Existence as a Predicate in Kant and Mulla Sadra

 Reza Akbarian


The study of Kant’s doctrines on the existence as “ predicate” and comparing it with that of Mulla Sadra who believes in the reality of philosophical concepts, and, in order to prove the reality of the philosophical propositions, presents an account other than that of Kant, are of paramount importance. Kant, the famous German philosopher, claims that the existence cannot be a real predicate for its subject; for the existence is not such a concept which can add something to a thing. According to Kant, and in logical terminology, the existence is, in fact, only a copula of the proposition and neither of its sides. The copula of a proposition does not tell us a thing, which may have a real referent. The only task of it is to connect the predicate to subject.

The highly respected philosopher of the Islamic world, Mulla Sadra accepts the existence as an independent and predicable concept. His words on the simple proposition “A exists” are similar to that of Kant in a way and different in another way. For the content of this proposition is the affirmation and realization of the subject, and not affirmation of something for the subject, in this way he is unanimous with Kant. But since, relying on the primacy of existence, he proves that what it has reality in the external world is the existence, and not the quiddity, he speaks other than Kant. According to him, the quiddity is a mentally-posited thing, which is either abstracted from the limits of the existence, or it is the manifestation of the limits of the existence in the mind.

A comparative study between Mulla Sadra’s point of view about the predicative existence, and in general every issue, and that of Kant without taking their intellectual and philosophical systems into account and also disregarding Mulla Sadra’s ontological doctrines would be impossible. The “existence”, regarded by Mulla Sadra and the other Muslim philosophers as a predicate in the “existential proposition”, is totally different from what it is intended by Kant. Kant deals, in effect, with the relatively empirical concepts of “existence”, “reality” and “necessity”. It is not surprising that, with these conceptual restraints, it is impossible to prove the necessity of existence for God; and Kant, when he seeks to reject the ontological argument, refers to the point that the existence is not a real predicate.

 Like his predecessors, Mulla Sadra has dealt with the concepts of “existence”, “God” and “reality” in a way, which is totally other than that of Kant. That is, despite interesting similarities in their methods of incorporation of concepts in arguments, Kant and Muslim philosophers, as regards their philosophical theologies, belong to two entirely different worlds. Thus to make a comparison between them, one cannot take a particular concept such as “existence” or “necessity” and ask that which of them is right. What is needed is a comparative study between the intellectual systems and accurate examination of them.

In this article we are to study Kant’s expressions on denying the predicative existence and those of Muslim philosophers in a comparative way, so that we can examine one of the most important philosophical issues, and make grounds for a study of the “reality of the existence”, which is the most important issue in Mulla Sadra’s philosophy, through affirmation of the “existential proposition” and other philosophical propositions.



The Predicative Existence in Farabi Theology and Comparison between Him and Kant

Those who are familiar with the main texts of Islamic philosophy know that this issue has been debated on, since the old times by Muslim philosophers. The first founder of Islamic philosophy, Hakim Abu Nasr Farabi has paid attention to this issue and discussed it in some of his treatises such as Risalah fi masa’il-i mutafarriqah (treatise in various issues).

Farabi thinks that if one looks at the objects and examines the natural arrangements from the point of view of a naturalist, he will not regard the existence as a real predicate in the propositions. But if he does not restricted himself in the frame of nature and looks at the object from an “ontological” viewpoint, he has to admit that the existence is a real predicate, and every proposition whose predicate is the existence is among the most authentic propositions. Farabi’s words are as follows:

And the proposition that whether “man exists” is predicative or not, is an issue debated on by the earlier and later ones. Some of them have maintained that it is a predicative one and some of them have said it is not. We think that both of them are right, in a way. For, such propositions, if looked at from the point of view of a naturalist, who scrutinizes the things, are not predicative ones, for the existence of the thing is not other than the thing itself, and the predicate should be a concept whose addition and negation from the thing is judged. In this way the proposition has not a predicate. If it is looked at from the point of view of a logician, however, it is consisted of two words, which are its two terms, and this proposition can be affirmed or denied. In this way, thus, the proposition has a predicate. And both opinions are, in a way, right.[1]

The arguments, which Farabi adduces on behalf of the deniers of the predicative existence, are totally similar to those, which are interjected in the introduction of Critique of the Pure Reason by Kant. In this regard he says:

“Being” is obviously not a real predicate; that is, it is not a concept of something which could be added to the concept of a thing. It is merely the positing of a thing, or of certain determinations, as existing in themselves. Logically, it is merely the copula of a judgment.[2]

According to Kant, the existence is not predicate at all. For if it was the case, it would be required to add to the concept of something when it is posited. The problem which is introduced here is that we have not posited the same thing which represents our imagination, since what is posited is not equivalent with what it is in the imagination, but it has something in addition to it.

