Published online by Cambridge University Press: 24 October 2008
Averroes defended philosophy by returning to the true Aristotle. For this purpose, Aristotle's book “On the Heaven,” in which he explained the eternity, uniqueness and movement of the universe, occupied a place of special importance. But the Aristotelian philosopher had a hard time holding his own in the face of contradictions within the book and with respect to Aristotle's later works. In his early Compendium, later Paraphrase, and final Long Commentary of De Caelo, Ibn Rushd continued the efforts of the Hellenistic commentators in order to integrate all the elements of his doctrine into a unified system, to harmonize his early cosmology with his later Metaphysics – the early doctrine of natural movement of the elements, and of the self-moving star-souls (a Platonic element), with the doctrine of potency and actuality and the theory of the First Mover – and to uphold his models of homocentric planetary spheres against the mathematical paradigm of Ptolemaic astronomy. By insisting throughout on demonstrative arguments based on rational principles, he asserted the philosophers' claim to irrefutable truth.
En retournant à l'Aristote authentique, Averroès cherchait à défendre la philosophie. Dans cette entreprise, le Traité du ciel d'Aristote, dans lequel le Stagirite avait exposé l'éternite et l'unicité du monde et les mouvements dans l'univers, occupait une place éminente. Mais le dessein du philosophe aristotélicien se heurtait aux contradictions qui se font jour, tant à l'intérieur du traité lui-même qu'entre celui-ci et l'œuvre ultérieure d'Aristote. Dans l'Épitomé, œuvre de jeunesse, puis dans la Paraphrase rédigée plus tard, enfin dans le Grand commentaire tardif, Averroès poursuivait les efforts des commentateurs hellénistiques pour intégrer tous les éléments de la doctrine d'Aristote dans un système unifié. II cherche à harmoniser la première cosmologie de ce dernier avec sa métaphysique ultérieure, c'est-à-dire la doctrine des mouvements naturels des éléments, et celle des âmes astrales automotrices (influencée encore par Platon) d'une part, avec la doctrine de la puissance et de l'acte et la théorie du Premier Moteur d'autre part. Il entend aussi justifier les modèles aristotéliciens du mouvement homocentrique des planètes contre le paradigme mathématique de l'astronomie ptolémaique. En insistant partout sur les arguments démonstratifs fondés sur des principes rationnels, Averroes vise à afnrmer la prétention de la philosophie à la vérité absolue.
* I would like to thank Charles Butterworth for his careful and patient editing of my manuscript, and Ahmed Hasnaoui for his valuable suggestions and corrections.
1 Averroes, , Commentarium Magnum in Aristotelis De Anima Libros, ed. Crawford, F. Stuart, Corpus Commentariorum Averrois in Aristotelem, Latin version VI 1 (Cambridge, 1953), III, comm. 14, p. 433.Google Scholar
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6 See Elders, Aristotle's Cosmology, p. 29.
7 See Moraux, Du ciel, pp. xliv–xlv and the references to the early and modern discussions of this point.
9 See Moraux, Paul, “Quinta Essentia,” in Paulys Realencyclopaedie der Classischen Altertumswissenschaft, 47/XXIV 1 (1963), columns 1171–1263Google Scholar, and Du ciel, pp. li ff.
10 Phaedrus 245C; see Elders, Aristotle's Cosmology, pp. 27 and 30.
11 See Moraux, Du ciel, p. xlv and note 1 for references to the commentators who discuss this apparent contradiction.
12 For this development and the references in Aristotle's text, see Elders, Aristotle's Cosmology, pp. 27–33. I have followed Elders closely in the preceding summary of Aristotle's doctrine. See also, below, Sections 8 and 12.
13 See Elders, Aristotle's Cosmology, pp. 94–7.
14 Unless otherwise noted, the translations of De Caelo are taken from Stocks, J. L., De Caelo, The Works of Aristotle Translated into English 2 (Oxford, 1922).Google Scholar
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17 See Simplicius, In De Caelo, p. 291; Guthrie, W. K. C., A History of Greek Philosophy (Cambridge, 1981), vol. 6, p. 261;Google Scholar and Elders, Aristotle's Cosmology, pp. 147–9.
