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Knowledge as a Mental State in Muʿtazilite Kalām

In: Oriens
Author:
Dr Fedor Benevich Lecturer in Philosophy, School of Philosophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, University of Edinburgh United Kingdom

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Abstract

It is commonly accepted that the definition of knowledge is not among the main epistemological concerns of the period between Plato and Edmund Gettier. Kalām is an exception to the rule. Kalām scholars provide a detailed philosophical analysis of the difference between knowledge and mere true belief. In this article, I am focusing on the analysis of knowledge in one tradition of kalām, Bahšamite Muʿtazilism. I will argue that knowledge is a factive mental state for the Bahšamites. I will also show that the Bahšamite definition of knowledge is a combination of internalism and externalism with respect to justification.

Abstract

It is commonly accepted that the definition of knowledge is not among the main epistemological concerns of the period between Plato and Edmund Gettier. Kalām is an exception to the rule. Kalām scholars provide a detailed philosophical analysis of the difference between knowledge and mere true belief. In this article, I am focusing on the analysis of knowledge in one tradition of kalām, Bahšamite Muʿtazilism. I will argue that knowledge is a factive mental state for the Bahšamites. I will also show that the Bahšamite definition of knowledge is a combination of internalism and externalism with respect to justification.

1 Introduction

When a contemporary epistemologist hears the word “knowledge,” she immediately thinks of the cluster of philosophical problems related to the standard definition of knowledge as justified true belief (JTB). Since Edmund Gettier’s (d. 2021) “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?,” the core question of epistemology is how to distinguish between knowledge and those beliefs that happen to be true by sheer luck.1 Following the line of thought that can already be found in Plato’s Meno and Theaetetus, if I simply assert “There is no life outside the Earth,” nobody will call it knowledge even if I happen to be right, unless there are good grounds to assert that there is no life outside the Earth.

According to some scholars, it is widely accepted that the definition of knowledge is not among the main epistemological concerns of the period between Plato and Gettier.2 Nevertheless, there are a few notable exceptions to the rule. For instance, an Islamic philosopher Abū Naṣr al-Fārābī (d. 950) presents a list of necessary and sufficient conditions (albeit not a definition) that distinguish knowledge from unjustified true belief in his Conditions of Certainty (Šarāʾiṭ al-yaqīn). Al-Fārābī’s understanding of knowledge combines two theories of epistemic justification: Aristotelian internalist foundationalism and externalist reliabilism.3

In addition to al-Fārābī’s contribution, an extremely rich debate on the definition of knowledge in medieval Islamic thought can be found in the philosophical tradition of kalām. As Josef van Ess, Franz Rosenthal and Mohd Radhi Ibrahim have already highlighted, kalām scholars (Ar. mutakallimūn) provide a detailed philosophical analysis of the notion of knowledge.4 The reason why the philosophy of kalām requires a definition of knowledge has something to do with its theological background. Kalām scholars agree that having knowledge about the existence of God is among the religious duties of Muslims (or at least of Muslim scholars). In other words, it is not enough if we just believe5 in God. We must know that there is God.6 For instance, suppose I believe that there is God by merely trusting the statement of another person. Children do it when they acquire their religious beliefs from their parents. The technical notion for that kind of behavior in kalām is taqlīd (often translated as ‘imitation’ or ‘conformism’).7 If I believe in God just because I chose to agree with someone who told me that God exists, I do not know that God exists yet, even if my belief is a true belief. Hence, I do not fulfill my religious duty as a Muslim (again, at least if I am a scholar). Hence, kalām scholars need to explain the difference between true knowledge and true belief.

In this article, I am going to focus on the analysis of knowledge in one tradition of kalām, Muʿtazilism. Note that there is no such thing as a ‘Muʿtazilite definition of knowledge.’8 The debate on the definition of knowledge is largely a debate between the Muʿtazilites and the Ašʿarites, another major school of kalām. However, it is also a debate between different Muʿtazilite authors. In what follows, I will focus on the analysis of knowledge in what has become known as the Bahšamite school of Muʿtazilism, the followers of Abū Hāšim al-Ǧubbāʾī (d. 933). My main source will be ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār al-Hamaḏānī (d. 1025), an author of kalām whose multivolume work The Sufficient (al-Muġnī)9 can be considered the most comprehensive and detailed work of Muʿtazilite doctrine preserved. In order to clarify the Bahšamite definition of knowledge, I will need to address some further Muʿtazilite authors, such as: Abū Hāšim al-Ǧubbāʾī, the eponym of the school; Abū l-Qāsim al-Balḫī (d. 931), the head of the rival Baghdad school of Muʿtazilites; Mānkdīm Šašdīw (d. 1034), Ibn Mattawayh (11th century) and Abū Rašīd al-Nīsābūrī (11th century) as helpful sources for the philosophical doctrines of ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār’s school; Abū Saʿd al-Ǧišūmī (d. 1101), whose ʿUyūn al-masāʾil provides useful doxographical material on different Muʿtazilite authors; Ibn al-Malāḥimī (d. 1131), an important source for the doctrines of Abū l-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī (d. 1044), who, in turn, marks a new direction in Muʿtazilism; and two Ašʿarite sources: ʿAbd al-Malik al-Ǧuwaynī (d. 1085) and his student Salmān b. Nāṣir al-Anṣārī (d. 1118).

The main thesis of my article is that knowledge, for the Bahšamites, is a factive mental state. According to the Bahšamites, if I know p, I am in a certain mental state that involves that p is a matter of fact. I could not be in a mental state of knowledge without p’s being true. In the first section, I will present the Bahšamite definition of knowledge and argue against some earlier interpretations. Those interpretations claim that certainty in the Bahšamite definition of knowledge indicates a merely subjective point of view. In my understanding, certainty indicates a non-transparent mental state. As a mental state, knowledge is immediately accessible to us; but it is non-transparent, that is, we can be wrong about whether we are in a mental state of knowledge or not. In the second section, I will problematize the relationship between knowledge and belief in the Bahšamite definition of knowledge. The Bahšamite understanding of knowledge as a factive mental state allows for an analysis of knowledge as a combination of one and the same belief with further conditions, unlike the contemporary ‘knowledge first’ analysis of knowledge. According to the Bahšamites, true belief and knowledge might have the same mental content (no matter whether internal or external to our minds) but they differ both in terms of the state of the environment and the mental state of the believer/knower. Finally, in the third section, I will suggest that the Bahšamite definition of knowledge is a combination of internalism (mentalism) and externalism with respect to justification.

2 Knowledge and Certainty

Most of our sources provide a set of very similar definitions of knowledge on behalf of Abū Hāšim, the leading figure of the Bahšamite Muʿtazilites, sometimes together with his father Abū ʿAlī al-Ǧubbāʾī (d. 915). In ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār’s and al-Anṣārī’s wording, knowledge is “a belief that p in accordance with what it is [and] with certainty”10 (iʿtiqād11 al-šayʾ ʿalā mā huwa bihī maʿa sukūn al-nafs).12 According to Ibn al-Malāḥimī’s report of Abū Hāšim, knowledge is “a belief that entails the certainty that the object of belief is in accordance with the belief itself (al-iʿtiqād al-muqtaḍī li-sukūn al-nafs ilā annā muʿtaqadahū ʿalā mā ʿtaqadahū ʿalayhī).”13 In the report of al-Ǧuwaynī, knowledge is “a belief that p in accordance with what it is [and] with certainty about the believed” (iʿtiqād al-šayʾ ʿalā mā huwa bihī maʿa sukūn al-nafs ilā muʿtaqadihī).”14 All these definitions are variations of the same. Knowledge is a combination of three conditions:

  • (1) S believes that p

  • (2) it is the case that p

  • (3) S is certain that p

Al-Ǧuwaynī and al-Anṣārī ascribe their versions of the Bahšamite definitions of knowledge to the whole of Muʿtazilites (as an intermediary stage in the development of Muʿtazilite thought), probably because al-Ǧuwaynī and al-Anṣārī are Ašʿarites themselves and need not make fine distinctions between different Muʿtazilite doctrines. Al-Ǧuwaynī and al-Anṣārī are right to think that some variations between different versions of the Muʿtazilite definitions of knowledge are insignificant. For instance, ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār suggests dropping the notion of belief from the definition of knowledge. For ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, knowledge is “that which entails the certainty of the knower about that which [his knowledge] encompasses (al-maʿnā llaḏī yaqtaḍī sukūn nafs al-ʿālim ilā mā tanāwalahū).”15 ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār does not suggest dropping the notion of belief from the definition of knowledge because he disagrees with Abū Hāšim on whether knowledge is belief. As we will see in section two, ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār accepts that belief is a constitutive part of knowledge. However, ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār is a proponent of a theory of definitions according to which one needs to mention in the definition of X only that which distinguishes X from all other things (min ḥaqq al-ḥadd an yufīda mā yubayyanu bihī l-maḥdūd). In other words, we must mention only the specific properties of X in the definition of X. As ignorance and conformist beliefs (taqlīd) are kinds of belief as well, ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār concludes that there is no need to mention ‘belief’ in the definition of knowledge.16 Although ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār’s qualification is significant with respect to our understanding of his theory of definition, it does not change anything about his understanding of the nature of knowledge. Hence, al-Ǧišūmī is not much mistaken when he ascribes a definition of knowledge to ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār that brings the notion of belief back: knowledge is “that which entails certainty for someone with a belief about that which [that belief] encompasses (al-maʿnā llaḏī yaqtaḍī sukūn al-nafs al-muʿtaqid ilā mā tanāwalahū).”17 As Mānkdīm reports, ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār sometimes accepts the traditional Bahšamite definition of knowledge without any modification.18

Nevertheless, al-Ǧuwaynī and al-Anṣārī should not lump all Muʿtazilites together. There are variations between different Muʿtazilite definitions of knowledge that stand for a potential substantial disagreement between different Muʿtazilite authors. One of them is an omission of the third condition from the definition of knowledge, certainty (sukūn al-nafs).