Then Kant gives an example: there is no discrepancy between the $ 100 which exists and the $ 100 which does not exist[3]; that is conceptually there is no discrepancy between a possible $ 100, i.e. the $ 100 which does not exist at all, and the $ 100 which I have. Conceptually there is no discrepancy; for if the $ 100 which I have is a real $ 100 which corresponds with its concept, it cannot be different from the concept of $ 100 in any way. The discrepancy between the imaginary $ 100 and real $ 100 is that the imaginary $ 100 has no real referent, while the real $ 100 has a real referent.

As far, there is no discrepancy between Farabi and Kant. Farabi also accepts that in the proposition “the man exists”, the predicate of the existence does not add something to the concept of man and, thus, it is not regarded as a real predicate for it: whether the man exists or not, nothing will be changed in the concept of “man”; that is, for the imagination there is no difference between the man who exists in the mind and the man who exists in the external world. The discrepancy between the subjective man and the objective man is not in their concepts, but it is, in fact, a discrepancy between the concept and the referent. In fact the predicative existence leads the study from concept to referent and its referred one.

What makes the Farabi’s thought distinguished from that of Kant is that Farabi studies the predicativity of the existence in a proposition from two points of view: one, that of natural sciences and, the other, metaphysical viewpoint. In Kant, however, we do not find such a distinction. According to Farabi, once a time, the man seeks to know the object and understands their natural causes from a naturalist’s point of view, and another time he wants to know them from a metaphysician’s viewpoint and find knowledge of their existential causes. Farabi regards both viewpoints as necessary for recognition of the reality.

According to the first viewpoint, the naturalist considers the objects as a subject for his philosophical study only in terms of their natural reality. Then, like for Kant, according to Farabi also the existence is not regarded as a real predicative for the proposition; for when we say “the man exists” we add nothing to it, and if having said this sentence we have added something to its imagination then we are not speaking of what we had an imagination of it, but we are speaking of a new thing.

In the second viewpoint, the philosopher does not confine himself in the bottleneck of the nature and looks at the nature from an extended and fundamental point of view. The question of the existence is a fundamental one; for, the philosopher always seeks to philosophically contemplate on it, and pave the way to reach its solution. In this view, the existence is present as a real predicate in the existential propositions, making them meaningful and provides the causes for their being true.

Discrepancy between Kant and Farabi has its roots in a more important issue. What makes Kant distinguished in his opposition to the Christian, Jew, and Muslim philosophical theology is that he regards the “existence” as a mere empirical thing. In Kant’s philosophy we are confronted with two important empirical rules, which not taking them into account will lead to inexcusable errors in comparative studies between Kant and Muslim philosophers. The first; the assignment of the existence to the object should be justified, based on the empirical evidences. And the second; the concepts are different, according to their empirical differences. When Kant says that the existence is not a real predicate and argues that it does not add to the concept of thing, his focus is only on the empirical discrepancies: discrepancies of the sort of sense qualities or quantities which is related with the object, or its sense results. Kant expressions, after the above-mentioned argument that the real $ 100 has nothing in addition to the possible $ 100, suggests the above-mentioned claim. In addition, Kant stipulates that all the man’s perceptions of the “existence” are based on the sense experiment; so if we assume that Kant is speaking of a special sort of the existence, which could be called “empirical existence” it will be more suitable. His method in crediting, determining, and distinguishing is, in effect, an empirical one.

Farabi, and following him the other Muslim philosophers cannot accept such an opinion. According to Farabi, the distinction between the “quiddity” and the “existence” is an intellectual-philosophical one. He takes the existence as standing for the personality and classifies the existents under the “necessary” and “possible”. According to him the “necessary” is pure existence and the “possible” is dependent on the “necessary”. If Farabi had discussed the “empirical existence”, Kant was certainly right. According to Farabi the man is aware of his existence, but not through the sense experiment. He can speak of the existence but not through sense essential concepts.

 Farabi, Ibn Sina, and Mulla Sadra do not seek to prove the “empirical existence” for God. In fact, to prove the existence of God through argumentation, and even the claim that the existence of God can be proved through argumentation, are same as to accept that the existence of God is non-empirical and free of the empirical content, and thus it is separate. In addition, to prove the reality of the existence – whether through the philosophical method of Farabi and Ibn Sina which leads to the sameness of the existence and the personality, or in Mulla Sadra’s philosophical way which is expressed as “the primacy of the existence” – is the best argument suggesting that the cognition of the existence and its accidents is out of the realm of the sense and the experiment. 


