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PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY, 6(3), 1992
GHAZALI ON THE CREATION VS. ETERNITY OF THE WORLD Raja Bahlul Yarmouk University Irbid, Jordan
Abstract There are two ways in which Ghazali contributes to the discussion of whether God exists: by arguing for the existence of God, and by arguing against certain views which, in his opinion, stand in the way of truly believing that God exists. In this paper I examine Ghazali's argument from creation and his refutation of the philosophers' second proof for the eternity of the world. My purpose will be to argue that: firstly, Ghazali's argument and his refutation are based on incompatible views of time, and cannot, therefore, both be maintained. Secondly, Ghazali fails to establish the one interesting premiss which he employs in his argument from creation.
INTRODUCTION There are two distinct but related ways in which Ghazali (d. 1111) contributes to the discussion of whether God exists. On the one hand, he presents arguments which purport to prove the existence of God. On the other hand, he seeks to undermine certain philosophical views about the nature of time and the temporal extension of the world -- views which, he thinks, stand in the way of truly believing that God exists. In what follows I shall confine my attention to Ghazali's argument from creation (the argument <a novitati mundi>) and his refutation of the philosophers' second proof for the eternity of the world. Ghazali's ideas here are clear, apparently fully worked out, and philosophically significant -- well-suited to show the strength of his position vis-a-vis his intellectual opponents, the philosophers. Or so one would have thought. My purpose will be to bring out two difficulties which make Ghazali's position appear weak -- weaker, in fact, than it has hitherto been supposed to be. These two difficulties are: firstly, Ghazali's argument from creation and his refutation of the philosophers' second proof are based on incompatible theories about the nature of time and cannot, therefore, both be maintained. Secondly, even if Ghazali were to relinquish his refutation of the philosophers (which, of course, need not mean that the philosophers would have established their case), that
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still would not leave him with a good argument for the existence of God, for he never establishes the one interesting premiss which he employs in his argument.
In the second section, I go over Ghazali's method of dealing with the philosophers' second proof for the eternity of the world. By way of clarifying Ghazali's position I draw parallels between Ghazali's approach and some (relevant) modern arguments, especially Leibniz's response to a difficulty that is similar to the one with which the philosophers present Ghazali. Like Leibniz, Ghazali employs a theory which does not recognize the existence of time apart from movement. In the third section, I examine Ghazali's argument from creation. Firstly, I argue that the truth of Ghazali's crucial premiss, namely, the premiss which states that the world is <hadith> ("has come to be") requires a view of time which is quite incompatible with the one which he makes use of in his refutation of the philosophers' second proof. Secondly, I suggest that Ghazali's failure to see the inconsistency may have resulted from an incorrect analysis of what is really involved by the assertions that make reference to the past. Finally, in the fourth section, an attempt is made to determine the viability of Ghazali's argument from creation, considered apart from all else. It turns out that Ghazali never establishes the crucial premiss which says that the world is <hadith>. At most, he can be said to have established that the world is temporally finite, which is very different from what his argument requires.
