Richard C. TayloR

Averroes on Creation



The rights to the use of this article have been reserved under a Creative Commons license. (For information on Creative Commons licensing, see

This paper may used freely in accord with the following conditions indicated in the Creative Commons license:

  1. 1.It may not be modified or altered in content (e.g., it may not be distributed without the notes, may not be revised by the user, et alia);

  2. 2.It may not be used in any commercial way;

  3. 3.Use of it must always be accompanied with full and complete attribution to the author and to the website on which it appears.

For further information, contact

La Sorbonne, Université de Paris 1, 31 May 2012: conference link click HERE.

Richard C. Taylor (Marquette University, Milwaukee)

“Averroes on Creation” Unedited Draft


In his Long Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle Averroes considers three accounts of creation and proceeds to reject (i) an account that all things are latent in matter and only require an agent moving cause for their appearance in creation; and (ii) the account of the Muslim theologians and the Christians that holds for a temporal creation involving no preexistent substance or matter out of which the created world exists so that there are no conditions on the action of the Creator. His own view involves  one of three subcategories of  a view he describes as involving (iii) generation and a substrate for changing in substance. This presentation explains Averroes’s typology of understandings of creation and explicates his own view. I will address the issue of whether his own understanding is in accord with the Islamic conception of creation.

Averroes on Creation

(draft inédité 31 May 2012)

Ibn Rushd or Averroes is famous for his efforts to return to the teachings of Aristotle, to set aside the accretions of various forms of Platonism and to identify and remove teachings more properly religious than philosophical which had come to infect the philosophical doctrines of al-mashshâ’yûn or Peripatetics of the Arabic tradition. He himself methodically crafted a philosophy he sincerely believed to be a continuation of the genuine thought of Aristotle.1  Today, however, we are well aware that in this Averroes was in several respects unsuccessful and, as a consequence, unfaithful to “the Philosopher,” as the tradition called Aristotle.  This is evident in the notion of a unique Deity as creator and as the final cause of the being of all reality espoused by Averroes and developed out of a long tradition much influenced by Neoplatonism, while Aristotle himself could conclude only to a plurality of eternal deities functioning as unmoved movers. Aristotle never provided an explanation of how the first of the immaterial unmoved movers could be cause of the being of the other unmoved movers. This may be because Aristotle never worked out the details of a metaphysical conception of God as the cause of all being which Averroes himself worked hard to establish in his Long Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle.2 Averroes himself thought he had found a suitable account of the causality of God in an explanation of creation unique to him in the Arabic tradition, though, of course, others of the classical rationalist tradition such as al-Kindi, al-Farabi and Ibn Sīnā or Avicenna did teach forms of Divine causality which they labeled creation.

The body of this presentation consists of three parts. (1) I want to raise for discussion with this group an understanding of method in the study of Averroes and his philosophical thought. I then with that kept in mind (2) want to consider Averroes on creation. This second part costs of three sections. (2.1)  Without attempting to be exhaustive, I provide some remarks on the vocabulary of creation in the Islamic religious tradition. Next (2.2.) I offer a modest description of Avicenna’s understanding of creation for the sake of later contrasting that of Averroes. Then (2.3.) I turn to texts of Averroes on creation for the most part restricting my consideration of his writings to the Tahāfut at-tahāfut (hereafter TT)3 and the Long Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle (hereafter Tafsīr).4 Finally, (3) in my conclusion I raise for discussion the issue of whether a metaphysical conception of creation properly so called must include efficient causality on the part of the First Cause or Creator or whether a conception of final causality alone is sufficient for the denomination of the First Cause as Creator. The implications of the latter possibility for matters of religion are intriguing for consideration of the thought of Averroes.

1. Remarks on Method

In his well known Faṣl al-maqāl — oftentimes referred to as his Decisive Treatise, though the more literal rendering of the title is “Book of the Distinction of Discourse and the Establishment of the Relation of Religious Law and Philosophy”5 — Averroes reasons to the priority of philosophical demonstration in the attainment of truth and the interpretation of scripture over religious literalism. While clearly setting aside the possibility of a double truth, Averroes nevertheless maintains a distinction of discourse based on a human educational psychology in which people are seen generally to fall under three classifications. Some are in fact intellectually weak in argumentative skills and easily swayed to assent by emotions under the influence of rhetoric; some see reality through foundational assumptions and build their thinking and reasoning on those, being persuaded to give assent by dialectical engagement; and some are skilled in philosophical logic and reasoning through the method of demonstration and so give assent to truth per se and with necessity because such is the nature of the product of demonstration.6 There he goes on to explain that those skilled in philosophical demonstration should not be so incautious or even destructive as to reveal truths and interpretations of scripture obtained by demonstration to those unable to understand. He makes this clear in the context of the nature of the afterlife.

For anyone not adept in science, it is obligatory to take them [the descriptions of the next life] in their apparent sense; for him, it is unbelief to interpret them because it leads to unbelief. That is why we are of the opinion that, for anyone among the people whose duty it is to have faith in the apparent sense, interpretation is unbelief because it leads to unbelief. Anyone adept in interpretation who divulges that to him calls him to unbelief; and the one who calls to unbelief is an unbeliever.7

Hence, it is essential to the wellbeing of the community and society that there be a clear distinction of discourse between religious accounts of practical living value suitable for presentation before people of each of the three modes of assent and understanding, the rhetorical, the dialectical and the demonstrative — even if those of the demonstrative group have another interpretation they keep to themselves — and truthful philosophical and scientific accounts garnered through demonstrative method suitable only for the third group. To divulge indeiscriminately the truths attained through this latter method would engender confusion and surely lead, as Averroes says, to undermining faithful belief perhaps to the point of unbelief.

In his own writing Averroes follows this guidance in preparing some works in the mode of religious discourse such as his al-Kashf ʿan manāhij al-adilla fī ʿaqāʾid al-milla or The Explanation of the Sorts of Proofs in the Doctrines of Religion, a work dealing with the topics of God’s existence, unity, attributes, transcendence and actions as understood in religion.8 The Faṣl al-Maqāl is also suitably placed among religious works since it opens with the statement of its goal to be theas determining on the basis of religious or “Law-based reflection (an-naẓar ash-shar‘ī) whether reflection upon philosophy and the sciences of logic is permitted, prohibited, or commanded — and this as a recommendation or as an obligation— by the Law (bi-sh-shar‘).”9 But the Faṣl al-maqāl also functions at the same time on another level as a philosophical account of methods of reasoning in the context of religious belief, when its underlying Aristotelian principles are revealed. As I have explained elsewhere, the argumentative foundation of the treatise lies in its denial of the possibility of a double truth, one for religion and another for philosophy and science. Without the insistence that there is one truth, it would be possible to hold that religious believing and philosophical reasoning are non-intersecting discourses each with its own truth. Yet Averroes’s statement of the principle that “truth does not contradict truth” is in fact an intentionally well veiled quotation from Aristotle’s Prior Analytics of a principle essential to Aristotelian philosophy.10  As a religious principle, it functions as a dialectical foundation for the determination of the religious issue of the place of philosophy in religion. But on another level as a philosophical principle it functions in a subtext of the Faṣl al-maqāl as the foundation of a philosophical and scientific theory of interpretation for the primacy of demonstration in the consideration of any truth claims on matters to which demonstration pertains.  And though his famous Incoherence of the Incoherence contains a great deal of philosophical reasoning and argumentation, Averroes himself labels that work as dialectical and directs those who would seek the fulfillment of happiness through knowledge described by Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics 10.7 to look in his works of demonstration.11 Following his direction on this issue, then, the Incoherence of the Incoherence can be considered as dealing with religious topics in a dialectical fashion as well as in a philosophical fashion. Its philosophical value, however, must rest on the cogency of his arguments taken in their own right or on confirmations of the presence of the same philosophical reasoning in the philosophical works of demonstration. In this presentation it is the Tafsīr which is studied as the relevant philosophical work Averroes considered demonstrative in nature.12

