Mulla Sadra's Argument of the Righteous and a Critical Study of Kant and Hume's Views on the Proofs of God's Existence


Hamid Reza Ayatullahi


The thrust of this paper is to briefly expound on Mulla sadra's argument of the righteous (burhan-i siddiqin), and to examine Kant and Hume's critical views concerning theoretical arguments in proving the existence of God. In this study, the author will try to show that the systemic criticisms of these philosophers cannot be used against the argument of the righteous, as this argument is immune to these criticisms. First it is necessary to give a brief account of this argument.


The argument of the righteous


This is an argument to prove the existence of God through the reality of existence, and to reach belief in His pre-eternal necessity. In this argument, a 'thing' is demonstrated through itself, and a 'path' is identical with the 'goal'. In other arguments, the 'Truth' is attained from other than itself, for example from the possible to the necessary, from the originated to the eternal Origin, or from motion to the unmoved Mover. But in the argument of the righteous there is no middle term other than the 'Truth'.[1] The title "the argument of the righteous" was first applied to this argument by Ibn Sina. At the end of the fourth Namat (of Isharat) he says,

See that in our argument to prove the First Being, and to prove His Oneness being free from any imperfection, we need only to take the very existence into consideration. We need to prove that there is no need to examine His creatures and acts, although these can also be used to prove His existence. This argument is a more convincing one and enjoys a higher position. That is to say that when we consider the condition of existence, existence qua existence testifies first to the existence of the Necessary Being and then to the existence of other things. And God's Book alludes to what we have already said. God says, "We shall then show Our portents on the horizons and within themselves until it will be manifest unto them that it is the Truth…" (The Holy Quran, 41:53). Then God's book says, "…Doth not thy Lord suffice, since He is witness over all things?" Such reasoning is specific to the righteous, who take God, and none other than Him, as a witness to existence.[2]

Since in this argument the pre-eternal necessity of existence is demonstrated through the reality of existence, it is known as an a posteriori demonstration. This means that one of the two sides can be attained through the other side. Thus it is wrong to consider the argument of the righteous as an a priori demonstration, in which the caused (the effect) may be derived from the cause, for there is no room for an a priori demonstration in philosophy.[3] 


Mulla sadra's version of the argument


In Mulla Sadra's philosophy, the argument of the righteous appears in a new fashion. He regards his own argument clearer, nobler and more convincing than others. His argument is based on the rational foundations of his philosophy. Hence, to expound it we will first briefly present those foundations and then embark upon introducing the argument itself.


A. The concept and the reality of existence – There is a concept of existence in the mind, and there is its reality in the external world. This argument intends the reality of existence as distinguished from its concept. The reality of existence, in terms of presence, is the most apparent, and its essence is the most hidden in terms of the concept and the comprehension of its essence. Its reality is the same as its external being, and so it is not incomprehensible.[4] Its presence should be felt, not contained in the mind. The concept of existence – which is other than its reality – is self-evident, and it is this very concept which occurs to quiddity in the mind.


B. The principiality of existence What is realized in the external world is the reality of existence rather than its quiddity. From the limits of external beings, the mind abstracts quiddity, and there is no quiddity in the external world from which the mind may infer the concept of existence. Therefore, what exists in the external world is not for example a tree, but a being with some limits of which the mind makes a concept called 'tree'. The principiality of existence is among the most important foundations of this argument.


C. The gradation of existence The reality of existence is a single reality present in all beings. This means that in various beings there is only one and the same reality. At the same time, these various beings are different in terms of [the strength of] this same reality. Hence, the reality of existence is plural despite its oneness, and one in spite of its plurality. What distinguishes various beings is existence because, according to the principiality of existence, there is nothing other than existence to make such a distinction. At the same time, the reality of existence is the common aspect of beings. Hence, the individuation of beings is the same as their common aspect and vice versa. This is what is known as special gradation. Therefore, discrepancies between things should be assigned to their strength and weakness, and priority and posteriority.


D. The cause-effect relation (with reference to the principiality of existence) – In perfect causality, the cause brings the effect into existence; therefore, the effect is simultaneous with the cause, and the appearance of the effect will not take place at a time later than [the appearance of] the cause. This illusion results from the confusion of the preparing cause (mu'iddah), which is a condition rather than a cause, with the perfect cause. Taking the principiality of existence into account, we find that if there is a cause-effect relation in this world (and of course there is), we cannot consider the effect as the first assumption, the cause as the second assumption, and the impact of the cause on the effect as the third assumption. Then in the mind, existence, the existent and the existential are identical with each other. That is, the essence of the existent is identical with the essence of existence and the existential. Therefore, dependence of the effect on the cause is the same as the essence of the effect. The dualism which is seen between the two is forged by the mind, since in the external world there is no such dualism. In fact, it is impossible for such dualism to exist in the external world.

Because of its familiarity with quiddity, man's mind bestows a conceptual independence upon every quiddity, and maintains two independent quiddities for the cause and the effect, and then proceeds to find a relation between the two. According to the doctrine of the principiality of existence, however, the effect is nothing but dependence and need. In other words, the effect is among the modes of the cause, and identical with dependence. Its relation to the cause is an illuminative one, which is one-sided, rather than a categorical relation, which is two-sided.

Accordingly, every effect is a weak mode of its cause. And the cause enjoys a perfection which the effect lacks, for its essential dependence has made it later than the cause. Hence this depending ipsiety places the effect in a situation where, once its relation to the cause is eliminated, it will be annihilated (to the extent that there will remain nothing to be annihilated). Thus the quality of being caused is simultaneous with limitation, and in comparison with the cause, the effect is placed in a weaker position. Existentiality and dependence are contained in the effect. And since it is dependent by nature, it is more limited than the cause. As a result, the effect has some existential limits, and its limits cause quiddity.


E. The reality of existence The reality of existence does not contain non-existence. Existent qua existent never becomes non-existent, and non-existent qua non-existent never become existent. The reality of the non-existence of things changes within the limits of particular beings and not within the acceptance of non-existence by existence. The question about existence is absurd. Evidently there is existence. The difference lies in the modes of existence rather than existence itself.