GHAZALI AND THE ARISTOTELIAN VIEW OF TIME It is commonly known that Muslim philosophers whose views are under attack in Ghazali's Tahafut al-Falasifah (Incoherence of the Philosophers) all followed Aristotle in defining time as the "number of motion in respect of `before' and `after'" [2, 292 (219b2); cf. 6, 139; 12, 261]. Thus, unlike the English scientist Sir Isaac Newton who, centuries later, was to express belief in an absolute, true mathematical time that "flows equably without regard to anything external" [1, 152], Muslim philosophers refused to give time independent ontological status. "Time without the world" (before the world or after it) would have struck them, as it would have Aristotle, as a contradiction in terms. Yet despite the ontologically secondary status of time with respect to the world, Muslim philosophers, again following Aristotle, nevertheless thought it appropriate to argue from the eternity of time to an eternal world. It is instructive to lay side by side both Aristotle's argument and the one used by the Muslim philosophers, for their essential similarity in strategy is somewhat obscured by the
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theological turn which Aristotle's argument was later to be given. This is how Aristotle's argument proceeds: Now since time cannot exist and is unthinkable apart from the moment, and the moment is a kind of middle point, uniting as it does in itself both a beginning and an end, a beginning of a future time and an end of a past time, it follows that there must always be time. . . . Therefore, since the moment is both a beginning and an end, there must always be time on both sides of it. But if this is true of time, it is evident that it must always be true of motion, time being a kind of affection of motion [2, 356-357 (251b18-24)]. In order to establish that motion has no beginning, Aristotle first argues that time has no beginning. He then uses his definition of time as a "kind of affection of motion" to obtain the desired conclusion. Crucial to the whole proof, of course, is the idea that time has no beginning. And this, Aristotle seems to think, follows from the nature of the moment. Every moment is between two other moments: "there is time on both sides of it." Now in Ghazali's statement of their argument, the Muslim philosophers do not employ the idea that the moment is a middle point. But they do, nevertheless, find a way to say that for every moment one considers, there is a moment before it. Suppose for the sake of argument, (they say) that God created the world at a certain point in the past, call it t_0, that the world began to exist then. Surely, God could have created the world a little sooner than that, say at t_1. So there is a moment, t-1, which is before tO. Equally surely, God could have created the world even a little earlier, say, at t_2. So there is a moment before t_1. And so on, without end, or rather, without beginning. Ghazali summarizes the argument thus: They say: you do not doubt that God was able to create the world one year, a hundred years, a thousand years, and so ad infinitum, before He created it, and that those possibilities are different in magnitude and number. Therefore, it is necessary to admit before the existence of the world a measurable extension, one part of which is longer than another part, and, therefore, it is necessary that something should have existed before the world [4, 48; 14, 70; cf. 5, 257-258; 6, 139-140]. Having established the existence of an infinitely long "measurable extension" before the world, the philosophers go on say that this extension is nothing but time, and that time requires motion as its substratum [4, 49; 14, 71]. As Goodman [15, 172], Hourani [16, 190], and Marmura [17, 306] have noted, Ghazali does not counter the philosophers' argument by denying the validity of the inference from the eternity of time to an eternal world, a course which a believer
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in Newton's absolute theory of time might have taken. Rather, believing that motion has a beginning, Ghazali concludes in conformity with the view that time is only the measure of motion, that time itself has a beginning. But the idea that time has a beginning, an instant before which there are no instants, is not very intuitive. Nevertheless, Ghazali tries very hard to demonstrate the tenability of the idea. He tries to elicit support for it in two ways, both of which have found favor with modern thinkers, without this necessarily being due to Ghazali's influence. Firstly, Ghazali develops at length an analogy between space and time -- an analogy between the size of the world (its spatial extension) and the age of the world (its temporal extension). If (as the philosophers were all agreed) there is no space beyond the world, space, as it were, being "tailored" to the exact measurements of the (spatially finite) body of the universe, then there need be no time before the beginning of the world. ". . . in the same way as it is said that spatial extension is an attribute of body, temporal extension is an attribute of motion, for time is the extension of movement just as the space between the sides a body is the extension of space" [4, 42; 14, 67]. Still, an analogy which one modern writer, Brian Ellis, makes between the temporal extension and temperature range of the universe might show the reasonableness of Ghazali's contention even better than his proposed analogy. (See [9, 33].) We know that -273 degrees C is the lowest temperature there is, that there is no degree which is lower than -273 C. Yet we certainly can imagine, with the philosophers, that God had created the world a little colder than it is, e.g., with bodies that have a temperature of -274 C. Furthermore, a God who could have done this could certainly have gone a little farther down the line, to, say, -275 C. And so on. Are we thereby committed to thinking that there are degrees that are lower than -273 C? We are only if the philosophers' analogous argument concerning time is valid. In both cases the mistake seems to lie in the move from the <imaginable> or <possible> to the <actual>. It is imaginable or possible that God had created a colder universe. But He (apparently) did not. Hence, there is simply no temperature that is lower than -273 C. It is not as though there are independently existing degrees farther down the line, which remain "uninstantiated" because God does not create something which is that cold. They are purely imaginary degrees, fictional, one might say, just like Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. This brings us to Ghazali's second way of eliciting support for the idea that time has a beginning. To draw attention to the purely imaginary character of "time before the world," Ghazali writes: "All this (i.e., belief in the infinity of time) is a consequence of the inability of the imagination to imagine the beginning of a thing, without something preceding it, and this "before," of which the imagination cannot rid itself, is regarded as a really existing thing, namely, time" [4, 41; 14, 67]. But,