2. Creation

2.1. Qur’anic and religious language

The Encyclopaedia of Islam, Second Edition, (EI2) has valuable discussions of the key terms ḥudūth, khalq, and ibdā‘Ḥudūth حدوث has the sense of a new appearance, something rising into existence and also the basic sense of something taking place. Ḥudūth al-‘ālam is the coming into being or or beginning of the world as an event. In falsafah it often indicates novelty and contingency and even temporal generation. Khalq خلق is the most common term for creation in the Qur’ān. It is used in the sense of to create from something such as clay or

matter; or to put something in a status or position, as in to create someone as a delegate; it is also used in the sense of creating ex nihilo by God as al-Khāliq (Creator) and al-Bāri’ (Maker). In Surah 7, 11 terminology relevant to the philosophical understanding is used when it is said that “We created (khalaqanā) you and then we gave form (ṣawwaranā) to you.” Of course, ṣurah is a standard term in philosophy for form, eidos in Greek. Like the Hebrew scriptures, the Qur’an at times conveys the notion of a creation from something pre-existing, as creation of something from water or clay. But the general sense of khalaqa as creation ex nihilo is clearly present even with phraseology that eventually yields complex issues of interpretation. “I created you beforehand, when you were nothing” clearly conveys a sense of ex nihilo but also serves for some to prompt the question of the referent of the term ‘nothing’. Were created things from nothing, that is, from something existing as nothing or nothing instantiated?

Roger Arnaldez in EI2 provides a valuable listing of texts of the Qur‘ān frequently used in regard to creation ex nihilo:  “When God decrees a thing He only has to say to it Be! and it is” (2, 117; 3, 47; 19, 35). “We only have to say to a thing when We desire it, Be! and it is” (16, 40). “And the day when he says, Be! and then (fa) His Word is Reality (al-haqq)” (6,73). “He created the heavens and the earth in reality [or: in truth] (bi-l-ḥaqq)” (39, 5) Ḥaqq basically has the sense of the truth, reality, though precise senses depend on context. Surah 35, Fātir, “Originator” has the following (  “Praise be to Allah, the Originator of the heavens and the earth . . . He adds to creation (al-khalq) what He wishes, for Allāh has power over all things.”(35,1; tr. modified). “Oh, men, keep in mind Allāh’s grace given to you. Is there a creator (khāliq) other than Allāh to give you sustenance from heaven and earth? There is no god but He . . . .” (35,3; tr. mod.).  “And Allah did create you (khalaqa-kum) from dust; then from a sperm-drop; then He made you in pairs. And no female conceives, or lays down (her load), but with His knowledge . . . .” (3,11). For us, of course, it is philosophically tantalizing to read passages such as, “O, you men! It is you that have need of Allah: but Allah is the self-sufficient one worthy of all praise.” (3,15)

The term ibtidā‘ (from the root b-d-‘) is found at Surah 2, 111 as badī‘: “The Inventor (badī‘) of the heavens and the earth, when He decrees something, need to no more than say Be! and it is.” This is important because the term ibdā‘ which can be rendered as ‘origination’ or creation ex nihilo in a strong sense is from the same root, a term which can also be rendered creation in the context of philosophical discussions.  Arnaldez also interestingly calls attention to the issue of the first created being in the Ḥadiths (Sayings) of the Prophet and notes that one ḥadith speaks of al-‘aql or Intellect and reports the Prophet saying, “When God created the Intelligence He said to it, ‘Come forward’, and it came forward. Then he said, ‘Go back,’ and it went back. Then God said: ‘I have created nothing that I love more than you and I will place you in the creature I love most.’” But we should probably not be distracted by imaginings of what this might mean in a Neoplatonic context.

2.2. Ibn Sīnā / Avicenna

In addition to reflection on Qur’anic texts since his childhood, Avicenna also had the Plotiniana Arabica, the Liber de causis, al-Kindī, al-Fārābī and other resources available to him on creation. As we will probably have seen in the discussion of the paper by Michael Chase preceding this presentation, this last root particularly in its fourth form as ibdā‘, origination or creation, and eighth form in the passive as mubtada‘ that which has been originated or in the active, mubtadi‘, that which originates, is extremely important for philosophical discussion of creation. This term and related forms appear prominently in the Plotiniana Arabica and the closely related Liber de causis or Kalām fī maḥḍ al-khair. The sense of the term in these works is that of the bringing about something from no preexisting potency by way of an emanative hierarchy. The One or First Cause brings things about in a way described by the use of the metaphor of emanation. As with Plotinus, this emanation is first of intellect and then through intellect the rest of reality as a plurality is eventually poured forth. In the Liber de causis special emphasis is put on the First Cause as sole mubdi‘ or creator since it alone acts without any dependence or connection with anything above itself. Other things are said to share in its making things to be by way of form while it alone provides the actuality-of-being-in-reality to all things after or below it doing this through intellect and lower things such as soul and nature. Note the importance of mediation here, the notion that the First Cause requires the mediation of intellect though the First Cause is said alone to be Creator. Al-Kindi takes this notion of ibdā‘ from the Plotiniana Arabica (which he edited to create the Theology of Aristotle, I remind you) and uses it as one of the ways to express creation ex nihilo.  His treatise on the True Agent sets out a clear account of primary causality in accord with the Liber de causis tracing all actuality-of-being-in-reality back to a first unique agent cause, but his understanding of Divine creation as willed and as creation in time separates him from that work and also the Plotiniana Arabic. The latter two works deny will and choice of the First Cause holding instead that it acts eternally and immediately in accord with its goodness to emanate and sustain all reality outside itself.

