Location

Trimble Forum, Trimble Hall

Start Date

19-9-2014 12:00 PM

End Date

19-9-2014 12:50 PM

Description

This essay considers Avicenna’s conception of God as the ‘Necessary Existent’ and the subsequent uses of this designation in the thinking of Moses Maimonides and Muhammad Al-Shahrastānī. Specifically, it considers how this term affects each thinker’s understanding of God’s being ‘above perfection,’ as suggested by their respective intimations regarding what they take to be His most prominent attribute. In turn, these distinct understandings influence their contrasting models of the relationship between God and the created order. I demonstrate how Avicenna employs his modal categories in order to determine God’s attributes, pinpointing ‘necessity’ as the attribute that he highlights as best reflecting God’s perfection. As a result, he conceives of the relation between God and the created order as one of ‘ambiguous univocality.’ By contrast, Maimonides’ model takes God’s ‘incomparability’ as His fundamental attribute, which in turn necessitates an equivocal relation between God and world. Al-Shahrastānī pushes this equivocality to its logical extreme by arguing for God’s radical ‘independence’ from the created order. In doing so, he not only exposes the ‘weak’ nature of God’s transcendence in Maimonides’ thinking. However, I argue that the attacks Al-Shahrastānī and Maimonides direct at Avicenna either can all be resolved within his system of the modal categories or miss their mark entirely as a result of misinterpreting some aspect of his thinking. Illustrating one such misinterpretation, I conclude the essay by examining the incompatibility between Maimonides’ understanding of God’s ‘attributes of action’ and his continued use of the term ‘Necessary Existent’ with reference to God.

Type

event

Included in

Philosophy Commons

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Sep 19th, 12:00 PM Sep 19th, 12:50 PM

Contrasting Models of the God-World Relation: Avicenna, Maimonides and Al-Shahrastani"

Trimble Forum, Trimble Hall

This essay considers Avicenna’s conception of God as the ‘Necessary Existent’ and the subsequent uses of this designation in the thinking of Moses Maimonides and Muhammad Al-Shahrastānī. Specifically, it considers how this term affects each thinker’s understanding of God’s being ‘above perfection,’ as suggested by their respective intimations regarding what they take to be His most prominent attribute. In turn, these distinct understandings influence their contrasting models of the relationship between God and the created order. I demonstrate how Avicenna employs his modal categories in order to determine God’s attributes, pinpointing ‘necessity’ as the attribute that he highlights as best reflecting God’s perfection. As a result, he conceives of the relation between God and the created order as one of ‘ambiguous univocality.’ By contrast, Maimonides’ model takes God’s ‘incomparability’ as His fundamental attribute, which in turn necessitates an equivocal relation between God and world. Al-Shahrastānī pushes this equivocality to its logical extreme by arguing for God’s radical ‘independence’ from the created order. In doing so, he not only exposes the ‘weak’ nature of God’s transcendence in Maimonides’ thinking. However, I argue that the attacks Al-Shahrastānī and Maimonides direct at Avicenna either can all be resolved within his system of the modal categories or miss their mark entirely as a result of misinterpreting some aspect of his thinking. Illustrating one such misinterpretation, I conclude the essay by examining the incompatibility between Maimonides’ understanding of God’s ‘attributes of action’ and his continued use of the term ‘Necessary Existent’ with reference to God.