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it is not a really existing thing, Ghazali is saying. It is purely imaginary, fictional. The point is brought out more clearly and persuasively in the correspondence which took place between Leibniz and Clarke, who was a friend of Newton and a supporter of the absolute theory of time. Clarke apparently thought that the absolute theory of time had an advantage over Leibniz's relational theory when it came to the problem of creation: an advocate of the absolute theory could say, whereas an advocate of the relational theory could not, that it was in God's power to create the world earlier [1, 49]. To this Leibniz responds by saying that to imagine that God had created the world earlier is to conceive of an alternative possible world where our (actual) world's first state (which also marks the beginning of time) is the second, or fifth state, or what you will. In other words, one imagines an alternative world which contains a greater number of events than ours. Containing more events, that alternative possible world contains more time. "For thus things being increased," Leibniz writes, "time will also be increased" [1, 77]. But the extra amount of time which the alternative possible world contains is not, therefore, real time. Like Ghazali's "before," which the imagination cannot desist from assuming whenever a beginning is mentioned, it is imaginary, much like those extra pounds which a thin individual "has" when he is imagined to be fat. This is, in substance, Ghazali's response to the philosophers' second proof for the eternity of the world. We do not need to go into the many details, arguments, and counterarguments which Ghazali's and Averroes's subsequent discussion involve. For our purpose is not to decide where the truth of the matter lies, but to determine what view of time Ghazali's rebuttal of the philosophers is based on. It appears that the view of time which Ghazali's rebuttal is based on is the Aristotelian view that time is an attribute, an accident of motion. For it is this view, together with the belief that the world (process) has a beginning, which leads Ghazali to conclude that time itself begins with the world. But does Ghazali really want this result? Let us now turn to his argument from creation, in order to determine which view of time this argument requires. It turns out that a believer in the Aristotelian view of time cannot argue from creation, at least not if he defines `hadith' the way Ghazali does.
GHAZALI'S ARGUMENT FROM CREATION Ghazali's argument from creation is very brief. He himself formulates it thus: 1. Every hadith must have a cause. 2. The world is hadith.
PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY 3. (Therefore), the world must have a cause [11, 19; 13, 66].
I have deliberately left `hadith' untranslated. This is not for want of translations; if anything, the literature dealing with our subject abounds with a confusing variety of proposed transitions. To give some examples, Fakhry uses `created' [10, 39] and `temporal' [10, 44]; Simon Van Den Bergh, in connection with Ghazali's rebuttal of the philosophers' second proof for the eternity of the world, uses `with a beginning' [4, 37], and `generated' [4, 38]; Craig uses `that which begins' [7, 44]; and, finally, Goodman uses `what comes to be' [15, 72]. But none of these translations exactly correspond in meaning to (or even match the syntactic complexity of) the definition which Ghazali offers in the process of explaining the meaning of his first premiss, the so-called `Principle of Determination.' "By `hadith' we mean," Ghazali says, "that which was nonexistent, (and) then existed (ma kana ma'duman thumma sara mawjudan)" [11, 20]. Now this concept of hadith, on the face of it, is not at all problematic. We can apply it to many things in the world. E.g., we can say that this table is hadith, for it was nonexistent (back in 1950) and then it existed (starting from the year 1960). Nor is there any reason to think that the philosophers would make any objections if Ghazali were to be content to apply the concept to things which are in the world. (Cf. [3, 40], where Averroes accepts as non-problematic the use of `hadith' described here.) But Ghazali is not content to apply `hadith' to things within the world. He wants to apply it to the world as a whole. This is precisely what the second premiss asserts: the world (as a whole) is `hadith'. It is here that Ghazali's ideas come into conflict, not just with the philosophers' belief in the eternity of the world, but with his own method of refuting the philosophers' second proof. For what does it mean to say that the world is hadith? In accordance with Ghazali's own definition, this means: the world was non-existent, (and) then it existed. In other words, the world's existence is preceded by a time during which the world did not exist. Surely, this view is logically incompatible with Ghazali's rebuttal of the philosophers' second proof for the eternity of the world. Recall how Ghazali responded to the philosophers' suggestion that God could have created the world earlier. Ghazali employed the Aristotelian view of time in order to make the counter-suggestion that just as the finitude of the universe entails that space is finite, so the finitude of motion should entail that time is finite. There is no time before the world.