For the sake of time, allow me mostly to skip over al-Farabi for now. There is some considerable controversy regarding the authenticity of some works attributed to him and regarding the possibility of a development or series of developments over time in this writings. But in his Al-Madīnatu ‘l-fāḍilah he writes that the First provides existence, wujūd, to all other things, “the rest of things are made to exist by it” wajada ‘an-hu sā’iri ‘l’maujūdāti (88.12) and it does so by way of emanation ‘alà jihati faiḍin which is eternal origination of realty from the First.

For Avicenna, here I focus on portions of his Metaphysics of the Shifā’ books 6, 8 & 9.

Metaphysics 8 is about the existence and attributes (including unity and uniqueness) of the First Principle. In the opening paragraphs of 8.1 he gives a precis of what is to come later, particularly in 8.3. At 8.1 (6) he reasons that there cannot be an infinity of intermediate causes: If the series of causes “is ordered as an infinite plurality and the extreme is not realized, then the entire infinite extreme would share in the special characteristic of intermediacy. . . . Hence, it is impossible for an aggregate of causes to exist without including an uncaused

cause and a first cause.” After reasoning in 8.1.(7) that there cannot be an infinity of intermediate causes, he concludes in (8) “Thus, it has become evident from all these statements that there is here a first cause. For, [even] if that which is between the two extremes were not finite and the extreme exists, then that extreme would be a first for what is infinite and a cause that is not caused.” He later explains, “We are not speaking here about what in its individuality (not in its specificity) is a principle and what is accidentally (not essentially) a principle. For we allow that there are infinite causes in the past and future. But it is incumbent on us to show finitude in the things that are causes in their essences. This is the state of affairs in the second of the two divisions — [this] after we also seek assistance from what has been said in the Physics.”

Metaphysics 8.2 deals with issues of objections a regarding Aristotle’s Physics. I skip that here and proceed to 8.3 where Avicenna argues in detail the finitude of causes and proves the existence of the First Cause. 

At 8.3 (5) Avicenna begins his argument for a first efficient cause by drawing on his discussion from Book 1 on the Necessary Existent and at (6) he explicitly references it writing, “we have previously explained that the Necessary Existent is numerically one. Everything acquires existent from another and ultimately from “the One who is in His essence one and the existent who is in His essence an existent . . . .” He then writes, “This is the meaning of a thing's being created — that is, attaining existence from another. It has absolute nonexistence which it deserves in terms of itself; it is deserving of nonexistence not only in terms of its form without its matter, or in terms of its matter without its form, but in its entirety. “Hence, if its entirety is not connected with the necessitation of the being that brings about its existence, and it is reckoned as being dissociated from it, then in its entirety its nonexistence becomes necessary. Hence, its coming into being at the hands of what brings about its existence is in its entirety. No part of it, in relation to this meaning, is prior in existence — neither its matter nor its form, if it possesses matter and form

That is Avicenna’s third definition of creation. The other two are in 6.2. He writes at 6.2 (9), p.203: “[I]f something by virtue of its essence is a cause for the existence of something else that is permanent, then it is its permanent cause as long as its essence exists. If [the cause] exists permanently, then its effect exists permanently. Such a thing among causes would then have the higher claim to causality because it prevents the absolute nonexistence of the thing. It is the one that gives complete existence to the thing. This, then, is the meaning that, for the philosophers, is termed ‘creation (ibdā‘).’ It is the giving of existence to a thing after absolute nonexistence. For it belongs to the effect in itself to be nonexistent and [then] to be, by its cause, existing. That which belongs in the thing intrinsically is more prior in essence for the mind ([though] not in time) than that which belongs to it from another.”

He goes on at 6.2 (11), p.204: “If its existence were after absolute nonexistence, then its proceeding from the cause in this manner would be "creation (ibdā‘an)," and it would represent the highest mode of the giving of existence, because nonexistence would have been utterly prevented, existence being fully empowered over it. . . .”  And in 6.3 (7) he adds, “Hence, the whole, in relation to the first cause, is created. Its act of bringing into being that which comes to be from it would entirely rule out nonexistence in the substances of things. Rather, it is an act of bringing into existence that absolutely prevents nonexistence in things that bear perpetualness. This, then, is absolute creation. Bringing into existence [in the] absolute [sense] is not any kind of bringing into existence. And everything is originated from that One, that One being the originator of it, since the originated is that which comes into

being after not having been.” And in (8) he concludes chapter three writing, “[The state of affairs that a thing possesses from itself precedes that which it has from another. If it has existence and necessity from another, then from itself it has nonexistence and possibility. Its nonexistence was prior to its existence, and its existence is posterior to nonexistence, [involving] a priority and posteriority in essence. Hence, in the case of everything other than the First, the One, its existence comes about after not having been [a nonbeing] that it itself deserves.”

Book 9 is on emanation from God and the return to God, and Ch. 1 is entitled, “On the attribute of the efficacy (or agency, fā‘ilīyah) of the First Principle.” There is much of interest here, including a very interesting discussion at ch. 9 paragraph (11) on the necessity of the Necessary Existent and the rejection of the notion of Will in the First Cause.

For our concerns here, however, I want to focus on chapter 1, paragraphs (19) and following which constitute a critique of the notion of a creation in time. He writes at the beginning of (19), “Moreover, by what does the First precede His created acts? By His essence or by time? If only by His essence, as one is to two (even though both are simultaneous) and as the movement of the thing in motion in that it moves by the motion of that which moves it (even though both are simultaneous), then it follows necessarily that both arc temporally originated — [that is,] the eternal First and the acts generated from Him.”

The issue is one of conceptual and real coherence: was there a time before the creation of time and motion? To this Avicenna responds in (21): “[Now,] if He did not precede by some past thing the first temporal moment of the origination of creation, then He would have come into being in time with its temporal coming to being. How, according to the [things] they had posited, would He not have preceded the first moment of creation by some state when He "was" and there was no creation, and [then] He "was" and there was creation?”

Let’s now turn to 9.4 for a final look at a text of Avicenna on creation. At 9.4 (11) Avicenna provides an account of the necessary and the possible which finds emanation as the installation of plurality in the world by God. He then goes on in (12) at p.331 to assert that origination as ibdā‘ ( ابداع) which was reserved by the earlier tradition of the Plotinina Arabica and Liber de causis to God alone as creation can appropriately be asserted in the description of the activity of the mediate intellects in the Avicennian emanative hierarchy. That is, Avicenna teaches mediate creation though he also continues to hold the doctrine of primary causality tracing every entity back to the First. But his teaching regarding ibdā‘ is that the use of this term is much wider than that of the Plotinina Arabica and the Liber de causis.

