The Causes Responsible For Materialist (lecture 3)
Another example of the inadequacy of Western philosophy is to imagine the concept of eternity of matter to be incompatible with faith in God, while in fact there is no such logical implication between this view and denial of God. Rather the divine philosophers believe that faith in God necessarily implies faith in His eternity and continuous creativity (fayyadiyyat), and it is the continuity of His creativity that implies the eternity of creation.
A Russian scholar had written in an article whose Persian translation was published by a magazine few years ago that Ibn Sina vacillated between materialism and idealism.
Why did this scholar express such a view concerning Ibn Sina while one of Ibn Sina's hallmarks is that he has consistently followed a single line in expressing his views and doctrines and there is no wavering and contradiction in his statements. Maybe his powerful and extraordinary memory which made it possible for him not to forget any of his thoughts was one of the causes of this characteristic.
This Russian scholar, since he saw on the one hand that Ibn Sina believed in the eternity of matter and did not believe that time had a beginning, thought him to be a materialist. On the other hand, he found him speaking of God, creation and the First Cause and concluded that Ibn Sina is an idealist. Hence Ibn Sina kept wavering between the two poles of materialism and idealism and had no fixed opinion in this regard.
This Russian scholar had such a view about Ibn Sina because he considered the concept of eternity of matter to be incompatible with the idea that matter and the universe were of Divine creation.
However in Ibn Sina's reasoning, where he has discussed the 'criterion for dependence upon a cause' and identified it to be 'essential contingency' (imkan e-dhati), there exists no such contradiction between these two. Earlier we have discussed the topic of criterion for dependence upon a cause, which happens to be one of the most important of philosophical issues and has been only dealt in Islamic philosophy. It was made clear that the logical implication of being caused and created is not coming into existence in time (huduth-e-zamani); there is nothing to stop an existent from having an eternal and everlasting existence while deriving its existence from a being other than itself. We will have more to say on this issue later on. God or Freedom?
Predetermination and freedom of will (jabr wa ikhtiyar) is a well-known issue of philosophy, theology and ethics. The discussion is about whether man is compelled in his actions and has no freedom of choice, or is free in his actions. There is another issue discussed in metaphysics which is named qada wa qadar' (Divine ordainments and determinations). Qada' and qadar implies the decisive Divine command which determines the course of the world's events and their limits and extent.
The topic of qada and qadar involves the question whether Divine qada' and qadar is general and covers all things and events or not. In the case of its being general, what is the position of human freedom and free will? Is it possible for Divine qada and qadar to be general and all-inclusive and for man to have a free role at the same time?
The answer is, yes. I have myself discussed this topic in a treatise written on this subject and published under the title "Man and Destiny" (Insan wa sarnawisht) and have proved that there is no incompatibility between God's general qada' on the one hand and man's freedom of will on the other. Of course, that which I have mentioned therein is not something which has been said for the first time by me; whatever I have said is inferred from the Noble Qur'an and others before me have done the same, especially Islamic philosophers, who have adequately discussed this topic.
But today when we look at Europe we find persons like Jean Paul Sartre lost in the labyrinths of this issue, and since they have based their philosophy on choice, freewill and freedom, they do not want to accept God. Jean Paul Sartre says: Since I believe and have faith in freedom I cannot believe and have faith in God, for if I accept God I will necessarily have to accept fate, and if I accept fate I cannot accept individual freedom, and since I want to accept freedom and I love it and have faith in it, I cannot have faith in God.
From the Islamic point of view, faith and belief in God is equivalent to man's freedom and freewill. Freedom in the real sense is the essence of man. Although the Noble Qur'an introduces God as very great and His will as all- pervasive, it also strongly defends human freedom. There has certainly come on man a period of time when he was nothing worthy of mention. We created man of a mingled sperm so as to try him; and We made him hearing and seeing. Surely We guided him upon the way, whether he be thankful or unthankful. (76:1-3) This implies that man is free, and he may choose the right path or the path of ingratitude (kufran) of his own will.
The Qur'an further states:
Whosoever desires this present world, We hasten for him therein what We will unto whomsoever We desire; then We appoint for him the hell wherein he shall roast, condemned and rejected. And whosoever desires the world to come and strives after it as he should, being a believer, those, their striving shall be thanked. Each We succour, these and those, from thy Lord's gift; and thy Lords gift is not confined. (17:18-20). Yes, this is the Qur'anic logic. The Qur'an does not see any incompatibility between God's general qada and man's freedom and freewill.
From the philosophical point of view, too, conclusive proofs which negate any incompatibility between the two have been provided.
However, these philosophers of the twentieth century have imagined that they can be free only if they do not accept God, and that too in the sense that they can in that case break the relation of their will from the past and the present, that is with history and the environment, and with a will severed from history and society choose and build the future, although the issue of determinism and freewill is not related to the question of acceptance or negation of God. By accepting God, too, it is possible to envisage an active and free role for the human will, as it is also possible to negate God and at the same time to challenge the concept of freewill on the basis of the universal law of causation.
That is, the root of determinism, or the imagined implication of determinism, lies in the belief in a definite system of cause and effect acknowledged both by the theists as well as the materialists. If there is no incompatibility between a definite system of cause and effect and human freedom and freewill, which in fact there is not, belief in God, too, does not entail negation of freewill. For more details on this issue refer to the book Insan wa sarnawisht. Here we intend to mention a few more examples of the philosophical errors of the West in the field of metaphysics. Chance, God, or Causation?
For a better understanding of Western thought, both theist and materialist, concerning God, it is proper that we discuss the following topic:
Some imagine that proving God's existence depends on casting doubt on the law of causation and the concept of causal necessity, that is the very thing which constitutes the most basic foundation for proving God's existence. Not only is it the basic foundation for proving God's existence but also the foundation for accepting any scientific and philosophical theory.
Bertrand Russell has assigned a chapter in his book The Scientific Outlook under the heading "Science and Religion." He has posed in this chapter certain issues which in his opinion form the area of conflict between science and religion. One of them is this very issue which he discusses under the heading of "Free Will." The reason he has mentioned it under this heading is that the Westerners imagine freewill and freedom in the human context to imply freedom from the law of causality and causal necessity. Therefore, if we reject the laws of causation and causal necessity in nature, we will be admitting to the presence of some kind of choice in nature. Accordingly Russell raises this issue under the heading "Free Will."
In our opinion, the raising of this issue under this caption is by itself another indication of the level of Western thought on such kind of topics. In any case this is what Russell says:
Until very recent times theology, while in its Catholic form it admitted free will in human beings, showed an affection for natural law in the universe, tempered only by belief in occasional miracles ...
One of the most remarkable developments in religious apologetics in recent times is the attempt to rescue free will in man by means of ignorance as to the behaviour of atoms ... It is not yet known with any certainty whether there are laws governing the behaviour of single atoms in all respects, or whether the behaviour of such atoms is in part random ... In the atom there are various possible states which do not merge continuously into each other, but are separated by small finite gaps. An atom may hop from one of these states to another, and there are various different hops that it may make. At present no laws are known to decide which of the possible hops will take place on any given occasion, and it is suggested that the atom is not subject to laws at all in this respect, but has what might be called, by analogy, "free will." Eddington, in his book on the Nature of the Physical World, has made great play with this possibility. [^1]
Russell then goes on to given an outline of the history of the principle of non-necessity and adds:
I am surprised, I repeat, that Eddington should have appealed to this principle in connexion with the question of free will, for the principle does nothing whatever to show that the course of nature is not determined. [^2] Then he states that that which is understood from quantum mechanics is not the negation of causality but the negation of the principle of necessity (principle of the necessity of an effect's dependence upon a cause). He says:
There is nothing whatever in the Principle of Indeterminacy to show that any physical event is uncaused ... Returning now to the atom and its supposed free will, it should be observed that it is not known that the behaviour of the atom is capricious. It is false to say the behaviour of the atom is known to be capricious, and it is also false to say the behaviour is known to be not capricious. Science has quite recently discovered that the atom is not subject to the laws of the older physics, and some physicists have somewhat rashly jumped to the conclusion that the atom is not subject to law at all ... It is very rash to erect a theological superstructure upon a piece of ignorance which may be only momentary. There is, moreover, a purely empirical objection to the belief in free will. Wherever it has been possible to subject the behaviour of animals or of human beings to careful scientific observation, it has been found, as in Pavlov's experiments, that scientific laws are just as discoverable here as in any other sphere. It is true that we cannot predict human actions with any completeness, but this is quite sufficiently accounted for by the complication of the mechanism, and by no means demands the hypothesis of complete lawlessness, which is found to be false wherever it can be carefully tested. Those who desire caprice in the physical world seem to me to have failed to realize what this would involve.