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But if this is so, how can Ghazali say that the world is <hadith>? The inconsistency is glaring, so much so, it is really hard to believe that Ghazali could have failed to see it. Have we somehow misinterpreted Ghazali, or is he really contradicting himself? One might say that the correct answer is really neither. For given the polemical nature of Ghazali's Tahafut, (Ghazali intends to refute the philosophers' view in any way he can) it may be that Ghazali did not subscribe to the Aristotelian view of time to begin with. This may indeed be true. But Ghazali does not question this view of time, despite the fact the philosophers were constantly putting it to such good use in their arguments for the eternity of the world, and the fact that Ghazali had ample opportunity to question this view if he had thought that it was indeed questionable. None of this, of course, proves that Ghazali was an Aristotelian with regard to his view of time. But it does, I think, make it worth our while to inquire closely into the idea that Ghazali may not have thought that it would be inconsistent for one to argue for creation while subscribing to an Aristotelian view of time as well. The evidence for this suggestion comes from Ghazali's response to a difficulty which arises in a different context -in connection with Ghazali's assertion of God's priority to the world and to time. Ghazali makes use of certain expressions which, the philosophers claim, commit him to belief in the existence of time before the world, while Ghazali insists that the commitment is only apparent. Let us look at this particular exchange between Ghazali and the philosophers, for here, I think, we shall find the reason why Ghazali may not have thought that his definition of `<hadith>' is in any way inconsistent with his method of refuting the philosophers' second proof. At first, Ghazali explains what he means by the words: "God is prior to the world and to time." This means, he says, that "He (God, that is) existed without the world and then He existed and with Him there was a world (kana wa la 'alama ma'ahu thumma kana wa ma'ahu 'alam)" [14, 66; cf. Van Den Bergh's somewhat different translation in 4, 38]. Anticipating the philosophers' objection that the words "kana wa la 'alama ma'ahu" imply the existence of time during which the world did not exist (a time before the world's existence, that is) Ghazali proceeds to explain that the meaning of our words that He existed without the world (kana wa la 'alama ma'ahu) is: the existence of the essence of the creator and the non-existence of the essence of the world. . . . And the meaning of our words that He existed and with Him there was a world (kana wa ma'ahu 'alam) is: the existence of the two essences. . . [14, 66; 4, 38].
