Arguments from particularisation

This is the main form of argument used by early Ash'arites, and is often used by Mu'tazilites and later Ash'arites. It turns on the notion of particularisation (takhsis), which has its background in a trend distinctly characteristic of classical kalaam, stemming from the sense that randomness of any kind, in either quantity or quality, is inconceivable. Every seemingly random fact about the world or things therein thus calls for explanation. Different instances of this type of proof cite different facts. The earliest arguments were relatively simple and departed from the atomist framework of classical kalaam, as in the following two arguments advanced by the Ash'arite theologian al-Baqillani (d. 1013).

He argues that we observe identical things coming into being at different times. If the occurrence of one thing at a particular moment is due to an intrinsic quality thereof, all similar things should occur at the same time. It thus appears that nothing intrinsic to the thing itself could make it more likely to occur at a particular moment rather than at another moment, or more likely to occur at a given moment than another, similar thing. Therefore, there must be an external voluntary effecter, who causes particular things to occur at particular moments.

Baqillani further argues that objects in this world have different shapes, since they consist of different arrangements of atoms. Yet it is conceivable for each object to have an arrangement different from the one it actually has:

What is square can be round, and what is round square. What has the shape of one particular animal can have that of another. Each object may lose its shape to take on a different shape. It is inconceivable that what has a certain particular shape will have it by virtue of itself, or because it is possible for it to have it. Otherwise, if [the latter] were the case, [the object] would have to take on every shape that it may possibly take, all at the same time, so that it would acquire all dissimilar shapes simultaneously.46

The absurdity of this, Baqillani continues, proves that the shapes of objects must have been determined by a ''shaper'', possessed of will.

Both arguments are occasionalistic and presuppose classical Ash'arite atomism and a rejection of natural causality. Things, we are told, do not come into being at particular moments with particular characteristics because of any natural factors, such as intrinsic properties therein or a causal nexus between one moment and another. There is no natural necessity determining the way things actually are. All things, rather, consist of identical atoms and of different accidents present in them, which come in and out of existence at every moment. At each moment, therefore, every atom will have endless possibilities and will hence require an external factor to determine its properties and the accidents to be generated in it. This, it is argued, must be God.

As mentioned, the general particularisation argument can take different types of facts as its point of departure. The foregoing examples focus on the when and how with respect to the generation of things. In later, more sophisticated, arguments advanced by Juwaym, the same lines of reasoning are applied to the world as a whole, which allows him to transcend the occasionalistic bias of earlier particularisation arguments.

He argues, first, that since the world is generated, it must have come into being at a particular point in time. This implies that a separate particularisation agent must exist to select this particular moment for creating the world out of other possible moments. Such selection can only be made by a voluntary agent. An unchanging, non-voluntary pre-eternal cause will necessitate its effect and will thus produce a pre-eternal world; yet the world, Juwaym argues, has been shown to be temporally originated.47 This argument faces the problem that it implies that time existed before creation, a doctrine that was subject to much debate.48

Elsewhere, Juwaym also argues that if we observe the world, we find that it consists of things that have great variety in their attributes, composition and circumstances. None of these, however, is necessary, as the mind can imagine all things being otherwise. It becomes evident, he continues, that since the world is possible, ''it will require a determinant [muqtada], which determines it in the way it actually is''. What could exist in different possible ways cannot exist randomly (ittifUqan), without a determinant, in one particular way.49 Again, the determinant has to be a voluntary agent; for a non-voluntary factor will necessitate a uniform, undifferentiated effect, whereas this world consists of highly complex parts, which do not behave in simple, uniform ways.50 Ghazala writes with reference to the notion of particularisation: ''The world came into existence whence it did, having the description with which it came to exist, and in the place in which it came to exist, through will, will being an attribute whose function is to differentiate a thing from its similar.''51

Such particularisation arguments, which refer to characteristics of the world or things therein differ crucially from arguments from design. The latter focus on aspects of perfection, masterly production, or providence in the world. Particularisation arguments, by contrast, depart from the mere fact that existents in this world, regardless of their perfection, imperfection, goodness or badness, are possible, since they exist in one particular way rather than another, and thus require an external factor to select this possibility over all other possibilities. Such arguments aim only at proving that the world has a voluntary producer, whereas arguments from design seek to prove that the world must have a wise, powerful and good producer.

Finally, Juwaynii goes further to develop a third argument by applying the particularisation principle to the fact that the world exists. In this crucial modification to the particularisation argument, he frees it completely from the constraints of atomist physics. He first demonstrates that the world is temporally originated, then writes:

What is temporally originated is a possible existent (jii'iz al-wujud); for it is possible to conceive its existence rather than its non-existence, and it is possible to conceive its non-existence rather than its existence. Thus, since it is characterised by possible existence rather than possible non-existence, it will require a particularising factor (mukhassis), viz. the Creator, be He exalted.52

The argument departs from the fact that the world exists, regardless of what it consists of and the way in which it exists. Since it is equally possible that the world did not exist, the fact that it does exist points to an external factor which effected one of the two possibilities.

In this argument, Juwaynii marries the argument from creation ex nihilo to the particularisation argument, which allows him, as an Ash'arite, to argue that the world requires an originator because it is temporally originated, without resorting to the Mu'tazilite analogy from human action. More crucially, Juwaynii's modified argument brings the particularisation argument close to Avicenna's argument from contingency, paving the way for a synthesis of the two arguments in later kalam.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment