which resemble the conditions in the existents with respect to the relations and negations, which exist in them; for it appears from the nature of the relation which occurs in the concepts that it is a condition through which no plurality arises in the concepts, ‘ and it is now argued that the relation which presents itself in the related things belongs to this class of conditions. Ghazali objects to this that the relation and the terms of the relation form a plurality of knowledge, and that for instance our knowledge of fatherhood is different from our knowledge of the father and the son. Now the truth is that the relation is an attribute additional to the terms of the relation outside the soul in the existents, but as to the relation which exists in the concepts, it is better suited to be a condition than an attribute additional to the terms of the relation;’ however, all this is a comparison of man’s knowledge with the Eternal Knowledge, and this is the very cause of the mistake. Everyone who concerns himself with doubt about the Eternal Knowledge and tries to solve it by what occurs in human knowledge does indeed transfer the knowledge from the empirical to the Divine concerning two existents which differ in an extreme degree, not cxistents which participate in their species or genus, but which are totally unlike.
The second proof is that we know a thing through a single knowledge and that we know that we know by a knowledge which is a condition in the first knowledge, not an attribute additional to it, and the proof of this is that otherwise there would arise an infinite series. Now Ghazali’s answer, that this knowledge is a second knowledge and that there is no infinite series here, is devoid of sense, for it is self-evident that this implies such a series, and it does not follow from the fact that when a man knows a thing but is not conscious that he knows the fact that he knows, that in the case when lie knows that he knows, this second knowledge is an additional knowledge to the first; no, the second knowledge is one of the conditions of the first knowledge and its infinite regress is therefore not impossible; if, however, it were a knowledge existing by itself and additional to the first knowledge, an infinite series could not occur. ‘
As to the conclusion which the philosophers force upon the theologians, that all the theologians recognize that God’s knowledge is infinite and that at the same time it is one, this is an negumentum ad hominem, not an objective argument based on the facts themselves. And from this there is no escape for the theologians, unless they assume that the knowledge of the Creator differs in this respect from the knowledge of the creature, and indeed there is no one more ignorant than the man who believes that the knowledge of God differs only quantitatively from the knowledge of the creature, that is that He only possesses more knowledge. All these are dialectical arguments, but one may be convinced of the fact that God’s knowledge is one and that it is not an effect of the things known; no, it is their cause, and a thing that has numerous causes is indeed manifold itself, whereas a thing that has numerous effects need not be manifold in the way that the effects form a plurality. And there is no doubt that the plurality which exists in the knowledge of the creature must be denied of God’s knowledge, just as any change through the change of the objects known must be denied of Him, and the theologians assume this by one of their fundamental principles. ‘ But the arguments which have been given here are all dialectical arguments.
And as to his statement that his aim here is not to reach knowledge of the truth but only to refute the theories of the philosophers and to reveal the inanity of their claims, this is not worthy of him-but rather of very bad men. And how could it be otherwise? For the greater part of the subtlety this man acquired-and he surpassed ordinary people through the subtlety he put in the books he composed-he only acquired from the books of the philosophers and from their teaching. And even supposing they erred in something, he ought not to have denied their merit in speculative thought and in those ideas through which they trained our understanding. Nay more, if they had only invented logic, he and anyone else who understands the importance of this science ought to thank them for it, and he himself was conscious of the value of logic and urged its study and wrote treatises about it, and he says that there is no other way to learn the truth than through this science, and he had even such an exaggerated view of logic that he extracted it from the book of God, the holy Qur’an. ‘ And is it allowed to one who is indebted to their books and to their teaching to such an extent that he excelled his contemporaries and that his fame in Islam became immense, is it really allowed to such a man to speak in this way of them, and to censure them so openly, so absolutely, and condemn their sciences? And suppose they erred in certain theological questions, we can only argue against their mistakes by the rules they have taught us in the logical sciences, and we are convinced that they will not blame us when we show them a mistake which might be found in their opinions. And indeed their aim was only the acquisition of truth, and if their only merit consisted in this, it would suffice for their praise, although nobody has said anything about theological problems that can be absolutely relied upon and nobody is guaranteed against mistakes but those whom God protects in a divine, superhuman way, namely the prophets, and I do not know what led this man to this attack against such statements; may God protect me against failings in word and in deed and forgive me if I fail!
And what he says of the belief held by those who follow the Divine Law in these things is in agreement with what is said by the renowned philosophers, for when it is said that God’s knowledge and attributes cannot be described by, or compared to, the attributes of the creature, so that it cannot even be asserted that they are essence or an addition to the essence, this expresses the thought of genuine philosophers and other true thinkers, and God is the Saviour, the Leader.