As it has already been said, existence has gradational (weak and strong) levels. Its weakness stems from its being caused (the effect), and the effect is dependent on and weaker than the cause. Compared to the effect, the cause is the stronger mode of the effect. This is, of course, a characteristic of the cause in comparison with the effect, and if the cause itself is an effect of another cause, then it will have a mode of existence weaker than its own cause. Now, if we consider the reality of existence, as it is and regardless of any kind of dependence and direction added to it, it will be equal to perfection, absoluteness, independence, strength, actuality, greatness, glory, boundlessness and luminosity. Imperfection, limitation, dependence, weakness, possibility and objectification, however, result from posteriority in terms of existence, which in turn stems from being caused. And when an existent is attributed to such characteristics, it is limited and dependent. As a result, all imperfections are excluded from the pure original reality of existence.

Accordingly, imperfection, weakness and limitedness all stem from the quality of being an effect. Thus, if something is an effect, evidently it will suffer some imperfection, weakness and limitedness at a level lower than its cause, for effect is the same as dependence and relation to the cause, and it cannot stand at the level of the cause. The quality of being an effect is the same as posteriority to the cause, and also the same as weakness, imperfection and limitedness. It is this limitedness which puts it in a sort of similarity with non-existence.[5]

Taking these explanations into account, we reach the conclusion that there is a reality for existence; that is, it is the same as being existent, and there is no room for non-existence in it. On the one hand, the reality of existence in its essence, i.e. in its being existent and in its reality, is conditioned by no condition and constrained by no constraint. Existence, since it is existence, does not exist by another standard or with the assumption of the existence of other things. Therefore, existence in its very essence is identical with the quality of being independent, and it is not conditioned by another thing. That is to say that it is identical with the eternal essential necessity. As a result, the reality of existence, regardless of any determination attached to it from the external world, is identical with the imperishable Essence of the Truth. Consequently, the principiality of existence leads our reason directly to the Essence of the Truth and not to any other thing which is other than His acts, effects, and theophanies, which should be looked for through other arguments, and not the Truth.

Mulla Sadra describes this argument as follows:[6]

As it has already been said, existence is a single, objective and simple reality, and there is no difference between its parts, unless in terms of perfection and imperfection, strength and weakness… And the culmination of its perfection, where there is nothing more prefect, is its independence from any other thing. Nothing more perfect should be conceivable, as every imperfect thing belongs to another thing and needs to become perfect. And, as it has already been explicated, perfection is prior to imperfection, actuality to potency, and existence to non-existence. Also, it has been explained that the perfection of a thing is the thing itself, and not a thing in addition to it. Thus, either existence is independent of others, or it is in need of others. The former is the Necessary, which is pure existence. Nothing is more perfect than Him. And in Him there is no room for non-existence or imperfection. The latter is other than Him, and is regarded as His acts and effects, and for other than Him there is no subsistence, unless through Him. For there is no imperfection in the reality of existence, and imperfection is added to existence only because of the quality of being caused, as it is impossible for an effect to be identical with its cause in terms of existence.

Therefore, if existence is not created through the creation of a creator, who has brought it into being and realized it, it cannot be imagined, and there is a sort of deficiency in it. Because, as you know, the reality of existence is simple, and for it there is no limit and determination, except pure acquisition and actuality. Otherwise, there should be combinations in it, or it has a quiddity other than its being. Also, as has been said, if existence is caused (the effect), it is essentially created through a simple creation, and its essence is in need of a creator and depends on its creator for its essence and substance. Thus it is proved and explained that existence is either perfect in terms of reality, necessity and essence, or essentially in need of a reality on which its substance depends. And in either case it is proved and explained that the existence of the Necessary Being is essentially needless of a cause…and this is what we sought to prove.

To explain the eternal necessity, which is the same as the essential philosophical necessity, and to explain its difference from that of the essential logical necessity, we should refer to logic. It should be said that in logic when it is maintained that in a proposition such as the triangle has three sides, the predicate, i.e. 'having three sides', is essentially necessary for the subject, i.e. the triangle. This means that it is necessary for a triangle to have three sides, and this necessity is not confined to a particular time, condition, or aspect. That is, it is not so that only at a particular time it is necessary for a triangle to have three sides, for having three sides is inherent in the essence of the triangle. From a philosophical point of view, however, there is a condition for this necessity, which is the subsistence of the triangle. Only if the triangle remains as a triangle will it be necessary for it to have three sides. Now if we assume a necessity that does not even have this condition of the subsistence of the subject, and in which the attribution of the subject to the predicate is absolute, it will then be called the essential philosophical necessity, which means that a thing is not indebted to an external cause for its being in a necessary mode. This means that it is an independent and subsistent thing. This necessity should be eternal and pre-eternal. That is why it is also called the eternal necessity.[7]


Criticism of the proofs of God's Existence 

In the history of Western philosophy there have been many arguments trying to prove the existence of God. Kant classifies these arguments into three categories: ontological arguments, cosmological arguments, and arguments from design. And to expose man's direction toward God, through morals and reliance on the faith, and to bring the disability of the theoretical reason to the light, he tries to criticize the proofs for the existence of God that were proposed before him. In the philosophical tradition of the West, these criticisms, in addition to those of Hume's, have turned to be the fundamental and systemic criticisms against the proofs for the existence of God. Any argument that attempts to prove the existence of God should be able to pass the narrow path created by these criticisms. After Kant, these criticisms in various forms became the basis of atheism. In this article we are not going to examine these criticisms and their influence on the arguments introduced before Kant (which subject needs an independent book). We will briefly introduce the main proofs proposed before Kant, and then the criticisms propounded by Kant and Hume against these proofs so that, while becoming acquainted with the critical viewpoints of the West toward the proofs of the existence of God, we may show their inadequacy against the argument of the righteous and its historical tradition.


Anselm's first ontological argument[8]

1. God, according to definition, is a being than which nothing greater can be conceived. (Both those who believe in God and those who don't can understand this definition).

2. A thing which exists only in the mind is a thing, and a thing which exists both in the mind and in the external world is another thing (like an inscription which exists only in the mind of the inscriber and a thing which exists both in his mind and on the tableau).  

3. A thing which exists both in the mind and in the external world is greater than a thing which exists only in the mind.

4. Accordingly, God should exist both in the mind and in the external world (i.e. the real world). For if it is not so, we can conceive of a thing which does, and is [thus] greater than Him. God, however, according to definition (which both believers and non-believers agree upon), is the greatest conceivable being. Therefore, God should exist.


