Revisiting the Concepts of Necessity and Freedom in Ibn Sīnā (Avicenna) (c. 980–1037)
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The article examines Ibn Sīnā’s account of necessity and freedom both in God and in the created order. The first part of the article argues that Ibn Sīnā attempts to reconcile seemingly contradictory notions of divine freedom and divine necessity on the premise that if there is necessity in the First this comes solely from ontological, moral, and intellectual perfection and not from an external source or principle, or an internal desire to realize an unrealized potentiality. The First acts, necessarily and voluntarily, in conformity with Its perfection. Hence, the First’s acts may be described as simultaneously necessary-cum-voluntary. The article then, in light of the previous discussion, turns to examine how Ibn Sīnā establishes freedom in the created order. The second part of the article focuses on the notion of existence (wujūd) and how Ibn Sīnā’s distinction between physical and metaphysical causality leads to the idea that the ‘gift’ of existence grounds freedom in entities. The third section examines his construction of essences (māhiyya) as uncaused and eternal objects of the divine knowledge. The First knows and existentiates essences in accordance with Its knowledge, but It does not determine what they are. The idea that there is no cause for an entity to be what kind of entity it is in the First’s knowledge further affirms the idea of freedom in the created order.