Arguments from creation ex nihilo

The basic argument from creation goes as follows. The world is temporally originated (hadith). All that is temporally originated requires a separate originator. Therefore, the world requires a separate originator.

This originator must be pre-eternal. Otherwise, if it too is generated, then, by the same reasoning, it will require another originator; and ultimately the existence of a pre-eternal originator has to be admitted.

Both premises in the argument were surrounded by complex discussions, both among theologians, and between them and the philosophers. In what follows, some of the discussions that appeared among the mutakallimun surrounding the two premises in this proof are examined.

That the world is temporally originated

Several arguments were advanced in support of this doctrine (the minor premise in the above proof) mostly on the basis of the early kalaam physical theory that, apart from God, all beings are bodies consisting of both atoms and accidents present in them.32 The most commonly used is the so-called argument from accidents (a'rad), apparently developed by the Mu'tazilite Abu Hashim al-Jubba'i, which establishes the generation of atoms on the basis of four principles, as follows:

(a) Accidents exist in bodies.

(b) Accidents are generated.

(c) Bodies cannot be devoid of, or precede, accidents.

(d) What cannot be devoid of, or precede, what is generated is likewise generated.33

Earlier mutakallimUn seem to hold that the generation of the world follows from these contentions directly. Yet, as Averroes points out, this line of reasoning involves an equivocation: what is found to be generated in the fourth principle is the single body that necessarily has a particular accident known to be generated, rather than bodies as such, and consequently the world as a whole, as in the conclusion.34 Indeed, he points out, it will still be conceivable for the world to be pre-eternal, involving infinitely regressing series of temporally originated things (hawadith la awwala laha).

Later mutakallimUn, as Averroes notes, became more aware of this gap in the proof, and attempted, apparently starting from Juwaym, to address it by arguing that a pre-eternal series of accidents is inconceiv-able.35 Several arguments are found in later works of kalam that support this contention; the following two are recorded in a later Mu'tazilite source.

For instance, it is argued, rather opaquely, that the whole must be characterised by the same attributes that necessarily characterise each of its individual parts; for instance, if something consists entirely of black parts, it too must be black. Therefore, since each part of the world is generated and has a beginning, the whole world too must be generated and have a beginning.

The infinite regress of accidents is also refuted using proofs from the impossibility of an infinite number, some of which were apparently adopted from John Philoponus (d. c. 570).36 For instance, it is argued:

When today's events are combined with past events, these will increase; without today's events, they will diminish. Increase and diminution in what is infinite are inconceivable. This indicates that [the series of past events] is finite with respect to its beginning. This is the proof also for the finiteness of the magnitude of the earth and other bodies; for it is possible to conceive of increase and diminution in them.37

Many later Ash'arites adopted Juwaynai's modified version of the argument for creation ex nihilo, which most theologians treated as an article of faith. Yet this doctrine soon became the centre of conflict between the theologians and most philosophers, who defended the pre-eternity of the world, as the interaction between the two traditions increased. Doubts were raised around the arguments for creation, to the extent that in one of his latest works RuzU examines all the relevant arguments and counterarguments and admits that no rational or revealed evidence proves either the creation or pre-eternity of the world.38 Under his influence, it seems, Ibn Taymiyya asserts that no rational or revealed evidence proves the inconceivability of the infinite regress of accidents, apparently suspending judgement on the subject.

That what is temporally originated requires an originator

Concerning the nature of the major, causal premise in the argument from creation, Riazii distinguishes between two contrasting views, both made chiefly by Mu'tazilites. Some consider the premise self-evident, others consider it discursive.