2.3. Creation in Averroes (al-ikhtirā‘)

Since his Incoherence of the Incoherence is described by Averroes himself as a dialectical work, considerable caution needs to be exercised in its use when considering his philosophical understanding of creation. It should be expected that religious belief in divine creation will be assumed as a dialectical starting point, but precisely how creation takes place requires guarded attention to the meaning of the terms of his teaching. Like the Faṣl al-maqāl and his al-Kashf ʿan manāhij, much of what is found in this dialectical work rests on the foundation of an Aristotelian philosophical subtext of doctrines and reasoning. Here in the Incoherence of the Incoherence Averroes is more open and detailed about the Aristotelian philosophical account but, as might be expected in a dialectical treatise, he is not always consistent (e.g., re. Divine will) nor does he explain in detail key aspects of his doctrine such as Divine Knowledge (he asserts it but its reality as active rather than passive is so different from the human that ie defies description by analogy). Further, as indicated earlier, the extent to which Averroes himself holds the teachings expressed in the Incoherence of the Incoherence will need to be confirmed in one of his demonstrative philosophical works, in this case his Long Commentary on the Metaphysics of Aristotle.13 In what follows in this section, key teachings relevant to the issue of creation from the Incoherence of the Incoherence are listed and then shown for the most part to be confirmed in the Long Commentary on the Metaphysics.

2.3.1. Incoherence of the Incoherence

First, it must be noted that the account of Averroes is not that of Aristotle but rather an account much dependent on Aristotle as understood through aspects of the Aristotelian and Neoplatonic traditions. The Aristotle of the Arabic and later Latin traditions is that of a philosopher who taught the existence of a single First Principle, the highest of all entities, which is one way or another the cause of the existence and content of the rest of the universe of things material and immaterial. Aristotle himself, however, taught that there are 55 or 49 movers of the heavens (1074a), each immaterial and self-sufficient, ranked only per accidens by their causality of eternal motions, and not originated or dependent upon one which is the mover of the outermost heavens. There are other ways in which what from now on I will call Averroes’s Aristotelian account differs from what Aristotle himself taught but I will not note them here. Rather, I will now outline briefly a synthetic account of creation in the Incoherence of the Incoherence (TT). My page references are to the Arabic text edited by Bouyges.

Averroes was quite aware of the teaching of Avicenna and others about creation. At 131-132 he notes problems with the doctrine of absolute creation b-ījād mutlaq (by an absolute giving of existence) which he describes as the view that the agent created out of nothing ikhtara‘a-hu ikhtirā‘an and notes that for the Philosophers the act of the agent is the actualizing of something in potency, a very different teaching from that of absolute creation or creation ex nihilo. Something quite curious is that Averroes says that in one of his treatises Aristotle himself discusses how God has brought the world out of nothing kaifa abda‘a Allāh al-‘ālama lā min shai’in at 151.

At 393 Averroes writes

The best method to follow, in my opinion, and the nearest to strict proof, is to say that the actualization of existents which have in their substance a possible existence necessarily occurs only through an actualizer which is in act, i.e. acting, and moves them and draws them out of potency into act. And if this actualizer itself is also of the 'nature of the possible, i.e. possible in its substance, there will have to be another actualizer for it, necessary in its substance and not possible so that this sublunary world may be conserved, and the nature of the possible causes may remain everlastingly, proceeding without end.

In this way as well God who is the First Quiddity causes other quiddities at 363. In this passage just quoted he explicitly endorses the view that he earlier called the view of the Philosophers who hold that there is eternal motion, a unique eternal being, and everlasting change as cause of motion in the heavens and as cause of every motion (58-60).  There is no beginning of this motion (68). The drawing out of things from potency into act is the bestowal of unity as the bestowal of existence by a single emanation of one power tufīḍu at 172. God is cause of the conjunction of the parts of the world so He is the cause of the existence of anything as agent fa-huwa fā‘ilun la-hu, which it the sound way to explain the philosophical doctrine (152). At 181 he speaks of God as “a unique entity form which a simple power emanates (tufīḍu min-hu quwwah wāḥidah) through which all beings exist (tūjidu jamʼī‘a ’l-maujūdāt).” God can be called agent or efficient cause al-‘ilah al-fā‘ilah only insofar as He is formal and final causes as well for the philosophers since their theory of that He is eternal cause as eternally converting the world from non-being to being (171-2). He writes,

since Aristotle supposed the world to be eternal, the Platonists raised difficulties against him, like the one which occupies 172 us here, and they said that Aristotle did not seem to admit a creator of the world. If was therefore necessary for the Aristotelians to defend him with arguments which establish that Aristotle did indeed believe that the world has a creator and an agent. This will be fully explained in its proper place. The principal idea is that according to the Aristotelians the celestial bodies subsist through their movement, and that He who bestows this movement is in reality the agent of this movement and,  since the existence of the celestial bodies only attains its perfection through their being in motion, the giver of this motion is in fact the agent of the celestial bodies. Further, they prove that God is the giver of the unity through which the world is united, and the giver of the unity which is the condition of the existence of the composite; that is to say, He provides the existence of the parts through which the composition occurs, because this action of combining is their cause (as is proved), and such is the relation of the First Principle to the whole world. And the statement that the act has come to be, is  true, for it is movement, and the expression 'eternity' applied to it means only that it has neither a first nor a last term. Thus the philosophers do not mean by the expression 'eternal' that the world is eternal through eternal constituents, for the world consists of movement. (171-2)

For his theory Aristotle, writes Averroes, 

makes some of these existents the agents of others, till the heavenly body is reached, and he makes the intelligible substances ascend to a first principle which is a principle to them, in one way analogous to a formal cause, in another analogous to a final cause, and in a third 176 way analogous to an efficient cause (‘alà jihatin tushabbihu al-ṣurata wa-tushabbihu al-ghāyata wa-tushabbihu al-fā‘il) . All this has been proved in the works of the philosophers . . . . (175-6)

At 231 he writes regarding the separate intellects behind the movement of the heavens that “the existence of all other separate principles consists only in the forms in which they conceive the First Principle (fī-mā yatasawwur min-hu).” (Cf. 238.)  That the existence of those separate intellects consists in their very conceptualizing tasawwur bi-l-‘aql I discussed in a paper at the 1998 Cordoba conference on Averroes which was published finally last year so I will not dwell on it here. Let me just mention that their existence consists in their relation to God according to Averroes. God causes the movement of the celestial realm insofar as things there are in an existence of relation to God and the celestial movements are related to the existence of things below. This notion of related existence (muḍāfun) is essential to Averroes’s account and is mentioned at 164-5, 203-4, 232, and 238. At 203-4 he writes that “the first Principle is regarded as an existence by itself whereas [other things] are in related existence (fī ‘l-wujūdi ’l-muḍāfi).

