You are on page 1of 4

Medieval Academy of America

Averroes and the Metaphysics of Causation by Barry S. Kogan Review by: Beatrice H. Zedler Speculum, Vol. 62, No. 2 (Apr., 1987), pp. 434-436 Published by: Medieval Academy of America Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/2855258 . Accessed: 23/08/2013 16:19
Your use of the JSTOR archive indicates your acceptance of the Terms & Conditions of Use, available at . http://www.jstor.org/page/info/about/policies/terms.jsp

.
JSTOR is a not-for-profit service that helps scholars, researchers, and students discover, use, and build upon a wide range of content in a trusted digital archive. We use information technology and tools to increase productivity and facilitate new forms of scholarship. For more information about JSTOR, please contact support@jstor.org.

Medieval Academy of America is collaborating with JSTOR to digitize, preserve and extend access to Speculum.

http://www.jstor.org

This content downloaded from 163.178.116.161 on Fri, 23 Aug 2013 16:19:12 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

434

Reviews

forhaving written whatshould be a long-livedand indispensdeserve congratulations advance the studyof the period and willbe of whichwillsignificantly able contribution The publishershould coninterestto westernmedievalistsas to well as Byzantinists. sider a modestlypriced paperback edition forbroader distribution.
WALTER EMIL KAEGI, JR.

of Chicago University

BARRY S. KOGAN, Averroes and theMetaphysics ofCausation.Albany: State University of New York Press, 1985. Pp. xi, 348. $39.50 (cloth); $14.95 (paper). THE PROBLEM of causalitymayremindus of the name of David Hume, but long before his time thatproblem was discussed by an Islamic thinkerwho is sometimescalled "a medieval Hume." Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111) in his Tahafut al-Falasifah (The Incoherence of thePhilosophers) had denied any necessaryconnectionbetween what is believed to be the cause and the effect. He wantedto destroyhis readers'confidencein what philosophers like al-Farabi and Avicenna had said about causality and other topics.In response to al-Ghazali,Averroes(1 126-98) wrotethe Tahafut al-Tahafut (The Incoherence of theIncoherence), in which he discussed the twenty propositionsthat alGhazali had presented.In two of these discussions(3 and 17) he replied to al-Ghazali's criticism of causality.Using the Arabic textedited by Bouyges,the Latin translation of Calo Calonymos edited by Zedler, and the English translationby Van den Bergh, Barry Kogan focuses mainlyon these two discussions,but he also studies other texts fromAverroes' Tahafut and fromhis commentarieson Aristotle where theyare helpful in clarifying the meaning. In the fivechaptersthatmake up his book Kogan givesan expositionand analysisof Averroes'theoryof causal efficacy and its metaphysical foundation.What he calls the "literary character of the Tahafutdebates" makes his task difficult. The styleof the Tahafut is oftendiffuseand deliberately ambiguous. Averroeswas not writing for his fellow philosophers but for a mixed audience. For this reason he tried (as in his remarkson miracles)both to reveal and to conceal the truth at the same time,but with respectto different kinds of readers. Though thisposes a problemin the studyof the Tahafut, Kogan thinksit is not insurmountable since some of the "secrets"are revealed in the books of demonstration, that is, in the workson Aristotle. Afterhis comments on the styleand method of the Tahafut, Kogan discusses (in chapter 2) how each of the participantsin the debate characterizesthe relationsof cause and effect.In chapter 3 he focuses on the problem of necessaryconnectionsin nature,on Averroes' grounds forsupposing thatcauses are in factefficacious, and on thisontologicalsuppositionsof Averroes' and al-Ghazali's views. In chapter 4 he discusses the celestiallinksin the causal chain, spheres,cycles,and celestialintelligences, in order to show what explains the regularity and continuity of observed causal processes. In chapter 5 he considersdivinecausation and the doctrineof eternalcreation. As the briefchapter summarysuggests,the fulltreatment of Averroes' positionon causation includes an explanation of his viewson metaphysics, and natural cosmology, theology.I shall take note of some of the most interesting points in the book. Using his favorite example, al-Ghazali had said thatthe factthata piece of cottonis burned at the timeof itscontactwithfiredoes not prove thatthe fireis thecause of the burningof the cotton.Observationindicatesthatthe one occurs withthe other;itdoes

This content downloaded from 163.178.116.161 on Fri, 23 Aug 2013 16:19:12 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

