Causation and Perso-Islamic History. A Case Study: The "Zayn Al-Akhbar" of Gardizi

Dissertation, University of California, Los Angeles (2000)
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In spite of its apparent decline in popularity as a method of explanation, causal explanation has always been an important approach for a rational understanding of the relationships among events. It is argued that the way causal explanation is presented in any work of history reveals much about the work and about the intellectual milieu out of which it grew. The Zayn al-Akhbar of Gardizi, an eleventh century history written in Persian, is examined and analyzed in regard to its causal content based on such assumptions. A close examination of Zayn al-Akhbar reveals eight possible categories of causal relations. These eight categories of causation are: individual determinism, social determinism, natural determinism, divine determinism, individual will, social will, natural will and divine will. ;Very interesting facts about the nature, audience, and the genre of the Zayn al-Akhbar are revealed, such as, its definite didactic nature, judged by the high number of causally structured passages in the work. It is also argued that this didactic nature is presented in an "explanatory mode" . In addition, the study shows that within the Zayn al-Akhbar, different types of causation are emphasized depending on the era being presented. In discussing events of the Islamic period the work emphasized social determinism as opposed to the emphasis on divine determinism when presenting the events of pre-Islamic times. ;The Zayn al-Akhbar is understood in its own context and in relation to the current philosophical culture out of which it grew. For this reason the concept of 'causation' is examined in detail within the relevant Islamic intellectual tradition. It is shown that two specific forms of causation, namely individual freedom and divine determinism, have been the core of Islamic legal, theological, and philosophical debates since the very beginning of the Islamic era, and that this influenced works of history. ;Next, fourteen specific historical events of importance in Gardizi's work are compared with the presentation of the same events in twelve other near contemporaries. The result of the finding is charted in three tables at the end of Chapter Three. The comparison reveals an intimate connection between causal explanation in historical works and the focus on the discussion of 'causality' in the intellectual and philosophical milieu at the time the Zayn al-Akhbar was produced. It is also argued that the unusually high number of causal explanations in Gardizi correlates to the maturation in Islamic philosophy of the Aristotelian tradition of causal explanation



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