Christina Sirami: “For the thinkers of classical Islam, man must always consider himself a part of nature”

What is the nature among the thinkers of classical Islam?

Christina Sirami: Classical Islamic thinkers are divided into several traditions, each with different notions of nature. Rational theology is known by tradition Calto meMwho appears around the eighthe Century – before it was divided into several streams – considered that natural bodies are composed of atoms. According to these atomic thinkers, God has absolute power to act on these atomic components. He has the ability to attribute to them a set of individual characteristics, which are called “accidents”. For example, it decides their color, flavor, interrelationship and whether they are life-giving or not. Therefore, God is the origin of all natural phenomena. According to these theologians, divine action builds up the world permanently. Nature is not something intrinsic to bodies made of atoms but is the product of the continuous creation of the same relationships between their atoms and certain accidents. Any natural rule and any regularity in natural actions and interactions is the result of God’s work. The relationship between two natural events is not necessary, but dictated by divine will, strength, wisdom and goodness.

“If the laws of nature, in Averroes’ view, are predictable, it is because they are rational.”
Christina Serami

Are there other ways of looking at the relationship between nature and God?

Yes, the other great tradition of Arabic thought is that which is called bloomer. Appears around the ninthe Century and explicitly claims the heritage of Greek philosophy. For this tradition that Ibn Rushd (known in the Latin world in the Middle Ages under the nameIbn Rushd). According to this current, God has no direct influence on nature. Indeed, Averroes considers that God cannot act directly in earthly nature: he needs mediation. It is the stars – the heavenly bodies – that provide this link between nature and divinity. These astral bodies, according to him, are endowed with a rational spirit that provides nature and the creatures living in it with a kind of orderliness. This idea of ​​astral intelligence, which today seems somewhat fanciful to us, was nonetheless the result of logical reasoning based on the conviction that absolute regularity could not be the result of chance, but must be the product of arithmetic and therefore of the rational mind. If the laws of nature are predictable, it is because they are rational.

“for supporters forged, Normal life without the divine principle would be a chain of events without coherence or consistency: a failed tragedy.”
Christina Serami

In this tradition, God does not directly intervene in nature. So, you couldn’t do without it?

Among the thinkers of classical Islam, you do not find a system that operates without divine action on nature. It is inspired by Aristotle who himself considers that without a divine principle, nature “ Like a bad tragedy. It is a common axiom among thinkers belonging to forged such as Ibn Rushd or Avicenna (Ibn Sina). Without the divine principle, normal life would be a series of events without coherence or consistency: a failed tragedy. It is therefore necessary to suppose that there is a unique and ultimate cause that holds all together, which represents the world order. This ultimate determining mind that unites the world, this immense author who gives meaning to his work, is God.

What is the position of man in this divine nature?

Among the philosophers of Islam and theologians, man is considered a “separate” case, especially because he is a rational animal. It is precisely the only rational animal on earth. However, this strength does not give him the ability to do without nature. Man must perceive himself as part of the nature that shapes him, harbors him, and makes him exist. Admittedly, it has a definite place, but from the point of view of expressing the world, it is in the same boat as the other parts of this system where everything is interconnected.

“Nature is a bridge that allows us to return to God. This is why Averroes – just like Aristotle – believes that the study of living nature is indispensable”
Christina Serami

Does observing and studying nature with its regular and orderly nature bring man closer to God? In other words, can physics, the science of nature, finally guide us towards metaphysics?

In fact, nature is a bridge that allows us to return to God. This is why Averroes (Averroes) – just like Aristotle – believes that the study of living nature is indispensable. In this sense, the work of the physicist is not accidental. The work of living organisms, for example the study of the general laws of motion, allows us to understand the general arrangement of nature. It is this study of nature in its regularity that allows us to return to God as the final principle of the order and arrangement of nature. From this point of view, the study, thinking about nature has a theological aspect. It opens reflection on the nature of God, and thus takes us from physics to metaphysics.

Can God create imperfect, even “unnatural” beings? Can he breed a “beast”?

In the atomic system of theologians, and especially according to the Mu’tazila current, one cannot say that God created a “monster”, if one means wrong or failure, because as goodness and absolute wisdom, he can only produce the best possible composition, whose design is perfect as a whole. Likewise, among my thinkers forgedThe existence of monsters cannot come from God. Rather, it stems from a kind of failure, a slippage of matter. The error, the “beast,” is not in the general project – the only error that belongs to God – but in the matter which always retains a form of inaccuracy and indeterminacy. If you depart from human perfection to the point of departing from the norm that makes an individual “human,” it will never be the responsibility of the divine principle: it comes from matter, and from its inability to embody human form. For theologians, as for philosophers, the beast is not the work of God. What can be considered evil, failure cannot come from the divine principle.

Did these philosophers not consider that there could be natural disasters capable of destroying nature itself as we know it?

For “eternal” philosophers like Averroes (Averroes) and Avicenna (Avicenna), the world will never stop. It will always continue in the formation it is in, because it is the product of Providence. Depending on the periods, there will be ups and downs. One could even imagine a catastrophe, a global flood that humanity could almost wipe out. But even in these extreme cases, the equilibrium of the system as a whole will preserve the parts because nature has some form of regularity which is ensured by the existence of a divine principle. Therefore, in the event of a catastrophe, thinkers hold the idea that nature will necessarily catch up.

“For the Arab philosophers, human beings should adapt to nature, not the other way around, and they should respect it as a manifestation of divine wisdom.”
Christina Serami

It’s a rather comforting concept of nature, isn’t it? Don’t worry too much, she will always manage…

Certainly, this thought is reassuring towards species. On the other hand, it should not be said that this idea operates on an individual scale. In Averroes, for example, no individual existence is eternal. As an individual, I will not go to Heaven, and my existence will end with the death of my body. This form of reassuring immortality attributed to nature is valid only on the general scale of species.

Can man’s awareness of belonging to nature, to this “interconnected whole” give rise to ecological thought?

These thinkers do not ask whether man has the right to disturb nature, or the duty to protect and defend it, because these terms are specific to contemporary environmental thinking. They assume we have the power to destroy nature. However, the idea of ​​destroying nature and the planet was not, at the time, part of the field of possibilities. It was unimaginable. However, the question of primary environmental reflection arises insofar as man must always consider himself an element of nature. Therefore, Arab philosophers realize that human existence and well-being depend on good natural conditions. For them, man must adapt to nature, and not vice versa, and must respect it as a manifestation of divine wisdom.

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