As al-Ǧišūmī reports, Abū l-Qāsim al-Balḫī, the leader of the Muʿtazilites in Baghdad, does not include certainty into his definition of knowledge. According to al-Balḫī, knowledge is “the establishment of p as it is (iṯbāt al-šayʾ ʿalā mā huwa bihī).”19 That means that for Abū l-Qāsim, according to the Bahšamite sources, knowledge must be just true belief. Hence, Abū l-Qāsim (in the interpretation of his rivals) has no means to distinguish between knowledge and a conformist belief (taqlīd) that happens to be true. According to al-Ǧišūmī and al-Nīsābūrī, Abū l-Qāsim bites the bullet and accepts that taqlīd “is knowledge if the object of belief is in accordance with the belief.”20 In other words, if our belief is true, it is knowledge, irrespective of the sources of that belief. More research is needed on the Baghdad school of Muʿtazilites. Preliminarily, I can only mention that Abū l-Qāsim indeed says in his ʿUyūn al-maṣāʾil that knowledge is a belief that establishes the reality (ḥaqīqa) as it is, without mentioning any other conditions.21 Al-Ǧuwaynī also knows about that definition of knowledge and reports it as an early stage of Muʿtazilite thought, before Muʿtazilites added the third condition, certainty.22 Whether it really means that Abū l-Qāsim made no distinction between knowledge and mere true belief remains open for further discussion.

From the Bahšamite perspective, Abū l-Qāsim’s view is wrong. The main aim of the definition of knowledge is precisely to distinguish between knowledge and other types of belief, such as taqlīd. A belief based on taqlīd might be true. Therefore, we cannot define knowledge as true belief.23 All Bahšamites uniformly state that sukūn al-nafs is an important part of the definition of knowledge. Literally, sukūn al-nafs means ‘peace of mind.’ Other notions with the same meaning include ‘tranquillity of the heart’ (ṭumaʾnīnat al-qalb) and ‘delight of the soul’ (ṯalǧ al-ṣadr).24 The usage of those metaphors historically goes back to an early scholar of kalām, Ibrāhīm al-Naẓẓām (d. 835–45). He seems to have been the first in the Muʿtazilite tradition to define knowledge as peace of mind/heart (sukūn al-qalb).25

Muʿtazilite authors understand the knower’s peace of mind as a state of certainty. For instance, ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār says: “When the mind is in peace (sakanat al-nafs) about the object of perception amid the lifting of doubts and misleading factors (wuǧūh al-lubs), then it has certainty (al-ṯiqa).”26 Likewise, Ibn Mattawayh says:

Sukūn al-nafs reduces to the distinction which each of us finds in himself between when he believes something and is sure about it (yaqṭaʿu ʿalayhī) and when he believes something and is not sure about it.27

Later, Ibn Mattawayh states that the way in which we can recognize whether we have epistemic peace of mind is through “the absence of doubt” (ʿadam al-tašakkuk). We “do not allow (yuǧawwizu) that the object of belief is different from what [we] believe it to be.”28 Thus, the criteria for sukūn al-nafs are:

(~tašakkuk): S cannot doubt that p

(~taǧwīz): S believes that it is not possible that not-p

Ibn al-Malāḥimī emphasizes the no-doubt condition:

By sukūn al-nafs, we mean the tranquillity (ṭumaʾnīna) of the soul, such that if someone tried to make someone with a belief doubt, by saying to him: “You have no guarantee that you are not wrong,” [the one with that kind of belief] would not be in doubt.29

Al-Nīsābūrī says:

If someone asks: why do you say that [conformism (taqlīd)] does not involve sukūn al-nafs? One replies: For the conformist allows that the smallest doubt would make him doubt.30

Based on these passages, I simply translate sukūn al-nafs as certainty.31 Certainty is that which distinguishes knowledge from true belief. Certainty is that which someone with knowledge has, while others do not have it if they follow the opinions of others, that is, perform taqlīd. Mānkdīm says:

[By sukūn al-nafs], I mean the distinction that each of us finds in himself when one turns to [himself] between the case when he believes that Zayd is at home and observes it and the case when one believes that Zayd is at home based on a report coming from a mortal human being. He finds a feature (maziyya) and a state (ḥāl) in one case that he does not find in the other case. It is that feature that we mean by sukūn al-nafs.32

We might think that Zayd is at home because someone says so. We might even be right about it by sheer luck. But if and only if we find ourselves in a state of certainty, which the Bahšamites call sukūn al-nafs, we can say that we know that Zayd is at home.

At first glance, the Bahšamite emphasis on the condition of certainty and ‘peace of mind’ seems to go into the direction of epistemological subjectivism. This is how Josef van Ess, Johannes Peters and Mohd Rahdi Ibrahim interpret it.33 This is also how early critics of the certainty-definition of knowledge understand it. The most prominent among those critiques is Abū ʿUṯmān al-Ǧāḥiẓ (d. 868). Back in his time, al-Ǧāḥiẓ opposes al-Naẓẓām’s definition of knowledge as ‘peace of mind’ (sukūn al-qalb) or certainty (ṯiqa). Al-Ǧāḥiẓ objects that we cannot identify knowledge as certainty because ignorant people are equally certain about their beliefs, even if those beliefs are false. According to al-Ǧāḥiẓ, al-Naẓẓām is forced to accept that whoever has a false belief must be in doubt about it and must be aware that their belief falls short of certainty. Obviously, that is not true. Hence, we cannot identify knowledge based on the presence of certainty.34

Al-Ǧāḥiẓ’s objection becomes a standard objection against the Bahšamites. ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Ibn Mattawayh and al-Ǧišūmī refer to this objection, explicitly mentioning al-Ǧāḥiẓ as its author.35 However, none of them seems to be impressed by the objection. The usual response is that an ignorant person “supposes himself to [be certain] while in reality (fī l-ḥaqīqa) he is not certain.”36

Ibn al-Malāḥimī raises a similar objection against the Bahšamite definition of knowledge. Ibn al-Malāḥimī argues that some people would mistake their merely reasonable inferences (Ibn al-Malāḥimī calls them inferences based on amārāt) for a real proof (dalāla). Hence, they will claim that they have certainty. For instance, someone could argue in favor of accepting a belief by referring to the number of sources for that belief and their credibility (which does not constitute a real proof for Ibn al-Malāḥimī). Hence, one would be certain about that belief.37 That is one of the reasons why Ibn al-Malāḥimī suggests another (very similar) definition of knowledge: “p’s being evident (ẓuhūr) to a living being in a way that it excludes the possibility that it is not the case that p, in itself (fī nafsihī).”38 When, however, Ibn al-Malāḥimī is asked how the same problem does not apply to his own definition of knowledge, he can only resort to the traditional response. Even if it might seem to someone that their belief is indubitable, “in itself” (fī nafsihī) it is not such if it represents a case of a merely reasonable inference.39 That is the reason why Ibn al-Malāḥimī must add the qualification “in itself” to his definition of knowledge.

All those responses amount to the same idea. It is a mistake to interpret the certainty in the definition of knowledge as an intermittent doxastic attitude. Knowledge is not about whether we believe that we are certain about our beliefs at a given moment. Knowledge is about whether we are certain about our beliefs in reality. Certainty is a natural psychological state that we either have or not. Ibn al-Malāḥimī argues that, in some sense, all our beliefs have a grain of certainty. Otherwise, we would not believe in them. However – he rightfully replies to himself – that ephemeral phenomenological certainty is not the same kind of certainty that the Bahšamite definition of knowledge intends. The phenomenological certainty involves gradation. It can seem to us that we are more or less certain about our beliefs. But the Bahšamites intend a different, special kind of certainty (sukūnan maḫṣūṣan) in their definition of knowledge.40 In that sense, one is either certain or not. So, al-Ǧišūmī reports on behalf of Abū ʿAlī al-Ǧubbāʾī:

Knowledge is that which necessitates certainty about the object of belief; all [items of knowledge] share it equally. If it does not apply to [them], then they are not knowledge.41

In other words, there is no gradation in the Bahšamite notion of certainty. Certainty in the Bahšamite sense does not admit of degrees: it is either present or not.42 Therefore, certainty in the Bahšamite sense cannot be identical to the ephemeral phenomenological certainty, which does admit of degrees. Therefore, whether we are certain or not has nothing to do with whether it seems to us that we are certain. The presence or absence of certainty is something true in itself.

Al-Ǧāḥiẓ knows that his opponents might use this distinction to their advantage:

If they say: The difference between [the ignorant and the knowledgeable] is that the certainty of the one who is right is true in itself (fī ʿaynihī) while the certainty of one who is wrong is wrong in itself.

We say: Does that not fail to drive the one who is certain and wrong away from his certainty to hesitation and to make him concerned?43

Al-Ǧāḥiẓ’s response shows that he does not quite understand the argument. Al-Ǧāḥiẓ thinks that if his opponents want to include the notion of certainty in the definition of knowledge, then the presence or the absence of certainty must be something immediately evident to the person with a belief. Al-Ǧāḥiẓ’s argument is based on the presupposition that we must immediately know whether we have certainty and, hence, whether we know. However, as Ibn Mattawayh and al-Ǧišūmī report to us, for most Bahšamites (especially their later generations), to know p is not identical to knowing that one knows p (pace Abū l-Qāsim al-Balḫī, who appears to be heterodox once again).44 The Bahšamite analysis of knowledge allows that we do not know that we know p and that we do not know that we are certain with respect to our beliefs.

