Arabic Sciences and Philosophy



Al-Kindi and the Mu‘tazila: Divine Attributes, Creation and Freedom


Peter Adamson a1
a1 Philosophy Department, King's College London, Strand, London WC2R 2LS, United Kingdom

Abstract

The paper discusses al-Kindi's response to doctrines held by contemporary theologians of the Mu‘tazilite school: divine attributes, creation, and freedom. In the first section it is argued that, despite his broadly negative theology, al-Kindi recognizes a special kind of “essential” positive attribute belonging to God. The second section argues that al-Kindi agreed with the Mu‘tazila in holding that something may not yet exist but still be an object of God's knowledge and power (as the Mu‘tazila put it, that “non-being” is a “thing”). Also it presents a new parallel between al-Kindi and John Philoponus. The third section gives an interpretation of al-Kindi as a compatibilist, in other words as holding that humans may be free even though their actions are necessitated. In all three cases, it is argued, al-Kindi is close to the Mu‘tazilite point of view, though he departs from them in the arguments he gives for that point of view.



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