Philosophy and Theology

Volume 27, Issue 1, 2015

Edward R. Moad
Pages 55-73

Between Divine Simplicity and the Eternity of the World
Ghazali on the Necessity of the Necessary Existent in the Incoherence of the Philosophers

In the Incoherence of the Philosophers, Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111) leveled a critique against twenty propositions of the Muslim peripatetic philosophers, represented chiefly by al-Farabi (872-951) and Ibn Sina (980-1037). In the Fourth Discussion of this work, he rejects their claim to having proven the existence of God. The proof to which he objects is none other than the famous ‘argument from contingency.’ So why did the eminent theologian of Islamic orthodoxy reject an argument for God’s existence that ultimately became so historically influential? I will show that the real targets of Ghazali’s objection are the philosophers’ doctrine of the pre-eternity of the world, and their denial of divine attributes. These two issues are linked in such a way that, only if the philosophers’ argument regarding the divine essence is sound, would they be able to prove that He exists while holding to the doctrine of the world’s pre-eternity.