Non-analyticality of the Existential Propositions

Kant believes that every existential proposition a proposition whose predicate is the Existence is a compositional, and not analytic one. Hence, since these propositions are compositional ones, their truth or falsehood are related with the external world and do not originate from their definitions.

According to Kant, the existence is not a part of the concept of something; but rather when we say that something exists, we only posit the subject with all its predicates. Hence, if we negate the existence of something, it does not mean to negate a predicate from a certain subject; but rather we negate, in our mind, the subject with all its predicates thoroughly, and thus no contradiction will be aroused. In his Critique of the Pure Reason, Kant writes: “If its existence is rejected, we reject the thing itself with all its predicates and no question of contradiction can then arise.”[4] For example if one says: “God does not exist”, he does not negate the existence to retain its predicates such as the absolute power, the absolute knowledge, the absolute wisdom; but he negates all the predicates and with them, the subject.[5] Thus claiming that “God exists”, even if it may be false, does not require any contradictions. The contradiction will be occurred when we regard a part of a proposition as being affirmed and the other part as rejected.

According to Kant, the propositions such as “God is the Absolute Perfection”, “God is Omnipotent” and “God is Omniscient” are the essential necessary propositions.  

That is, it we admit the existence of God, this kind of predicates and attributes will be needed, but if one rejects the subject, then none of these predicates and attributes will be required, and all of them will be negated through the negation of the subject, and thus there will be no contradiction.[6]

Mulla Sadra also does not regard the existential propositions as the analytic ones. He believes that the predicate of the “existence” has not been considered in the definition of the subject. Same as the “existence”, which can be predicated of the subject, the “non-existence” also can be predicated of it. And the one who predicates the non-existence of a quiddity, does not contradict himself.

Muslim philosophers are unanimous that the concept of “existence” is not an analytic part of the quiddity and synonym with it. There cannot be found a [Muslim] philosopher who rejects this point. In this regard, Mulla Sadra says:

And otherwise the “man” and the “existence” would be synonym, and there would be no use for the proposition “the man exists”, and the contents of the propositions “the man exists” and “the man is man” would be identical, and one of them could not be considered, neglecting the other…[7]

Also in Khwajah Nasir al-Din Tusi’s Kalam we read:

If the concept of the existence was identical with the concept of the man, then the opposite concept [i.e. non-existence] should not be predicated of it, and we could not say, “ the man is non-existence.[8]

As it is seen, these expressions are similar to those of Kant, and both of them believe that the existential propositions are non-analytic and thus compositional. From the propositions’ being compositional Kant, however, does not come to a conclusion that in these propositions the predicate is real. Though stipulating that “the predicative existence takes the discussion from the realm of the concept to the realm of reference; that is, makes the proposition compositional,”[9] he does regard the existence as a real predicate for no quiddity and concepts.


Criterion for the Reality of the Predicate according to Kant

Kant has determined a criterion to make distinction between the real predicate and non-real predicate, which is as he himself, says a logical predicate. According to him, in order to construct a predicative proposition everything can be used as predicate; even the thing itself can be regarded as the predicate to construct a logical proposition, such as “the man is man”; in the real predicates, however, this is not the case; for a predicate can be a real predicate for its subject only when it adds something to the subject and enlarges it in a way. “But a determining predicate is a predicate, which is added to the concept of the subject and enlarges it.”[10]

Thus, the real predicate in only the predicate, which is not considered in the nature of the subject, but it, is perfectly an added predicate. Therefore, there is an objectivity and reality for the predicate other than the realization of the subject. For example, when it is said, “a certain body is white” bodyness has a reality other than that of the whiteness; the former is substance and the latter is accident. In the proposition “A exists”, however, the predicate and the subject are not two separate concepts. They are, in fact, two concepts with a common external individuation and determination.

According to Kant, this is not specific for the possible things. In all things, whether God or other than God, when the existness of an object is interjected, the relation between the subject and the predicate should not be regarded as an analytic or additive relation.

Kant believes that the “existence” is not a predicate by way of adherence, and it is not a special thing, which is able to add to something other and enlarge it; this is, however, among the primary principles of Islamic philosophy. Under “the simplicity of the existence” and “addition of the existence on the quiddity” in the early parts of philosophy, Mulla Sadra has discussed this issue in details.[11] According to him, the existence is the simple reality, and by the simplicity of the reality, it is meant that no additive is admitted in it. The thing, in which no additive is admitted, has no limit, and since there is no limit, there is no quiddity, which is the limit of things, as well. He does not deem the existence of the kind of quiddity, and believes that the existence is not a quiddity among the quiddities, but it is essentially, not an accident, but a substance.