The Bahšamites develop their idea that we can fail to know that we know in response to the “Sophists.” This is how scholars of kalām call the proponents of global scepticism.45 The Sophists deny that there is any difference between knowledge and opinion:

I conceptualize my knowledge in the same way as [I conceptualize] an opinion (ẓann) or an assumption. Hence, everything that I allow with respect to [the object of] an opinion I allow with respect to the object of my knowledge. I have my belief in a similar way as a dreaming person believes in what he observes and sees or as someone who opinionated that a mirage is water.46

The Bahšamite claim that the difference between knowledge and mere belief is that we have certainty about the items of our knowledge. The Sophists do not accept that. They insist that they do not feel any kind of certainty with respect to what is supposed to be their knowledge. They are equally uncertain about their knowledge as they are uncertain about any random assumptions they might have. According to the Bahšamite analysis of knowledge, a dreaming person should not be certain about her belief. But the Sophists refuse to accept that there is any phenomenological difference with respect to certainty between dreaming and waking. Note that the Sophists turn the argument of al-Ǧāḥiẓ around. Al-Ǧāḥiẓ argues that certainty cannot be the right criterion for knowledge because everyone can say that they are certain about their beliefs. Now, the Sophists insist that no one can be certain about their beliefs, with the same conclusion that certainty cannot be the right criterion for knowledge.

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār objects by saying that the Sophists possess knowledge even if they deny that:

We have already explained that certainty (sukūn al-nafs) occurs to the knowledgeable person even if he does not think about his states (aḥwālihī) or he believes about himself something different from what he is. For instance, [knowledge] occurs to the Sceptics (al-mutaǧāhila) even if they believe that their knowledge is sheer opinion and assumption.47

In other words, we may be certain about something without even realizing it. It does not matter whether we believe that we are not certain about what we are supposed to know or, conversely, we believe that we are certain about that which we happen not to know. In fact, if we know p we are in a state of certainty. If we do not know p, we lack the state of certainty. Certainty is a natural psychological state that distinguishes knowledge from belief irrespective of what seems to us to be the case at any given moment.

The objective character of the state of certainty solves the worry that both later Muʿtazilite authors and modern interpreters, such as Mohd Radhi Ibrahim, share with respect to ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār’s definition of knowledge. As we saw above, ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār reduces knowledge to certainty and so identifies it with one of its conditions only. Ibn al-Malāḥimī reports to us that Abū l-Ḥusayn al-Baṣrī protested against it by saying that ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār’s definition of knowledge omits the truth condition.48 However, Abū l-Ḥusayn misses an important point about ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār’s understanding of certainty. Being certain about p by itself entails that p is true. ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār says that explicitly in his Muġnī:

[Knowledge] acquires that feature [i.e. sukūn al-nafs] if and only if it is a belief and the object of belief is in accordance with the belief (ʿalā mā huwa bihī).49

Conversely, ignorance (that is, false belief) excludes certainty.50 In other words, every certain belief is a true belief even if not every true belief is a certain belief. The truth condition is embedded in the condition of certainty. But truth has nothing to do with our doxastic attitudes. Truth is a state of affairs. Our beliefs are either true or false, regardless of what we think about them. Therefore, the state of certainty is a state of affairs as well, regardless of what we think about it.

Why all that psychological language of ‘peace of mind’ and ‘tranquillity of the soul,’ if that is the case? The response is that certainty (and knowledge in general) is not an environmental state of affairs. It is not about the world around us. It is a mental state of affairs. It happens in us. By ‘mental,’ I just mean internal to human beings.51 After all, the Bahšamites are cardio-centrists. They believe that knowledge inheres in our hearts, not in our brains (that is why the notion of ‘heart’ (qalb) keeps appearing in the definition of knowledge).52 However, certainty and knowledge are mental states in a wider sense, in the sense that they are internal to human beings. We are aware that there is such a thing as knowledge because we find it in ourselves. As ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār puts it:

What proves [the existence] of knowledge is that all of us find ourselves to have beliefs and to be certain about what we believe, such as in the case of sense perception etc. We distinguish between being in that state and being in the state of inquiry, having an opinion, or being a conformist (muqallid).53

Ibn Mattawayh presents the same thought in a more colorful way:

We have an intuition (wuǧdān) about that attribute (ṣifa) as if inside the chest/heart (al-ṣadr). The fact that we establish that feature (al-maziyya) in that part among other parts proves that there is something (maʿnā) in there, like we said in the case of life when we were establishing its existence.54

It is clear that knowledge is an internal mental state for the Bahšamites. They use its mental status to guarantee our immediate acquaintance with it. We find the state of knowledge and certainty right away in ourselves. Hence, we do not need any further proof that there is knowledge. ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār explains in his response to al-Ǧāḥiẓ that “if a perceiver is rational and all reasons and aspects of confusion (al-lubs) are lifted, then he does find himself to believe in that which he perceives and to be certain about it.”55 In other words, certainty is always somewhere in our minds whenever we know something. In an ideal scenario, if all epistemic obstacles are absent, we can always find the state of certainty in ourselves when we know something. If we have a false belief or a true belief based on taqlīd, we cannot find that kind of certainty in ourselves. The difference between knowledge and lack of knowledge is not factual. It is modal. The difference is not whether we actually find ourselves certain or not certain at any given moment. It is about our capacity to find certainty in ourselves. If we know p, this way or another, we can find certainty in ourselves. If we do not know p, we will never be able to find true certainty in ourselves.

To conclude this section, we should note that the Bahšamites have a remarkable position regarding mental states. Unlike many other philosophers, the Bahšamites do not claim that we have a special kind of first-person authority over our mental states that makes our mental states fully transparent to us. The Bahšamites state that we can easily be wrong about our own mental states. That is what happens in the case of knowledge. Both knowledge and certainty are non-transparent mental states. Non-transparent mental states have two main characteristics: 1) they are among the psychological states of epistemic subjects; and 2) those subjects can be wrong about whether they are in those states or not. For instance, I can convince myself that I admire someone else’s achievement. So, I truly believe that I do admire that person, but, in fact, deep down, I am jealous. Still, the feeling of jealousy is my own psychological state, even if I fail to recognize it. I have direct access to it. I can find out that I am jealous after careful consideration; and it will be a process different from finding out whether someone else is jealous. The same applies to knowledge and certainty, according to the Bahšamites in my interpretation.

3 Knowledge and Belief

The idea that knowledge is a non-transparent mental state has become particularly prominent in contemporary epistemology. According to some modern epistemologists, all previous attempts to define knowledge fail because they try to define knowledge as a correlation between the internal mental content and the environmental state of affairs. According to the traditional accounts of knowledge, we can have one and the same mental content (a belief) both in the case when we know and when we do not know. Some recent philosophers disagree. For them, (1) knowledge is not analyzable into a belief plus further conditions; (2) the mental content of knowledge is external to our minds; (3) knowledge is a factive mental state.56

Although the central thesis of my article is that the best way to understand the Bahšamite conception of knowledge is as a factive mental state, it is important to avoid a confusion with the contemporary analysis of knowledge. The Bahšamites may agree with (3) but they agree neither with (1) nor with (2).

The Bahšamite definition of knowledge obviously analyzes knowledge into a belief plus further conditions. Most of our sources list a series of “aspects” (wuǧūh). If those aspects are added to our beliefs, those beliefs become knowledge. As Ibn Mattawayh puts it:

If it is true that a belief (iʿtiqād) may sometimes be knowledge and sometimes fail to be knowledge, then there must be something that makes it knowledge. According to us, it becomes knowledge if and only if it occurs in a certain way (li-wuqūʿihī ʿalā waǧh).57

Ibn Mattawayh, al-Ǧišūmī and al-Nīsābūrī commonly mention six aspects through which a belief becomes knowledge:58

  • (1) when it comes from a knowledgeable agent (that is, God)

  • (2) when it comes from a valid inquiry (naẓar)

  • (3) when it comes from a memory (taḏakkur) of an inquiry

  • (4) when it comes from an inference from one feature (ḥukm) to another

  • (5) when it comes from a memory of knowledge

  • (6) when a belief becomes knowledge while remaining numerically the same belief

As it becomes clear from the reports of Ibn Mattawayh, al-Ǧišūmī and al-Nīsābūrī, there was little agreement among the Bahšamites themselves regarding those six aspects. It seems that only the first three aspects were widely accepted by all Bahšamites without objections. ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār apparently only accepts the first five.59 Whereas a detailed analysis of those six aspects goes beyond the scope of this article, we need to focus on a few points that are relevant for our purposes.

First, the very presence of those aspects clearly shows that the Bahšamites analyze knowledge into a combination of belief and further conditions. As a matter of fact, this kind of analysis becomes an alternative to the certainty-definition of knowledge for Abū Hāšim himself. According to ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār and al-Ǧišūmī, Abū Hāšim defines knowledge as “belief that p in accordance with what it is (ʿalā mā huwa) if it occurs in a certain way (ʿalā waǧh).”60 This definition might be the source for an Ašʿarite account of a third, still further stage in the development of the Muʿtazilite definition of knowledge. It defines knowledge as “belief that p in accordance with what it is if it comes from a proof (dalīl) or is given (ḍarūra).”61 That definition is tantamount to the combination of true belief with the first two aspects listed above (I will say more in the next section about why the first aspect is identical to ḍarūrī knowledge).

The Bahšamite analysis of knowledge as true belief that occurs in a certain way is compatible with their alternative definition of knowledge as true belief with certainty. Those six ways in which a belief may occur are the reasons why we possess the mental state of certainty. ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār defends a definition that combines both definitions: knowledge is a “belief that p in accordance with what it is (ʿalā mā huwa bihī) in a certain way (ʿalā waǧh) that entails (yaqtaḍī) certainty (sukūn al-nafs).”62 Due to the complications of the Muʿtazilite ontology, ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār also presents a report of a more sophisticated picture. Knowledge itself must possess a state (ḥāl) that causes the knower to be certain, while that state belongs to knowledge because it occurs in a certain way that makes knowledge be knowledge.63 Regardless of those complications, the core idea may be simplified in the following way:

belief (iʿtiqād) + way of its occurrence (waǧh) => knowledge => certainty (sukūn al-nafs)

A belief becomes knowledge due to the addition of any among those six aspects; the fact that a belief is knowledge, in turn, involves the mental state of certainty for whoever possesses knowledge. This two-step process will be very important for us in the third section of this article.