At 462-463 he summarizes the philosophical doctrine:

And the summary of their doctrine is that, since they ascertained by proofs that God thinks only Himself, His essence must of necessity be intellect. And as intellect, in so far as it is intellect, can only be attached to what exists, not to what does not exist, and it had been proved that there is no existent but those existents which we think, it was necessary that His intellect should be attached to them, since it was not possible that it should be attached to non-existence and there 463 is no other kind of existent to which it might be attached. And since it was necessary that it should be attached to the existents, it had to be attached either in the way our knowledge is attached to it, or in a superior way, and since the former is impossible, this knowledge must be attached in a superior way and according to a more perfect existence of existents than the existence of the existents to which our intellect is attached. For true knowledge is conformity with the existent, and if His knowledge is superior to ours and His knowledge is attached to the existent in a way superior to our attachment to the existent, then there must be two kinds of existence, a superior and an inferior, and the superior existence must be the cause of the inferior. And this is the meaning of the ancient philosophers, when they say that God is the totality of the existents which He bestows on us in His bounty and of which He is the agent. . . .  But all this is the knowledge of those who are steadfast in their knowledge, and this must not be written down and it must not be made an obligation of faith, and therefore it is not taught by the Divine Law. And one who mentions this truth where it should not be mentioned sins, and one who withholds it from those to whom it should be told sins too.

That is, this is hard reasoning for people of traditional religious belief. Hence, at 124 he writes,

Through this First Existent acts can exist which never began and will never cease, and if this were impossible for the act, it would be impossible, too, for existence, for every act is connected with its existent in existence. The theologians, however, regarded it as impossible that God's act should be eternal, although they regarded His existence as eternal, and that is the gravest error. To apply the expression 'production' (al-ḥudūth) for the world's creation as the Divine Law does is more appropriate than to use it of temporal production, as the Ash'arites did,  for the act, in so far as it is an act, is a product, and eternity is only represented in this act because this production and the act produced have neither beginning nor end. And I say that it was therefore difficult for Muslims to call God eternal and the world eternal, because they understood by 'eternal' that which has no cause.'

The existence of all the world, upper and lower, is a reality only thanks to Divine self-thinking thought which consists in an active self-knowing and not a passive knowing as is human knowing. (217-18; also see 445-6 & 462)  All this comes about also by way of final causality, for “He who bestows the end upon things existing separate from matter is he who bestows existence because form and end  are one in this kind of existents.” (232).

In sum, creation for Averroes in the Incoherence of the Incoherence consists in the causality of thought and then motion in all beings outside of God by way of a final causality which is to be traced to God’s self-thinking thought. In this way related existence through eternal intellectual conceptualizing (tasawwur bi-l-‘aql) is brought about in the separate intellects which in turn bring about existence in separate souls which cause eternal movements of the heavens which in turn causes heat and motion for the existence of things in the sublunar world. In this way God is first a final cause but causally a formal cause and also equivocally an agent or efficient cause of all created being.  This then is the philosophical account of creation sometimes called emanation (albeit not Avicennian emanation) or the proceeding (ṣudūr) a power from God upon the universe.

Let mention that I have refrained considering Divine will in detail here since that would make this presentation much longer. That is discussed at 149, 151, 439 and in other passages as well in the Incoherence of the Incoherence.

2.3.2. Creation in the Long Commentary on the Metaphysics14

Let me set the tone for this section on the Tafsīr with a quotation on the care that has to be exercised regarding the meanings words, a passage which also indicates that among immaterial entities — which includes God — there is no efficient causality:

The habit of our contemporaries to say that such-and-such a mover proceeds from such-and-such a mover or emanates from it, or follows necessarily, or similar expressions, is something which is not correct in the case of these separate principles. All these are supposed to be attributes of agents but are not so in truth; for we have said before that what proceeds from the agent merely passes from potentiality into actuality. But there is no potentiality there, so that there is no agent either. There is only intellect and intelligible, perfecting and perfected in the same way as the techniques perfect each other by deriving their principles one from the other, and each of them, in its own realm, derives all its principles from the total, comprehensive technique. This is why we see that the science concerned with the First (praised by He!) is that which first philosophy contains. LCMetaph 1653 Genequand Tr.

The Long Commentary on the Metaphysics is oftentimes held to be a late work and to express the mature thought of Averroes,15 but regardless whether that is so, it is an important work in which he sets forth his philosophical understanding of issues related to the present discussion. As we have seen in the case of the Incoherence of the Incoherence, other issues are particularly relevant, among them: the nature of creation, final causality, intellectual conceptualization in the constitution of immaterial entities, the absence of potentiality and, consequently, the absence of efficient causality among immaterial entities, and more.

In an excursus to his Commentary on Aristotle, Metaphysics 12.3 1070a27-30,  Averroes spells out his own teaching on the nature of creation (al-ikhtirā‘16) by considering three understandings, the last of which he subdivides into three more. First, some hold that all things are latently present in all things and arise into existence and separate into distinct things thanks to an agent cause. “It is clear that the agent (al-fā‘il) according them  is nothing more than mover.” (Tafsīr 1497) Second, practitioners of Islamic kalām or rational theology as well as Christians such as John Philoponus, writes Averroes, believe that all lies with the agent or efficient cause without matter existing as a condition of creation. For them this is ibdā‘ and ikhtirā‘ as involving creation ex nihilo and de novo. Third, are those who hold for generation involving a substrate (fī al-kawn . . . min mawdu‘) changing in substance (fī al-jawhar). Of these, one group holds for the agent to create the form (yakhtari‘u al-ṣurah) and place it into matter, while the agent itself is not in matter, such as Avicenna teaches. Another holds for the notion of agent in one way in matter and acting in nature as is the case with fire and in another as immaterial to bring about what is not produced by natural generation. The third of the three is Averroes’s own view taken from Aristotle which has “the agent produce something composed (al-murakkab) of matter and form” to bring the form into actuality in the potentiality of the matter. This is like creation (al-ikhtirā‘) in something potential becoming actual but unlike creation in that there is no production of form from non-form (bi-ṣ-ṣurah min lā ṣurah). To some extent, then, this is similar to doctrine of latency. (Tafsīr 1498) That is, for Averroes creation is found in the Aristotelian doctrine of substantial change and the ultimate agent for this is the First Cause acting in a divine intellectual manner as mover of the heavens and thereby causing heat from stars to effect order in what is below. In this way forms are not created as coming to be from non-being and forms are not themselves generated. (Tafsīr 1502-1503) In this way God is the cause of unity and existence for things composed of form and matter and so he is creator without that creation being ex nihilo or de novo.

