Matter and nature: On the foundations of Avicenna’s theory of providence: an overview

O.L. Lizzini

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The fundamental principle—ruling both Avicenna’s metaphysics and his ethics—that the action of superior causes cannot be explained in virtue of the existence of inferior effects—seems to deny any possibility of a consistent idea of providence in Avicenna’s system. Despite this fact, Avicenna recurs to the term (ʿināya; tadbīr) as well as to the idea of providence in various contexts in his oeuvre. More precisely, providence is equated to the flow of being that originates and explains the world; and this not only in respect to the fundamental, existential, positive and “good” properties that belong to it—the world itself is good, the flow is the principle of good and the First Principle is the cause of the world in so far as the order of good is concerned—but also as regards the marginal, negative, non-existential and “bad” properties that can affect its individuals and that are necessarily consequents of the good itself: evil is something the First Principle “wants”, although in an accidental way, and it is therefore implicit in and contained by divine causality. In this paper I shall outline the fundamental structure that explains the existence of individuals in the sublunary world. I do not claim to
be exhaustive (some questions require further investigation); my aim is to provide an overview of the topic, with a main question in mind: on what principles does Avicenna base his idea of providence?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)7-34
Number of pages28
JournalIntellectual History of the Islamicate World
Issue number1
Early online date1 Jan 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Islamic Studies
  • Arabic Philosophy
  • History of Arabic philosophy
  • Avicenna
  • Ibn Sina


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