Though he does not regard the predicate of existence, as an additive one, in concluding Mulla Sadra is not in agreement with Kant. He considers the existence neither as an analytic part for the subject nor as a predicate by way of adherence; he has accepted, however, the predicative existence and taken it as one of the most important doctrines in his philosophy.

In general, according to Mulla Sadra the predicate is not restricted to the predicate by way of adherence. For him, the predicate is classified under the “predicate by way of adherence” (bil zamimah) and “predicate by way of intimacy” (bil samimah).[12] In the predicate by way of adherence, when it is said, “a certain body is white” bodyness has a reality other than that of the whiteness. In the “predicate by way of intimacy”, by which the abstract predicate is meant, however, when it is said, for example, “ the man is possible”, one can suggest that the possibility is neither among the man essential attributes, leading the proposition to an analytic one, nor has it a reality other than that of man so that it can be regarded as an predicate by way of adherence. But it is a predicate, which is abstracted from the man’s interior and predicated of it. That is, since the existence and non-existence are equally related for the man’s essence and the possibility has no meaning other than this equality in relation and in the other words negation of the necessity of the existence and non-existence, then it itself is an origin for abstracting the predicate. Therefore the possible predicate is an abstract predicate and the intended proposition is an abstract and analytic proposition.

According to Mulla Sadra, the objective attributes, whether abstract or additive, exist both in the mind and out of the mind; their modes of existence, however, vary. As a result three kinds of attributes and, thus, three kinds of concept can be identified. One of them is the additive attributes, which are included in the primary intelligibles, though Mulla Sadra does not use these terms. The second kind are the abstract attributes which include the philosophical concepts such as the necessity and the possibility, and finally the third group consists of the logical concepts or the secondary intelligibles in their particular application.

If we are to identify the class of the predicates, according to the primacy of existence, of the existential propositions, they could not be regarded among the class of the extracted predicate as well. For example when it is said “the man exists”, we cannot say that the predicate is extracted from the subject, since according to the primacy of existence we should say that the subject is a mentally-posited thing and it is the predicate which is original and the origin of the abstraction. Thus it should be said that in Mulla Sadra’s philosophy, where the quiddity is the subject of the proposition and the existence is its predicate, we come to a fourth kind of predicate which is neither isagogical predicate of the existence, nor predicate by way of adherence and nor extracted one. In such propositions, the predicate suggests the original existence and the existential relations and also the imperfections and non-existential things, and it is not an indicator of a particular quiddity.


The Contents of the Existential Propositions according to Kant and Mulla Sadra

Mulla Sadra’s expressions on the contents of the existential propositions are, in a way, similar to those of Kant, and in the other way, it is different from them. Mulla Sadra maintains a difference between the simple proposition “the man exists” and the other propositions. In this proposition, according to him, what is important is the affirmation and the realization of the subject and not the affirmation of a thing for the subject; that is in this proposition the predicate i.e. the existence and the subject i.e. the object are externally realized through the same existence. In the other propositions such as “the object is white”, however, the whiteness has an accidental existence and the object has a substantial existence.[13]

In order to opposition to Bahmanyar, who does not make a distinction between the “existence” and the “quiddity” on the one hand, and the “accidents” and their “subjects” on the other hand, Mulla Sadra explicitly says:

Verily the relation between the existence and the quiddity is not the same as the relation between the accidents and their subjects. The existence and the quiddity are externally as well as mentally same, therefore there is no receptacle and no received one involved. Unless we consider, in our mind, two concepts for the existent: the existence and the quiddity. In this way, they are more similar to the matter and form than the subject and the accident. The mechanism of this qualification is as follows: the reason considers the quiddity and abstracts it from all existences and even from this consideration, since this consideration itself is a mode of existence. Then it describes it through the existence through which this quiddity exists.[14]

It is not only Mulla Sadra who expresses these issues, Ibn Sina also admits this same thing. After proving his own opinion Mulla Sadra recourses to an expression of Ibn Sina and says:

Among the things which confirms that the simple existential proposition “Zayd exists” is intended only to suggest Zayd’s existence and not existence of something for Zayd (as it is stipulated by some researchers), is Ibn Sina’s expressions in some of his books: “the existence which can be maintained for the object is same its existness, and not, say, whiteness in the white object, since the whiteness does not suffice to an object’s being white.” That is, for the truth of the predication of any predicate (other than the existence) of the object, we have to have an essential concept for the predicate, and it should have an existence in the subject, even its essential existence may be the same as its existence for the object. Therefore, here, three things are involved: The existence of the subject, the concept of the predicate, and a copulative existence between the two. In our expression “the object exists”, however, the object and the existence suffice, and there is no need to the third thing.[15]

As we have already said, Kant agrees with the opinion of Muslim philosophers that “the existence is same as the realization of the thing”. According to him “ the existence is not a concept which can add something to the thing.” This led him to say that the proposition “A exists”, since its predicate is the existence, is not a real proposition which makes us aware of a certain reality; but it is only in the form of a proposition and not its reality, and in addition it is a form which cannot be matched with a certain reality…


The Nature and Possibility of the Existential Propositions

According to Muslim philosophers, the nature of the “existential propositions” is other than the objective reality of these propositions in the external world. In the external world the objective reality of these propositions is, in fact, the affirmation of the object. This reality, when it is reflected in the mind, however, is reflected as the simple existential proposition, which consists, at least, of two concepts: nominal and independent. One of them which is usually expressed in the term of subject is an essential concept and can be regarded as a conceptual frame in which the external thing is suggested. And the other, which is expressed in the term of predicate, is the concept of the “existent” which is among the philosophical secondary intelligibles, and suggests the realization of the referent of the thing. In this way, two different concepts are derived from the same objective reality; each of them has its own characteristics.

Like every other proposition, the existential propositions also consist of two parts: subject and predicate. The subject and the predicate are imagined only to suggest what there is beyond them. By the imagination of a particular thing or a universal concept, their corresponding realization is not meant. The representativeness of the imagination will turn to actuality only when it is turned to a proposition, including the statement and representing the belief in its contents. For example, the concept of “man” does not suggest the realization of the man; when it is combined with the concept of existence and their identifical relation turns them into a posited knowledge, it will actually suggest the external world; that is, the proposition “the man exists” can be regarded as a proposition, suggesting the external world. Even from the simple knowledge by presence (such as intuition the thinking) which are in no way combined ones, when they are reflected in the mind, at least two concepts can be derived: one, the essential concept of the “thought” and the other, the philosophical concept of “the existence”, which through their combination we are led to the proposition “thought exists” and sometimes, through adding some other concepts, it turns to “I think” or “I have a power of thinking”.

 Unlike Muslim philosophers, Kant regards the existence, logically, merely as a copula between the subject and the predicate in the proposition. Thus he believes that if we ascribe the existence to a subject – whatever it may be – and says that “something exists”, we have only ascribed its objective reality to its imaginary concept. And this relation between the objective reality and imaginary concept is the same thing, which is derived from the term “is”. For example, in the proposition “God is Omniscient” the term “is” is neither in the side of subject, nor is it in the side of predicate. The only use of the term “ is” is the ascription of the predicate of “being omniscient” to the subject of “God”, and makes “being omniscient” which is among the attributes of God realized for him. If we regard the subject – God – with all its attributes, including “being omniscient” as being realized, and say that “God exists” or “there is a God for the universe”, we have regarded, in fact, a reality which is attributed with all the attributes of perfection as a referent for our own mental concept, i.e. “God”; and here by the “existence” it is meant that this objective referent is related with this mental concept.

The equality maintained between the concept and referent by Kant, from which he concluded that the term “ is” in this equality is, in fact, a relation between two sides, while being in none of them, is same as the equality maintained by Ibn Sina’s disciple, Bahmanyar, between the abstract concept of the existence and the subject of the proposition, leading him to a conclusion completely different from that of Kant. According to Bahmanyar the truth of the proposition “A exists” is conditioned to the realization of, at least, one referent for “A”.[16] The proposition “the man exists” is true, since there are some referents for man. The proposition “Socrates exists” is true if and only if there is a referent for Socrates; that is if and only if “Socrates” implies to something.

The discrepancy between Bahmanyar’s viewpoint and that of Kant should be looked for, in the ontological interpretation of the real referent of the concept of existence. Both Kant and Bahmanyar maintain a real referent for the existent; according to his own existential doctrine inherited from Farabi and Ibn Sina, however, Bahmanyar proves that what is externally real is either necessary or possible; while Kant restricts himself to a particular kind of reality which can be called “empirical reality”.   

What Bahmanyar says on the existence, is noted by Khwajah Nasir al-Din Tusi, the mediated disciple of Bahmanyar, at the beginning of his gloss on the fourth namat of Ibn-Sina’s al-Isharat.[17] Evidently Mulla Sadra’s critique on the Bahmanyar’s argument holds for Khwajah Nasir’s demonstration to prove the accidentiality of the concept of the existence as well.[18] Though accepting the gradation of the concept of the existence, that is accepting that the concept of the existence applies gradationally on the referents, Mulla Sadra does not accept that the graded concepts supervene on their referents.