The former position, writes Rizi, finds support among many Muslims, and is defended notably by the early Baghdad Mu'tazilite al-Ka'bi (d. 931), who points out that ''when rational people sense the occurrence of a thing, they will look for its cause without hesitation or reflection''.39 When we see a building, we will know immediately that it had a builder. Razi, however, rejects establishing this premise on such observable phenomena, which are too simplistic. He objects that if this premise is known to us immediately in this manner, we will also have immediate knowledge of two other concomitant facts that make it inapplicable to proving the existence of God: (a) that every temporal event has a temporal cause (whoever hears a sound will look for its temporal cause, rather than assume that it was due to the sky being above us and the earth beneath us!);and (b) that it is preceded by time and matter. Therefore, the claim that this premise constitutes immediate knowledge will only imply the infinite regress of temporal causes and the pre-eternity of time and matter, and cannot be used in proving that the world had a pre-eternal creator who is completely other than it.

By contrast, most Mu'tazilites, including 'Abd al-Jabbar (d. 1025), consider this premise to be discursive, and argue for it by a complex analogy (qiyis) with human action, as follows.40 Human action requires an originator because it is temporally originated; the world too is temporally originated; therefore, it requires an originator. In this archetypical kalim analogy (an instance of inferring the ''unobservable'' from the ''observable'', istidlil bi'l-shihid 'ali'l-ghi'ib), the ''original case'' (asl) is ''human action'';the ''secondary case'' (far') is ''the world'';the ''judgement'' (hukm) is ''requiring an originator''; and the ''ground'' ('illa) is ''being temporally originated''. The analogy will be complete once it has been shown, first, that the judgement applies to the original case because of this ground, and second, that this same ground can be found in the secondary case; consequently the same judgement will equally apply to the latter case.41 But how can both judgement and ground be affirmed in the original case here?

My act requires me (its originator), we are told, because it occurs according to my motives; this connection affirms the judgement in the original case. But in what respect exactly does my act depend on me? Does it depend on me because it is temporally originated, or for some other ground? This question is answered in several ways, most notably using two other standard kalam forms of argument.42 (a) ''Investigation and disjunction" (al-sabr wa'l-taqsim): we first list all conceivable grounds for my act's dependence on me (the effect's continual existence, its ethical value, temporal origination, etc.), then disprove as many as we can;if one remains (in this case, temporal origination), it will be the true ground. (b) The ''coextensiveness and coexclusiveness'' (al-tard wa'l-'aks) of the event's dependence on me and its coming into being, which implies that the latter is the ground for the former: for the event depends on me only at the point of its coming into being, but ceases to depend on me when it continues to exist and ''no longer comes into being''. Therefore, my act depends on me in this respect only, and the ground will thus be affirmed in the original case.

It may seem strange to argue for the existence of God from human acts, rather than from the need of natural events generally for causes. Yet this oblique way is forced on those Mu'tazilites who employ this argument by their physics: many of them reject natural causality, and affirm that God creates all generated things, except accidents produced by the power of living creatures. Hence, when I move my pen, my power will generate the accident of motion in it; however, when running water moves a pebble, the accident of motion in the pebble will be generated by God's power, not by the water. Our acts, therefore, provide the only case where we can observe both the originated thing and its originator and conclude that the former is generated by the latter. The existence of the creator will then be the only explanation for the generation of the existence of other accidents and all atoms, as 'Abd al-Jabbar writes: ''Everything that is [beyond the capacity of created beings] is evidence for Him.''43

Mu'tazilites criticised Ash'arites on account of their contention that human acts are generated by divine, rather than human, power: since they cannot affirm that power generates things in the ''observable'' realm, they cannot affirm the same in the ''unobservable'' realm. They will be unable to accept the causal premise in the argument, and will thus fail both to explain the world as a divine act and to prove the existence of God. Juwayni retorts that Ash'arites use the closely related particularisation argument, which does not resort to the above ana-logy.44 Ash'arites indeed rarely use this basic argument from creation, involving the major premise, ''What is originated requires an originator", except in an informal and non-technical manner. Razi attacks each step in the above analogical argument, arguing at length that ''coming into being'' cannot be the ground for a thing's requiring a cause.45

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment