Ethics must be considered the most basic principle of life and a guarantee for people’s happiness. It determines the must and must- nots of human behavior.

In Mulla Sadra’s philosophical system, ethics has a supreme and transcendent place and is, indeed, tied with anthropology or knowledge of the soul. This is because the center of ethics and morals is human behavior, and this is the soul that receives the temperament or behavior. Accordingly, in order to enter the domain of ethics, one must know the human being and his various ontological dimensions. The human rational soul is a heavenly immaterial substance that employs the body in order to satisfy its needs. It has three faculties: the rational faculty, the faulty of lust, and the faculty of wrath. Therefore, in Mulla Sadra’s view, ethics is responsible to “establish a balance and maintain a middle position among these faculties.” However, how can the human being, who enjoys these three-fold faculties, free himself from the whims and desires of the faculty of lust and power-seeking tendencies of the faculty of wrath? Mulla Sadra responds as follows:

Since the perfection of the soul is attained through the cooperation of the body and the three- fold faculties of the soul, it is necessary for it to establish “justice” among its opposing behaviors so that it is not influenced by the body and bodily faculties and, rather, dominates them (and brings them under the control of wisdom). This is because the soul’s being influenced by the body and faculties of lust and anger leads to its wickedness (al-Asfar, vol.3, p.137, Tehran, Sadra Islamic Philosophy Institute).

In another place of his works he maintains that doing evil acts causes disaster and misery in the world and says, “Beware that repeating lustful, wrathful, and evil bodily acts causes the soul’s belonging to worldly and material affairs, brings it close to blinding darkness, and blocks the intellect’s perception of scientific truths. This is a perception that leads to otherworldly happiness and freedom from everlasting wickedness. God says “The soul’s involvement with worldly affairs causes its alienation from the holy world” (Kasr al-asnam al-jahiliyyah, p.168, Tehran, the Sadra Islamic Philosophy Research Institute).

Moreover, Mulla Sadra managed to portray the problem of the process of the development of the human soul on the basis of the specific principles of the Transcendent Philosophy, such as the principles of the trans-substantial motion and the corporeal createdness and spiritual subsistence of the soul, in a most beautiful way and demonstrate how the soul can turn into a heavenly or evil soul through attaining certain habits. According to this philosopher, the trans-substantial motion of the soul is a kind of indigenous motion. Of course, regarding ethics, we must consider the path of this motion to be from potential egocentricity towards actual perfection. From this point of view, ethics is a kind of gradual training which is actualized as a result of wayfaring. After its perfection and promotion to the level of spirit, the soul becomes a pure light in which there is no way for darkness, and after its decline, it reaches the level of pure darkness in which light has no way.

Mulla Sadra maintains that the perfection of the human soul consists of the following four stages:

Stage one: External purification through observing the divine rules and prophetic principles.

Stage two: Internal purification and the purification of the heart from evil habits and behaviors.

Stage three: Illumination of the soul through attaining cognitive forms and good attributes.

Stage four: The soul’s disregarding itself and focusing its attention on God and his angels. This is the end of the wayfarer’s journey towards Almighty Truth (al-Mabda’ wa al-ma’ad, vol.2, p.459).

Mulla Sadra has discussed ethics and its developmental stages in his various works and books in a scattered manner and presented his views in this regard. However, he has devoted his Si asl treatise specifically to this topic and eloquently asserted that the three principles which the people of insight consider to be fatal to the soul are as follows:

First principle: Ignorance of the of the knowledge soul, which is the truth of the human being … this is the worst means of wickedness and misery in the Hereafter which lots of the people in the world suffer from. This is because one who has not attained the knowledge of the soul has not known God.

Second principle: the love of luxury and wealth, lustful desires and animal pleasures include the love of the whole world … and whoever tarnishes the mirror of his heart, which receives the lights of divine knowledge and the rays of the light of oneness, with the rust of the soul’s lusts and desires and stains of sins, will never see happiness and will never be polished.

Third principle: deception is the job of malevolent soul and deceitful Satan, Who shows bad as good and good as bad, spreads false words, and covers up for bad acts.

In the rest of his book, Mulla Sadra discusses the consequences and concomitants of each of these principles and says:


-     The result of being far from the knowledge of the soul is the darkness of heart and blindness of the innermost …

-     The result of following the soul’s desires and wishes is separation from the main primordial nature and keeping company with beasts and insects like blind and mute existents …

-     The results of the malevolent soul’s shrewdness and satanic deceptions are too many, such as having to ensure eternal torture and everlasting loss, burning in fire, and suffering from grave torment.


Finally, he adds, “If you learn that these three principles or some of them exist in you, consider yourself as one with a sick soul and try to heal the sickness” (Si asl treatise, pp.46-93).

In sum, as a Shi’ite theologian philosopher, Mulla Sadra succeeded in presenting a comprehensive picture of the system of being based on the specific principles of the Transcendent Philosophy. Based on this picture, in the light of ethics and attending to the principles of practical wisdom, the human being can follow his process of development from the nadir of matter to the peak of immateriality and attain the level of pure luminosity.