Relying on the primacy of existence, Mulla Sadra proves that what is externally real is the objective reality of the existence; that is, the concept taken by Kant as the original side of the equality cannot be other than the real existence of the concept which is same as the predicative existence. Therefore, Mulla Sadra claims that, when we take the concept, according to Kant’s equality, as the referent and construct a proposition in which the “referent” is regarded as the subject, and the “imaginary concept” as the predicate, and “is” as the copula, the “real referent” and the “essential individual” of the thing is nothing but the objective reality of the existence. He says:

Whenever it is said that a concept, e.g. man, has reality, or has existent, by this it is meant that in the external world, there is something on which this concept can be predicated, and it is said to be man. It is the case for the horse, the heaven, the water, the fire and the other concepts, which have the external individuals as well; and those concepts can be predicated on these individuals. And by the fact that these concepts are realized or have reality, it is meant that these concepts are, essentially, and not accidentally, true for something…

This is also the case for the concept of the reality and the concept of the existence; these concepts are, certainly, the concepts, which can be predicated on something, so that one may say: this is the reality and this is the existence; that is, these two concepts should be essentially true for something…therefore the existence requires a referent in the external world on which this title can be essentially and commonly predicated, and what is a referent for a concept in the external world is the individual of that concept, and this concept is realized in it. Then it is affirmed that there is, regardless of the reason and the mind, an individual, who has the objective and external form, for the concept of the existence…[19] 

According to Mulla Sadra’s understanding of the existence, one cannot, like Kant, claim that the existent has no primary and essential referent in the external world; for the “primacy of existence” suggests that what is externally real is the existence and not the quiddity; and the quiddity, according to two different interpretation of the primacy of existence is either abstracted from the limits of the existence or it is the manifestation of the limits of the existence in mind.

This expression is not restricted to Mulla Sadra; in Ibn Sina’s philosophy also we can maintain an acquired meaning for the “existential proposition” and take the existent as implying to the “existence”; it should be taken into account that Mulla Sadra considers the “essence of the existence” as the reference of the “existent” and thus believes in the mentally-positedness of the quiddity. Ibn Sina, however, classifies the existent under the “ necessary” and “ possible”. The existence of the “possible” depends on other than itself, and the “Necessary” grants the existence to the possible. About the Necessary it is said, “the Truth has not quiddity”. Thus both Ibn Sina and Mulla Sadra accept that the quiddity, devoid of the existence, cannot be called the real referent of the “existent”. And in both cases, whether the referent means the extant quiddity or it means the essence of the existence, the real existence is taken in the referent.

It is exactly because of such an approach that the Muslim philosophers, unlike Kant and the like who deny the “predicative existence”, regard the concept of the “existence” as an independent and predicable concept.

 The discrepancy between Kant and Muslim philosophers cannot be regarded as restricted to a logical-conceptual issue, and thus one cannot conclude that the “existence” adds nothing to the “quiddity”, and hence, it (the existence) has no nominal meaning and cannot be taken as the subject or the predicate of the proposition. The reason that Kant has not considered the “existence” as a real predicate, and the simple existential propositions as the propositions, is resulted from confusing the concept and referent; that is, the logical statements which hold true in the domain of concepts are generalized to the domain of the objective realities. As it is said, if Kant intends to say that in the simple proposition the predicate indicates only the realization of the subject, this is an accepted opinion; on the other hand if he means that the simple existential propositions are not proposition at all, this is of course an unreasonable expression. The root of this false imagination is that he thinks every proposition must be a referent of the “realization of something for a thing”, and since the existential propositions imply the “realization of the thing”, then they are not propositions.

Our predecessors also were confronted with this problem and each of them has found a solution for it. Finally, Mulla Sadra, according to the “primacy of existence” divided the propositions and said that it is not a necessary condition that the proposition suggests always “the realization of something for a thing”, but it should be noted that propositions are of two kinds: the divisible proposition and indivisible proposition; the former suggests “the realization of something for the thing” and thus it is covered in the principle of presupposition, and the content of the latter is “the realization of the thing”, and it is not included in the principle of presupposition.[20]

The principle of presupposition holds when it makes “something” realized for “some other thing”. In the indivisible propositions in which the predicate of the proposition is the existent, “nothing” is realized for the “other thing”. These kinds of propositions realize only the thing in the external world.

 The principle of presupposition holds in two places: in mind and in the external world. When Mulla Sadra says, “existence is the realization of the thing” he means that in the external world the existence is not something added to the quiddity so that it may be included in the principle of presupposition. It is why it is said that the “predicative existence” does not describe a quality of the subject, and it is not as predicate by way of adherence, but it is only an indicator of the realization, objectivity and externality of the subject.

