Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Avicenna (980-1037 A.D.)


By Richard E. Noble

Avicenna (Ibn Sina ... Abu Mi al Husayn ibn Abd-Allah ibn Sina) was born in Bokhara, Persia (Iran) in 980 A.D. He is most famous in the field of medicine. In fact his book, “al-Shifa” (Book of Healing) is the largest encyclopedia of knowledge ever written, and was the main medical source book for over four hundred years.
In physics he is the father of the notion of “momentum”. By age ten he had mastered the religious “sciences” (whatever they are); by sixteen he was a well known physician; and by eighteen had mastered Aristotle, thanks to the commentary of al-Farabi.
Prior to reading al-Farabi, he had read Aristotle’s Metaphysics over forty times and couldn’t understand it. (So, how smart is he? I had to read Aristotle’s metaphysics only once to realize that I couldn’t understand it.)
Avicinna was a Mystic. A Mystic is, in my opinion, a person who begins with the “fact” of God and then tries to prove the universe and all of reality a fiction.
In philosophy Avicinna is most famous for his concern with “quiddity” (essence) and distinguishing between it and existence, and also his arguments distinguishing between necessary and possible beings. An unnecessary existent (us and everything else that is) can exist or not exist, says Avicinna.
Is this true? The fact or truth is, we don’t know. The theist says, in dealing with human existants for example, that when we die our body dies, but our soul (the electricity or force of consciousness and life) goes on.
The atheist says that our bodies are turned to dust, and the force of consciousness of life vanishes. So one denies the immortality of the body and the other denies the immortality of the life force that distinguishes a dead body from a living entity. But the body turns to dust, it doesn’t cease to exist. So then what happens to the soul (the animating life force)?
No one knows. Is there such a thing?
We know there is. It is there when something is alive, and gone when something is dead.
Can anything that is existing at one point ever be non existent? As Einstein once asked, “Did God have a choice in His Own existence?”
We have a theory today that we call the conservation of matter and energy. Matter cannot be created nor destroyed. God, according to Avicinna, is the only necessary being. But one of the qualities of the Necessary Being is that it can not not be ... it must exist. But the law of conservation of matter says that this is true of all existing things. So then, do we conclude that God is all that is or exists, and that what is, is and has always been and will forever be?
Avicinna like all mystics and religious, establishes his philosophy on a weak foundation. He establishes as true, an unfounded assumption (God) and then attempts to coordinate reality to it.
Question: if every known and observable thing in the Universe has a cause, why would anyone assume that the source of all, would be un-caused. The only conclusion that can be reasonably drawn from the fact that every known thing has a cause is that all things yet unknown must have a cause also.
Applying this to a definition of God, we would not conclude that God is uncaused but that He must be an infinity of causes. If all known things are particular and variant, then God could not be One and Whole but multiple and divisible.
Avicinna first believed in God and then the Koran (the revealed word of God). His goal was to establish God as true; revelation, as the Word of God; and all else subject to the knowledge of the two.