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The philosophers still object; they refuse to accept Ghazali's explication of the kana-formulas by means of the tense-free noun-phrases. "kana wa la 'alama ma'ahu," they insist, means more than just the existence of the essence of God and the non-existence of the essence of the world. For if we should suppose that in the future God should exist without the world, there would be in the future the existence of one being and the non-existence of another, still it would not be right to say "God existed without the world (kana wa la 'alama ma'ahu), but we should say, "God will exist without the world." . . . This shows, therefore, that the word `was' (kana) comprises a third entity, namely the past, and the past by itself is time, . . . [4, 40; 14, 66]. To this objection Ghazali responds by saying that the "third thing" which our use of `kana' commits us to is only a relative, subjective thing, a fact about us, and not the world. The primitive meaning of the two expressions is existence of one thing and the non-existence of another. The third element in which the two expressions differ is a necessary relation to us. The proof is that, if we should suppose a destruction of the world in the future and afterwards a second existence for us, we should then say "God was without the world," and this would be true, whether we meant its original nonexistence, or the second non-existence, its destruction after its existence. And a sign that this is a subjective relation is that the future can become past and can be indicated by the word `past' [14, 67; cf. 4, 41]. What Ghazali seems to be saying is this. The attribute of "pastness" which we attribute to the state of affairs consisting of God's existence and the world's non-existence is not an objective mind-independent attribute. It exists only in relation to us. It as though we were to say that Caesar's crossing of the Rubicon has pastness. It does, but only relative to us. Relative to Caesar himself, it is something that occurs presently. And perhaps relative to Caesar's grandfather it was yet to happen. In and of itself, however, it is neither present nor past, for these are merely "subjective relations." Hence when the philosophers claim that `<kana wa la 'alama ma'ahu>' means a "third thing," they are drawing attention to something which exists only by reference to us, something which cannot be said to have objective existence. No harm can be done when it is left out or ignored. I shall argue in a moment that although what Ghazali says is true as far as it goes, still it does not answer the philosophers' objection. But what immediately concerns us is the question of why Ghazali may not have thought that his definition of `hadith' in any way committed him to the existence of time before the world. Recall how Ghazali defines `hadith': ma kana
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ma'duman thumma sara mawjudan (what was non-existent (and) then existed)." `kana,' with its implication of "pastness," occurs here too. May not Ghazali therefore have wanted to treat it the same way he treats `kana' in the statement, "kana wa la 'alama ma'ahu ([God] existed without the world)"? In the latter case Ghazali refuses to admit that `kana' serves to introduce an objectively existing "third thing," a time during which God existed without the world. Why should he therefore think that, in saying that the world was non-existent (kana ma'duma>), he thereby acknowledges the existence of another thing, e.g., a time during which the world did not exist? If this suggestion is correct, then Ghazali may not have thought that the use of `hadith' implied the existence of time before the world. Consequently, he may not have seen any logical conflict between his argument from creation and his refutation of the philosophers' second proof for the eternity of the world. Nevertheless, I think that Ghazali is committed to believing in the existence of time before the world, despite the fact that what he says about the relativity and subjectivity of the quality of pastness is true. The problem with Ghazali's analysis of statements which make use of `kana' (was) is that he does not seem to realize that the implication of pastness is not the only temporal implication which such statements have. To see this, let us look at the conditions which have to obtain in order that an assertion that makes use of `kana,' or `was,' may be true. Suppose that, in 1991, someone says, "Caesar was alive." Those who hear him will undoubtedly infer that Caesar's being alive is something that, speaking tenselessly, takes place "in the past," at least as far as the speaker is concerned. But they will also understand that if the assertion is true, then it is being made at a time that is <later> than the time when Caesar lived. For someone who speaks at a time when Caesar is alive will (normally) say, "Caesar lives," not, "Caesar was alive." Now whether an event has "pastness" or "presentness" is a relative matter, for it depends on the temporal position of the speaker relative to the event -- whether he speaks after the event or simultaneously with it. But the speaker's position with respect to the event is not a relative matter. That is, it is not a relative matter whether someone speaks before, after, or simultaneously with the event. (This is not strictly true, for according to the Special Theory of Relativity, simultaneity <is> relative, but within limits: some events can still be said to be absolutely simultaneous with others.) Keeping in mind the nonrelativity of temporal position, let us imagine that we are with Ghazali as he, in (say) 1095, says: "kana [allah] wa la 'alama ma'ahu," which can be literally, if not very idiomatically, translated as "God was (existent) and no world was (existent then) with Him". What does Ghazali thereby tell us? Not only that the state of affairs consisting of God's existence and the world's non-existence has "pastness", a quality which we all agree is relative. I think that he additionally leads us to believe that the aforementioned state of affairs (tenselessly) obtains before 1095.