All inference in regard to the course of nature is causal, and if nature is not subject to causal laws all such inference must fail. We cannot, in that case, know anything outside of our personal experience; indeed, strictly speaking, we can only know our experience in the present moment, since all memory depends upon casual laws. If we cannot infer the existence of other people, or even of our own past, how much less can we infer God, or anything else that the theologians desire ...
There is, in fact, no good reason whatever for supposing that the behaviour of atoms is not subject to law. It is only quite recently that experimental methods have been able to throw any light on the behaviour of individual atoms, and it is no wonder if the laws of this behaviour have not yet been discovered. [^3]
We endorse Russell's opinion that a satisfactory proof has not been provided to prove the lawlessness of atomic movements, and further contend that it is impossible that such a proof exist or be produced in the future. Similarly, we affirm his view that if the law of causation were not valid and the universe were lawless, all our inferences about the universe, God, and everything else would be in vain.
That which Russell has said in answer to those who claim the universe to be lawless (or lawless at least in subatomic particles) is the same as what Islamic philosophers have said in reply to the Ash'arites who tried to deny causal necessity. I have expressed my view about this principle in the footnotes of "The Principles of Philosophy and the Method of Realism" and in the book 'Man and Destiny'.
But here I cannot refrain from expressing my surprise at the following two points. The first that a group of so-called theists have tried to prove the existence of God by negating causation, or in their own words, through freewill and negation of causal necessity and congruence between cause and effect (i.e. the notion that a certain cause can produce only a certain kind of effect). Anyone even with little acquaintance with Islamic metaphysics knows that acceptance of the principle of causation and causal necessity and congruence between cause and effect is part of the ABC of Islamic metaphysics.
The second point is that Mr. Russell imagines that the only blow delivered to science by the negation of the law of causality is our inability to generalize the results of scientific experiments, for the generalization of an experiment is dependent upon the theory that 'like causes in like circumstances act in a similar manner.' He is unaware of the fact that by negating the principle of causation, even in cases where all aspects of a thing have been experimented we cannot acquire the knowledge of it within the experimented limits, because our knowledge of external reality acquired through the senses and experimentation is itself dependent upon the law of causation. If the law of causation were not there, we would arrive at nothing. Mr. Russell repeatedly emphasizes this point in his book The Scientific Outlook that modern physics is advancing towards the concept of lawlessness of the universe.
The basic point is that the law of causation is not a physical law but a law of philosophy; consequently physics can neither prove it nor refute it. But Mr. Russell does not believe in philosophical laws independent of the achievements of the sciences and is therefore forced to remain bewildered in this quagmire.
In the footnotes of 'The Principles of Philosophy and the Method of Realism' in the article, "The Origins of Multiplicity in Cognition," I have discussed the source of the concept of causality and the manner in which the mind arrives at this concept and affirms its validity. The reader is referred to that book. The Concept of Creation:
Among the confusions present in Western philosophical thought concerning the problem of causation is the analysis of the concept of creation. What is meant by creation? Does it mean that the Creator gives existence to a non-existent? Or does it imply that He brings an existent into existence? None of the two alternatives is rational and a third alternative is also unimaginable.
In other words, that which is created by a power either exists or is non-existent. If it exists, creating it amounts to 'acquiring the acquired' (tahsil e hasil), because creating what exists implies giving a thing something which it already possesses, like a straightening a straight line. And if it is non-existent, creating it amounts to kind of a contradiction, because creating a non-existent implies changing non-existence into existence, and this involves the conversion of non-existence into existence and non-being into being, and this is a contradiction.
Hence creation is either the changing of existence into existence or the changing of non-existence into existence. The former involves acquiring the acquired and while the latter results in a contradiction, and both are impossible. This is the well-known paradox in this regard. Among Islamic scholars, the one to develop this paradox more than anyone else is Imam Fakhr al-Din Razi.
Islamic philosophers have devoted a separate chapter to this issue, known as the 'problem of making' (mas'alah-ye ja'l) and have provided an excellent and precise analysis of the concepts of causation, creation, and the like, thereby resolving this paradox.
First, they have demonstrated that if this argument were correct we will have to set aside completely the notion of causation regardless of whether it is natural causation-that is, bringing about motion and changing a thing into something else, or Divine causation-that is, generation and creation.
Secondly, they have established that there are two possible kinds of causation and making (ja'l). One of them is simple making (ja'l-e basit) and the other compound making (ja'l-e murakkab). All those paradoxes have risen because all instances of creation and causation have been imagined as belonging to the class of compound making and causation. Here we do not intend to study this problem which needs an elaborate treatment, and to discuss all its various aspects will greatly prolong this discussion. Here our sole purpose is to point out the causes responsible for materialist tendencies from the viewpoint of the West's philosophical inadequacies, and so we are forced to discuss this issue to the extent necessary to reveal one of the roots of these tendencies. One of these roots pertains to the remaining unsolved of the concept of creation, or in other words, the absence of an accurate analysis of the concept of causation, which has taken place in Islamic philosophy in the well-known discussion on ja'l.
Here I will again cite Russell in this regard in his capacity as a materialist Western philosopher. In the aforementioned book and chapter, Bertrand Russell has discussed a topic under the heading "God the Creator." There he has mentioned the famous theory of modern physics based on the world's gradual disintegration and running down and hence having a end. This in turn proves that the world has a beginning from the point of view of time, because that which has no beginning has no end, and that which has an end must have a beginning, although it is possible that a thing may have a beginning without having an end. From here it has been concluded that the world has been created by a power and that the view of the materialists is wrong.
Russell, while trying to explain that this new theory does not corroborate the theist thesis, says:
One of the most serious difficulties confronting science at the present time is the difficulty derived from the fact that the universe appears to be running down. There are, for example, radio-active elements in the world. These are perpetually disintegrating into less complex elements, and no process by which they can be built up is known. This, however, is not the most important or difficult respect in which the world is running down. Although we do not know of any natural process by which complex elements are built up out of simpler ones, we can imagine such processes, and it is possible that they are taking place somewhere. But when we come to the second law of thermodynamics we encounter a more fundamental difficulty.
The second law of thermodynamics states, roughly speaking, that things left to themselves tend to get into a muddle and do not tidy themselves up again. It seems that once upon a time the universe was all tidy, with everything in its proper place, and that ever since then it has been growing more and more disorderly, until nothing but a drastic spring-cleaning can restore it to its pristine order. [^4]
Russell, after giving clarifications in this regard, goes on with his explanation:
As we trace the course of the world backwards in time, we arrive after some finite number of years (rather more than four thousand and four, however), at a state of the world which could not have been preceded by any other, if the second law of thermodynamics was then valid. This initial state of the world would be that in which energy was distributed as unevenly as possible. [^5] Then he goes on to quote Eddington and speaks about his hesitation and bewilderment concerning which theory should be eventually chosen. Eddington says:
The difficulty of an infinite past is appalling. It is inconceivable that we are the heirs of an infinite time of preparation; it is not less inconceivable that there was once a moment with no moment preceding it. [^6] Finally Russell himself expresses his opinion in this manner The second law of thermodynamics may not hold in all times and places, or we may be mistaken in thinking the universe spatially finite; but as arguments of this nature go, it is a good one, and I think we ought provisionally to accept the hypothesis that the world had a beginning at some definite, though unknown, date. Are we to infer from this that the world was made by a Creator? Certainly not, if we are to adhere to the canons of valid scientific inference. There is no reason whatever why the universe should not have begun spontaneously, except that it seems odd that it should do so; but there is no law of nature to the effect that things which seem odd to us must not happen.
To infer a Creator is to infer a cause, and causal inferences are only admissible in science when they proceed from observed causal laws. Creation out of nothing is an occurrence which has not been observed [^7]. There is, therefore, no better reason to suppose that the world was caused by a Creator than to suppose that it was uncaused; either equally contradicts the causal laws that we can observe. [^8] That which has been quoted consists of two parts. The first is about modern physics, and expressing any opinion about it is outside the competence of metaphysics. From the metaphysical viewpoint, creation cannot be limited and have a beginning in time. Similarly it cannot stop at a particular limit. Divine effusion is interminable and infinite with respect to both its beginning and end.
