Causatedness and Contingency Avicenna

Averroes in fact admits to following Avicenna on this point, albeit that he cannot bring himself to accept the latter's unique modal metaphysics to any greater extent (Tafsir 3:1632.1-3, Bouyges). Averroes' repudiation of Avicenna's whole modal scheme is largely based on the felt incomprehensibility of the very concept of something "possible in itself, necessary through another". Because Averroes tends to think of the modal terms as a kind of shorthand for describing non-modal, natural and/or statistical facts set in one and the same timeline,33 he cannot even begin to make sense of such an expression.34 This makes it difficult to understand why he should now be tempted to give it even qualified approval.35 But it does give some insight into what is at stake here.

When Avicenna speaks of the heavens' contingency, he means their continued contingency even during their existence.36 The eternity of certain beings does nothing to dispel this profound contingency; it is and remains an essential feature of every existent save one (actually, the One) alone. This contingency derives from the causatedness of all except the One, from the fact that, considered in isolation from its place in the causal chain, everything save the Necessary Existent must be deemed in itself non-existent: it cannot have brought itself to existence. On the other hand, when this placing is taken into account, the same causatedness renders everything necessary in the strictest sense of the word. Everything necessarily comes to be exactly what it is, and to hold the place that it does. In contrast to the horizontal modal judgments envisioned over infinite time in any modal model involving temporalized Plenitude (like the statistical model of Averroes) the necessity envisioned by Avicenna is constructed vertically, so to speak. At each moment, or even better in what is a truly continuous reality, everything hangs and depends on a golden chain of existence emanating from the First: for if

.this necessity is not from the side of its mover [but from itself], then the motion exists with no bond

Waqa) t0

its mover. But in truth motion, its existence, the necessity of its existence while it exists, and the perpetuity of its existence, all depend on the causes of motion. And God is too exalted that we should make Him only the cause of motion, when in truth he gives existence to every substance for which it is possible to be moved, by means of the motion of the heavens.37

It is as if Avicenna could catch a glimpse of Averroes' later quandaries: if being eternally moved makes this fact in itself a natural necessity, then no true dependency can be posited and God's status as God is vitiated. Instead, the imparting of motion must be described as something given, that is to say completely one-sidedly established (the same figure of speech, of motion coming "from the side of the mover", features in both Avicenna and Averroes). In the same way, of course, existence, too is constantly granted by the First Cause by way of the intermediate causes, of which the eternal heavens are most vital to us.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment