Creation and causation

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Medieval thinkers regarded it as a foundational tenet of faith that the world had come to be through divine agency. The three monotheist Scriptures testify to this in clear terms, and each of the attendant theologies also came to regard it as important that God be recognized as creator. But how is God’s creative act to be understood? Is it entirely sui generis, or does it correspond to some recognized category of change, either straightforwardly or by analogy? Are the facts of creation and its salient characteristics susceptible to rational analysis and demonstration, or do they fall outside those phenomena that it is the business of philosophy to investigate? And what might the connection, or lack thereof, tell us about either creation or causation? After lengthy deliberations, and not without dissent, Christian orthodoxy settled on the world’s having been created ex nihilo in a limited past. At the same time, medieval philosophers also inherited the dominant philosophical view that the sensible world has always existed, a sempiternal beneficiary of an eternal agency. The compatibility of these two positions was considered problematic early on, and gave rise to an extensive debate over the eternity of the world. Because eternity was closely linked with self-sufficiency in the philosophical tradition, the idea that there might be other eternal principles besides God prompted questions about the necessity and contingency of the current world order and the different ways in which causal dependency might be construed. The majority of the developments occurred under falsafa (Arabic Aristotelianism), which will accordingly be given precedence in what follows.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationThe Cambridge History of Medieval Philosophy
PublisherCambridge University Press
Number of pages15
ISBN (Electronic)9781107446953
ISBN (Print)9781107675100
StatePublished - Jan 1 2014

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Arts and Humanities


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