Metaphysics of Avicenna and Augustine of Hippo Term Paper

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¶ … Augustine of Hippo and Avicenna (Ibn Sina)

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The North African province of Roman Empire was predominantly Christian during the birth of Augustine of Hippo. However, pagan religions and mysterious cults still thrived within the Roman Empire during that time-period. By the 2nd century, Christianity had marked its entry, having survived the oppressive period of 3rd century. As a result, it produced heavyweights, such as Cyprian and Tertullian. Christianity officially became the state sanctioned religion, but in case of North Africa, it was segregated into two sects: Donatist and Roman Catholic. While taking into consideration the worshippers during the course of forty years, the fiery passions for the unknown and fatalism were measured by Augustine. He was strictly against magic and astrology. He emphasized vehemently on Divine Providence as opposed to old adages of chance and fate. Moreover, he even voiced his disapproval of superstitious worship of the dead and exploitation of the feast holidays as a window for debauchery. As a result, he endeavored to channel this sheer enthusiasm and passionate nature onto Christ, as a source of warmth and love of God for all humans alike. His attempts were not entirely fruitful as once he objected to public lynching against a detested public official. His attempts to alter their life conditions, their fiery passionate natures and lifestyle choices went all in-vain. On the other hand, he had considerable success in assisting the underprivileged, replacing hope in providence as opposed to fate and promoted love in an orderly form (Maher 2002). Augustine's 'Confessiones' is constructed in a way that seems to be an address to God through prayers; it shows the speculations about what he had been before his birth i.e. 'from the parents of my flesh, him from whom and her in whom You formed me in time,' his early education and till Augustine's mother's death shortly after he converted to Catholicism. According to Augustine, memory is not only for recollecting but also for perception and cognition. He states that it is the person's exercise of how the mortal, time bound and imperfect human being enables and recognizes the Truth (Fredriksen n.d.). Relationship between activity of God and freedom of humans which is understood as grace, causality or knowledge is the most questionable issues in philosophy as both appear to be absolute alternatives. Philosophers state that every activity is caused by God while on the other hand if our choices are free, we deny God's part in it. Augustine does at different times emphasize on the human freedom and actions of God when he states that excessive desire is the reason of cause of moral evil, but there is ample material in Augustine's work in which he denies the incompatibility of such activities. The revolutionary Muslim physician and philosopher, Avicenna (Ibn-Sina), is undoubtedly the most radical and influential philosopher of the short-lived Muslim era. More so, his thought-process and provocative philosophy was heavily inspired from the works of Moses Maimonides, Thomas Aquinas and Al-Ghazzali (notable philosophers in three Abrahamic religions) in multifarious ways. As per scholars, the most inclusive and explicative of Avicenna's hypothesis on God is present in his work, known as al-Shifa ('Meta-physics') (IBN SINA n.d.). In his book Kitab Al Shifa, Avicenna presented a detailed account of metaphysics along with mathematics, physics and logic (Avicenna, 1027). Similarly, Aristotle in 'Categories' asserts that existence can be either compulsory or optional. Avicenna hypothesized that every cause will ultimately have an effect, as both co-exist in unison, since, but they are not intrinsically part of a chain. For his God theology, he asserted that each cause will directly have an effect: God. This is the evidence for existence of God, which views him as a prime mover and the first existing entity. Self-awareness of God creates the realization of awareness or intelligence. Intelligence proposes an intelligent being / existence of God, the requisite of its presence and his own existence as a result. After these thoughts, other variables are derived, such as intelligence, heavenly soul and heavenly body, in that order. The first portion of the universe is constituted by the last, as the second intelligence works with its own cerebral act, the creation of stationary stars are promulgated, apart from another intelligence level, which is responsible for production of intelligence and a different level of body. Avicenna rejected the ex-nihilo philosophy entirely. As per the popular concept of God creating the universe voluntarily, out of nothing, it works against the cause and effect system of Avicenna. (IBN SINA n.d.).

Problem of Evil

It is imperative to understand the dilemma of evil in conjunction with perception of Augustine in order to gain a higher understanding. A detailed explication is necessary to comprehend his understanding of evil, which will further facilitating comprehension of his various works, such as anti-Manichean and On Free Choice of the Will. Adding along further, this analysis will also help cover ground on his pre-conceived notions of different aspects in philosophy, such as will, freewill and moralistic nature of almighty creator. Augustine of Hippo seems to struggle with the notion of evil in his 'Confessions' (Augustine, 2012), presenting excess food for thought therein. These core moralistic and ethics issues persisted in his time-period and later on (Matusek 2011). According to him, if there is no notion of good, then there is no notion of evil either. A wholly good is something devoid of any evil aspect. When evil exists in something, the good portion is ultimately affected. As a result, when there is no 'evil', there is no good 'either'. As a result, a surprising conclusion is derived according to which there can be no good without evil and where there is good, there will always be evil. Evil cannot exist without good and good cannot exist without evil. His reasoning for this is original sin, which prevents man from behaving in a moral way. Evil could not exist without good, as it neither has a mode from which to catalyze itself nor any roots to surface itself from, other than good. Deprivation of good is corruption, in essence. Evil, as a result, has its source in good and unless they act as parasite on good, they cannot exist (Koukl 2002).

Avicenna intelligently notes in ash Shifa al Ilahiyyat about the all-mighty creator wielding the power to remove evil and enforce absolute good. Furthermore, he ponders the reason as to why God is so impotent in preventing evil so as to maintain the order of the system? Albeit, the undertone of his train of question is indirect as he contemplates persistence and subsistence of evil and impotency of God to free evil from the system on the whole. If he can bring absolute good, then what motive does he have for its persistence? Though he has not put a finger on the problem of evil, the underlying connotation is abundantly clear regarding attributes of God (Inati 2000). Adding on to the God dilemma, he further contests the freewill and accountability of God on grounds of creating a catastrophe for humans and punishing them through it. As a result, Avicenna steps beyond the conceived boundaries of Islam, extending open-ended arguments and inflammatory postulates (Inati 2000).

Concept of the Creation of the Universe

Augustine constantly augmented his exegesis during his life, steering clear from a literal sense in favor of allegorical sense. His assertion about the aspects of Genesis 122 as allegorical are in strict contradiction with Manichean objections, expounding the seven-day theory as allegorical human history laid down in seven phases. Playing his theory delicately, he asserted that creation is essentially a very tough and complex subject to explicate in plain words. As a result, it is explained in layman terms using broad parables. Adding along further, he seems troubled by biblical texts refraining from explaining the exact mechanism to spark universe and living life on earth (Brown 2005). On the flip side, in his two works released later, he attempts to explain the understanding of biblical creationist theory of six-day hypothesis from a literal standpoint. He contemplates the absence of a light source during three days' interval and proposes an alternate light source during this time. Internally, he finds this as an informative and logical fallacy. The entire premises according to him hold zero merit and crumbles under its own weight.

As a result, explicating this literal assertion is plainly complex to validate and verify. Firstly, he deems the theory as immensely impractical to begin with: 'On the case for material light, the mechanism of circular motion remains unexplained as to its causing day and night prior to formation of heaven termed as firmament, in which celestial bodies were formed'. 'There is no way to explain the presence of day and night prior to formation of lights from the heavens'. Adding along further, he finds that biblical literal interpretations even lacks exegetical efficiency. Working his way through different Biblical texts, he points out Sirach 18:1 which says: 'He who remains for… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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