Averroes on Immanent and Transcendent Knowledge of the Divine Intellect

Research output: Contribution to conferencePaperpeer-review


For Averroes, as for other medieval philosophers, knowledge of the whole of being, of the cosmos, culminates in knowledge of the divine, associated with Aristotle's nous noun noein of Metaphysics Lambda 7. According to Averroes, direct knowledge of this nous is a Divine activity which only some can engage in and only for a short while. Further, it is an activity which includes, at least for a time, an actual unification with God, i. e., with Intellect. Averroes also describes another, less well known, way of reaching, or perhaps glimpsing a kind of knowledge of the divine intellect. Surprisingly, in his Long Commentary on Aristotle's Metaphysics Delta, the book of the Metaphysics in which Aristotle lists significations of 30 metaphysical terms, Averroes explains how the ordinary understanding of these terms bears an analogical relation to the Divine. Although this relation to the divine is usually quite weak, Averroes claims that such an analogical relation can be the basis for a genus. Consequently, understanding the significations of these terms is part of understanding the genus that includes the Divine. In a sense, the genus of the divine is commonly understood because, as Averroes points out, these terms, such as “beginning,” “cause” and “being,” are understood correctly for the most part and only rarely mistaken, even by non-philosophers. The correct usage of these terms by the majority of people most of the time reflects a kind of immanence of the divine in ordinary language. While the majority of people may not recognize the presence of the divine in their everyday use of these terms, the fact that they are present through a kind of analogy indicates the immanence of God in the ordinary walks of language. Individuals, it is clear, are not always aware of this divine “subconscious” presence, but the analogical fields of meaning that include the Divine still inform their use of language to some extent. God is thus immanently present in human knowledge, but often overlooked. On the other hand, the depiction of the divine nous given in Metaphysics Lambda 7 and Averroes' Long Commentary thereon is far removed from ordinary experience. Indeed, according to Averroes, the conjunction of human reason with the divine intellect, which involves a temporary nullification of the non-intellectual human, transcends ordinary human experience in favor of a single unified Intellect. Knowledge of the Divine can be found, according to Averroes, both immanently on the surface of human experience, particularly the human social experience which finds its expression in language, and transcendently in the depths of contemplative experience, which begins in solitary reflection and ends with self-nullification through conjunction with the Divine Intellect.
Original languageAmerican English
StatePublished - 2012
EventMetaphysical Society of America Annual Meeting - Metaphysical Society of America, Athens, Georgia, United States
Duration: 12 Mar 201212 Mar 2012


ConferenceMetaphysical Society of America Annual Meeting
Country/TerritoryUnited States
CityAthens, Georgia


Dive into the research topics of 'Averroes on Immanent and Transcendent Knowledge of the Divine Intellect'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this