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Surely, this cannot be denied. Of course, we do not claim that Ghazali says that God's existence and the world's nonexistence obtain before 1095. For he makes no mention of 1095 or any other year. Nor does he employ the word `before.' But none of this is to the point. The point is that if Ghazali, saying what he does in 1095, succeeds in saying something true, then the state of affairs consisting of God's existence and the world's non-existence does actually obtain before the year 1095. That is to say, Ghazali's words, plus the (pragmatic) circumstance of uttering them in 1095, do commit Ghazali to the existence of time before 1095, during which God existed without the world. What is true of `kana' (was) which Ghazali uses in his explanation of God's priority to the world, is true of `kana' which he uses in his definition of `hadith.' Therefore, when Ghazali says that the world is hadith, this must be taken to (pragmatically) imply the existence of time during which the world did not exist. And since such an idea is something that the Aristotelian view of time cannot possibly allow, we are forced to conclude that Ghazali's argument from creation, and his rebuttal of the philosophers' second proof are based on incompatible views of time.
OBJECTIONS TO GHAZALI'S ARGUMENT FROM CREATION It is obvious that if Ghazali's argument from creation and his refutation of the philosophers' second proof are based on incompatible views of time, then one of them must be given up. It is almost equally obvious, I think, that, as far as Ghazali's overall view of the world and God is concerned, the less damaging alternative would be to give up the Aristotelian view of time together with the particular method used in countering the philosophers' second proof. For to give up the argument from creation would not only mean giving up what has been called "the classical Islamic argument for the existence of God" [10, 135], but it might also mean having to settle for arguments that do not really show that the world needs a God, or that God is truly an agent. Goodman [15, 77-78] and Davidson [8, 3] give us reason to be believe that to argue for the existence of God from creation was an integral part of Ghazali's overall view of the relation between God and the world. The Aristotelian view of time, on the other hand, may not have been more than a device of convenience, a near-to-hand philosophical weapon with which to fight the philosophers. Let us, therefore, suppose that Ghazali, in search of a consistent position gives up the Aristotelian view of time, and with it, his particular method of countering the philosophers' second proof. He is thus no longer bound to say that if the world begins to exist, then time begins with it too. Does this leave him with a viable argument from creation? We have seen how Ghazali's argument fares when one assumes an Aristotelian view of time (viz., the argument does not get off the ground). In order to complete the picture and assess the argument's philosophical
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value, let us see how it fares when one does not assume an Aristotelian view of time. Suppose that Ghazali, keeping to his definition of `hadith' as "what did not previously exist and then began to exist" [10, 141], acknowledges the existence of time before the world. The question which he immediately has to answer is this: how much time? Whatever answer Ghazali gives, he faces serious problems. If he were to say that the time preceding the world's existence is <infinite>, he would be committed to saying that an infinite amount of time elapsed before the creation of the world. And while the elapsing of an infinite time may not be objectionable from the point of view of the philosophers, (Avicenna and Averroes would gladly admit that their existences were preceded by an infinite number of human generations) Ghazali ought to find the idea objectionable. Recall how he seeks to refute those who say that the world has existed for an infinite amount of time. Three "impossibilities" are supposed to follow from this idea [11, 24; cf. 14, 53-54; 4, 9; 13, 68]. It turns out, however, that all of these "impossibilities" can be matched by ones that would follow from the admission of infinite time before the world. Let us briefly look at two of the three impossibilities. First impossibility: "That which is endless has ended, (or has come to pass)" [11, 24]. E.g., by 1991, the earth will have completed an "endless task," namely, revolving an infinite number of times around the sun. But if an infinite amount of time preceded the world's existence, then surely, an infinite amount of time must have elapsed until the time of the world's existence. By Ghazali's logic this should be as impossible as the completion of an infinite number of revolutions around the sun, for how can an infinite, "inexhaustible" amount of time <ever> pass away? Second impossibility: "The number of spherical revolutions is neither odd nor even, nor both nor neither" [11, 24; cf. 4, 9; 14, 53]. Ghazali suggests that the latter two alternatives are excluded on logical grounds, whereas whichever of the first two one chooses, the infinite number of revolutions has one "more" element to turn it into the other. But similarly, if an infinite amount of time preceded the existence of the world, then the number of minutes (or years) is neither odd nor even, nor both neither, and for the same reasons. If Ghazali were to object that talk of minutes and years makes no sense when the earth and the sun did not exist, we can speak of temporal units or intervals generally. If Ghazali were still to object, then perhaps it would be better for him to revert to an Aristotelian or relational view of time altogether. We do not need to consider the third "impossibility," for it is obvious how one can modify it in the requisite manner.