Reviews

435

not indicate that it occurs through it. What we perceive is the conjunction of two distinct entities or eventswithno real relationbetweenthem.God alone is the agent of the so-called effect.Averroes responded that we do observe somethingacting on othersor producingothers.We do not see anything betweencause and effect, stretching like a bridge between them,but there is an activity of one thingupon another. Each philosopher's view of causality presumes a certain ontology. Though alGhazali, in his introductionto his Tahafut, claimed that it was not his intentionto present a position of his own, Averroes saw him as the spokesman for an Asharite theology,which denied secondary causalityand made all thingsdependent on the absolute will of God. Against the view which held that thingsare only occasions for God's activity,Averroes held that things themselves have causal efficacy.The metaphysicalbasis for this view, according to Kogan, is that for Averroes "actual existents are powerfulparticulars"(p. 124). Substancesare dynamicentities possessed of powers and dispositions.A thingcannot be and be totally inert.Being is as being does. In the effortto show that, for Averroes, to be real a thing must act or have power, Kogan uses phrases thatseem almostto anticipatethe language of the American pragmatists, but his phrasingis again more traditional when he speaks of things having essences which determine their specificacts. And he makes it clear that far fromdestroying the naturesof existentthings, as the Asharitetheologiansdid in their effort to ascribe omnipotenceto God, Averroesshows thatexistentthingshave some stability of structure and continuity of behavior. To account fully forthe intelligibility and continuity of change in the sublunarworld Averroesspeaks also of spheres and separate intelligences. The celestialspheres serve as efficient causes of generationand corruptionon earth,but,as livingbeings,theyare themselvesmoved by desire to attainthe actuality of the intelligences as theirend or final cause. And since the ultimatecause of the universe is God, the Prime Mover, Kogan also studies Averroes' notion of divine causation. Al-Ghazali had held that an eternal world is the antithesisof a divinelycreated world,but Averroes claimed thatthe world is both. To see the internalcoherence of Averroes' doctrine Kogan thinksone must first see thatby "world"Averroesdid not mean everything thatthereis, but rathereverything thatis mobileor being-in-motion. One of the many reasons that he gave for holding that the world is eternal is thata perfectGod mustperformthe best act, and the best act is a continuousor eternalone. If one asks, "But whycall this eternal world a creation?"the answer is, "Because the worldis essentially needs a moveras long as its qualifiedby motionand a moved entity movement continues." Without the continuous actualityof a mover the "created" effect ceases to be an actuality and thus ceases to be an existent.In a crucialtextfrom the De substantia orbis(quoted on p. 213) Averroes says, "The Giver of continuous motionis the Giver of existenceto all otherbeings."When Averroesspeaks of God as "drawing the universe from non-existenceto existence" (p. 216), he means by the nonexistentonly the potential. Although his world is "created," what he means by creationis not an ex nihilo production,but a movementfrompotentiality to act. Kogan findssome inadequacies in Averroes'account ofjust how God causes, especiallyin the theoryof God's causal knowing,but he shows that in the later Averroes that theorydid not implyan overflowof formsfroman infinite, God. self-thinking Historianshave given opposite answersto the question,did Averroessubscribeto the Averthe Tahafut theoryof emanation? Kogan says that prior to finishing al-Tahafut, roes,even thoughhe kne.w the thoughtof Aristotle, accepted almosttheentireaccount of emanation given by Avicenna. But by the time he finishedhis Tahafut his attitude

This content downloaded from 163.178.116.161 on Fri, 23 Aug 2013 16:19:12 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions

436

Reviews

had changed. By then he had replaced the Neoplatonic model of downwardefficient causationwiththe Aristotelian model of formalcausationas the principleof order and as Kogan pointsout, itwas the finalcausation as the principleof movement.Ironically, attacksof his implacable opponent, al-Ghazali, that turned Averroes against the Isforthe real lamicphilosophers'viewof emanationand inclinedhimto look to Aristotle explanation of divine causality. aland complex work,the Tahafut Kogan has done a good job of handlinga difficult Tahafut,and a difficult subject, Averroes' position on causalityin its metaphysical context.He tries,so far as the textspermit,to show the internalcoherence of Averdebate. His book roes' viewand the place of thatviewin the medieval Islamic thinkers' can help us to know Averroes as not only a commentator but also as a philosopher.
BEATRICE H. ZEDLER Marquette University

H. LE BOURDELLtS, L'Aratus Latinus:Etudesurla culture etla languelatines dansleNordde la Franceau VIIIe siecle.(Travaux et Recherches.)Lille: Universite de Lille III, 1985. Paper. Pp. 268; 5 black-and-white F 110. facsimileillustrations.
THE Aratus Latinus, preservedin fourmanuscripts (PCBA), is a translation made in the early Middle Ages of an Alexandrian collection of writingsby the Greek poetastronomerAratus, who lived in the third centuryB.C., and whose greatesttitleto fame is the poem Phaenomena, rendered into Latin verseby Cicero. If we are to accept Le Bourdelles's findings, the Aratus Latinuswas composed around the year 750 at the abbey of Corbie, located a shortdistanceeast of Amiens in northernFrance. The text was edited byMaass in 1898 (the bibliography, incidentally, givesthe yearas 1858), but Le Bourdelles is the first to provide a detailed study.Regional history is given a fair amount of prominencein the examinationof the text:Le Bourdelles,who is associated withthe University of Lille and who apparentlywritesunder regional sponsorship, is confident thathis workthrowsnew lighton theculturalactivities in whichtheabbeyof Corbie was engaged in the early Middle Ages. At the beginning of the eighth centuryAratus seemed forgotten, presumablybecause of strong opposition from the church to the pagan legends and images that abound in his works.The Aratus Latinus,consisting of eight Aratean pieces of varied provenance, offersproof that he was rediscoveredin Gaul prior to Alcuin and the Carolingian Renaissance. The actual translation is shown to have been carried out in two separate stages: a word-for-word interlineargloss followedby a transcription of the Latin glosseswithout any further recourseto the Greek text.On the basis of errors thatcould not have been made by a Hellene, Le Bourdelles concludes thatthe translationwas not made under the supervisionof a Greek speaker. In the earlyMiddle Ages Greek was taughtthroughbilingualtexts.Maass had already shown thatthe authorof the Aratus Latinushad made use of a Greco-Latinglossaryknownas the Pseudo-Cyril, and Le Bourdelles assumes that he also had access to another glossary,the Hermeneumata. These glossarieshave serious flaws; theycontain no scientific vocabulary and no syntax.Hampered by limitedresources, the translator produced a poor and oftennonsensical translation(Maass and Martin),but Le Bourdelles gives him credit for having undertakena veryambitioustask. The second portionof the book is devoted to a studyof the language of the Aratus

This content downloaded from 163.178.116.161 on Fri, 23 Aug 2013 16:19:12 PM All use subject to JSTOR Terms and Conditions