18 See Averroes, , Talkhīs al-Samā' wa-al-'Ālam, ed. al-'Alawī, Jamāl al-Dīn (Fez, 1984), 141:13–142:7;Google Scholar henceforth Talkhīs.
19 The Arabic version has “the first mover,” al-muharrik al-awwal; see Kitāb al-Samā' wa-al-'Ālam, ed. Badawī, p. 250.
20 The Arabic version has “the first cause,” al-'illa al-ūlā.
21 Cf. Elders, Aristotle's Cosmology, p. 31 and Moraux, Du ciel, p. 164.
22 Easterling, “Homocentric spheres,” pp. 151–3.
23 For the Arabic terminology underlying Michael Scot's Latin version (demonstratio simpliciter, i. e., al-burhān al-mutlaq), see Rushd, Ibn, Tafsīr Mā Ba'd al-Tabī'a, ed. Bouyges, M., Bibliotheca Arabica Scholasticorum, série arabe, V, 1–2, VI, VII (Beirut, 1938–1952)Google Scholar, 703:11. In his paper delivered at the Symposium Averroïcum II “Mulāhazāt fī tatawwur nazariyyat al-burhān 'inda Ibn Rushd” (forthcoming in Majallat Kulliyyat al-Ādāb wa-al-'Ulūm al-Insāniyya of the University Sidi Mohammed ben Abdallah, Fez), notes 19–27, Jamāl al-Dīn al-'Alawī examines the barāhīn mutlaqa at some length.
24 See Averroes, Commentarium Magnum in Aristotelis De Anima I, comm. 89, p. 119, and II, comm. 20, p. 159.
25 For the Latin text, see Averroes, , Commentarium Magnum in Aristotelis De Caelo, in Aristotelis Opera cum Averrois Cordubensis Commentariis (Venice, 1550).Google Scholar
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30 See Moraux, Du ciel, p. 157; and Elders, Aristotle's Cosmology, p. 134.
31 The same reference to Metaphysics XII.8 is quoted from Alexander by Simplicius, ad locum, In De Caelo 270:5–9: “In the Metaphysics he shows, according to Alexander, that the mover of the circular movement is one … if this is one, the body moved by it is also one, and if the body in circular movement is one, the cosmos is by necessity one.” But this interpretation was not available to Averroes through Themistius.
32 This is the very question posed by Alexander, apud Simplicium, In De Caelo 270:9; see Aphrodisiensis, Alexander, Maqāla fi Mabādi' al-Kull, in Aristū 'inda al-'Arab, ed. Badawī, 'Abd al-Rahmān (Cairo, 1947), 267:13–268:12.Google Scholar
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37 Avicenna says, after presenting his emanationist cosmology, that the multiplicity inherent in the intermediate intelligences - attending the process of emanation - does not involve an identical series of multiple products caused by each: “Nor do these intelligences agree in [their] species.” See Kitāb al-Najāt (Cairo, 1938), 278:6, or ed. M. Taqī Dānishpazhūh (Teheran 1363/1985), 657:7; and al-Shifā', al-Ilāhiyyāt, ed. Anawati, G. C. and Zāyid, Sa'īd (Cairo, 1960), 407:7. Averroes sides with al-Fārābī here;Google Scholar see Mabādi' Ārā' Ahl al-Madīna al-Fā–ila, ed. Walzer, Richard as Al-Fārābī on the Perfect State (Oxford, 1985), 120:4 and commentary, p. 375.Google Scholar
39 This long commentary was written a decade after the Tahāfut al-Tahāfut. H. A. Wolfson's attempt to harmonize these statements seems inconclusive; see “The plurality of immovable movers,” vol. 1, pp. 15–16.