The second version of Anselm's ontological argument[9]


1. Logically, all that is needed for the concept of the Necessary Being should be approved.

2. Logically, real existence is necessary for the concept of the Necessary Being.

3. Thus logically it should be admitted that the Necessary Being exists.

In a negative version, this argument can be introduced as follows:

1.      It is logically impossible to deny what is necessary for the concept of the Necessary Being (since it is inconsistent to say what is necessary is not necessary).

2.      Real existence is logically necessary for the concept of the Necessary Being.

3.      Thus, it is logically impossible to deny the real existence of the Necessary Being.


The first version of Descartes' ontological argument [10]


1. What we understand in a clear and distinct way about a certain thing is real. (Clearness and distinction assure that no errors are admitted in it).

2. We understand in a clear and distinct way that the concepts of the absolutely perfect existent require it to exist because:

a. It is impossible to imagine an absolutely perfect existent which lacks something.

b. If an absolutely perfect existent does not exist, then it will lack existence.

c. Therefore, it is clear that the concepts of an absolutely perfect existent require it to exist.

3. As a result, it is true that an absolutely perfect existent cannot lack existence (that is, it should exist).


The second version of Descartes' ontological argument[11]


1. Logically, it is necessary to confirm for a concept all that is necessary for its nature (definition); (for example, a triangle should have three sides).

2. Existence is a logically necessary part of the concept of the Necessary Being. (Otherwise, it could not be defined as the Necessary Being).

3. Hence, it should be logically admitted that there is a Necessary Being. In brief, if God, according to definition, cannot be non-existent, then He should exist, for it is impossible to conceive a thing which cannot be non-existent as non-existent. Then it is necessary to conceive such a thing as existent.


Hume's criticism of the ontological argument[12]


1. Nothing is demonstrable unless its conversion leads to contradiction. (For if there is room for other probabilities, it cannot be necessarily real).

2. Everything that is distinctively conceivable does not lead to contradiction. (For if it is self-contradictory, it cannot be conceivable distinctively. And if it is impossible, it cannot become possible).

3. We can consider as non-existent what we consider as existent. (Existence or non-existence of things cannot be mentally eliminated).

4. Thus there is not a thing whose non-existence leads to contradiction.

5. As a result, there is no existent whose existence can be rationally proved.


Kant's criticism of the ontological argument[13]


1. Kant does not agree that we have no positive concept of the Necessary Being. God is defined as follows: A thing for which it is not possible not to be.

2. In addition, necessity cannot be applied to existence. It is applied only to propositions. Necessity is a logical, and not an ontological, restraint. There is no ontologically necessary proposition. What is recognized through experience (which is the only way to find knowledge of things) may exist in a different way as well.

3. What is logically possible does not need to be ontologically possible. It is possible that there is no logical contradiction in a necessary existence. But it is also possible for such an existence to be actually impossible.

4. Even if we deny existence and the concept of the Necessary Being, we never contradict ourselves. For example, there is no contradiction in the denial of both the triangle and its three angles. Contradiction results from the denial of one of them without the denial of the other.

5. Existence is not a predicate, so it cannot, like perfection or some other attribute, be true of a subject or a thing. Existence is not perfection for some quiddity; rather, it is a state of that perfection.


The Most Important and Common Version of the Cosmological Argument

Leibinz's cosmological argument[14]


1. The [observable] world is in a state of change.

2. Whatever is in a state of change lacks a cause for its own existence in itself.

3. There is a sufficient reason for what exists, whether within itself or beyond itself.

4. Therefore, there should be a cause beyond this world so that the existence of the world can be justified.

5. Therefore, either a thing is a sufficient cause for itself, or there is a cause beyond it.

6. There cannot be an endless regression of sufficient reason. (Disability to reach an explanation itself cannot be regarded as an explanation. There should be an explanation).

7. Therefore, there should be a higher cause for the world, a higher cause beyond which there is no sufficient reason, and that in itself is sufficient reason for its own existence.

Hume's criticism of the cosmological argument[15]


1. From finite effects a finite cause can be derived. The cause should be similar to the effect. And since the effect (the world) is finite, then one only needs to consider a cause which is sufficiently appropriate for the effect in order to explain the effect. Thus at best what results from the cosmological argument is a finite God.

2. No proposition concerning existence is logically necessary. The opposite of every proposition which is based on experience is always logically possible. But if it is logically possible that everything which is known through experience may be in a different way, then it is not rationally unavoidable that it is in the way it is. Thus, an issue which is based on experience is not logically provable.

3. The term 'Necessary Being' has no consistent connotation. Everything, even God, is always possible to be conceived of as non-existent. And for what is possible to be non-existent there is no necessity to exist.  Thus it makes no sense to speak of a logically Necessary Being.

4. If the Necessary Being means a thing which is only imperishable, then the world itself may be the Necessary Being. If the world cannot be the Necessary Being in the sense of being imperishable, then neither can God. Therefore, either the world is the Necessary Being, or God is not imperishable.

5. Indefinite regression is possible. There is no cause for eternal regression, for the cause requires temporal priority. But nothing can be prior in the course of time to eternal regression. As a result, eternal regression is possible.

6. The world as a whole needs no cause, only its parts are in need of a cause. The principle of sufficient reason can be applied only to the internal parts of the world, but not to the world as a whole. Parts are possible, and the whole is necessary.

7. The arguments to prove the existence of God convince only those who are interested in absolutism. Only those who are interested in metaphysics can be convinced by the arguments to prove the existence of God. Most people think practically enough not to turn to this kind of absolute rationality. Even those arguments that begin from experience soon lead one to 'fly' in the low sky of a purely theoretical world, and fail to convince the addressee.


Kant's criticism of the cosmological argument[16]


1. The cosmological argument is based on the invalid ontological argument. In order to come to an absolutely necessary conclusion, the cosmological argument leaves behind the realm of experience and the concept of the Necessary Being adopted by it. Without such a jump from what comes later to what came earlier, the cosmological argument cannot perform its task. The jump is necessary, but there is no validity for it. There is no way to show that it is logically necessary to reach the conclusion that the Necessary Being (a thing for which it is impossible not to be) exists, unless one leaves the world of experience and enters the purely theoretical world.

2. Ontological judgments are not necessary. The conclusion of the cosmological argument suggests that it is a necessary judgment. Necessity is, however, among the properties of thought and not of existence. Only propositions, and not things, are necessary. The only necessity that exists is contained in the realm of logic, and not in the realm of existence.