It may be said, `This difficulty applies only to Avicenna in so far as he says that the First knows other things, but the acknowledged philosophers are in agreement that it does not know anything besides itself, and this difficulty is therefore set aside. ‘
But we answer, `What a terrible blasphemy is this doctrine! Verily, had it not had this extreme weakness, later philosophers would not have scorned it, but we shall draw attention to its reprehensible character, for this theory rates God’s effects higher than Himself, since angel and man and every rational being knows himself and his principle and knows also of other beings, but the First knows only its own self and is therefore inferior to individual men, not to speak of the angels; indeed, the animals besides their awareness of themselves know other things, and without doubt knowledge is something noble and the lack of it is an imperfection. And what becomes of their statement that God, because He is the most perfect splendour and the utmost beauty, is the lover and the beloved? But what beauty can there be in mere existence which has no quiddity, no essence, which i observes neither what occurs in the world nor what is a consequence or proceeds from its own essence? And what deficiency in God’s whole world could be greater? And an intelligent man may well marvel at a group of men who according to their statement speculate deeply about the intelligibles, but whose inquiry culminates in a Lord of Lords and Cause of causes who does not possess any knowledge about anything that happens in the world. What difference is there then between Him and the dead, except that He has self-consciousness? And what perfection is there in His self-knowledge, if He is ignorant of everything else? And the blasphemy of this doctrine releases us from the use of many words and explanations.
Further, there may be said to them: `Although you plunge yourselves in these shameful doctrines, you cannot free yourselves from plurality, for we ask: “Is the knowledge He has of His essence identical with His essence or not?” If you say, “No”, you introduce plurality, and if you say they are identical, what then is the difference between you and a man who said that a man’s knowledge of his essence was identical with his essence, which is pure foolishness? For the existence of this man’s essence can be conceived, while he gives no attention to his essence, ‘ whereas when afterwards his attention returns, he becomes aware of his essence. Therefore his awareness of his essence differs from his essence. ‘
If it is argued: `Certainly a man can be without knowledge of his essence, but when this knowledge occurs to him, he becomes a different being’, we answer: ‘Non-identity cannot be understood through an accident and conjunction, for the identical thing cannot through an accident become another thing and that other thing, conjoined with this, does not become identical with it, but keeps its individual otherness. And the fact that God is eternally self-conscious does not prove that His knowledge of His essence is identical with His essence, for His essence can be imagined separately and the occurrence of His awareness afterwards, and if they were identical this could not be imagined.
And if it be said: `His essence is intellect and knowledge, and He has not an essence in which afterwards knowledge exists’, we answer: `The foolishness of this is evident, for knowledge is an attribute and an accident which demands a subject, and to say, “He is in His essence intellect and knowledge” is like saying, “He is power and will, and power and will exist by themselves”, and this again is like saying of black and white, quantity, fourness and threeness and all other accidents that they exist by themselves. And in exactly the same way as it is impossible that the attributes of bodies should exist by themselves without a body which itself is different from the attributes, it is known to be impossible that attributes like the knowledge, life, power, and will of living beings should exist by themselves, for they exist only in an essence. For life exists in an essence which receives life through it, and the same is the case with the other attributes. And therefore they do not simply content themselves with denying to the First all qualities (and not merely its real essence and quiddity); no, they deny to it also its very existence by itself’ and reduce it to the entities of accidents and attributes which have no existence by themselves; and besides we shall show later in a special chapter their incapacity to prove that it is conscious either of itself or of other things. ‘
The problem concerning the knowledge of the Creator of Himself and of other things is one of those questions which it is forbidden to discuss in a dialectical way, let alone put them down in a book, for the understanding of the masses does not suffice to understand such subtleties, and when one embarks on such problems with them the meaning of divinity becomes void for them and therefore it is forbidden to them to occupy themselves with this knowledge, since it suffices for their blessedness to understand what is within their grasp. The Holy Law, the first intention of which is the instruction of the masses, z does not confine itself to the explanation of these things in the Creator by making them understood through their existence in human beings, for instance by the Divine Words: `Why dost thou worship what can neither hear nor see nor avail thee aught?’, ‘ but enforces the real understanding of these entities in the Creator by comparing them even to the human limbs, for instance in the Divine Words: `Or have they not seen that we have created for them of what our hands have made for them, cattle and they are owners thereof?’ and the Divine Words, `I have created with my two hands’. s This problem indeed is reserved for the men versed in profound knowledge to whom God has permitted the sight of the true realities, and therefore it must not be mentioned in any books except those that are composed according to a strictly rational pattern, that is, such books as must be read in a rational order and after the acquisition of other sciences the study of which according to a demonstrative method is too difficult for most men, even for those w_ o possess by nature a sound understanding, although such men are very scarce. But to discuss these questions with the masses is like bringing poisons to the bodies of many animals, for which they are real poisons. Poisons, however, are relative, and what is poison for one animal is nourishment for another. The same applies to ideas in relation to men; that is, there are ideas which are poison for one type of men, but which are nourishment for another type. And the man who regards all ideas as fit for all types of men is like one who gives all things as nourishment for all people; the man, however, who forbids free inquiry to the mature is like one who regards all nourishment as poison for everyone. But this is not correct, for there are things which are poison for one type of man and nourishment for another type. ‘ And the man who brings poison to him for whom it is really poison merits punishment, although it may be nourishment for another, and similarly the man who forbids poison to a man for whom it is really nourishment so that this man may die without it, he too must be punished. And it is in this way that the question must be understood. But when the wicked and ignorant transgress and bring poison to the man for whom it is really poison, as if it were nourishment, then there is need of a physician who through his science will exert himself to heal that man, and for this reason we have allowed ourselves to discuss this problem in such a book as this, and in any other case we should not regard this as permissible to us; on the contrary, it would be one of the greatest crimes, or a deed of the greatest wickedness on earth, and the punishment of the wicked is a fact well known in the Holy Law. And since it is impossible to avoid the discussion of this problem, let us treat it in such a way as is possible in this place for those who do not possess the preparation and mental training needed before entering upon speculation about it.