When the Bahšamites speak about the addition of one of the six aspects to a belief, so that it becomes knowledge, they do not mean that we literally take numerically one and the same belief, add, for instance, a proof for it and it results in knowledge. We can clearly see that it is not their intention by looking at the discussion of the sixth aspect. Later Bahšamite authors reject the sixth aspect because it presupposes what they call the remaining (baqāʾ) of a belief.64 Here, we need to recall one of the most famous aspects of the metaphysics of kalām, occasionalism.65 According to occasionalism, properties of things do not persist from one moment to another. They come about completely anew every next moment. The same applies to knowledge and belief, since they are properties of our minds/hearts. If I first believe that p without any reason for that, I do not have any knowledge. Afterwards, I have a reason for believing p and, therefore, I have knowledge. But the belief that p does not remain numerically the same belief in the transition from one moment to another. There is one belief that p in the first moment of ignorance; and there is another belief that p in the next moment of knowledge. According to al-Ǧišūmī and al-Nīsābūrī, only Abū Hāšim himself accepts that p remains numerically one and the same belief in the transition from taqlīd to knowledge. On the contrary, ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār states that the taqlīd-belief that p perishes while a completely new knowledge-belief that p comes about.66

Still, the Bahšamites accept that one and same type of belief may be both knowledge and ignorance, depending on whether any of the six aspects are present. Al-Nīsābūrī uses the notion of similarity. When two beliefs are associated with one and the same content in the most specific way (ʿalā aḫaṣṣ mā yumkin), they are similar (miṯlayn), irrespective of whether they are items of knowledge, taqlīd or ignorance.67 Ibn Mattawayh says in that regard:

If they say: Do you allow that the belief which is knowledge can be not knowledge or you prohibit it, as Abū l-Qāsim did?

We say: Surely, we allow that. When someone wakes up from sleep, he provides [a belief] and he can provide it even if neither inquiry nor proof precede it. If he provides [that kind of belief] it is not knowledge. Likewise, when we provide a belief that Zayd is at home when we see him, it is knowledge. But if [the same kind of belief] occurred to us without that observation, it would not be knowledge. It is true that whatever fails to be knowledge can be knowledge and whatever is knowledge can fail to be knowledge in some respects.68

In this passage, Ibn Mattawayh clearly states that one and the same type of belief can be either knowledge or not knowledge. When someone says to me that Zayd is at home, I believe that Zayd is at home, but I do not know whether Zayd is at home. Afterwards, I go home and see Zayd there. At that moment, I know that Zayd is at home. The belief that I have before and after going home is the same in its content, ‘Zayd is at home,’ even if it is not numerically the same. Al-Nīsābūrī says:

If Zayd is not at home and the same type (miṯl) of belief that was knowledge exists, [even if] it is not the same token of belief (lā hāḏā bi-ʿaynihī), and it is connected with Zayd’s being at home, then it is ignorance.69

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār expresses the same idea on behalf of Abū Hāšim and his father, Abū ʿAlī:

A belief is knowledge or ignorance with respect to that to which it is connected (li-mutaʿallaq). It is also possible to imagine that Zayd is not at home while knowing that he is at home and to believe it. Therefore, the belief that Zayd is at home is an intelligible thing (maʿnā maʿqūl) whether Zayd is at home or not.70

In other words, the mental content ‘Zayd is at home’ remains the same whether it is the mental content of knowledge or ignorance. Whether ‘Zayd is at home’ is ignorance or not depends on environmental factors, that is, on whether Zayd is in fact at home or not.

At this point, we should be extremely careful. It might seem, at first glance, that whether the belief that p is knowledge or not also depends on environmental factors. Al-Anṣārī presents this interpretation of the Bahšamite position in his critique of their definition of knowledge. The Ašʿarites generally oppose the Bahšamite position that “knowledge is of the kind (ǧins) of belief.”71 One of the arguments that al-Anṣārī provides is the following:

When someone believes that Zayd is at home while he is not there, [his] belief is ignorance. If, however, Zayd comes home but that person is not aware of that and continues to have the former kind of belief, then that belief should become knowledge [according to the Muʿtazilites]; which is false.72

Al-Anṣārī thinks that, according to the Bahšamites, an environmental change is sufficient for the transformation of ignorance into knowledge. We have one and the same mental content ‘Zayd is at home.’ ‘Zayd is at home’ is knowledge when Zayd is at home and is ignorance when he is not at home. Al-Anṣārī’s interpretation leads the Bahšamites to an absurd conclusion that our belief that Zayd is at home becomes knowledge even if it was ignorance before and we still have no way to secure the correctness of our belief. Obviously, I do not start knowing that Zayd is at home just because Zayd came home, while I am not even aware of that fact.

However, al-Anṣārī’s interpretation is not fair to the Bahšamite doctrine. The Bahšamites never say that a belief can become knowledge through an environmental change alone. As we remember, knowledge is a mental state; hence, at least something must happen to our minds as well. For instance, ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār says:

When a belief is connected (taʿallaqa) to something as it is in a way that entails certainty, it is knowledge. When it is connected to something not as it is, it is ignorance. When it is connected to something as it is, but it does not involve certainty, it is neither knowledge nor ignorance.73

In other words, al-Anṣārī is right that an environmental change makes a difference between knowledge and ignorance. This is the case because the second condition for knowledge, as we remember, is that a belief is true, while ignorance is defined as untrue belief.74 However, the environmental change alone does not yet turn a belief into knowledge.75 Being true is a necessary but not sufficient condition for knowledge. In addition to being true, the knowledge-type of belief must also involve certainty. There must be both environmental and mental changes if a belief is to become knowledge. This is why, in al-Anṣārī’s thought experiment, the belief does not automatically turn into knowledge when Zayd comes home.

To conclude this section, we should note that the status of mental content plays no role for the Bahšamite definition of knowledge. The core question of the recent discussions of knowledge as a mental state, that is, whether mental content is internal or external to the mind, remains a desideratum for further research on Bahšamite epistemology. There are signs that at least some Bahšamites would accept the external mental content, as they argue on its basis for the mind-independent reality of all objects of knowledge.76 The notion of connection (taʿalluq) to the object of knowledge, which we found in the passage above, also indicates an externalist theory of mental contents, possibly not only for knowledge but for any true belief. However, other Bahšamites either explicitly say that some objects of knowledge reside in the mind, or even allow for knowledge to occur without any mental content at all (ʿilm lā maʿlūm lahū).77

Whether mental content is internal or external to our minds, the Bahšamites accept that it remains the same throughout all epistemic states (other than opinion (ẓann) and doubt (šakk), which do not involve a belief at all).78 So, how can we interpret the Bahšamite notion of knowledge as a factive mental state? The answer is that the Bahšamites distinguish between mental content and mental state. If I know that Zayd is at home I may have the same mental content (whether external or internal) as when I believe that Zayd is at home because someone told me so. But I am in different mental states, and only in the first case in a mental state that involves certainty. Knowledge is a combination of internal and external factors for the Bahšamites. That is why we should interpret their notion of knowledge as a factive mental state, even if the Bahšamites would disagree with the contemporary epistemologists on the analyzability of knowledge in terms of belief plus further conditions and would argue that mental content remains the same throughout different mental states.

4 Knowledge and Justification

The Bahšamite definition of knowledge as ‘true belief with certainty’ does not mention justification. However, the idea of justification is not totally alien to Bahšamite epistemology. To understand how justification works in Bahšamite epistemology, we need to turn to the traditional kalām taxonomy of ḍarūrī and muktasab knowledge.

The division of knowledge into ḍarūrī and muktasab is the core element of kalām epistemology, both Muʿtazilite and Ašʿarite. As has been already noted by Mohd Radhi Ibrahim, there has been some confusion regarding the correct understanding of those two notions.79 However, if we look at the Bahšamite sources themselves and forget the misleading early modern notions of a priori and a posteriori for a moment, the idea seems to be quite simple. The notion of ḍarūrī by itself may have many meanings, such as ‘necessary’ or ‘immediate,’ as Johannes Peters or Mohd Radhi Ibrahim put it.80 However, the Bahšamites also use another notion, iḍṭirār, when they talk about ḍarūrī knowledge.81 Iḍṭirār is more straightforward. It means ‘enforcement’ or ‘compulsion.’ Mānkdīm explicitly explains it as ilǧāʾ (compulsion).82 In other words, ḍarūrī knowledge is forced upon us. It has nothing to do with the necessity, innateness, immediacy or apriority of our knowledge. Our knowledge is ḍarūrī if and only if it is not up to us (lā min qibalinā).83 Conversely, the muktasab type of knowledge is up to us. Henceforth, I will translate ḍarūrī knowledge as ‘given’ knowledge, by analogy to the usage of ‘given’ and ‘spontaneous’ knowledge in contemporary epistemology.84 For the muktasab type of knowledge, I retain the traditional translation of ‘acquired’ knowledge, but we need to keep in mind that it must involve an active involvement of the knower in the process of the acquisition of knowledge.

There are many different types of given knowledge in Muʿtazilite kalām. They also vary from one author to another. Without claiming to provide an exhaustive and non-contested list of all given objects of knowledge, let me just list the most common ones:85

  • (1) direct sense perception (idrāk a.k.a. al-ʿilm bi-l-mušāhadāt)

  • (2) knowledge of oneself

  • (3) knowledge of one’s own mental states (aḥwāl) (such as pain, life etc.)