Kant’s point of view is similar to the doctrine of Mulla Sadra that regards the “realization of the thing” as the content of the simple “whether-ness”. These two opinions can be regarded in a loose way as being close. The point that Mulla Sadra like other Muslim philosophers has taken into account, and of which Kant is unaware, is that Mulla Sadra believes that the existence in the external world is not an added thing to the quiddity; in the mind, that is, in an intellectual analysis, however, it is supervened on the quiddity.

By the addition of the existence on the quiddity, we do not mean an addition in the external world, because the researcher philosophers as well as those who believe in addition of the existence on the quiddity did not maintain that this addition appears in the external world. They maintained that this addition occurs in the mind, through contemplation and with pain… externally, the existence and the quiddity are same, in the mind, however, the existent and the quiddity are different.[21]


The Mechanism of the Occurrence of the Existence on the Quiddity and the Qualification of the Quiddity with the Existence

Just like the other Muslim philosophers, Mulla Sadra believes that in the existential proposition there is no consistency between the qualification of the quiddity with the existence and the occurrence of the existence on the quiddity: qualification is an external, and occurrence is a mental issue. If there is not a quiddity, which is realized in the mind, that is if the quiddity is not imagined in an intellectual analysis, the existence is not possible to supervene on it.

As far, we have not describe the mechanism of the qualification of the quiddity with the existence in the mind, taking the occurrence of the existence on the quiddity into account; this mind itself is a mode of the modes of existence in the world of the fact-itself… and this is because of the cause that every attributed and every supervened on which something is supervened, should have a level of the existence.[22]

This statement of Mulla Sadra is not restricted to the existential proposition. In all philosophical propositions whose predicates are the secondary philosophical intelligibles, the container of the qualification is other than that of occurrence. That is, the occurrence of the philosophical secondary intelligible on the subject is conditioned to the realization of the subject in the mind; and the predicate supervenes on the subject in the mind, even if the subject is attributed with the predicate in the external world, and it is in the external world where the subject is attributed with the predicate. For example, in the propositions such as “the man is possible” or “the man is caused”, the qualification of the man to the “possibility” or “causedness” will not be an external qualification unless “the man” exists externally; and the “possibility” or “causedness” will not supervene on the man unless he is realized in the mind. This does not require the realization of the realizing things, i.e. the “possibility” or the “causedness” in the external world. For the possibility of the qualification, only the realized thing, i.e. man must exists, and not the realizing thing which is the attribute.

In al-Asfar, Mulla Sadra says: “Qualification of the thing with an attribute does not suggest that, that attribute has an independent existence; but it implies that the attributed thing exists.”[23]

Hence Mulla Sadra believes in two kinds of composition: composition by way of unification and composition by way of annexation. Like all the philosophical propositions, the existential propositions suggest the “realization of the thing” and this is a composition by way of unification, and it is not consistent with the composition by way of annexation and what is suggested by the principle of presupposition (the realization of something for a thing). The term “is” which is employed in the composition by way of unification and suggests the judicial identitive relation, is other than the copula between the two sides in composition by way of annexation.

Kant has confused the judicial identitive relation with the copulative relation, which is the existence of the copula, or at least, has not made a distinction between them. The relation is, however, other than identity, in the same way that the proposition is other than the statement:[24] the existence is, in fact, a copula between the subject and the predicate of the proposition. The judicial identitive relation is the relation, which suggests only the identity of the subject and the predicate. The identity declared through these judicial relation is the main cause and the true criterion of the predication in all predicative propositions, whether the propositions are of the kind of indivisible predicative propositions or they are divisible ones. In the indivisible predicative propositions, this identity is a real one and in the divisible ones it is mentally-posited.

Hence the discrepancy between the existence of the copula and the judicial relation can be described as follows: in divisible predication which suggests the existence of the copula, the relation neither suggests the existence of the realizing thing nor does it imply the existence of the realized thing directly; and this is a relation which indicates only the belongness and dependence of the realizing thing to the realized one. In the divisible proposition, in which the contents of the existence are predicative, the thing which is real, is the same predication and identity which should be realized in all predicated things commonly, and suggests the existential identity of the reality of existence and predicate in the external world.

Thus if we assume a composition for the subject and the predicate of the proposition, this composition cannot be same in all conditions, since the composition which is made between the quiddity and the existence, is a composition by way of unification, and out of the mind the existence has nothing other than the quiddity. The composition of the accidents with their subjects, however, cannot be regarded as a composition of unification; for even if there is established, due to the predication, a sort of “identity” between the subject and the predicate, it is not a real relation between them.