So we say that the philosophers, when they observed all perceptible things, found that they fell into two classes, the one a class perceptible by the senses, namely the individual bodies existing by themselves and the individual accidents in these bodies, and the other a class perceptible by the mind, namely, the quiddities and natures of these substances and accidents. And they found that in these bodies there are quiddities which exist essentially in them, and I understand by the `quiddities’ of bodies attributes existing in them, through which these bodies become existent in act and specified by the act which proceeds from them; and according to the philosophers these quiddities differ from the accidental attributes, because they found that the accidents were additions to the individual substance which exists by itself and that these accidents were in need of the substances for their existence, whereas the substances do not need the accidents for their own existence. And they found also that those attributes which were not accidents were not additional to the essence, but that they were the genuine essence of the individual which exists by itself, so that if one imagined these attributes annulled, the essence itself would be annulled. Now, they discovered these qualities in individual bodies through the acts which characterize each of them; for instance they perceived the attributes through which plants by their particular action become plants’ and the attributes through which animals by their particular actions become animals, and in the same way they found in the minerals forms of this kind which are proper to them, through the particular actions of minerals. Then, when they had investigated these attributes, they learned that they were in a substratum of this essence and this substratum became differentiated for them, because of the changing of the individual existents from one species into another species and from one genus into another genus through the change and alteration of these attributes; for instance the change of the nature of fire into air by the cessation of the attribute from which the actuality of fire, through which fire is called fire, proceeds, and its change into the attribute from which the actuality peculiar to air, through which air is called air, proceeds. They also proved the existence of this substratum through the capacity of the individual essence to receive an actuality from another, just as they proved by the actuality the existence of form, for it could not be imagined that action and passivity proceed from one and the same natures They believed therefore that all active and passive bodies are composed of two natures, one active and the other passive, and they called the active nature form, quiddity, and substance, and the passive part subject, ultimate basis of existenceb and matter. And from this it became clear to them that the perceptible bodies are not simple bodies as they appear to be to the senses, nor compounded of simple bodies, since they are compounded of action and passivity; and they found that what the senses perceive are these individual bodies, which are compounded of these two things which they called form and matter and that what the mind perceives of these bodies are these forms which only become concepts and intellect when the intellect abstracts them from the things existing by themselves, i. e. what the philosophers call substratum and matter. ? And they found that the accidents also are divided in the intellect in a way similar to those two natures, s although their substratum in which they exist in reality is the bodies compounded of these two natures. And when they had distinguished the intelligibles from the sensibles and it had become clear to them that in sensible things there are two natures, potency and act, they inquired which of these two natures was prior to the other and found that the act was prior to the potency, because the agent was prior to its object, ‘ and they investigated also causes and effects, which led them to a primary cause which by its act is the first cause of all causes, and it followed that this cause is pure act and that in it there is no potency at all, since if there were potency in it, it would be in part an effect, in part a cause, and could not be a primary cause. And since in everything composed of attribute and subject there is potency and act, it was a necessary implication for them that the First could not be composed of attribute and subject, and since everything free from matter was according to them intellect, it was necessary for them that the First should be intellect.