41 See Elders, Aristotle's Cosmology, p. 29.
42 Medieval discussions of this problem were first surveyed by Wolfson, H. A. in “The problem of the souls of the spheres from the Byzantine commentaries on Aristotle through the Arabs and St. Thomas to Kepler,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers, 16 (1962): 65–93;CrossRefGoogle Scholar reprinted in Wolfson, Studies, vol. 1, pp. 22–59.
43 See Elders, Aristotle's Cosmology, pp. 179–82 and above, Section 3.
44 This translates 284a31, “it must therefore be without leisure [ascholon] and devoid of all rational satisfaction,” as mashghūla 'ādima li-kuli rāha kā 'ina min dhī 'aql, but it is not taken up in Ibn Rushd's Taikhāyat al-jahl wa-al-nasb (190:10). The criticism of the “plurality of gods” in the closing paragraph (191:3) is due to the Arabic version which converts the positive reference to popular religion (284b3) into a polemic against polytheism.
45 See also Talkhīs[Jawāmi'] <'Ilm> Mā Ba'd al-Tabī'a, IV.7. In the edition of Carlos, Quirós Rodríguez, Averroes, Compendio de Metafísica (Madrid, 1919), this corresponds to pp. 129–30;Google Scholar and in the edition of Amīn, 'Uthmān, Ibn Rushd, Talkhīs Mā Ba'd al-Tabī'a (Cairo, 1958), to p. 127.Google Scholar
46 See Maqāla fi Mabādī' al-Kull, p. 254. The harmonizing tendency in this work, especially in the closing passage, has led D. Gutas to doubt its authenticity: the “apologetic attitude” discerned here, “in all probability addressed to Christians,” would point “to a composition date of the treatise in late Alexandrian times,” Avicenna and the Aristotelian Tradition (Leiden, 1988), p. 217.Google Scholar Consider also the doubts expressed by Pines, Shlomo, “The spiritual force permeating the cosmos according to a passage in the Treatise on the Principles of the All ascribed to Alexander of Aphrodisias,” Studies in Arabic Versions of Greek Texts and in Medieval Science, The Collected Works of Shlomo Pines (Jerusalem, Leiden, 1986), vol. 2, pp. 252–5. Note that there is no corresponding passage in the excerpts from Alexander in Themistius' commentary on De Caelo, for it has a long lacuna at this place.Google Scholar
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48 Jawāmi' Mā Ba'd al-Tabī'a, 1V.22, Quiros, p. 137 and Amin, p. 134: “The planets have no other part of the soul than the one constituted by intellectual comprehension” (al-tasawwur al-aqlī, i. e., noēsis).
49 In the Arabic version of the Aristotelian text, as in Averroes' own expositions, the principle at work in the moving of desire toward the First Cause – thought [noēsis] – is called al-tasawwur bi-al-'aql. See Tafsīr Mā Ba'd al-Tabī'a, 1598:4 and ff., corresponding to Metaphysics XII.7.1077a30, and the passage cited next. The Jawāmi' Mā Ba'd al-Tabī'a was written shortly after the Jawāmi' al-Tabī'iyyāt; see Jamāl, al-Dīn al-'Alawī, al-Matn al-Rushdī: Madkhal li-qirā'jadīda (Casablanca, 1986), pp. 57–9.Google Scholar
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51 See Sīnā, Ibn, al-Shifā' al-Samā' wa-al-'Ālam, ed. Qāsim, Mahmūd (Cairo, 1969), pp. 33–4;Google Scholaral-Shifā al-Ilāhiyyāt, IX:2–3, pp. 381–401 (French translation, Anawati, Georges C., La Métaphysique du Shifā', Etudes musulmanes 27 [Paris, 1978–1985], pp. 119–36);Google ScholarKitāb al-Najāt, Cairo, pp. 258–66, or ed. Dānishpazhūh, pp. 617–34; Dānishnāma-i Ālā'ī, Ilāhiyyāt, ed. Muhammad Mu'īn (Teheran, 1331/1952), Chaps. 51–53 (English translation, Morewedge, Parviz, The Metaphysics of Avicenna, A Critical Translation-Commentary, Persian Heritage Series, no. 13 [London, 1973], pp. 94–100).Google Scholar Cf. Wolfson, “The problem of the souls of the spheres,” pp. 41–5.