3. A neumenal cause, which is related to the ontological external world, cannot result from a phenomenal cause, which is related to the world of mind or phenomenon.  In the cosmological argument it is impermissibly assumed that man can go from an effect, which is within the realm of phenomenon, to a cause, which is in the realm of reality (neumen). The cause is merely a category in the mind which is imposed upon reality, and not a constituent of it. Every necessity which has a causal relation has been made by the mind, and it is not found in reality.

4. What is logically necessary does not need to be ontologically necessary. Following the previous criticism, another criticism will be introduced. That is, what is rationally unavoidable does not need to be necessarily real. It is possible to conceive of a thing as a particular thing while it is not actually so. Then even a logically necessary thing does not need to exist necessarily.

5. The cosmological argument results in metaphysical contradictions. If one assumes that conceptual categories can also be applied to reality, and if one introduces a cosmological argument based on this assumption, contradictions will result, contradictions such as: There should be a primary cause, but there cannot be a primary cause (both of which logically result from the principle of sufficient reason).

6. The concept of the Necessary Being is not self-evident. No one knows what the 'Necessary Being' actually means. This concept is not self-evident. The Necessary Being, however, is conceived of as a thing for whose existence there is no condition of any sorts. Thus the only way to make sense of this term passes through its definition within the theological argument, which eliminates it.

7. Logically, infinite regression is possible. There is no contradiction in the concept of the infinite regression of causes. In fact, the principle of sufficient reason requires such a thing, for this principle suggests that there should be a cause for everything. If so, when we reach a certain cause in the sequence of causes, we cannot stop to look for the cause. In fact, reason requires us to continue to look for the cause infinitely. (Certainly, reason also requires us to find a primary cause, which is the ground for all causes. This is, however, the same contradiction which one will face if he/she applies reason, beyond the concepts, to reality). As long as it is concerned with logical possibility, infinite regression is possible.

Now we will proceed to examine the main of the foregoing criticisms and the position adopted by the argument of the righteous and its philosophical grounds. (Some criticisms will become irrelevant when a main criticism is answered, which is mentioned in brief).


A. Necessity cannot be applied to existence, but is used only in propositions


Necessity is a logical rather than ontological restraint. Here, along with this criticism, we will discuss another posed by Kant. The said criticism says that even if we deny the concept of the Necessary Being (in the proposition there is a Necessary Being), we will not confront contradictions.

Kant poses this argument against Anselm and Descarte's ontological arguments. First he tries to show that despite the claims of Anslem and Descartes' ontological arguments, it is not necessary to affirm the existence of the Necessary Being. In order to elucidate this matter he says,

If in an identical judgment we annihilate the predicate in thought and retain the subject, the result will be a contradiction. And so we say that the former [predicate] belongs necessarily to the latter [subject]. But if we suppress both the subject and the predicate in thought, no contradiction arises, for there is nothing at all, and so no means of forming a contradiction exists. To suppose the existence of a triangle and not its three angles is self-contradictory, but to suppose the non-existence of both the triangle and the three angles is perfectly admissible. And so is the case with the concept of an absolutely Necessary Being. Annihilate its existence in thought, and you annihilate the thing itself with all its predicates. How can then there be any room for contradiction? Externally, there is nothing to give rise to contradiction, for a thing can be necessary neither externally nor internally. This is because by the annihilation or suppression of the thing itself, its internal properties are also annihilated. If we say "God is Omnipotent", this is a necessary judgment. If we pose the existence of a Deity, the existence, that is, of an infinite being, then we cannot deny His omnipotence. But when you say "God does not exist", neither omnipotence nor any other predicate is affirmed. All must disappear with the subject, and in this judgment, there cannot exist the slightest self-contradiction.[17]

Kant means to show that the concepts of 'being real' and the proposition of 'existing' are other than the concept of existence, which is not able to prove reality. He also pays attention to another fact about the concept of necessity, particularly in its logical application. This prudence in propositions which have a subject is reasonable. In every proposition, the predicate is necessary for the subject only when there is a subject. And if essentially there is a subject, necessity exists no more. This is what is called logical essential necessity in the Transcendent Philosophy. Mulla Sadra affirms Kant's opinion that in logical and philosophical propositions there is always a condition, and that is the condition of the subsistence of the subject. That is, if a triangle remains a triangle, it will be necessary for it to have three sides. Kant explicitly states this issue as follows,

The above-mentioned proposition, that the triangle has three sides, does not stipulate that its three angles necessarily exist. It rather says that upon the condition that a triangle exists, three angles must necessarily exist with it.[18]

The Transcendent Philosophy, however, makes a distinction between the logically essential necessity and the philosophically essential necessity in analytic propositions. Also, in The Transcendent Philosophy the proposition "The Necessary Being is Omnipotent" is logically and essentially necessary, and hence this proposition is restrained by the condition of if there is a necessary being. So, denial of the subject will not lead to contradiction. If there is not such a condition, this necessity will not be a logical necessity. A proposition which is not restrained by the condition of if the essence of the subject exists is not but an ontological proposition whose existence is necessary. Thus, this restraint makes no sense.

When the predicate, which is not other than existence, may be necessary for the subject under all circumstances, and when one cannot conceive of a situation in which this necessity makes no sense, it is called the philosophically essential necessity in the Transcendent Philosophy. The Transcendent Philosophy implies the eternity and pre-eternity of the subject and the necessity of the predicate for it. That is why it is also called the pre-eternal necessity. Thus the pre-eternal necessity means that the thing exists necessarily and is not indebted to any other thing for this necessity, which means that it is an independent and subsistent thing.

Mulla Sadra's philosophy has nothing to do with proving the logical necessity for the existence of the Necessary Being, and thus there is no room for Kant's criticism. What this philosophy seeks is proof for the pre-eternal necessity for the Necessary Being. If we attribute existence to the absolute reality of being, in the light of the principiality of existence this necessity will not be the logically essential necessity (that is, the same necessity which is assigned to quiddity, and which makes an essential meaning). It is rather a philosophically essential necessity, which cannot be restrained, even by the condition of if the essence of the subject exists. The main objection to Kant's attitude is his lack of attention to this distinction, and his regarding all necessities as the logical necessity. Then Kant says,

Thus you see that when the predicate of a judgment is annihilated in thought along with the subject, no internal contradiction can arise, whatever the predicate may be. There is no possibility of evading the conclusion, and you will find yourself compelled to declare that there are certain subjects which cannot be annihilated in thought. But this is nothing more than saying that there exist subjects which are absolutely necessary – the very hypothesis which you are called upon to establish. For I find myself unable to form the slightest conception of a thing which, when annihilated in thought with all its predicates, leaves contradiction behind. And contradiction is the only criterion of impossibility in the sphere of pure a priori conceptions.[19]      

Following this remark he adds that one may claim that the concept of the most real thing is a particular concept from which negation of existence will lead by itself to contradiction. This critique is a version of the ontological argument introduced by Leibniz. Summarily, it is as follows:[20]

1. If the existence of the absolutely perfect being is possible, then it should necessarily exist because:

a. the absolutely perfect being cannot lack a thing;

b. if it does not exist, it will lack existence;

c. as a result, the absolutely perfect being cannot lack existence.