  • (4) knowledge of primary principles (ʿulūm al-bidāʾa) (such as principle of non-contradiction)

  • (5) testimonial knowledge (aḫbār) (such as that Mecca exists)86

  • (6) understanding the referents of speech (qaṣd al-muḫāṭib)

  • (7) matter-of-fact knowledge (such as that fire always burns)

  • (8) skills acquired through repetition (mumārasa)

  • (9) knowledge of natural good and evil (such as that injustice is evil)87

All those items of knowledge have one thing in common. They are undeniable. If I know p and p is an item of given knowledge, I cannot deny that p. According to Ibn Mattawayh, that is the definition of given knowledge: “if one knows p, one cannot deny that p even if p is considered in isolation (infarada).”88 Ibn Mattawayh requires the qualification “even if p is considered in isolation” to distinguish between given and acquired knowledge. If p is an item of acquired knowledge, I can deny it when I consider it in isolation from the proof that I provide for p.89

There is another crucial common element for all kinds of given knowledge. According to the Bahšamites, “all given knowledge comes from God.”90 This is not just a part of traditional kalām occasionalism. The Bahšamites argue that a naturalistic explanation of the origination of knowledge fails. The argument focuses on the first type of given knowledge, sense perception (idrāk). According to the Bahšamites, sense perception does not generate knowledge by itself. Sense perception is only a way (ṭarīqa) to provide knowledge of the perceived, but it is not the cause for that knowledge. ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār denies that sense perception either necessitates (yūǧibu) the knowledge of the perceived or even makes that knowledge possible (yuṣaḥḥiḥu). Rather sense perception is a disposition (expressed through the root of q-w-y) for that knowledge.91

To use the Muʿtazilite notion of secondary causation, ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār argues that sense perception does not generate (yuwallidu) knowledge by itself.92 For instance, a child has the same sense perception as a grown-up but lacks knowledge.93 Ibn Mattawayh uses the same reference to children but adds the cases of perceptual illusions.94 All these examples demonstrate that our knowledge of the perceived does not come from perception. It comes from God.

Looking back at the six aspects (wuǧūh) through which a belief becomes knowledge (see section Knowledge and Belief), we can conclude that all types of given knowledge fall under the first aspect, according to which a belief becomes knowledge because it comes from a knowledgeable agent, that is, God. Ibn Mattawayh explicitly connects the first aspect with given knowledge.95 Conversely, all other aspects stand for the transformation of belief into acquired knowledge. ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār clarifies it by noting that all those aspects ultimately amount to the presence of an inquiry (naẓar) anyway.96 Acquired knowledge is knowledge that comes from an inquiry. Unlike sense perception, inquiry generates (yuwallidu) knowledge.97 In application to the two-step scheme from the second section, the whole picture looks as follows:

belief + origin in God => ḍarūrī knowledge => certainty

belief + naẓar => muktasab knowledge => certainty

Now, how does this whole picture relate to justification? There is no explicit notion of justification in Bahšamite epistemology. But there are several aspects of Bahšamite epistemology that look a lot like their solutions to the problem of justification. The first among them is the Bahšamite response to the question how we can know whether we know. As we saw in the first section of this article, the Bahšamites deny that we must know that we know whenever we know. But we still can know that we know. In other words, when I know p I should be able to justify my belief in p, by proving that my belief in p is knowledge. For instance, when I know that Zayd is at home, I should be able to justify why I believe that Zayd is at home, by proving that I know that Zayd is at home and I do not just guess correctly.

At first glance, the Bahšamite analysis of how we can know whether we know strikes us as a paradigmatic case of a mentalist theory of justification. By mentalism, I mean an internalist theory of justification, according to which our beliefs must be justified based on our mental states. Thus, ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār argues that we can know whether we know p, by finding out whether we possess the mental state of certainty that p: “One knows that knowledge is knowledge based on whether it occurs in a way that entails certainty (sukūn al-nafs).”98

This is part of ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār’s program of dealing with global sceptics. Many scholars of kalām insist that there is no way to argue against global sceptics because they deny given knowledge.99 ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār disagrees. According to ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, our knowledge that we know is an acquired item of knowledge. ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār says: “It is possible for someone with sense perception to know the objects of sense perception in a forced way (bi-ḍṭirār) while not knowing oneself to be knowledgeable in a given way.” Hence, we can argue against sceptics by showing them that their beliefs are knowledge.100 We do that by indicating that they possess the mental state of certainty with respect to those beliefs.

The same method of justification applies if someone denies acquired knowledge. As I indicated above, a valid inquiry must generate (tawallada) knowledge, according to the Bahšamites. Hence, it must generate the mental state of certainty as well. Consequently:

We have already explained the way in which one knows whether his knowledge is knowledge and whether his inquiry is valid. We said: If one knows his own state as being certain about that which he knows, and one has previously learned that [certainty] follows upon knowledge, then one knows that he knows and that the inquiry which generated it (walladahū) is valid.101

In other words, if I see smoke, I conclude that there is fire.102 Although I arrive at my belief that there is fire based on the premise that there is no smoke without fire, I do not justify that there is fire by referring to the premise that there is no smoke without fire. That would not be enough. The Bahšamites are not foundationalists regarding justification.103 A reference to a self-evident premise does not justify our beliefs yet. Rather, I need to provide my line of reasoning and check in myself whether it makes me certain about the conclusion. As ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār says: “One knows the validity of the inquiry after there occurs a belief that made him certain, by reflecting about his own state and examining it.”104

To sum up, we justify all our beliefs through a reference to our mental states – in particular, to the mental state of certainty. That sounds like an internalist mentalist theory of justification. But this is not the whole story. As we remember from the first section, certainty is not how we feel, it is how we are. Hence, we can easily be wrong about whether we are certain or not. So, how can we further justify our belief that we truly are in the state of certainty? Al-Ǧāḥiẓ has already raised this question:

What guarantees to the one who is right that his certainty is not wrong in itself (fī ʿaynihī) either, if his certainty cannot be distinguished from105 the certainty of the one who is wrong?106

The dialectical opponent of al-Ǧāḥiẓ replies that the one who is right can provide given knowledge as his evidence (istašhada l-ḍarūriyyāt).107 That reply marks a turn back to foundationalism. Our knowledge is justified through the state of certainty. Certainty, in its turn, is justified through undeniable premisses. That is not the reply, however, that the Bahšamites give to al-Ǧāḥiẓ themselves. ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār just replies that whoever has knowledge finds herself to be in the state of certainty, while whoever lacks knowledge finds herself without certainty “in the course of an inquiry and an examination (ʿinda l-faḥṣ wa-fī l-mutaʿaqqab).”108

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār’s reply means that the Bahšamites refuse to provide any justification for the belief that we are in the state of certainty. Certainty is a mental state. Like all other mental states, certainty falls under the third type of given knowledge from the list above. ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār confirms: “The knowledge that [you] are certain is given (ḍarūrī).”109 Or elsewhere: “We just assert given knowledge that one has a belief and that one is certain.”110 We need justification only for acquired knowledge. But we do not need any justification for given knowledge. It is undeniable by itself. This is a crucial point of difference. The knowledge that we know is acquired knowledge. We justify that we know based on the mental state of certainty. But the mental state of certainty itself is given knowledge. We do not justify it at all.

So, what do we do with those people who falsely claim certainty without really having it or with those people who falsely deny that they have certainty, like Sophists, that is, global sceptics? As we just saw, ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār suggests an inquiry or an examination to test whether those people really have certainty. However, that kind of inquiry does not amount to justification. The Bahšamites use another technical notion for it, tanbīh (reminder). The notion of tanbīh should be familiar to anyone who studies Avicennian epistemology and philosophy of mind. Avicenna uses it for the cases when someone denies self-evident and undeniable propositions. That person needs to be reminded of the truth of those propositions through thought experiments or examples.111

The Bahšamites use tanbīh for the same purposes. ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār reports on behalf of Abū Hāšim:

If someone questions an item of given [knowledge], he knows that he is wrong. One can neither prove it to him nor debate him by way of an inference (al-adilla). However, one can remind him (yunabbihahū) [of it], by mentioning things that he knows even if he denies that, to force him into denying those examples and to establish a contradiction in his position.112

Or later:

If a Sophist says: “I do not believe in what I perceive. I am not certain about [those sensible objects] in which I believe as to whether they exist, whether white is different from black, sweet from sour, long from short,” then he has just denied that which he knows in a forced way (bi-ḍṭirār). Then, we need to remind (nunabbiha) [him] of the falsehood of what he says in a way that we mentioned.113

In other words, there is no way to prove to the global sceptics that they have certainty about some things. But we can remind them of it. We can do it, by providing examples to them of how they happen to be certain about something even if they deny it. For instance, Ibn al-Malāḥimī says:

We say that they are in self-contradiction (kāḏibūna ʿalā anfusihim) by way of a reminder (tanbīh), not by way of a proof. So, ask them: “Do you claim that you do not know what you observe?” If they say “Yes,” say to them: “Why then do you keep away from the harmful and fetch the beneficial for yourself?”114

Not unlike David Hume, Ibn al-Malāḥimī argues that even if we claim to be sceptical, in our everyday life it is hard to really be such.115 I can claim as much as I want that I do not believe that if one perceives a lion there really is a lion. But when I see one, I will certainly run away.

The Bahšamites use those reminders to support their view that certainty is an undeniable state of mind. When we are truly certain we cannot deny that we are certain. But the fact that certainty is undeniable does not mean that we are justified to believe that we have it. As it has been rightfully established in the scholarship on David Hume, the fact that we inevitably accept p does not mean that p is justified.116 Rather, the Bahšamites are just not interested in the problem of justification of certainty. Our knowledge that p is justified through a reference to the mental state of certainty that p, which we inevitably either have or do not have; and that is as far as it gets.