52 See also Jawāmi', p. 10: sa-nubayyin hādhā … fi al-falsafa al-ūlā … hāhunā innamā huwa 'alā jihat al-musādara 'alā mā tabayyana fi Kitāb al-burhān. See also, above, Sections 8 and 21. In addition, for a systematic presentation of the epistemological principles underlying this procedure - principles which ultimately go back to Aristotle's Posterior Analytics and to al-Fārabī's Kitāb al-Burhān - see al-'Alawī, “Mulāhaz;āt,” Section 2.
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56 See Averroes, , Tahāfut al-Tahāfut, 271:7–9: “The soul which is in the [celestial] body has no subsistence [qiwām] in this body. For this body is not in need of a soul, as are the bodies of animals, for the continuance of its existence.”Google Scholar See also Wolfson, “The problem of the souls of the spheres,” p. 43.
57 See Averroes' De Substantia Orbis, critical edition of the Hebrew text with English translation and commentary by Arthur Hyman, Corpus Philosophorum Medii Aevi, Opera Averrois (Cambridge, Mass, and Jerusalem, 1986).
58 De Substantia Orbis, III, lines 31–37; trans., pp. 102–3; see also pp. 32–5 and p. 113, n. 18 for Hyman's references to Tafsīr Mā Ba'd al-Tabī'a, XII, comm. 43 and 44, pp. 1644–5 and 1649–50.
59 See also De Substantia Orbis III, lines 42–49; trans., pp. 104–5 with an analogous reference to De Caelo I.12.
60 For this problem, relevant to De Caelo II.6, see also the Tafsīr II, comm. 38, fol 44a–b (quoted by al-'Alawī, Talkhīs, p. 226, n. 175).
61 For a very close parallel to the Talkhīs., pp. 179–82, see De Substantia Orbis, pp. 105–10. Davidson, Herbert A. provides a full exposition and source study of Averroes' discussions of this problem in the context of his critique of Avicenna's proof of the existence of a being necessarily existent by virtue of itself in “The principle that a finite body can contain only finite power,” Studies in Jewish Religious and Intellectual History Presented to Alexander Altmann (Huntsville, Alabama, 1979), pp. 70–80;Google Scholar see also Proofs for Eternity, Creation, and the Existence of God in Medieval Islamic and Jewish Philosophy (New York, 1987), pp. 321–31.Google Scholar
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63 See also Tafsīr Mā Ba'd al-Tabīa, 1078:2–3: sūra nafsāniyya 'aqliyya … mutanaffisa bi-dhātihā.
64 See Maqāla fi Mabādi' al-Kull, 256:8–10.
65 See Pines, Shlomo, “Omne quod movetur necesse est ab aliquo moveri: A refutation of Galen by Alexander of Aphrodisias and the theory of motion,” Isis, 52 (1960): 45–6;Google Scholar reprinted in Pines, Collected Works, p. 243.
66 This question is taken up in the Tafsīr on De Caelo 11.3, where Ibn Rushd refers (fol. 3b21) to a maqāla afradnāhā fi dhālika, i. e., to the first chapter of De Substantia Orbis.
67 See De Substantia Orbis, p. 105.
68 It is true that Avicenna would have known how to counter this criticism and, what is more, that Averroes did not have an adequate basis for judging Avicenna's doctrine and arguments. Apparently, much of what is relevant for his criticism was known to him only by way of al-Ghazālī's Tahāfut. See Davidson, Proofs for Eternity, Creation and the Existence of God, pp. 311–35, esp. p. 334: “Averroes' critique of the body of Avicenna's proof [sc. of the First Principle] is to an astonishing extent grounded in misinformation.” In the present context, we must nonetheless keep in mind that even though Ibn Rushd's criticism goes beyond physical theory, it touches upon a basic question of valid philosophical method.
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73 See Easterling, “Homocentric spheres,” pp. 141 ff. and 152; also above, Section 8.
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