Avicenna on the Power of Necessary Existence

  December 02, 2021   Read time 2 min
Avicenna on the Power of Necessary Existence
It is well known and widely accepted among people that one is powerful who acts when he wishes and does not act when he does not wish, not one who [simultaneously] wishes to act and wishes not to act.

There are many things which they say that the Creator eternally neither wishes nor does which It has the power to do, such as to do an act of injustice. Thus, the conditional is not a categorical syllogism but rather is a hypothetical syllogism, that: if It wishes, it will act, and if it does not wish, It does not act.

For a conditional to be true, it does not have to be the case that both parts of it are true, since it may be that both are false, such as when it is said, ‘if a man flies, then he moves the air’. This [conditional] is true, although both the antecedent and the consequent are false. The antecedent could be false and the consequent true, as in when it is said, ‘if man is a bird, then he is an animal’.

Thus, we say that [the conditional] ‘if It does not wish, it does not act’, does not necessarily entail the truth of [the antecedent] ‘It does not wish’, so that [the consequent] ‘It does not act’ is true. It may be that it is true that It wishes and It acts, so that if It does not will (and it is suitable that It does not will), then It does not act, and if It wills (and it is suitable that It wills), then It does act. One or the other is true in a conditional.

If someone says that, ‘if It does not wish’ states a future case, and to be such is to be in time, and it is not suitable that Necessary Existence have a new will, and especially for it to have changed its principle’, [then] we respond to this fantasy in two ways. First, this problem is such that the antecedent of the conditional is not true and cannot be true, and we have dismissed this earlier [Ilāhiyyāt §23 , and §33 (supra)]. Second, we use the expressions ‘if ’ and ‘It does not wish’ and ‘It does not will’ figuratively here.

It should be stated here that: whatsoever It wishes to be, is; and whatsoever It wishes not to be in what proceeds from It, is not; and that thing which It wishes, if it is not suitable that it is not wished to be, is; and that thing which It does not wish, if it is suitable that it is willed [not to be], is not. This is the meaning of that thing which is called ‘powerful’. That is not powerful which sometimes acts or does not act, and sometimes wishes or does not wish. From this it is evident that Its ability is identical with Its knowledge of the order of things. In essence (dhāt), Its knowledge and ability are not different.

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