This solution is highly unsatisfactory for someone who defines knowledge as justified true belief. Basically, the Bahšamites fail to provide any ultimate justification for why our beliefs are knowledge. However, at this point, we need to recall that the Bahšamites never define knowledge as justified true belief. In the standard definition of knowledge as justified true belief, justification is the necessary and sufficient condition through which true belief becomes knowledge. This does not apply to the Bahšamite conception of knowledge. As we saw above, a true belief becomes knowledge through the way in which it occurs: either because it is created by God or because it is generated through an inquiry. Everything that we have observed so far in terms of justification of knowledge only applies to how we, the epistemic agents, can recognize whether we have knowledge. It does not apply to how our beliefs become knowledge. Let us recall the diagram from above:

belief + origin in God => ḍarūrī knowledge => certainty

belief + inquiry => muktasab knowledge => certainty

Both types of knowledge involve a two-step process. First, the combination of belief with a certain origin (God/inquiry) generates knowledge. Second, knowledge entails the mental state of certainty. Justification – both for given and acquired knowledge – is a backwards motion from certainty to knowledge. When I observe Zayd at home, God gives me knowledge that Zayd is at home. From my own perspective, I can start wondering whether my belief that Zayd is at home is knowledge. I justify that my belief is knowledge by finding a mental state of certainty that Zayd is at home in myself. But such a justification is an operation limited to my own perspective alone. Knowledge is already knowledge even before I justify it.

Still, we may insist that the Bahšamites provide us with a theory of justification for our knowledge even if they do not define knowledge as justified true belief. It seems that the Bahšamites tackled this issue as well. As the combination of a belief with its occurrence either from God or from an inquiry generates knowledge, we could suggest something like a backward motion of justification for the first step – from knowledge to its origin – in the two-step scheme above as well. Let us focus on given knowledge, since acquired knowledge must be based on given knowledge anyway. In the case of given knowledge, my knowledge that Zayd is at home is justified because it originates from God. That step in the line of justification would be an externalist one. According to the externalist theories of justification, knowledge is justified through the process of its origination. Even if that process is not accessible to us (I do not know which process led to the origination of my belief that Zayd is at home), objectively speaking, that process turns my belief into knowledge. In other words, the justification of my knowledge lies beyond the evidence accessible to me, but it still justifies my knowledge.

The externalist interpretation of the first step in the Bahšamite two-step scheme would make the Bahšamite theory of justification an elegant combination of internalism (for the second step) and externalism (for the first step): I am internally justified to believe that Zayd is at home because I find myself to be certain about it; and I am externally justified to believe that Zayd is home because that item of knowledge was given to me by God.

Although there is no direct evidence for this combined interpretation, I am tempted to accept it. One good argument for this interpretation is that the Bahšamites presuppose that given knowledge must originate from an agent which is knowledgeable himself (see the first waǧh from the second section). That condition only makes sense if the Bahšamites wish to secure the correspondence between given beliefs and reality through the involvement of an external agent (namely God). Why else should that agent be knowledgeable?

However, even if we accept externalism about justification for the first step, we need to add one important qualification to it. The externalist justification of knowledge should not be understood in modal terms. It is not correct to say that my knowledge that Zayd is at home is justified because it comes from God and God could not have created any other belief for me if Zayd is at home. Ibn Mattawayh explicitly accepts that God has a capacity to create false beliefs in us.117 Mānkdīm says that God provides most of our given knowledge spontaneously (mubtadaʾan), such as our knowledge of primary principles or knowledge about the identity of things across time.118 There is absolutely nothing that would oblige God to provide us with true knowledge. When I see my friend Zayd after ten years of not seeing him, and Zayd’s hair in the meantime turned grey, nothing would make God generate the knowledge in myself that I am seeing the same person.

Even when sense perception (idrāk) provides a disposition for given perceptible knowledge, God does not seem to be forced to create true beliefs.119 For instance, God can create perceptible knowledge for someone who lacks perception (for instance, a vision of Zayd for a blind person).120 So, why not a false item of perceptible knowledge for someone who has perception? Even when ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār says that “it is not possible that [God] does not provide that knowledge of the perceived,” he immediately adds “while the items of [perceptible] knowledge continue [to count as knowledge].”121 In other words, the only thing that God cannot do is to turn false belief into knowledge. But nothing prevents Him from creating a false belief as such.

Nevertheless, God’s involvement into the origination of given knowledge still seems to account for its external justification. Although God has a capacity to create false beliefs in us, He never executes that capacity. All beliefs that God provides for us are true beliefs ceteris paribus. For instance, al-Ǧišūmī says that God is not the creator of our dreams because dreams stand for false beliefs.122 Generally, if God created false beliefs in us, it would violate the core element of Muʿtazilite philosophy, the theory of divine justice. How could God make it to our religious responsibility to have knowledge of religious matters, if He provided false given knowledge for us, while given knowledge is the basis for all our knowledge?123 At this point however, we are moving from epistemology to the problem of theodicy, which is an issue that goes beyond the scope of this paper.

Conclusion

It is commonly assumed that ancient and medieval epistemology is dominated by Aristotelian foundationalism. As Deborah Black has shown in her recent studies on al-Fārābī and Avicenna, this is at least partially true of the major figures of falsafa.124 However, it would be incorrect to accept such a picture in the case of Muʿtazilite kalām. The Bahšamite analysis of knowledge as true belief with certainty has very little (if anything) in common with Aristotelian foundationalism. The Bahšamites never attempt to define knowledge in terms of justification based on primary principles. They define knowledge as a mental state, namely the mental state that involves certainty.

Bahšamite epistemology involves two main perspectives. Let us call them ‘naturalist’ and ‘individual’ perspectives. From a naturalist perspective, both knowledge and certainty are facts. Both are mental states, properties belonging to human beings like being tall or short. The mental states of knowledge and certainty come about in a two-step process, in which knowledge is generated either by God or by a valid inquiry, which, in turn, generates certainty. The mental states of knowledge and certainty are factive. It means that when I know p and I am certain that p, p is true. The Bahšamites secure the factive character of knowledge in two ways. First, they deny that we must always know whether we know (so, knowledge becomes a mind-independent fact). Second, the Bahšamites secure the connection between knowledge and reality through the involvement of God in the process of the origination of knowledge.

From an individual perspective, the Bahšamites hold to an internalist mentalist theory of justification. We can justify our knowledge, by examining whether we are in a mental state of certainty. Certainty is a criterion that is accessible to us. However, we cannot justify why we believe that we are certain through any further evidence. We can only remind ourselves (or the interlocutor) that, in some cases, we inevitably possess that kind of certainty. According to the Bahšamites, these cases will be extensionally identical to those when knowledge comes either directly from God or through a valid inquiry.

Understanding certainty as a mental state is precisely what makes a combination of internalism and externalism in the Bahšamite epistemology possible. As an internal mental state, certainty is accessible to us. Hence, we can use certainty to justify our beliefs. At the same time, certainty remains something external to our beliefs, a natural psychological state, which comes about through further external causes. In that respect, certainty that p involves that p is true, just like any other fact about the world would involve another fact about the world. Mental states are simultaneously internal and external to our beliefs, depending on how we look at them. Being one of the mental states, certainty creates a bridge between belief and reality.

I would like to close this article with a historical observation. Up to the middle of the eleventh century CE, we can find a set of typical epistemological topics discussed in both Muʿtazilite and Ašʿarite summae of kalām: the definition of knowledge (including a discussion of the Bahšamite analysis of knowledge as true belief with certainty); the distinction between knowledge and other kinds of true belief, such as taqlīd; responses to global sceptics; distinction between given (ḍarūrī) and acquired (muktasab) knowledge and so on.125 Some of those topics persist into the post-Avicennian period. For instance, the distinction between given and acquired knowledge becomes part of Faḫr al-Dīn al-Rāzī’s critique of real definitions.126 The debate regarding the definition of knowledge also continues in post-Avicennian philosophy. But it gradually changes its contents. A new topic becomes predominant: whether knowledge is a relation between the knower and the known or the inherence of a form of the known in the mind of the knower.127 So, for instance, Sayf al-Dīn al-Āmidī (d. 1233) still discusses the Bahšamite definition of knowledge as true belief with certainty and the falsafa definition of knowledge as inherence of the form of the known in the knower.128 However, al-ʿAllāma al-Ḥillī (d. 1325), in his kalām summa Nihāyat al-marām, only discusses the issue whether knowledge should be understood as a relation or simply as inherence of the form.129 It seems that the interest in the notion of certainty for the definition of knowledge slowly fades. Identifying the reasons for such a change of interests is a topic for further investigations.

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1

Edmund Gettier, “Is Justified True Belief Knowledge?,” Analysis 23.6 (1963): 121–3.

2

See e.g. Robert Pasnau, After Certainty: A History of Epistemic Ideals and Illusions (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 2.

3

Deborah Black, “Knowledge (ʿilm) and Certitude (yaqīn) in al-Fārābī’s Epistemology,” Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 16 (2006): 11–45.

4

Franz Rosenthal, Knowledge Triumphant: The Concept of Knowledge in Medieval Islam (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2007), Ch. IV; Mohd Radhi Ibrahim, “ʿAbd al-Jabbār’s Definition of Knowledge,” Al-Shajarah 18.2 (2013): 229–55; Josef van Ess, Die Erkenntnislehre des ʿAḍudaddīn al-Īcī (Wiesbaden: Franz Steiner, 1966), 60–94.

5

Henceforth, I will use the notion of belief and believing in an epistemological sense, not in a religious sense. In other words, belief is iʿtiqād, not īmān. I will explain why I translate iʿtiqād as “belief” in what follows, esp. fn. 11.

6

For a Muʿtazilite view see Johannes Peters, God’s Created Speech (Leiden: Brill, 1976), 44 based on Abū l-Ḥasan b. Aḥmad al-Hamaḏānī ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Al-Muġnī fī abwāb al-tawḥīd wa-l-ʿadl. Vol. XII: al-Naẓar wa-l-maʿrifa, ed. by Ibrāhīm Madkūr with the supervision of Ṭāhā Ḥusayn (Cairo: Wizārat al-ṯaqāfa wa-l-iršād al-qawmī, al-Idāra al-ʿāmma li-l-ṯaqāfa, 1960–69), 347–533; for an Ašʿarite view see Richard Frank, “Knowledge and Taqlīd: The Foundations of Religious Belief in Classical Ashʿarism,” Journal of the American Oriental Society 109 (1989): 37–62 and Khaled El-Rouayheb, Islamic Intellectual History in the Seventeenth Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), Ch. 5.

