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

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

Abstract

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?
LanguageEnglish
Pages7-34
JournalIntellectual History of the Islamicate World
Publication statusPublished - 2019

Fingerprint

Nature
Avicenna
Fundamental
Causes
Consequent
Evil
Accidental
Causality
Metaphysics

Keywords

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

Cite this

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title = "“Matter and nature. On the foundations of Avicenna’s theory of providence: an overview”",
abstract = "The fundamental principle—ruling both Avicenna’s metaphysics and his ethics—thatthe action of superior causes cannot be explained in virtue of the existence of inferioreffects—seems to deny any possibility of a consistent idea of providence in Avicenna’ssystem. Despite this fact, Avicenna recurs to the term (ʿināya; tadbīr) as well as tothe idea of providence in various contexts in his oeuvre. More precisely, providenceis equated to the flow of being that originates and explains the world; and this not onlyin respect to the fundamental, existential, positive and “good” properties that belongto it—the world itself is good, the flow is the principle of good and the First Principleis the cause of the world in so far as the order of good is concerned—but also asregards the marginal, negative, non-existential and “bad” properties that can affect itsindividuals and that are necessarily consequents of the good itself: evil is somethingthe First Principle “wants”, although in an accidental way, and it is therefore implicit inand contained by divine causality. In this paper I shall outline the fundamental structurethat explains the existence of individuals in the sublunary world. I do not claim tobe exhaustive (some questions require further investigation); my aim is to provide anoverview of the topic, with a main question in mind: on what principles does Avicennabase his idea of providence?",
keywords = "Islamic Studies, Arabic Philosophy, History of Arabic philosophy, Avicenna, Ibn Sina",
author = "O.L. Lizzini",
year = "2019",
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pages = "7--34",
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}

“Matter and nature. On the foundations of Avicenna’s theory of providence: an overview”. / Lizzini, O.L.

In: Intellectual History of the Islamicate World, 2019, p. 7-34.

Research output: Contribution to JournalReview articleAcademicpeer-review

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AB - The fundamental principle—ruling both Avicenna’s metaphysics and his ethics—thatthe action of superior causes cannot be explained in virtue of the existence of inferioreffects—seems to deny any possibility of a consistent idea of providence in Avicenna’ssystem. Despite this fact, Avicenna recurs to the term (ʿināya; tadbīr) as well as tothe idea of providence in various contexts in his oeuvre. More precisely, providenceis equated to the flow of being that originates and explains the world; and this not onlyin respect to the fundamental, existential, positive and “good” properties that belongto it—the world itself is good, the flow is the principle of good and the First Principleis the cause of the world in so far as the order of good is concerned—but also asregards the marginal, negative, non-existential and “bad” properties that can affect itsindividuals and that are necessarily consequents of the good itself: evil is somethingthe First Principle “wants”, although in an accidental way, and it is therefore implicit inand contained by divine causality. In this paper I shall outline the fundamental structurethat explains the existence of individuals in the sublunary world. I do not claim tobe exhaustive (some questions require further investigation); my aim is to provide anoverview of the topic, with a main question in mind: on what principles does Avicennabase his idea of providence?

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