In the case of immaterial substances, they have their being and substance not in a composition of form and matter but in the identity of activity and essence in taṣawwur bi-l-‘aql, “intellectual conceptualizing” since their very natures are intellectual conceptualizing entities. The other separate intellects have this nature through imitation of the pure actuality of intellect in the perfect being of God as their final cause. Celestial souls and bodies also imitate what is above them in finality and in seeking their own perfection providing an order and unity to the universe ultimately caused by the First Cause or God as agent of the order and unity. (Tafsīr 1649-1652; 1594-1600)

At Metaphysics 12.10, 1075a11-22, Aristotle discusses the presence of good and order in the universe and where the order and good of the universe is properly located.  Drawing on the example of the army used here, Averroes explains that the good of the army and its order is owing to the leader. As he sees it, “The good (al-khair) in the army is what is through the leader and through the order (al-tartīb) existing it. The good which is in the leader of the army is a good greater than the good which is in the order of the army because the order is owing to the presence (li-makān) of the leader of the army. The leader of the army is not [so] owing to the order which is in the army since the leader of the army is the cause of the order and the order is not a cause of the leader.” The good and order existing in the army, then, is caused by the leader in whom both exist as prior and greater. (Tafsīr 1711) For emphasis, Averroes reiterates this point in explanation of Aristotle’s precise words: “The leader of the army is not [so] owing to the presence of order but rather the order of the army is owing to the presence of the leader.” (Tafsīr 1712)  Hence, like the leader of the army, God brings about order through a providence that is consequent upon his own goodness and order. But God does not exist for the sake of the world, for the purpose of being providential to his creation. Rather, the existence of all things and the order among them is because of God who is “the First Cause through which the world is.” (Tafsīr 1713) God’s primary intention, then, is his own goodness and his providence is a secondary consequence realized in the world. As for the failure of goodness to appear in the world or for evil to exist, this is contrary to providence and the result of matter. (Tafsīr 1715)

By their motion the heavens play a role in the providence of God (‘ināya Allāh) for all things of the world, though the heavens do not exist for the sake of the things below, as God does not exist for the sake of his creatures. Still, the source of all providence and existence is God: “He preserves them according to species since he cannot preserve them individually (bi-l-‘adad).”17 In this way God’s providence reaches all things, even transitory things of the physical world that naturally come into existence and go out of existence as members of species. “Providence for the individual which is through species and not shared by another is something which divine generosity does not make necessary.” (Tafsīr 1607) That is, particular providence does not exist as such except insofar as particular members of a species or kind share in what is providentially beneficial for the species as a whole. In this way God’s providence reaches all though not with a particular intentionality intending good for this or that individual. Of course, as already indicated, God’s primary intention is his own goodness.

2.2.6. Choice (ikhtiyār) and deliberation (rawiya) on the part of God are not discussed by Averroes though divine knowing as being of God himself is discussed at length (Tafsīr 1693-1708) following Aristotle’s famous account in Metaphysics 12.9. What God thinks is the most noble of objects and also that which all human beings naturally desire (1693). This, of course, is God himself as thought thinking thought and himself as knowing his own essence. And, writes Averroes, “The truth is that the way in which he knows himself alone he [also] knows existing things through the existence which is cause of their existences . . . In this he is what knows the nature of being qua being in an absolute way which is himself (dhātu-hu).”  (Tafsīr 1707-1708) By his knowledge of himself he knows and causes. Since knowledge of the apprehension of the cause, then that knowledge of himself is also knowledge of the beings he causes. However, the term knowledge is equivocal when used of human knowing and divine knowing, for God’s knowledge is neither of particulars nor of universals for “his existence is not different from his knowledge (lā yughāyīru wujūdu-hu ‘ilma-hu).” (Tafsīr 1708) And while the discussion in the Tafsīr does not address the issue of divine will as directly as it is found in the Incoherence of the Inchoherence, still he uses the verb yurīdu to write that the best of principles “wills the order and unity which exists in the universe.” (Tafsīr 1727)

3. Averroes’s Philosophical Doctrine of Creation

While the human understanding of the notion of action is based on experience of the physical world, divine action is unique in its giving of unity and existence in all other things. Although he rejects the emanationist accounts of al-Farabi and Avicenna, Averroes does not hesitate to use the metaphor of emanation when he says that things are made to exist  when God emanates (tufīḍu) his power. This is confirmed as creation (al-ikhtirā‘) by motion in the Tafsīr (at least in regard to the physical universe) and clearly distinguished from creation ex nihilo and de novo as held by Islamic theologians and the Christians. The philosophical account holds that there is a certain latent potency that allows for substantial and accidental change not by the creation of form itself from what is other than form but rather God is the Creator by drawing from potency into actuality individual substances by causing generation and thereby authoring the unity and existence that is found in composites of matter and form.

In the case of heavenly bodies and their motion, these move in obedience and love eternally with their actuality in being to be found in their motion. In this way order and unity for the physical universe is eternally engendered because of a connection or relation to the First Principle. This is the sense of creation understood by the philosophers through the study of Plato and Aristotle. Creation (ikhtirā‘) then is this relation to God as a “feature” (al-ma‘nà) which causes existence.  In the Tafsīr this is confirmed in his discussion of the “intellectual conceptualizing” that constituted the activity, being and essence of immaterial entities that know God as their final cause whose perfection in being they imitate. Imitation of the more perfect is the finality of celestial souls and bodies pursuing their own fulfillment. In doing so they bring about order and unity to the physical universe. Thus, in the course of an upward looking imitation at the various levels of the entities of the universe for lower entities, being, order and unity are brought about in corresponding levels. This ordering of the entirety of the universe through a relation to the divine is the presence of divine creative power throughout the universe.18

That doctrine of imitation through final causality is the cause of life by motion in sublunar things though that is not the primary concern or intention of the moving heavens, the separate intellects or God. Yet through that God exercises a rulership and governance which provides salvation or subsistence and existence to all things by a providence which is a secondary consequence of the primary intention of perfection in being. This providence permeates the universe and is particularly found in the unifying power of finality which is the very being of composite things of the sublunar realm. Averroes confirms this in the Tafsīr in his analysis of Aristotle’s discussion of unity and the image of the ruler of an army. There he explains again in detail that the goodness and perfection of the ruler is not caused by the army but rather the order, goodness and perfection of the army flows from the nature of the ruler who seeks his own perfection as ruler. God providentially brings order, unity and being to the world intentionally, though that intention is secondary to his primary intention which is his own eternal perfection and goodness.

In the Incoherence of the Incoherence Averroes states that there seems to be a particular providence in the world if the nature of dreams and other forms of human foreknowledge are considered. But he rejects this and instead holds that there is providence only for the species. He does not raise the question of the implications of this for religion. In the Tafsīr he reiterates that the providence of God is not an activity intended in a primary way for his creation. Nevertheless, God’s providence does reach sublunar beings at the level of species. That is, the finality of individuals as prompted by the relation to God as the perfection of being is expressed through the natures of those individuals. Yet it is in an activity of seeking perfection within the limits of the human species that the particular human being seeks perfection and manifests divine providence. It is not the individual qua individual that manifests providence’s gift of unity, existence and fulfillment but rather it is the individual qua member of the species coming to manifest the perfection of the species in varying degrees.