7

That notion has particularly become famous because of al-Ġazālī’s attack against falāsifa; see Richard Frank, “Al-Ghazālī on Taqlīd. Scholars, theologians, and philosophers,” Zeitschrift für die Geschichte der arabisch-islamischen Wissenschaften 7 (1991–92): 207–52 and Frank Griffel, “Taqlīd of the Philosophers: Al-Ghazālī’s Initial Accusations in his Tahāfut,” in Ideas, Images, and Methods of Portrayal: Insights Classical Arabic Literature and Islam, ed. by Sebastian Günther (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2005), 273–96.

8

I owe this insight and generally a fair warning that one should not generalize when speaking about the Muʿtazilites to Gregor Schwarb.

9

In what follows, I will refer both to ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār’s Muġnī and the Nukat version of it, since we all have different prints of the Muġnī but the Nukat is always the same: [Anonymous], Nukat al-Kitāb al-Muġnī li-ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār b. Aḥmad al-Hamaḏānī, ed. by Omar Hamdan and Sabine Schmidtke (Berlin: Klaus Schwarz, 2012).

10

Literally, sukūn al-nafs means ‘piece of mind.’ I will explain in what follows why I translate it as ‘certainty.’

11

Peters, God’s Created Speech, 42 argues that we must translate iʿtiqād as “conviction” and not as “belief” because šakk (doubt) is not an iʿtiqād according to the Bahšamites (following van Ess, Erkenntnislehre, 72). I cannot agree with this line of reasoning. Peters neglects the fact that when we believe that p we do really believe that p. We cannot believe that p and be actively in doubt whether p at the same time. The difference between sheer iʿtiqād and ʿilm consists in the possibility of doubt whether p, not in the presence of an actual doubt that p.

12

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:15.8–9; Nukat 199.13; Salmān b. Nāṣir al-Anṣārī, Al-Ġunya fī l-kalām, ed. by Muṣṭafā Ḥ. ʿAbd al-Hādī, 2 vols. (Cairo: Dār al-salām, 2010), 1:223.1–2.

13

Rukn al-Dīn b. al-Malāḥimī, Al-Muʿtamad, 2nd ed., ed. by Wilferd Madelung and Martin McDermott (Tehran-Berlin: Iranian Institute of Philosophy, Institute of Islamic Studies, Free University of Berlin, 2012), 17.21–22.

14

ʿAbd al-Malik al-Ǧuwaynī, al-Šāmil fī uṣūl al-dīn, ed. by Richard Frank (Tehran: Dānišgāh-i Tihrān, Dānišgāh-i Mak Gīl, 1981), 75.21.

15

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:13.3; Nukat 198.9.

16

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:13.3–14; Nukat 198.9–17.

17

Abū Saʿd al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil fī l-uṣūl, ed. by Ramazan Yıldırım (Cairo: Dār al-iḥsān, 2018), 370.2–3.

18

Šašdīw Mānkdīm, Šarḥ al-Uṣūl al-ḫamsa, ed. by ʿAbd al-Karīm ʿUṯmān (Cairo: Maktabat wahba, 1965), 46.3.

19

Al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil, 370.6–7.

20

Al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil, 374.12–13 and Abū Rašīd al-Nīsābūrī, al-Masāʾil fī l-ḫilāf bayna l-baṣriyyīn wa-l-baġdādiyyīn, ed. by Maʿn Ziyāda and Riḍwān Sayyid (Beirut: Maʿhad al-inmāʾ al-ʿarabī, 1979), 302.12–13. See also al-Ḥasan b. Aḥmad b. Mattawayh, al-Taḏkira fī aḥkām al-ǧawāhir wa-l-aʿrāḍ, ed. by Daniel Gimaret, 2 vols. (Cairo: Institut français d’archéologie orientale, 2009), 2:591.16–17.

21

Abū l-Qāsim al-Balḫī al-Kaʿabī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil wa-l-ǧawābāt, ed. by Hüseyin Hansu, Rāǧiḥ Kurdī, and ʿAbd al-Ḥamīd Kurdī (Istanbul: Dar al-fataḥ and Kuramer, 2018), 573.9.

22

Al-Ǧuwaynī, Šāmil, 75.19.

23

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 17.19–21; Nukat, 201.10–11.

24

Mānkdīm, Šarḥ al-Uṣūl al-ḫamsa, 46.2; Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 18.10.

25

Josef van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft im 2. und 3. Jahrhundert Hidschra, 6 vols. (Berlin and New York: Walter de Gruyter, 1991–95), 3:389; van Ess, Erkenntnislehre, 72. Originally, it was a “movement of the soul” in al-Naẓẓām.

26

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:53.1–2; Nukat, 226.9–10.

27

Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 587.1–2.

28

Ibid., 588.14–15.

29

Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 19.13–14.

30

Al-Nīsābūrī, al-Masāʾil fī l-ḫilāf, 302.16.

31

Note that the tradition of falsafa equally talks about certainty in connection with knowledge under the notion of yaqīn (see e.g. Black, “Knowledge and Certitude in al-Fārābī’s Epistemology”). However, the Bahšamites do not use yaqīn in this context.

32

Mānkdīm, Šarḥ al-Uṣūl al-ḫamsa, 46.13–47.4; cf. Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 19.18–19.

33

Van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, 3:380; van Ess, Erkenntnislehre, 77; Peters, God’s Created Speech, 43; Ibrahim, “Definition of Knowledge.” Ibrahim argues that truth is a condition for knowledge as well (hence, the Bahšamites are not subjectivists) but still interprets sukūn al-nafs as a condition that would not be enough to guarantee that a belief is objectively true.

34

Al-Ǧāḥiẓ, al-Maṣāʾil wa-l-ǧawābāt fī l-maʿrifa, in Rasāʾil al-Ǧāḥiẓ, vol. 4, ed. by ʿAbd al-Salām Muḥammad al-Hārūn (Beirut: Dār al-ǧīl, n.d), 53.12–17; German translation in van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, 6:320–1 (Text XXX.5).

35

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:36.9–12; Nukat, 215.7–8; Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 587.5; al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-mašāʾil, 377.17–18. This is also the standard Ašʿarite argument against the Bahšamite definition of knowledge (see al-Ǧuwaynī, Šāmil, 79.6–8; al-Anṣārī, Ġunya, 1:223.3–4).

36

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:37.4–5; Nukat, 216.1–2; Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 587.5–6.

37

Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 22.7–16.

38

Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 21.10–11. In his Fāʾiq fī uṣūl al-dīn, ed. by Wilferd Madelung and Martin McDermott (Tehran and Berlin: Iranian Institute of Philosophy, Institute of Islamic Studies, Free University of Berlin, 2007), 2–3; 35, however, Ibn al-Malāḥimī argues that knowledge should not and cannot be defined. Still, he reproduces the same no-taǧwīz and no-tašakkuk conditions there as well.

39

Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 23.1.

40

Ibid., 22.22.

41

Al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil, 385.18–20.

42

Peters comes to the same conclusion in God’s Created Speech, 45, fn. 31.

43

Al-Ǧāḥiẓ, al-Maṣāʾil wa-l-ǧawābāt fī l-maʿrifa, 54.1–4; German translation in van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, 6:321 (Text XXX.5).

44

Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 631; al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil, 390.17–391.6; al-Nīsābūrī, al-Masāʾil fī l-ḫilāf, 335.5–6.

45

On global scepticism in kalām see Abdurrahman Mihirig, “Typologies of Scepticism in the Philosophical Tradition of Kalām,” Theoria 88.1 (2022): 13–48.

46

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:43.7–8; Nukat, 219.6–7.

47

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:71.8–10; Nukat, 240.1–2. Al-Nīsābūrī, al-Masāʾil fī l-ḫilāf, 335.10 provides another intriguing example of a man from Nishapur, who followed the philosophasters (al-mutafalsafa) and denied that testimony (ḫabr) provides knowledge. Just like global sceptics, that man has knowledge from testimony even if he does not recognize it himself.

48

Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 18.3. See further Ibrahim, “ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār’s Definition of Knowledge.”

49

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:13.4–5; Nukat, 198.10; same in al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil, 370.3–4.

50

Cf. ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:12.5–7; Nukat, 197.17–19.

51

Cf. Timothy Williamson, Knowledge and Its Limits (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), 49.

52

Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 619–21; al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil, 378.

53

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:23.3–5; Nukat, 205.6–8.

54

Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 585.4–5.

55

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:36.14–15; Nukat, 215.9–10.

56

Williamson, Knowledge and Its Limits; see also Patrick Greenough and Duncan Pritchard (eds.), Williamson on Knowledge (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2009).

57

Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 2:591.14–15.

58

Cf. ibid., 2:592–3; al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil, 379–80; al-Nīsābūrī, al-Masāʾil fī l-ḫilāf, 288–9.

59

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:34–35; Nukat, 214.

60

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:13.18; Nukat, 198.19–199.1; al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil, 370.5.

61

Al-Ǧuwaynī, Šāmil, 75.23.

62

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:15.11–12; Nukat, 200.1–2.

63

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:30; Nukat, 210–1. On the Muʿtazilite theory of aḥwāl see e.g. Jan Thiele, “Abū Hāshim al-Jubbāʾī’s (d. 321/933) Theory of ‘States’ (aḥwāl) and its Adaptation by Ashʿarite Theologians,” in Oxford Handbook of Islamic Theology, ed. by Sabine Schmidtke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 364–83.

64

Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 593.15–17; 599.9–11.

65

The best brief overview of occasionalism in kalām is Ulrich Rudolph, “Occasionalism,” in Oxford Handbook of Islamic Theology, ed. by Sabine Schmidtke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 347–63.

66

Al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masaʾil, 380.8–19; al-Nīsābūrī, al-Masāʾil fī l-ḫilāf, 288.22–289.2 (al-Nīsābūrī rejects Abū Hāšim’s position in what follows).