This in summary is the method of the philosophers, and if you are one of those whose mind is sufficiently trained to receive the sciences, and you are steadfast and have leisure, it is your duty to look into the books and the sciences of the philosophers, so that you may discover in their works certain truths (or perhaps the reverse) ; but if you lack one of these three qualities, it is your duty to keep yourself to the words of the Divine Law, and you should not look for these new conceptions in Islam; for if you do so, you will be neither a rationalist nor a traditionalist. ‘
Such was the philosophers’ reason for their belief that the essence which they found to be the principle of the world was simple and that it was knowledge and intellect. And finding that the order which reigns in the world and its parts proceeds from a knowledge prior to it, they judged that this intellect and this knowledge was the principle of the world, which gave the world existence and made it intelligible. This is a theory very remote from the primitive ideas of mankind and from common notions, so that it is not permitted to divulge it to the masses or even to many people; indeed, the man who has proved its evidence is forbidden to reveal it to the man who has no power to discover its truth, for he would be like his murderer. And as to the term `substance’ which the philosophers give to that which is separate from matter, the First has the highest claim on the term `substance’, the terms `existent’, `knowing’, `living’, and all the terms for the qualities it bestows on the existents and especially those attributes which belong to perfection, for the philosophers found that the proper definition of substance was what existed by itself and the First was the cause of everything that existed by itself.
To all the other reproofs which he levels against this doctrine no attention need be paid, except in front of the masses and the ordinary man, to whom, however, this discussion is forbidden.
And as to Ghazali’s words:
What beauty can there be in mere existence which has no quiddity, no essence, which observes neither what occurs in the world nor what is a consequence or proceeds from its own essence? . . .
-this whole statement is worthless, for if the philosophers assume a quiddity free from a substratum it is also void of attributes, and it cannot be a substratum for attributes except by being itself in a substratum and being composed of the nature of potency and the nature of act. The First possesses a quiddity that exists absolutely, and all other existents receive their quiddity only from it, and this First Principle is the existent which knows existents absolutely, because existents become existent and intelligible only through the knowledge this principle has of itself; for since this First Principle is the cause of the existence and intelligibility of existents, of their existence through its quiddity and of their intelligibility through its knowledge, it is the cause of the existence and intelligibility of their quiddities. The philosophers only denied that its knowledge of existents could take place in the same way as human knowledge which is their effect, whereas for God’s knowledge the reverse is the case. For they had established this superhuman knowledge by proof. According to the Ash’arites, however, God possesses neither quiddity nor essence at all but the existence of an entity neither possessing nor being a quiddity cannot be understood, ‘ although some Ash’arites believed that God has a special quiddity by which He differs from all other existents, ‘ and according to the Sufis it is this quiddity which is meant by the highest name of God.
And as to Ghazali’s words:
Further, there may be said to them: `Although you plunge yourself in these shameful doctrines, you cannot free yourselves from plurality, for we ask: “Is the knowledge He has of His essence identical with His essence or not?” If you say, “No”, you introduce plurality, and if you say, “they are identical”, what then is the difference between you and a man who said that a man’s knowledge of his essence was identical with his essence?’
This is an extremely weak statement, and a man who speaks like this deserves best to be put to shame and dishonoured. For the consequence he draws amounts to saying that the perfect one, who is free from the attributes of becoming and change and imperfection, might have the attribute of a being possessing imperfection and change. For a man indeed it is necessary, in so far as he is composed of a substratum and knowledge, which exists in this substratum, that his knowledge should differ from his essence in such a way as has been described before, since the substratum is the cause of change in the knowledge and the essence. And since man is man and the most noble of all sentient beings only through the intellect which is conjoined to his essence, but not by being essentially intellect, it is necessary that that which is intellect by its essence should be the most noble of all existents and that it should be free from the imperfections which exist in the human intellect. ‘
And as to Ghazali’s words:
And if it be said: His essence is intellect and knowledge and He has not an essence in which afterwards knowledge exists, we answer: `The foolishness of this is evident, for knowledge is an attribute and an accident which demands a subject, and to say “He is in His essence intellect and knowledge” is like saying “He is power and will, and power and will exist by themselves”, and this again is like saying of black and white, fourness and threeness, and all other accidents that they exist by themselves. ‘
The error and confusion in his statement is very evident, for it has been proved that there is among attributes one that has a greater claim to the term `substantiality’ than the substance existing by itself, and this is the attribute through which the substance existing by itself becomes existing by itself. For it has been proved that the substratum for this attribute is something neither existing by itself nor existing in actuality; no, its existing by itself and its actual existence derive from this attribute, and this attribute in its existence is like that which receives the accidents, although certain of these attributes, as is evident from their nature, need a substratum in the changeable things, since it is the fundamental law of the accidents, that they exist in something else, whereas the fundamental law of the quiddities is that they exist by themselves, except when, in the sublunary world, these quiddities need a substratum through being in transitory i things. But this attribute is at the greatest distance from the nature of an accident, and to compare this transcendent knowledge to sublunary accidents is extremely foolish, indeed more foolish than to consider the soul an accident like threeness and fourness.
And this suffices to show the incoherence and the foolishness of this whole argument, and let us rather call this book simply `The Incoherence’, not `The Incoherence of the Philosophers’. And what is further from the nature of an accident than the nature of knowledge, and especially the knowledge of the First? And since it is at the greatest distance from the nature of an accident, it is at the greatest distance from having a necessity for a substratum.