A3 Book section, Chapters in research books
"Not So Ridiculous" : Avicenna on the Existence of Nature (tabi'a) contra Aristotle and the Ash'arites (2019)

Dadikhuda, D. (2019). "Not So Ridiculous" : Avicenna on the Existence of Nature (tabi'a) contra Aristotle and the Ash'arites. In R. Pasnau (Ed.), Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy : Volume 7 (pp. 1-43). Oxford University Press.

JYU authors or editors

Publication details

All authors or editors: Dadikhuda, Davlat

Parent publication: Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy : Volume 7

Parent publication editors: Pasnau, Robert

ISBN: 978-0-19-884551-5

Publication year: 2019

Pages range: 1-43

Number of pages in the book: 288

Publisher: Oxford University Press

Place of Publication: Oxford

Publication country: United Kingdom

Publication language: English

Publication open access: Not open

Publication channel open access:

Publication is parallel published (JYX): https://jyx.jyu.fi/handle/123456789/65462


In this paper, I set out to explicate what I take to be a distinctive argument that Avicenna offers for the existence of nature (ṭabī ͑a) as a causal power (quwwa) in bodies (ajsām). In doing this, I first clarify the philosophical and historical context of the argument, showing that its two main targets were the Aristotelian tradition on the hand and the Ash ͑arite theological (kalām) tradition on the other. With regards to the Aristotelian tradition, which took the existence of nature as a given, I show that the shaykh departs from it in this regard for at least two reasons. The first has to do with a certain feature of how Avicenna conceptualized, consistent with the Aristotelian tradition, the hierarchical relation between the various sciences. That feature is: principles of a lower science must sometimes be proven by a higher one on the hierarchy. The second reason has to do with the influence of Avicenna’s theological contemporaries; for although such thinkers held, with the Aristotelians, that bodies display various kinds of activity or motion, they were anti-realists about any sort of powers and so of nature understood as a power. That is, they denied, against the Aristotelians, that bodies behaved in their characteristic ways in virtue of some internal power identifiable with ‘nature’ in the technical Aristotelian sense. Instead, bodies, they argued, do what they appear to be doing in virtue of a single, powerful, and transcendent being, i.e., God. Avicenna had to meet this challenge, and I show that he meets it in a unique manner - namely, by allowing, with the Ash ͑aris, the causal involvement of a transcendent being in the production some effect e from some body x, and yet still showing, against them, that e must occur in virtue of some property F in x, where F makes a real causal contribution to e’s occurrence. In this way, Avicenna attempts to establish the existence of nature qua power and thereby refute occasionalism.

Keywords: Arabic philosophy; metaphysics; natural philosophy; causality

Free keywords: nature; causality; Aristotelianism; Ashʿari theology; Avicenna

Fields of science:

Contributing organizations

Ministry reporting: Yes

Reporting Year: 2019

JUFO rating: 3

Last updated on 2021-17-09 at 16:08