Just as Averroes distinguished human action in the sublunar world from divine action, so too Averroes denies that deliberation, choice and will as understood in human thought and action properly apply to God. In the Incoherence of the Incoherence he rejects the notion that God could deliberate between alternatives and also rejects that choice and will apply to God since that analysis would imply need on the part of God. However, when he considers knowledge,19 he finds that some sense of choice can be included since God must be said to know opposites and so to act by choice through knowledge which is to act by will. In the Tafsīr, Averroes is much more cautious about language that is important to religious matters and avoids discussion of deliberation and choice, and as well providing no detailed account of divine will.20 The single mention of willing merely has it that God “wills (yurīdu) the order and unity of the universe.” (1727) Instead, Averroes stresses the self-knowledge of God as thinking only himself and not things outside of himself, following Aristotle’s account. In this activity of perfection in knowing himself as the primary instance of being qua being and thereby the cause of all unity and existence in other beings by way of finality, God truly knows only himself. Yet insofar as he is for all other things the final cause — which is the cause of causes — in knowing himself he then properly can be said to know all other things. This is simply because knowledge is knowledge of the cause. Hence, God is not a knower through any plurality of ideas or forms that might threaten his perfect divine unity and certainly not through any perception or garnering of understanding through things below him. Rather, as an immaterial substance God has the primary activity of intellectual conception (taṣawwūr bi-l-‘aql, intelligere or ymaginare per intellectum). Yet the object of that activity can be nothing but himself in the strongest sense possible.21

Final Remark

The examination of the teaching of Averroes on creation in his Incoherence of the Incoherence in relation to his Tafsīr yields the conclusion that for the most part the teachings on creation, imitation, intention and providence in the former are sustained and substantiated in the latter.  Yet, the teachings of the Incoherence of the Incoherence are set forth in a context more sensitive to religious concerns, as might be expected in public work in response to the Incoherence of the Philosophers by al-Ghazali and concerned with teachings found in religion. Nevertheless, I have argued in another paper that in the Tafsīr texts concerned with the issues of deliberation, choice and will clearly reveals the distinction of discourse between the dialectical and the philosophical or demonstrative as discussed earlier in the section on method.22 This begins to make evident a singular conception of religious statements on Averroes’s part.  But I will refrain from discussing that further here.

Richard C. Taylor, Professor of Philosophy, Marquette University, Milwaukee, WI, USA,

and member, De Wulf-Mansion Center, Institute of Philosophy, K.U. Leuven

1. See Richard C. Taylor,  “Improving on Nature's Exemplar: Averroes' Completion of Aristotle's Psychology of Intellect” in Philosophy, Science and Exegesis in Greek, Arabic and Latin Commentaries, edited by Peter Adamson, Han Baltussen and M.W.F. Stone, eds., in 2 vols., v.2, pp.107-130. [Supplement to the Bulletin of the Insititute Of Classical Studies 83.1-2] (London: Insititute of Classical Studies, 2004).

2 See Harry A. Wolfson, “The Plurality of Immovable Movers in Aristotle and Averroes,”

Harvard Studies in Classical Philology 63 (1958), p. 233-253; and Richard C. Taylor, “Averroes’ Philosophical Conception of Separate Intellect and God,” in La lumière de l’intellect : La pensée scientifique et philosophique d’Averrès dans son temps (Leuven: Peeters 2011), 391-404.

3. Averroës. Tahafot at-tahafot, ed. Maurice Bouyges, S.J. (Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1930); English translation in Averroes’ Tahafut al-Tahafut (The Incoherence of the Incoherence),  tr. Simon Van Den Bergh,  2 vol. (London: Luzac and Co., 1954; rpt. 1969 & 1978). Further references to the Arabic text of this work are abbreviated to TT.

4. Averroès, Tafsīr mā ba‘d aṭ-Ṭabi'at “Grand Commentaire” de la Métaphysique, ed. Maurice Bouyges, 3 v., (Beirut: Dar El-Machreq Éditeurs 1938-1952) [Bibliotheca Arabica Scholasticorum, série arabe, 5-7]. Book Lām (12 of the traditional numbering of Aristotle’s text but 11 for the version Averroes had) of the work is translated in Charles Genequand, Ibn Rushd’s Metaphysics. A Translation with Introduction of Ibn Rushd’s Commentary on Aristotle’s Metaphysics, Book Lām (Leiden: E. J. Brill, 1986). References to this work will hereafter be abbreviated to Tafsīr.

5. Kitāb faṣl al-maqāl wa-taqrīr mā baina ash-sharī‘ah wa-l-ḥikma min al-ittiṣāl. Hourani renders the title as “The Decisive Treatise, Determining the Nature of the Connection Between Religion and Philosophy”  for his On the Harmony of Religion and Philosophy, tr. George F. Hourani. (London: Luzac [for the trustees of the “E. J. W. Gibb Memorial”], 1961. Butterworth translates this as The Book of the Decisive Treatise Determining the Connection Between the Law and Wisdom in his The Book of the Decisive Treatise Determining the Connection Between the Law and Wisdom: and, Epistle Dedicatory. [Bilingual text] tr. Charles E. Butterworth (Provo, UT: Brigham Young UP, 2001).  For my translation I follow A. El Ghannouchi in “Distinction et relation des discours philosophique et religieux chez Ibn Rushd: Faṣl al maqal ou la double vérité,” in Averroes (1126–1198), oder, der Triumph des Rationalismus: Internationales Symposium anlässlich des 800. Todestages des islamischen Philosophen, Heidelberg, 7–11 Oktober 1998,  ed. Raif Georges Khoury (Heidelberg: Winter, 2002) 139–45.

6. See Richard C. Taylor, “‘Truth does not contradict truth’: Averroes and the Unity of Truth,” Topoi 19.1 (2000) 3-16; and  “Averroes on the Sharīʿah of the Philosophers,”in The Muslim, Christian, and Jewish Heritage: Philosophical and Theological Perspectives in the Abrahamic Traditions, ed. Richard C. Taylor & Irfan Omar (forthcoming Marquette Univesity Press).

7. For the Arabic and the translation of the Faṣl al-maqāl I use the work of Butterworth cited in note 7 above. Butterworth, 21.

8.  Ibn Rushd, al-Kashf  ‘an al-manāhij al-adillah fī ‘aqā’id al-milla, ed. Muḥammad ‘Ābida al-Jābirī, (Beirut: Markaz Dirāsāt al-Waḥdah al-‘Arabīyah, 20012). An English translation is available in Faith and Reason in Islam. Averroes’ Exposition of Religious  Arguments, tr. I. Najjar (Oxford: One World, 2001).

