creation vs. eternity of the world


creation vs. eternity of the world
   A leading controversy in Islamic philosophy during its earliest few centuries concerned the status of the world as either created (huduth) or eternal (qidam). Aristotle had argued that the world should be regarded as eternal, since for him time is a function of motion, and before the world was created there was no motion, since motion requires a world to take place in. Since there is no motion, there is no time, and accordingly no time at which the world was created. Moreover, on the Neoplatonic developments of this theory the process of creation seems to be itself eternal, since the world exists as a result of a continuous emanation from the highest levels of reality down to this world, and there is no sense in asking the question when the process started. Most of the Peripatetic thinkers thus argued for the eternity of the world, and argued that it was co-eternal with God. The major exception was al- Kindi, who argues that there are no logical difficulties in accepting that God created the world at a particular time. His successors, though, such as al-Farabi, Ibn Sina and Ibn Rushd, all defended the eternity doctrine in one form or another.
   One of the most strident critics of the eternity thesis was al-Ghazali, who attacked it on logical grounds, and pointed out that were the thesis to be valid then God really has a remote connection with the world. It cannot be that he created it when he wished to, nor even in the way he wished it to be. Yet this, al-Ghazali suggests, is very different from the Qur’anic account and gives God very little to do with respect to the world. Ibn Rushd countered by arguing that if the world was worth creating, and if God could always have created it, as He could due to His omnipotence, then why would He wait? We have to wait before bringing things about since we are weak and imperfect creatures, but God is very different and has no need to wait. So He would always have created the world, and that means that the world is eternal. Ibn Rushd acknowledged the significance of this debate, returning to it time and time again.
   See al-Ghazali; God; God, arguments for the existence of; Ibn Rushd; Ibn Sina; metaphysics; Mulla Sadra; Neoplatonism
   Further reading: Davidson 1987; Leaman 1999, 1985/ 2002

Islamic Philosophy. . 2007.

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