2. For the absolutely perfect being to be (and not to entail a contradiction) is possible.

3. Thus, the absolutely perfect being should necessarily exist.

To affirm the minor part of the syllogism, Leibniz argues:

1. Perfection is a simple and irreducible quality, without any essential limitation.

2. What is simple cannot be in conflict with another irreducible simple quality (for they are different in terms of species).

3. What is different from another thing cannot be in conflict with the latter.

4. Thus for a being (God), it is possible to have all possible perfections.

In response Kant says,

What I ask is if the proposition this or that thing exists an analytical or a synthetical proposition? If analytical, there is no addition made to the subject of your thought by the affirmation of its existence. But then the conception in your minds is identical with the thing itself, or you have supposed the existence of a thing to be possible, and then inferred its existence from its internal possibility, which is not but a miserable tautology.[21]

Concerning this issue, the following points should be noted regarding Sadra's Transcendent Philosophy:

1. Necessity is not inferred at first from logical propositions, or as Kant puts it, analytical propositions. So, using it in philosophy and reality cannot lead to difficulty. According to the Transcendent Philosophy, man first recognizes simple and evident concepts in reality and in philosophy, concepts such as the causal necessity between a will and its acts. Then he finds them applicable to logic (whose domain is the mind and concepts).  Concepts such as necessity, possibility and impossibility are so evident that they cannot be really defined. These concepts have the same meanings in philosophy and logic. That Kant finds the concept of necessity in analytical propositions does not imply that this concept is abstracted from analytical propositions. That is why the concept of the necessity of existence has been widely expanded in the Transcendent Philosophy. Likewise, in logic, it is classified into 13 various categories. Thus necessity is an evident concept whose realization is first proved in philosophy. Then logic uses the result of this philosophical issue as an axiom and explains its various kinds, which will be realized in the domain of concepts and propositions.[22]

2. In some ontological arguments, the necessity of existence is confined to the Necessary Being or God. However, as explained in the previous part, and taking Mulla Sadra's principiality of existence[23] into account, existence is necessary for every actual thing. Though the concept of existence for possible quiddities in the mind may be either necessary or possible, in every actual thing existence is necessary, and this necessity is no more a logical necessity, but an objective one. What is maintained for other than the Creator the Exalted in the Transcendent Philosophy is that their existence depends on another, while for the Creator the Exalted this necessity is an essential one. Hence, in Mulla Sadra's philosophy, the necessity of existence is assigned to all things and not only to the Creator the Exalted.

3. While we can regard the analytical propositions expressed by Kant as the equivalent of predication through adherence in the Transcendent Philosophy, analytical propositions are, however, special cases of predication by way of intimacy in the Transcendent Philosophy. Predicates such as existence, unity, individuation, etc cannot be subsumed under an analytical frame in the sense of the term used by Kant. They are, however, taken from the innermost of a thing. Kant notices more or less that the assignment of existence to a thing in a simple proposition is other than other predicates, and so it cannot be regarded as a synthesis of two concepts. And existence implies something more, which will be introduced in the next criticism. However, he does not notice the way it is assigned, which the Transcendent Philosophy expresses as predication by way of intimacy. That is why in an ontological proposition he can analyze it neither in the garb of synthetical propositions nor as analytical propositions. His previous criticism points mainly to this issue.

While answering the above objection, we also answered some other objections which Hume and Kant pose. Where Kant says what is logically necessary is not ontologically necessary as well, he, again incorrectly, regards logic as the source from which necessity is inferred. Thus generalizing this logical necessity to existence is a matter of debate; whereas, according to Mulla Sadra, necessity and possibility are among evident concepts, whose source is philosophy. And it is logic which takes these concepts from philosophy. That is why the necessity mentioned in philosophy, and particularly in the argument of the righteous, does not imply the logical necessity of the assignment of existence to the Creator the Exalted. Rather, it implies the philosophical necessity of existence.

Therefore, Kant's objection that ontological judgments are not necessary is out of place here. Also, Hume's criticism that no proposition concerning existence can be logically necessary can be posed only when, in the argument of the righteous, we try to prove logical necessity for the Necessary Being. In this argument we seek to prove philosophical necessity, and in fact pre-eternal necessity, for the Necessary Being.


B. Existence is not a real predicate


Kant deliberately makes a distinction between existence and other perfections, and this is the same issue whose identity constituted the basis of Descartes' ontological argument:

1. What does not add something to the conception of a quiddity is not a part of that quiddity.

2. Existence does not add something to the conception of quiddity. (That is, if we regard quiddity as real rather than imaginary, no property is added to quiddity; a real one-dollar bill has no property that an illusionary one- dollar bill does not).

3. Therefore, existence is not a part of quiddity (that is, it is not a perfection which can be regarded as the predicate of something).

This criticism of Kant nullifies the first version of the ontological argument proposed by Anselm. According to Kant, Anselm's argument leads in fact to the point that:

1. All possible perfections should be predicated on the absolutely perfect being.

2. Existence is a possible perfection which may be predicated on the absolutely perfect being.

3. Therefore, existence should be predicated on the absolutely perfect being.

According to Kant, the minor part of this proposition is wrong. Existence is not a perfection which may be predicated on a thing. Existence is not a property, but an example of a property or thing. Quiddity gives the definition and existence provides an example of what is defined. Quiddity is given to a thing's being imagined, and existence adds nothing to this quality of being imaginable, but merely makes its objectivity possible. Thus, existence does not add something to the concept of the absolutely perfect being, nor does it take something away from it. This is a typical criticism against the ontological argument since Kant's time onwards.

