Avicenna on the Unchanging All-Knowledgeable Knower

  November 02, 2021   Read time 2 min
Avicenna on the Unchanging All-Knowledgeable Knower
"All-Knowledgeable" is one of the Divine Attribute of Allah as depicted in Holy Quran. Muslim philosophers in general and Avicenna in particular have focused on these attributes and presented them in terms of metaphysical notions.

It is necessary to know: first, that the knowledge (ʿilm) of Necessary Existence is not like our knowledge nor is it analogous (qiyās) to our knowledge; and, second, that in us there are two kinds of knowledge. The first [kind of knowledge] requires multiplicity, and the second does not. That which requires multiplicity is called ‘psychological’ knowledge (ʿilm-i nafsānī), and that which does not require [it] is called ‘intellectual’ knowledge (ʿilm-i ʿaqlī). A precise explanation of these two as they truly are will be given later [e.g., Ṭabīʿiyyāt §49 , infra], but here we present the sum of it by an example of an intelligent (ʿāqil) person, who is in a debate with someone or [who is] in a discussion.

That other person asks many questions, all of which call for an answer. A single ‘thought’ (khātir) comes to be in the soul [of the intelligent person], so that by that one thought alone he possesses the knowledge to answer all of [the questions], without that form, in his soul, of the answers in which they would be seen as separate from one another. Thus, that which proceeds by thought and speech, form by form, from the single thought in the soul is completely orderly, and the soul examines the forms one after another. Knowledge (dānish) comes to be knowledge to him by that act, and language produces the explanation from that form. Both of these two [the single thought and its discursive explication] are, in actuality, knowledge, since that person to whom the thought came previously is certain that he knows entirely [how to respond] to every question from the other person. That second manner also is knowledge in act.

That previous [single thought] is knowledge because it is the beginning and cause of making clear the intelligible forms. This knowledge is active (fiʿlī). That other [the discursive explication] is knowledge because it is a receptacle for multiple intelligible forms. This knowledge is passive. Here, many forms appear in the knower, and this makes multiplicity necessary because there (ānjā) there is a relation among many forms, which are from one thing, thus requiring multiplicity. Hence, it is made manifest how it can be that there is a knowledge of many things without multiplicity [in the knowledge]. The state (ḥāl) of the knowledge of all things by Necessary Existence is like the state of that one thought (khātir) knowing many things, but it is more sublime and more singular and more disjoined, for there is in him [the person] a receptacle for that thought, and Necessary Exis tence is disjoined [from a receptacle].

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