The present universe as conceived by physics could be a single link in the chain of Divine effusion which comprises of numerous inter-connected links, but it cannot be the only link. From the standpoint of metaphysics, the meaning of the statement that the universe came into existence in finite time is that this part of creation has a beginning in time, not that the process of creation itself began in finite time.
The second part consists of the philosophical ideas of this twentieth century philosopher. The real purpose of our citing the above-mentioned passages was for the sake of this part. Now that modern physics affirms the theory of gradual disintegration and running down of the universe, he prefers to accept that the universe came into being at a finite though unknown point in time. And now that we are compelled to accept that the universe began in finite time, there are two possibilities: first that the universe was brought into existence by a creator at the point of its beginning, the other is that it came into existence spontaneously at that point without the interference of any agent. He claims that from the point of view of causal laws there can be no preference of any kind between the two possibilities considering; both equally contradict causal laws. The coming into existence of the universe as an act of a creative power is also against causal laws because the causal laws which we are able to observe only justify conclusions which follow from the principle of causation. That is, it recognizes causality and being caused (ma'luliyyat) only in cases where the cause itself is in turn an effect of another cause. But if a cause and effect are assumed where the cause itself is not an effect, this contradicts the principle of causality recognized by science.
If a cause and effect are assumed wherein the cause in its turn is not an effect of another cause this implies that creation has taken place from non- existence, and creation from non-existence is impossible by experience.
Firstly, Mr. Russell imagines that the law of causation belongs to the category of observable and sensible things. He has not paid attention, or has not wished to do so, that causality is not something based on the sense perception. That which is perceived is succession of events and not causality, nor the general laws of cause and effect. Rather, even succession and sequence are also not perceived by the senses but are inferred and abstracted.
Secondly, he says that the law of cause and effect only endorses such causation in which the cause is in turn an effect of another cause, and the idea of a causation wherein the cause is not an effect of another cause contradicts the law of causation.
We ask, 'Why'? Suppose we even consider the law of causation to be an empirical law; where is such a limitation in this law? Does our notion of causation imply anything except this that every phenomenon needs an agent to bring it into existence? But what experiment leads us to conclude that this agent itself must be something which has come into existence with the help of another agent, and similarly the latter agent, and so on ad infinitum?
Thirdly, what is meant by saying that 'observation shows that creation from nothing is impossible'? Are necessity and impossibility empirical concepts? Is impossibility or necessity a phenomenon and a physical condition susceptible to experimentation and perceivable by the senses? At the most that which can be said is that creation from nothing has not been empirically observed, but what is meant by the statement that its impossibility has been empirically proved?
Fourthly, what is the difference between a causation wherein the cause is itself an effect of another cause and a causation in which the cause is not an effect of another cause so as to conclude that in the former instance creation is not from non-being while in the latter it amounts to creation from nothing? In both the cases there is a a being dependent upon another being and originating from another existent. If creation has taken place from nothing, it has done so in both the cases, and if it has not taken place from nothing it has not done so in both the cases.
Fifthly, according to this philosopher, in any case modern physics has declared the law of causation to have exceptions, because this physics compels us to accept a starting point for the universe and there are no more than two possibilities for the origin of the universe, and both the possibilities violate the law of causation with equal force.
Therefore, we must accept that all our inferences concerning nature and the universe are invalid, because earlier Mr. Russell has himself conceded that all inferences derived by us concerning nature are founded upon the law of causation, and if nature is not subject to law these inferences in their entirety would be unreliable.
The realm of nature is either subject to the law of causation or it is not If it is, then its coming into existence must also be subject to the law of causation; if it is not, it is not possible that nature should come into existence in an arbitrary manner and then become orderly.
The following words of Russell are just as true of himself. He says:
The principle of causality may be true or may be false, but the person who finds the hypothesis of its falsity cheering is failing to realize the implications of his own theory. He usually retains unchallenged all those causal laws which he finds convenient, as, for example, that his food will nourish him and that his bank will honour his cheques so long as his account is in funds, while rejecting all those that he finds inconvenient. This, however, is altogether too naive a procedure. [^9]