Kant's words are exactly as follows:[24]      

Being is evidently not a real predicate, that is, a conception of something which is added to the conception of some other thing. It is merely the positing of a thing, or of certain objectifications in it. Logically, it is merely the copula of a judgment. The proposition God is omnipotent contains two conceptions which have a certain object or content. The small word 'is' is no additional predicate; it merely indicates the relation of the predicate to the subject. Now if I take the subject (God) with all its predicates (omnipotence being one) and say God is, or there is a God, I add no new predicate to the conception of God. I merely posit or affirm the existence of the subject with all its predicates. I posit the object in relation to my conception.

Concerning Kant's words, the following points are noticeable in comparison with Mulla Sadra's philosophy:

1. Kant says, "Being is evidently not a real predicate". In this regard, Mulla Sadra agrees with Kant to some extent. He also accepts that predicative existence is not like other predicates, but he does not accept that existence is not a predicate. For, if someone has never seen an elephant and then he asks "Is there an animal called elephant?" and in reply we say yes "Yes, there is an animal called elephant", this is a predicative proposition. And it is evident that this answer is a proposition, for it can be affirmed or rejected. According to Mulla Sadra, however, this proposition is other than those propositions in which we attribute something to something else. According to him, propositions are classified under two categories: binary propositions (i.e. those propositions whose predicate is existence), and ternary propositions (those whose predicate is other than existence). The former are propositions purporting a simple question of 'whether', and the latter are propositions purporting a synthetical question of 'whether'. In the latter type the predicate is of the kind of predicates by way of adherence, in which the truth of the proposition and the attribute of the predicate to the subject depends on assuming an object for the predicate, which is other than the object of the subject, and at the same time the proposition has been introduced to show its identity with the subject. In the sentence 'Ali is all-knowing both 'Ali and the quality of being all-knowing have their own object. This proposition is meant to show the identity between the two in the external world. That is, 'Ali has a particular object, which is at the same time an object for 'all-knowing'. In the propositions purporting a simple question of 'whether' there is no more an object assumable other than the subject for the predicate so that to prove them the realization of two separate but adhered things may be required. This kind of external predicate is called predicate by way of intimacy. These distinctions, of which Kant is unaware, are among the achievements of The Transcendent Philosophy.

2. Kant says, "Being is merely the copula of a judgment". He continues, "The proposition God is omnipotent contains two conceptions ('God' and 'omnipotent') which have a certain object or content". In the light of the doctrine of the principiality of existence, the expression each has a certain object or content is exactly the real existence, which encompasses objective reality. This is not the copulative existence, but a reality which is not for the establishment of a relation between two parts of a proposition. Rather, it is the real existent of the two. According to Mulla Sadra,[25] existence is of two modes: independent existence and copulative existence. The relation between the subject and the predicate is a form of copulative existence. In comparison with its existence-granting cause, the effect is also of the copulative existence. Thus, contrary to Kant's essential view, in which he pays no attention to this classification and regards existence as confined to the copulative existence, Mulla Sadra considers existence as either independent or copulative. And, based on his philosophy of the principiality of existence, he proposes his own arguments in favor of both these existences.

3. Kant's idea that existence is not a thing to be added to some concept agrees, in a way, with that of Mulla Sadra. Mulla Sadra also considers quiddity as a mentally-posited thing and existence as principial. What is in the external world is not other than existence, and quiddity is conceptualized through the limitations of particular beings. And all characteristics are concepts, resulted from quiddities, which are essentially other than existence.

On the other hand, Mulla Sadra regards the concept of existence as occurred to quiddity in the mind, and thus only in the mind can it be added to quiddity. Anyway, this is other than the principiality of existence and the mentally-posited quality of quiddity.

4. Kant says that a hundred of real dollars have nothing in addition to a hundred possible dollars (in the mind) and concludes that a hundred of real dollars contain no more than a hundred possible dollars. He says, "If I conceptualize a thing by anything or any number of predicates, even to complete objectification, nothing can be added to the thing. Otherwise, not exactly the same thing but something more than what was cogitated in my conception would exist, and I could not affirm that the exact object of my conception had real existence".[26]

Kant's idea is similar to that of Mulla Sadra, who thinks that quiddity qua quiddity is identical in the external world and in the mind. Sometimes quiddity is realized in the form of external existence, and at other times as mental existence; hence, the externality of quiddity does not make it greater or other than the mental form.

The two above-mentioned criticisms were among the most important philosophical criticisms propounded against ontological and cosmological arguments, so we discussed the issue comparatively. We will now examine other criticisms briefly.


C. The term "Necessary Being" has no consistent meaning


This objection was first posed by Hume. His argument explains what he means by these words and, briefly, it is as follows: It is possible to imagine everything – even God – as non-existent, and what is possible to be non-existent does not necessarily need to exist. In this sense, if it is possible for a thing to be non-existent, its existence is not necessary. Then speaking of a thing called the logically necessary being is meaningless.

Hume's criticism was answered while we were answering the first criticism.

First, the argument of the righteous does not try to affirm the logical necessity for the existence of the necessary being. Hume claims that this sense of necessity – and not the necessity of the objective existence – is debated where the conception of the Necessary Being is concerned.

Second, Hume's criticism stems from the confusion between two kinds of predication, also found in the case of certain ontological arguments. And this is among the issues that Mulla Sadra, who makes a distinction between the primary essential predication (haml awwali dhati) and the common technical predication (haml shayh sana'i), scrutinizes profoundly. He believes that though taking the conception of existence from the Necessary Being is impossible, it is true in case of the primarily essential predication, which is a mental thing. That is to say that in the mind the conception of existence is not separable from the conception of the Necessary Being. This, however, does not suggest that in the negation of the object of the Necessary Being we come to contradiction. The negation of existence from the Necessary Being through the common technical predication does not lead to contradiction.  The conception of the Necessary Being is the Necessary Being through the primary essential predication. Through the common technical predication, however, it is a mental issue which has been created in the container of man's awareness and perception as a possible reality that can be annihilated. Therefore, the conception of the Necessary Being is, through the common technical predication, a possible being. In the argument of the righteous the essentiality of the reality of existence is not used for the conception of the Necessary Being. Here, its eternal necessity is taken into account.

Third, the issue of possibility and necessity, which is closer to the cosmological argument, is not central to the argument of the righteous. It discusses the pure reality of existence and not the necessity of existence, which is required by possible things. The issue of possibility and necessity should be discussed in the argument of possibility and necessity. While answering this criticism, the argument also answers Hume's other criticism, that there is nothing which can be rationally affirmed. Hume's criticism was explained while describing his criticism of the ontological argument in detail.

