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Al-Ghazali's Philosophical Theology$
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Frank Griffel

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780195331622

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195331622.001.0001

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Knowledge of Causal Connection Is Necessary

Knowledge of Causal Connection Is Necessary

(p.175) 7 Knowledge of Causal Connection Is Necessary
Al-Ghazali's Philosophical Theology

Frank Griffel (Contributor Webpage)

Oxford University Press

The seventeenth discussion of al-Ghazali’s Incoherence (Tahafut) shows that he remains uncommitted as to whether God creates events in the world in an occasionalist way or by means of secondary causality. Al-Ghazali assumes that neither revelation nor a study of the world allows us to settle the dispute between the occasionalists and those who propose secondary causality. If that is the case, what about the prophetical miracle? For occasionalists it is a break in God’s habit and thus would prove that there is no secondary causality. A close study of al-Ghazali’s teachings on prophecy reveals that he no longer shares the Ash’arite teaching that prophecy is confirmed and proven by the prophets’ performance of miracles. He thinks these miracles are indistinguishable from sorcery and magic and can be explained as the effects of natural causes that are yet unknown to us. According to al-Ghazali, God does not break his habit. In the Qur’an (Q 33:62, 48:23 ) God declares: “You will not find any change in God’s habit.” This implies that God’s habits – meaning the laws of nature – are unchanging and stable and that they will not be suspended. The lawful character of God’s arrangement of the world, however, is not something that we find in the world itself. Al-Ghazali still thinks that occasionalism is a viable explanation of God’s creative activity. The cause may not have any true efficacy on its effect. In the human understanding, however, the cause has such efficacy. God created our minds in a way that they always search for causes and look out for the rules that determine how things react to one another. While al-Ghazali remains uncommitted if what we consider a cause is truly connected with what we consider its effect, he acknowledges that the human mind considers there is a connection which will never change.

Keywords:   agnosticism, causal connections, nominalism, future events, conditions of prophecy, prophetical miracles, magic, sorcery, logic, ontology

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