Document Type

Thesis

Degree

Master of Arts

Major

Philosophy

Date of Defense

4-22-2011

Graduate Advisor

Jon McGinnis

Committee

Berit Brogaard

Stephanie Ross

Abstract

While a great deal of work has been produced on the free will debate amongst medieval Latin philosophers, very little has been generated in regards to the medieval Arabic world. As a prominent medieval Aristotelian, Avicenna’s Neoplatonically inspired philosophy greatly influenced his contemporaries. Accordingly, Avicenna’s contribution to the dialogue concerning free will deserves special attention. The ultimate purpose of this investigation is to enter into the academic discourse in hopes of advancing a broader understanding of Avicenna’s view of free will. Those few scholars who have presented Avicenna’s position on free will in the past have done so in one of two manners. The first group analyzed Avicenna’s metaphysical theory concerning the emanation of the world by focusing on the relationship between final and efficient causes and the distinction between volition (irāda) and intention (qasd). The second deduced Avicenna’s view by evaluating his theory of emanation in relation to moral evil and the divine law (Shari‘a). This study examines these two interpretations of Avicenna’s position on free will based upon a text not considered in these earlier works, the section of Avicenna’s Ta‛aliqat titled “Irāda”, i.e., “Explaining Will” or “Explaining Volition”. This investigation operates with the understanding that a deliberating agent possesses free will when he or she wills sensitive to his or her own judgments concerning what is best in the circumstances, whether or not the individual acts upon such a judgment. Considering his theory of emanation, theological framework, and arguments in the Ta‛aliqat, this inquiry concludes that Avicenna deems that a human agent possesses free will when he or she accepts the guidance of divine illumination, which directs the individual in gaining pure knowledge of the ultimate good, God.

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