Kant posed the above-mentioned criticism (that the "Necessary Being" has no consistent meaning) as follows:[27]

Philosophers have always talked of an absolutely necessary being, but have never tried to understand whether or not a being of this nature is cogitable, or whether its existence is actually demonstrable. A verbal definition of the conception is certainly easy enough: It is something the non-existence of which is impossible. But in this situation we do not get more awareness regarding those conditions which render it impossible to cogitate the non-existence of a thing. And these are the conditions which we wish to ascertain. Do we mean whether we think anything through the conception of such a being or not? For, by using the word unconditioned, we throw away all the conditions which understanding habitually requires in order to regard anything as necessary. This makes it far from clear whether by means of the conception of the unconditionally necessary I think of something or really of nothing at all. 

Kant's criticism has attracted the attentions of some analytic philosophers as well. Some philosophers such as Bertrand Russel,[28] John Hospers[29] and J.L. Mackie[30] have posed other versions of this criticism. This criticism concerns itself mostly with the ontological arguments which rely upon the conception of the Necessary Being, and has nothing to do with the argument of the righteous, which is based on the principiality of existence and the reality of existence. In contrast, we should try to understand what Mulla Sadra says about our understanding of the reality of existence and its pure reality. He believes that the conception of existence is among the most evident conceptions and is perceived through itself. This conception is essentially manifest, and at the same time it makes other things manifest. The reality of existence is, however, ultimately hidden. The extremity of its being a hidden reality is its externality, and if this reality occurs in the mind as an external thing, it negates that reality. At the beginning of his Kitab al- masha‘ir Mulla Sadra says, "As regards realization, existence is more apparent than any other thing …, and as regards quiddity and its being perceived, it is the most hidden thing". [31]

Thus the reality of existence is understood through contemplating existence and the meaning of the principiality of existence, and not from the negation of some conceptions, as Kant thinks. This intuition, though extremely manifest, requires philosophical scrutiny [to be understood]. That is why it is said that its success depends upon an accurate understanding of the issues it introduces. And the difficulty in understanding it relates to its conception. If a clear conception is earned, then in the stage of judgment there will be no difficulty, and the conception itself will bring about its judgment. This issue is mentioned in a passage at the end of ‘Arafah supplication: "How can we demonstrate You through a thing which is in need of You for its own existence? Is there any thing with a manifestation that You lack, so as to enlighten You? When have You been hidden, so that an evidence may be needed to testify to You?" [32]


D. The infinite chain is possible


Both Kant and Hume pose this criticism. The success of many cosmological arguments depends upon the affirmation of the impossibility of the infinite chain of causes, movers … And this criticism of Kant and Hume concerns itself mostly with this premise of cosmological arguments. As for as Mulla Sadra's ideas are concerned, if by the infinite chain of causes we mean the infinite chain of mu‘iddah causes, this kind of chain is not impossible, and thus Kant and Hume may be right. But if there is a chain in existence-granting causes which relates the possible to the necessary (wajib), then such infinite chain is impossible. In Mulla Sadra's philosophy, which is based on the principiality of existence, there is no room for essential possibility. What this philosophy discusses is existential dependence (or, in an expanded sense, possibility of indigence – imkan-i faqri). Given the essential existential dependence of everything other than the Creator, this infinite chain can never make sense. Hence there is no room for Kant and Hume's criticism in the argument of possibility of indigence (imkan-i faqri).

Above all, Mulla Sadra declares the superiority of his own argument of the righteous over the argument of possibility and necessity in the fact that in the former there is no need to negate the vicious circle in the argument. Mulla Sadra regards this as the superiority of his argument of the righteous over previous arguments (including Ibn Sina's argument of the righteous). At the end of his explanations about the argument of the righteous, Mulla Sadra says,

Thus the path we treaded on was the most valuable and the simplest path, in which one who tried to know God and His attributes and acts no longer needed to regard anything other than Him as the middle term of proposition. Neither did he need to negate the vicious circle. [33] 


- The cosmological argument is based on the invalid ontological argument


This criticism of Kant concerns the cosmological argument, which suffers from certain defects. But the argument of the righteous does not begin from possible realities, nor does it regard the conception of the necessity of being as suggesting its real existence. Thus it can be regarded neither among ontological arguments nor among cosmological arguments. Therefore, this criticism has nothing to do with it.


- If the Necessary Being only means the imperishable, then it is possible that the world itself is the necessary being


This criticism is against Leibniz's version of cosmological arguments. Since in the argument of the righteous the necessity of being is not regarded as imperishable, this criticism cannot be applied to it. The imperishability of God can be among God's attributes, which will be understood after adducing the argument, and it has not been used in the premises of the argument.


- From finite effects one can derive finite causes


It should be possible to understand a finite God from the cosmological argument. Hume's demonstration in this criticism is based on the commensurability of the cause and effect. That is, he takes this as their prefect identity, but commensurability is other than perfect identity. The necessary and the possible are commensurable in terms of existence. However, it does not mean that the intensities of existence in the two are identical. In the premises of the argument, Mulla Sadra refers to something synonymous with existence, which suggests that existence in the necessary (wajib) and in the possible (mumkin) share the same meaning. He further adds that the same common thing, which provides the commensurability of the necessary and the possible, will turn to the point of difference between things. And from this he draws the conception of gradation (tashkik). When ma bihil ishtirak is the same as ma bihil imtiyaz and vice versa, then beings differ on the basis of intensity and infirmity, priority and posteriority, and this is the same as the gradation of existence. Given the above, the finite effect does not need to depend necessarily on a finite cause, but if the effect is of the genus of existence, then the cause also is of the same genus, and in both of them existence possesses the same meaning. This is what results from the argument of possibility of indigence (imkan-i faqri) and the argument of the righteous.


- As a whole, the world needs no cause and only the parts are in need of causes.


This objection is against Leibniz's cosmological argument, who seeks to prove that the entire world is contingent and in need of a necessary cause. Unfortunately, this wrong impression of cosmological argument initiated from Leibniz's time and made serious flaws in the argument. The cosmological argument, as posed by Muslim philosophers and based on possibility and necessity, is essentially different from what Leibniz suggests. The possibility of a thing is inherent in the essence of things, and a thing, for its existence, is dependent. And this need for existence is other than ilal-i mu‘iddah, which is provided by other things. Since Leibniz believes that the need of a things is provided by other things (which are really m‘uiddah), such need should be generalized to the entire world. The need introduced in the argument of possibility and necessity, and in particular in Ibn-Siina's version, is the need of all parts of the world for their existence, which will never be provided by ‘ilal-i m‘uiddah.