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Thus it appears that Ghazali cannot say that the world's existence was preceded by an infinite amount of time without violating the logic of his own argument. Was the world's existence preceded by a finite amount of time then? Here also Ghazali's argument seems to face serious problems. There are two cases to be considered here. The first is the "limiting case" where Ghazali says that the world's existence was preceded by a finite amount of time which is equal to zero. Of course, this means that time begins with the world, that there is no time before the world. Nevertheless, it is quite legitimate to speak of being preceded by zero time as a limiting case of being preceded by a finite amount of time. In physical science one can reason about cars that "move" with zero speed. Even Ghazali himself recognizes a use of `before' where one speaks about time before the world when there is not any. In his refutation of the philosophers' second proof he urges that one is no more compelled to admit the existence of time before the world than to admit the existence of space outside the world. Still, he says, if you ask us theologians if there is anything before the existence of the world, we say: if you mean by it its beginning, i.e., its initial term, then there is a before, . . . but if you mean anything else, then there is not, . . . [4, 47; 14, 69]. But, of course, Ghazali cannot say that the world's existence was preceded by zero time. For this means that time begins with the world, which in turn, means that the world was never non-existent. (There was simply no time in which it could enjoy that luxury!) How is Ghazali then to say that the world is hadith? He obviously cannot. The consequences of this "zero option" for Ghazali's argument are not at all different from the consequences of the Aristotelian view of time. The second case which remains for us to consider is one where Ghazali says that the world's non-existence was preceded by a finite but non-zero amount of time. In this case we are able to say that the world is hadith (for it exists after nonexistence). Furthermore, we still avoid making the impossible claim that an infinite amount of time has elapsed. Does Ghazali's salvation lie here? I think we can hardly say that when we consider how ad hoc Ghazali's position begins to look. For why should one be inclined to think that the world's existence was preceded by one year, one hour, or one microsecond, as opposed to zero time? There were no clocks or other regular processes before the world with which the passage of time could have been measured. On what basis, therefore, does one choose between saying that the world's existence was preceded by one microsecond as opposed to zero time? We know why we ought not to say that the world's existence was preceded by an infinite amount of time. We grant Ghazali that this would lead to logical absurdities. But this does not seem to
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be the case when we say that the world's existence was preceded by zero time. What purpose would it serve to say that the world's existence was preceded by one meager microsecond, as opposed to no time at all? The only purpose that this would serve, it seems, is to save Ghazali's argument. There are no other uses or purposes for such a solution. It is as ad hoc a solution as one can think of. The question here is not one of interpreting Ghazali charitably, or giving him the run for his money. For he does offer an argument which purports to prove that the world is <hadith>. The fact that we do not find ourselves in a situation where we are logically required to say that the world's existence was preceded by a non-zero amount of time can only mean one thing, namely, that Ghazali's argument is not sound. In order to convince ourselves that this is indeed the case, let us look at Ghazali's argument directly, instead of arguing indirectly (by posing difficult questions about the extent of time before the world) as we have done so far. How does Ghazali propose to prove that the world is <hadith>? His argument, which is as brief as his argument from creation, can be stated as follows: 1. The world contains hawadith (pl. of hadith). 2. Whatever contains hawadith is itself hadith. 3. (Therefore), the world is hadith [11, 20; 13, 67]. The first premiss, as Ghazali recognizes, goes without saying, for no one will deny that some of the things which exist now in the world did not exist before. (Cf. [11, 20; 13, 67].) The second premiss, however, is not obvious. It is here that Ghazali's logic falters. Ghazali's argument for the second premise takes the form of a reductio ad absurdum. As to the assumption which Ghazali wishes to reduce to absurdity, it appears to be this: despite containing hawadith, the world is qadim Three impossible consequences are supposed to follow from this assumption; they are the consequences which we had occasion to mention earlier in this section. The problem with Ghazali's argument lies in the assumption he makes for his reductio. For the assumption which he makes is <not> the one which his argument needs, and the one which his argument does need, will not yield any impossible consequences. Let us take up the first point first. In order to derive an absurdity from the denial of the assumption that the world is hadith, one has to assume that world is not hadith, not that the world is eternal (qadim), as Ghazali does. For the two things are not at all equivalent. This can be proved as follows.
PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY
`Eternal' (qadim) means that which exists, or has existed, for an infinite amount of time. `Not hadith,' on the other hand, does not necessarily mean this. For suppose that time is finite, and that there is something which exists throughout the entire (finite) time. Then it is not hadith, for it is not the case that its existence was preceded by a time at which it did not exist. On the contrary, it has always (i.e., at all times) existed. Therefore, it is not hadith. But it is not eternal either. Hence, when Ghazali draws "impossible" consequences from the assumption that the world is eternal, all this shows is that the world is not eternal. It has no tendency to show that the world is hadith. Nor does the argument fare any better when we correct Ghazali's assumption and use `not hadith' where he uses `eternal.' For then the supposed impossibilities do not any longer follow. From the idea that the world has always existed (i.e., at no time did it not exist) it hardly follows that it has existed for an infinite amount of time. That is, not unless one assumes that if something always exists, then it exists for an infinite amount of time. Newton, or for that matter Avicenna, could make this assumption, for they believe that time is "by nature" infinite. But, as I suggested earlier, it would be against the very logic of Ghazali's argument to think that time is by nature infinite. From all of this, I think it is fair to conclude that Ghazali fails to prove that the world is hadith. At most, he proves that the world is temporally finite, i.e., that it does not exist for an infinite amount of time. And while this may indeed be true, it is not something that Ghazali has any use for in his argument from creation, an argument which must now appear to fall short of its mark.
PHILOSOPHY & THEOLOGY
BIBLIOGRAPHY  Alexander, H. G. The Leibniz-Clarke Correspondence. Manchester: Manchester University Press, 1956.  Aristotle. The Basic Works of Aristotle. Ed. R. McKeon. New York: Random House, 1941.  Averroes. Fasl al-Maqal. Beirut: al-Mu'assasah al-Arabiyya, 1986.  Averroes. Tahafut al-Tahafut. Ed. Simon Van Den Bergh. London: Luzac & Co., 1954.  Avicenna. Kitab al-Najah. Egypt, 1938.  Avicenna. al-Ta'liqat. Cairo: al-Hai'ah al-Misriyya lilKitab, 1973.  Craig, W. L. The Kalam's Cosmological Argument. London: The Macmillan Press, Ltd., 1979.  Davidson, H. A. Proofs for Eternity, Creation, and the Existence of God in Medieval Islamic and Jewish Philosophy. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1987.  Ellis, B. "Has the Universe a Beginning?" The Australian Journal of Philosophy, 33, 1955.  Fakhry, M. "The Classical Islamic Argument for the Existence of God." The Muslim World, 47, 1957.  Ghazali. Al-'Iqtisad fi al-I'tiqad. Beirut: Dar al-Kutub al-Islamiyya, 1983.  Ghazali. Maqasid al-Falasifah. Cairo: Dar al-Ma'arif, 1960.  Ghazali. Kitab qawa'id al-I'tiqad. Beirut: Dar 'Iqra', 1986.  Ghazali. Tahafut al-Falasifah. Ed. M. Bouyges. Beirut: The Catholic Press, 1927.  Goodman, L. E. "Ghazali's Argument from Creation." International Journal of Middle Eastern Studies, 2, 1971.  Hourani, G. F. "The Dialogue Between al-Ghazali and the Philosophers on the Origin of the World." The Muslim World, 48, 1958.  Marmura, M. E. "The Logical Role of the Argument from Time in the Tahafut's Second Proof for the Pre-eternity of the World." The Muslim World, 49, 1959.
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