9. Butterworth, 1. Shar‘ here denotes Islamic religion.

10.  Taylor, “‘Truth does not contradict truth’: Averroes and the Unity of Truth,” cited in n. 8.

11 Averroës. Tahafot at-tahafot, ed. Maurice Bouyges, S.J. (Beirut: Imprimerie Catholique, 1930) 427-428; English translation in Averroes’ Tahafut al-Tahafut (The Incoherence of the Incoherence),  tr. Simon Van Den Bergh,  2 vol. (London: Luzac and Co., 1954; rpt. 1969 & 1978) 257-258. Further references to the Arabic text of this work are abbreviated to TT.

12. A broader and deeper discussion of method and the works of Averroes, including legal works, is beyond the scope of the present paper and will have to await another opportunity.

13.  Often the Incoherence of the Incoherence is held to have been written in the same period as the Faṣl al-maqāl and also his al-Kashf ʿan manāhi, that is, ca. 1178-1181. However, the dating of the works of Averroes is notoriously complex because for several he returned to earlier versions and made revisions. As David Wirmer recently reminded me in conversation at Hannover, the Incoherence of the Incoherence has some passages which seem to reflect the mature Averroes and not a work of the earlier period of 1178-1181.  Also, the Tafsīr has some comments on human intellect that may indicate a view prior to that of the Long Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle. Regarding this latter work and Averroes’s Middle Commentary, see Averroes (Ibn Rushd) of Cordoba. Long Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle, tr., Therese-Anne Druart, subeditor (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), introduction, xxviii-xxxiii. Also see Richard C. Taylor, “Textual and Philosophical Issues in Averroes’ Long Commentary on the De Anima of Aristotle” in The Letter before the Spirit (forthcoming from E. J. Brill publishers). Also see C. Sirat and M. Geoffroy, L’original arabe du Grand Commentaire d’Averroes au De anima d’Aristote. Prémices d’édition, (Paris: J. Vrin, 2005). For the commentaries on Aristotle’s Physics, see Steven Harvey’s 1998 Cordoba conference presentation “Similarities and Differences Among Averroes’ Three Commentaries on Aristotle’s Physics,” in La lumière de l’intellect : La pensée scientifique et philosophique d’Averrès dans son temps (Leuven: Peeters 2011) 81-97; and Ruth Glasner, Averroes’ Physics. A Turning Point in Medieval Natural Philosophy (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

14. In addition to the translation of Genequand mentioned in n. 3, there is also a French translation: Averroès. Grand commentaire de la “Métaphysique” d’Aristote (Tafsīr Mā Ba‘d Aṭ-Ṭabī‘āt): Livre Lam-Lambda traduit de l’arabe et annoté, tr. Aubert Martin (Paris: Société d’Édition “Les Belles Lettres”, 1985).

15. Cf. n. 16 above.

16. Averroes uses several different terms for creation but prefers here ikhtirā‘ to forms of ibdā‘ since the latter can be used to denote creation ex nihilo or even de novo, conceptions that Averroes rejects. Avicenna uses ibdā‘ following the Plotiniana Arabica and perhaps also the Arabic Liber de causis. Cf. Richard C. Taylor,  “Primary Causality and ibdā‘ (creare) in the Liber de causisWahrheit und Geschichte. Die gebrochene Tradition metaphhyischen Denkens. Festschrift zum 7-. Geburtstag von Günther Mensching, hrsg. Alia Mensching-Estakhr and Michael Städtler ( Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann, 2012), 115-136.

17. In his translation, Genequand renders the Arabic very differently: “He knows them by species, since it is not possible to know them numerically.” Ibn Rushd’s Metaphysics, 155.

See The Arabic text is: wa-huwa ḥafaẓa-hā bi-n-naw‘ idh lam yumkin fī-hā ḥafaẓa-hā bi-l-‘adad.

18. Genequand aptly describes this notion and its development when he writes, “The existence of this universal impulse towards the Good and the Principle is asserted as a basic axiom even independently of the specific problem of the circular motion of the heavens (98). It constitutes the upward drive of the universe which will be superseded in later Greek Neoplatonism by the doctrine of epistrophē, but as we shall see shortly, it is the Alexandrian idea of assimilation or imitation which often prevails among the Falāsifa. As for the divine power permeating and inspiring all parts of the universe, it is the descending counterpart of imitation and provides the conceptual basis of the doctrine of providence; combined with the Plotinian proodos, it may be considered as the source of the theory of emanation (fayḍ, ḥudūth) in the particular form which it will assume in Arabic philosophy.” Alexander of Aphrodisias On the Cosmos, introduction, 20.

19. Re. the issue of God’s knowledge, see Th.-A. Druart, “Averroes on God’s Knowledge of Being qua Being,” in Studies in Thomistic Theology, ed. Paul Lockey (Houston: Center for Thomistic Studies, University of St. Thomas, 1995) pp.175-205.

20. Note, however, that choice (al-ikhtiyār) is found in Alexander’s On the Cosmos which was much used by Averroes. In light of the following passage from that work, it is not unlikely that was following Alexander: “Therefore, those among them [scil. the souls of material things] which have will (ikhtiyār) also have in themselves passion and appetite. But the souls of the divine things do not share in any of the less perfect faculties because the things which possess these souls have no need at all of that which is designed to ensure their preservation for the sake of which these faculties exist. (11) It follows from what we have said that the desire which is in these is by will (bi-l-ikhtiyār), and the true and excellent will is the love of the good. For will in an absolute sense (al-ikhtiyār bi-l-iṭlāq)is love of the good or of that which is thought to be good, and true will (al-ikhtiyār al-ḥaqīqī) which is love of the good exists in God alone. (12) For the desired thing according to Aristotle's opinion is the thing which is thought to be good, and the thing which is willed (al-mukhtār) and preferred from among things is the first good. The cause of the natural motion of this divine body, then, is the impulse towards the true good. (13) Desire in these things only exists through the intellect, for will (al-ikhtiyār) in them does not exist by virtue of one of the passive faculties, because they have absolutely none of these, but it is insofar as they perceive by their intellect that they desire the thing perceived by the intellect and represented.” Arabic added. Although ikhtiyār is not used in the philosophical account of Averroes, as indicated, the verb yurīdu (to will) is used of the activity of God but the context allows only a very extended if not nominal sense. The same is the case here for Alexander’s use of ikhtiyār. Genequand not unreasonably claims that ikhtiyār is the equivalent to will (irāda) here though the latter term does not appear in this passage. See his note on this in his Alexander of Aphrodisias On the Cosmos, 147.

21. Cf. Taylor, “Averroes’ Philosophical Conception of Separate Intellect and God,” cited in note 1.

22. Cf. Richard C.Taylor, “Averroes’ Philosophical Analysis of Religious Propositions,” in Miscellanea Mediaevalia 26: What is Philosophy in the Middle Ages? Proceedings of the 10th International Congress of Medieval Philosophy of the S.I.E.P.M., 25-30 August 1997 in Erfurt, Jan Aertsen and Andreas Speer, eds., pp.888-894. (Cologne: Walter De Gruyter GMBH & Co., 1998).