Apart from all these considerations, evidently the argument of the righteous never makes such a claim, and thus there is no room for Hume's criticism.


- A neumenal (external existential world) cause cannot be from a phenomenal effect (the world of mind and phenomenon)


This criticism of Kant is based on his philosophy, which claims that what we understand from the external world is nothing but phenomena. That is, the external world appears to us as such. This is in a sense similar to Mulla Sadra's idea, saying that it is the mind which makes quiddities out of the limitations of existence. So, quiddities are mentally-posited things. From this, however, Mulla Sadra does not derive the negation of neumen or substance. Kant believes that the cosmological argument assumes incorrectly that man can go beyond an effect, which is contained in the realm of phenomena, and derive a cause, which is in the realm of neumen. He regards this inadmissible, though there are still controversies regarding the classification of the phenomenon and the neumen and the manner of our knowledge of them, as well as such impressions of the ontological argument. 

But now it is better to continue the issue of neumen. Kant says, "No one knows what reality is, except that there is something which is". This expression exactly represents the starting point of the argument of the righteous, which does not begin with the nature of reality (which Kant criticizes), but from the existence of reality (which he accepts). The thrust of the principiality of existence is that it considers the existence of the external world, rather than its nature, as principial. Hence, the argument of the righteous has nothing to do with Kant's criticism.


- Arguments for the existence of God convince only those who are interested in absolutism


This criticism does not concern itself with the very argument but is an evaluative expression. This criticism brings the arguments, which are useful in the formation of belief, under question. It is now relevant to refer to Mulla Sadra's opinion in this regard. The process of convincing is other than the arguments and their intellectual value. Do all those who present arguments for proving God's existence claim that their arguments are presented to common people, and do they seek to demonstratively convince people in all their arguments? A very firm argument (for every issue) may fail to convince one (particularly if they are among those people who dispute), since they were unwilling to accept it from the very beginning, or if they lost interest after accepting the argument. On the contrary, a simple argument may soon provide a context for hearty and internal belief in one who seeks the truth. Thus it is that in Islamic philosophy the arguments for proving the Necessary, instead of standing horizontally (as it is common in the West), are considered in terms of their vertical relation.

And, so far as the addressees are concerned, arguments are posed at different levels. Some arguments are presented for the majority of people, and are appropriate to their power of thinking (such as the argument of design and fitrah, in which, instead of arguments, verses [of the Quran] are presented). Many people will be convinced with this argument and will therefore become believers. Some other arguments can be presented for those who enjoy deeper philosophical understanding. These arguments have both more demonstrative power and more depth and expansion, and will bring about more useful consequences. The argument of the righteous is presented at this level. Despite admitting its firmness, nobility, and simplicity, Mulla Sadra himself admits that all people at all intellectual levels cannot attain understanding of this argument. And then he goes on to consider other arguments. At the end of his argument of the righteous Mulla Sadra says,

This path suffices the people of perfection who try to attain the Truth and His tokens and acts. Not every one is able to infer various judgments from principle. Therefore, they should be taught those ways which lead to the Truth, though those ways may not lead one to the Truth as much. [34]






1. Mulla Sadra, Sharh-i hikmat-i muta'aliyyah fi asfar al- arba‘ah, Dar Ihya al- Torath al- ‘Arabi, Beirut, vol. 3, 1891AD., vol. 6, p. 13.

2. Ibn-Sina, al- Isharat wal tanbihat, Nasr institute, Tehran, 1379AH. Lunar, vol. 3, p. 66.

3. Tabatabaii, Mohammed Husain, Nihayat al- hikmah, al- Zahra publication, Tehran, 1367A.H. Solar, vol. 2, p. 275. Also see Jawadi Amuli, Sharh-i hikmat-i muta‘aliyyah fi asfar al- arba‘ah, al-Zahra, Tehran, 1368 A.H. Solar, part1, vol. 6, pp. 116-117.

4. Lahiji, Mulla Mohammed Ja‘far, Sharh -i risalat al- masha‘ir-i Mulla Sadra, Maktab al- a'lam al- Islami, Tehran, 1343 A.H. Solar, pp. 12-13.

5. In explaining the promises and the methods of presenting the argument, I have made use of Mutahhari's footnotes in the following book: Tabatabaii, Usul-i falsafah wa rawish-i realism, Qum Dar al-‘ilm, 1350 A.H. Solar, vol.5, pp. 82-83.

6. al-Asfar, vol. 6, pp. 14-16.

7. The author has discussed the argument of the righteous in detail in Danishnamah Jahan-i Islam, Islamic encyclopedia, Tehran, 1376, under the entry Burhan-i sididqin. In this article I have made use of some parts of it.

8. For Anselm and Descartes' arguments, and the criticisms posed by Kant and Hume on these arguments refer to following book:

Philosophy of Religion, Geisler, N.

9.  Ibid.  p. 189 (Persian translation).

10. Ibid. p.195.

11. Ibid, p.194.

12. Ibid, pp.204-205.

13. Ibid, pp.205-206.

14. Ibid, p.253.

15. Ibid, pp.255-257.

16. Ibid, pp.257-259.

17. Immanuel Kant, The Critique of Pure Reason, translated by J. M. D. Meiklejohn.

18. Ibid.

19. Ibid.

20. The Philosophy of Religion, p.201.

21. Ibid.

22. al-Asfar, vol.1, p.83.

23. Ibid, pp.83-93.

24. Kant, Critique, p.401-402.

25. al-Asfar, vol.1, p.327.

26. Ibid, p.398.

27. Ibid. p. 398.

28.  Pojman Louis, Philosophy of Religion, an Anthology, California, 1987, p. 6 – 11.

29. Hospers, John, An Introduction to Philosophical Analysis, London, 1990, pp.293-295.

30. Mackie, J.L., The Miracle of Theism, New York, 1986, pp.82-86.

31. See footnote 4.

32. Qumi, Shaykh ‘Abbas, Mafatih al- jinan, the end of ‘Arafah supplication.

33. al-Asfar, vol.6, pp.25-26

34. Ibid, pp.25-26.


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