Averroës on the Existence of God

This summary is based on my readings in ‘Religion and Philosophy’ (Kitab fasl al-maqal, c. 1190 CE) in which I follow Averroës’s arguments for the existence of God. The main point of departure is the fact that ‘God has invited men to a knowledge of His existence, and informed them of it through the intelligence which He has implanted in their nature’ (Introduction; ‘God has borne witness, that there is no God, but He.’ Qur’an 3.16; see also Russell 2009, 345). That is the business of philosophy, ‘to look into creation and to ponder over it in order to be guided to the Creator.’ A believer needs ‘instruments of observation’ such as ‘various kinds of reasoning’ before he begins to look into creation. If someone follows the purpose of philosophy in investigating the existence of things, it would try to know the cause which led to its creation, and the purpose of it would know the argument of kindness.

Arguments for the existence of God

For Averroës ‘the religious law and philosophy have the same aim’ (Rosenthal, 2013); that is why ‘being bound by the religious law’ (Rosenthal 2013) he will make appeal to it all the time. As the existence of God is concerned, in the Divine Book there are three kinds of arguments: ‘arguments of kindness’, ‘arguments of creation/invention,’ and arguments which include both of these (see also Hillier 2010, who labels them as the argument of ‘providence’ and the argument of ‘invention’). But Averroës’ argument has nuances which are disclosed in the following way.

Divine solicitude

The method of ‘divine solicitude’ is one which prove the existence of God. ‘When a man sees a thing made in certain shape, […] he comes to know for certain that there is a maker of that thing, and that he had made it in that shape and proportion, for a set purpose.’ When a man sees the universe, he will know that that there is one who determined it, and so one who made it by intention, and that is God. He will go that far saying that ‘the argument of analogy’ […] is the best argument for proving the existence of God. (a similar argument is found in Qur’an 77.3ff, 2.99, 21.33). ‘It is the work of the Lord, who has rightly disposed all things’ Qur’an 27.90. All of these are brought together when he says that ‘the method which God had adopted for teaching His creatures that the universe is made and created by Him is the method of kindness and wisdom, towards all his creatures and especially towards man.’

Averroës. 1190. Religion & Philosophy.
Hillier, Chad H. 2010. iep.utm.edu/ibnrushd
Rosenthal, Erwin I. J. 2013 "Averroës." Encyclopædia Britannica. Ultimate Reference Suite. Chicago: Encyclopædia Britannica.
Russell, Bertrand. 2009. History of Western Philosophy. Oxon: Routlege.

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