67

Al-Nīsābūrī, al-Masāʾil fī l-ḫilāf, 303.15–16.

68

Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 592.1–5.

69

Al-Nīsābūrī, al-Masāʾil fī l-ḫilāf, 305.1–2.

70

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:27.13–17; Nukat, 208.13–15. Cf. al-Nīsābūrī, al-Masāʾil fī l-ḫilāf, 304.23–26.

71

The Ašʿarites might be in agreement with Abū l-Qāsim al-Balḫī in that respect, according to al-Nīsābūrī, al-Masāʾil fī l-ḫilāf, 300.8; 303.14.

72

Al-Anṣārī, Ġunya, 1:224.6–7.

73

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:25.15–18; Nukat, 207.2–4.

74

Cf. Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 25.4–22; Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 635–6.

75

Cf. ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:49.6; Nukat, 223.6–7: lā yaṣīru l-ʿilm ʿilman li-kawn maʿlūmihī ʿalā mā huwa bihī.

76

See Fedor Benevich, “The Reality of the Non-Existent Object of Thought: The Possible, The Impossible, and Mental Existence in Islamic Philosophy (11–13th c.),” Oxford Studies in Medieval Philosophy 6 (2018): 31–61.

77

Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 356; 590–3; al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil, 380.

78

That is, because someone with an opinion that p or in doubt whether p allows that not-p is equally possible; on this, see Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 648–9; Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 26–27.

79

Mohd Radhi Ibrahim, “Immediate Knowledge According to al-Qāḍī ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār,” Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 23.1 (2013): 101–15.

80

Peters, God’s Created Speech, 53; Ibrahim, “Immediate Knowledge.” See further Binyamin Abrahamov, “Necessary Knowledge in Islamic Theology,” British Journal of Middle Eastern Studies 20 (1993): 20–32.

81

See e.g. ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:66; Nukat, 236.

82

Mānkdīm, Šarḥ al-Uṣūl al-ḫamsa, 48.6–7. Ibrahim, “Immediate Knowledge,” 102–3 knows about that meaning of ḍarūrī, but abandons it for ‘immediate knowledge.’

83

Mānkdīm, Šarḥ al-Uṣūl al-ḫamsa, 48.8 and Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 601.19. Cf. Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 24.17–25.1.

84

See e.g. John McDowell, Mind and World (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1994), 5. I have also used those notions in application to the Ashʿarite kalām in my “Meaning and Definition: Skepticism and Semantics in Twelfth-Century Arabic Philosophy,” Theoria 88.1 (2022): 72–108. Peters, God’s Created Speech, 53 also uses the notion of given knowledge, but he drops it afterwards for necessary knowledge.

85

Cf. ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:59–67; Nukat, 231–7; Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 601–3; al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil, 373–4; 383–4; Mānkdīm, Šarḥ al-Uṣūl al-ḫamsa, 50–51; see further Ibrahim, “Immediate Knowledge,” 105–14. Some of those items of given knowledge pertain to kamāl al-ʿaql while others do not. Kamāl al-ʿaql designates the set of propositions on which intelligent human beings cannot disagree.

86

Whether testimonial knowledge is ḍarūrī and how to distinguish between reliable and unreliable testimonial knowledge was, of course, a matter of debate. On this, see e.g. Sohaira Z. M. Siddiqui, Law and Politics under the Abbasids (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019), Ch. 5.

87

Whether there are any natural values was, famously, a matter of debate between the Ašʿarites and the Muʿtazilites; on this see e.g. Ayman Shihadeh, “Theories of Ethical Value in Kalām: A New Interpretation,” in Oxford Handbook of Islamic Theology, ed. by Sabine Schmidtke (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016), 384–407.

88

Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 602.1. See further ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:63.17; Nukat, 234.4. I still translate ḍarūrī as ‘given’ and not as ‘undeniable,’ since it is undeniable because it is given.

89

Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 601.20–23.

90

Al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil, 371.21. See further Siddiqui, Law and Politics under the Abbasids, 89; Peters, God’s Created Speech, 54.

91

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:60.6; Nukat, 231.7–8.

92

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:77.19; Nukat, 244.6–7. On secondary causation and tawallud see van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, 3:116–21 and Ulrich Rudolph and Dominik Perler, Occasionalismus: Theorien der Kausalität im arabisch-islamischen und im europäischen Denken (Göttignen: Vandehoeck & Ruprecht, 2000), 23–51.

93

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:78.4–8; Nukat, 244.9–12.

94

Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 597.15–19. See further al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil, 389.8.

95

Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 596.22.

96

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:67.19–68.1; Nukat, 237.6–8.

97

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:77–78; Nukat, 243–4; al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil, 397.6; Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 51–52 (he uses the root of w-ṣ-l instead of w-l-d); cf. Peters, God’s Created Speech, 57–61.

98

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:46.16; Nukat, 221.10. See also al-Nīsābūrī, al-Masāʾil fī l-ḫilāf, 335.12–13.

99

See, e.g., Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 32.5–6; see further Mihirig, “Typologies of Scepticism in the Philosophical Tradition of Kalām,” section 1.2.

100

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:45.18–46.4; Nukat, 221.3–6.

101

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:70.17–19; Nukat, 239.8–10. See also Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 53.21–22.

102

I am taking my example of naẓar from Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 51.13–15.

103

That is why I call the Bahšamite position on justification ‘mentalist’ and not just ‘internalist.’ If we called their position ‘internalist,’ the Bahšamites could still be foundationalists, since foundationalism is a kind of internalism. But the Bahšamites are not foundationalists.

104

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī XII, 74.20–21; Nukat, 242.5.

105

I read “lā yunfaṣalu” with the manuscript M (so does van Ess as it seems).

106

Al-Ǧāḥiẓ, al-Masāʾil wa-l-ǧawābāt fī l-maʿrifa, 54.5–6; German translation in van Ess, Theologie und Gesellschaft, 6:321 (Text XXX.5).

107

Al-Ǧāḥiẓ, al-Masāʾil wa-l-ǧawābāt fī l-maʿrifa, 54.9–10.

108

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:37.6–10; Nukat, 216.3–6.

109

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:42.19; Nukat, 218.12–13.

110

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:44.8–9; Nukat, 220.5.

111

E.g. Peter Adamson and Fedor Benevich, “The Thought Experimental Method: Avicenna’s Flying Man Argument,” Journal of the American Philosophical Association 4.2 (2018): 147–64, esp. 162. The usage of the notion of tanbīh might indicate another instance of kalām’s influence on Avicenna.

112

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:42.5–8; Nukat, 218.6–9. It seems that Abū Hāšim accepts in other contexts that given knowledge can be justified through the “validity of the way it was acquired” (salāmat al-ṭarīq), but ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār rejects it and insists that the only way to know whether we know is a tanbīh of the sukūn al-nafs (Muġnī, 12:38–40).

113

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:42.20–43.3; Nukat, 219.1–3.

114

Ibn al-Malāḥimī, Muʿtamad, 32.16–18. Note that Ibn al-Malāḥimī, unlike ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, intends to remind the sceptics that they have knowledge, not that they are certain (because Ibn al-Malāḥimī has a slightly different definition of knowledge), but the idea remains the same.

115

Cf. David Hume, An Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding, ed. by Tom L. Beauchamp (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), sections V and XII.

116

Helen Beebee, Hume on Causation (London and New York: Routledge, 2006), 38–39.

117

Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 597.1.

118

Mānkdīm, Šarḥ al-Uṣūl al-ḫamsa, 50.14–51.10.

119

Al-Nīsābūrī, al-Masāʾil fī l-ḫilāf, 306.2–5. It seems that al-Nīsābūrī accepts that God can avoid creating knowledge in us despite the presence of perception and the elimination of all kinds of perceptive hurdles.

120

Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 615; Mānkdīm, Šarḥ al-Uṣūl al-ḫamsa, 50.11–12.

121

ʿAbd al-Ǧabbār, Muġnī, 12:60.20–61.2; Nukat, 231.12–232.1.

122

Al-Ǧišūmī, ʿUyūn al-masāʾil, 388.3–5.

123

Cf. e.g. Ibn Mattawayh, Taḏkira, 608: taklīf (religious obligation) is only possible if there is knowledge.

124

Black, “Knowledge and Certitude in al-Fārābī’s Epistemology”; ead., “Certitude, Justification, and the Principles of Knowledge in Avicenna’s Epistemology,” in Interpreting Avicenna, ed. by Peter Adamson (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2013), 120–42.

125

See e.g. Ibn Mattawayh’s Taḏkira and Ibn al-Malāḥimī’s Muʿtamad or al-Ǧuwaynī’s Šāmil and al-Anṣārī’s Ġunya for the Ašʿarite point of view.

126

See Benevich, “Meaning and Definition” and Nora Jacobsen Ben Hammed, “Meno’s Paradox and First Principles in Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī,” Oriens 48 (2020): 320–44.

127

This topic is addressed in the forthcoming dissertation of Davlat Dadikhudah (LMU Munich and University of Jyväskylä); see further Fedor Benevich, “Perceiving Things in Themselves: Abū l-Barakāt al-Baġdādī’s Critique of Representationalism,” Arabic Sciences and Philosophy 30.2 (2020): 229–64 and Fedor Benevich, “God’s Knowledge of Particulars: Avicenna, Kalām, and The Post-Avicennian Synthesis,” Recherches de Théologie et Philosophie Médiévales 76.1 (2019): 1–47.

128

Sayf al-Dīn al-Āmidī, Abkār al-afkār fī uṣūl al-dīn, ed. by Aḥmad Muḥammad al-Mahdī, 5 vols. (Cairo : al-Maktaba dār al-kutub wa-l-waṯāʾiq al-qawmiyya, 2004), vol. I, 73–79.

129

Al-Allāma al-Ḥillī, Nihāyat al-marām fī l-kalām, ed. by Fāḍil al-Irfān, 3 vols. (Cairo: Maktabat al-tawḥīd, 1998), vol. II, 5–7.

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