As far what it is said is not Mulla Sadra’s final view on the relation between the quiddity and the existence, and the mechanism of the qualification of the quiddity with the existence. In this regard, Mulla Sadra’s view is other than that of Ibn Sina. According to the doctrine of the primacy of existence, he, though not entirely rejecting the reality of the “qualification” out of the mind and accepting that the “qualification” occurs in the external world for the existence, he says that the external qualification goes in opposite direction; for instance, when it is said “the man is existent”, unlike what it may seem, the existent is not the predicate of the proposition, but it is the subject. Then the correct form of the proposition is as follows: “the existent is the man”; that is the “absolute existent” or the “reality of the existence” is determined through the particular human determination. Therefore in the propositions in which the reality and the existence of the things and their perfect being are reported, “the reality”, “the existent” or “the existence” are, according to the primacy of existence, the real subjects of the propositions, and hence, predicating the concepts of the “existent” or “the existent” of them is, in fact, in opposite direction of predication; that is, instead of the quiddity’s being attributed with the existence, it is the existence which is attributed with the quiddity. Therefore even if in the domain of the concepts, and in an intellectual analysis the existence is an accident which supervenes on the quiddity and the quiddity is a receptacle for the accident, in the external world the existence is not an accident; on the contrary it is a real thing and the quiddities are nothing but the determinations, limitations, or the modes of the single reality of the existence.

Assistant Professor, Department of Philosophy, Tarbiat Modarres University, Tehran, Iran


[1]  Abu p;Abu p;Abu Nasr Farabi, the collection of philosophical treatises of Farabi, Risalah fi masa’il al-mutafarraqah, Heydarabad Dakan, 1345 (AH lunar), p. 9.

[2]  Immanuel Kant,1973, Critique of the Pure Reason, Norman Kept Smith, tr., p. 504, A598/B625, London, Macmillan Press.

[3]  Ibid., p. 505, A599/B627.

[4]  Ibid., p. 502, A595/B623.

[5]  Ibid., p. 501, A594/p.622.

[6]  Smith, K., p. 502/1985.

[7]  Quoted in Sadr al-Din Muhammad Shirazi, al-Mashair, Tehran, Tahoori Publication, 1363 AH al-fatihah, al-mash’ar al-khamis, p. 29.

[8]  Muhaqqiq Tusi, Tajrid al-i‘tiqad, al-masa'lah al-thalithah fi inn al-wujud za'id ‘ala al-mahiyyat, p. 7, (the third question on the existence supervened on the quiddities).

[9]  Kant, Ibid., p. 505, A599/B627.

[10]  Ibid., p. 504, A598/B626.

[11]  Sadr al-Din Muhammad Shirazi, al-Shawahid al-rububiyyah, al-mashhad al-awwal, al-shahid al-awwal, al-ishraq al-thani wa sadis, pp. 6 and 8; al-Masha’ir, as no. 7, al-mash’ar al-awwal, p.7. Tehran, University Publication Center, 1360 AH.

[12] al-Shawahid al-rububiyyah, al-mash’ar al-awwal, al-ishraq al-sadis, p. 9.

[13]  Ibid., p. 10.

[14]  Ibid., p. 9.

[15]  Ibid., p. 12.

[16]  Bahmanyar, al-Tahsil, edition, introduction and research by M. Mutahhari, Tehran University, pp. 272, 286.

[17]  Ibn Sina, al-Isharat wa al-tanbihat, Book Publication Office, vol. 3, p. 2.

[18]  al-Shawahid al-rububiyyah, al-mashhad al-awwal, al-shahid al-awwal,  al-ishraq al-‘ashir, p.17.

[19]  al-Masha’ir, al-fatihah, al-mash’ar al-thalith, al-shahid al-awwal, pp. 10-11.

[20]  Sadr al- Din Muhammad Shirazi, al-Asfar al-arba’a, vol. 1, pp. 43-44; al- Masha’ir, p. 27; also see Mulla Muhsin Fayd Kashani, Usul al-ma’arif, p. 6.

[21] al-Masha’ir, al-mash’ar al-khamis, pp. 29, 31.

 [22] al-Masha’ir, al-mash’ar al-khamis, p. 30.

[23]  al-Asfar al-arba’a, vol. 1, p. 414.

[24]  A statement is a simple sentence, which suggests one’s belief in the identity of the subject and predicate. What is stated in a statement is judicial identitive relation. A statement, which is the act of the soul, will not be realized unless there is such a relation.


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