Sadrian View of Place as Substance

Sayyed Musa Dibaj


On the Obviousness of the Concept of Place

From among all the wonders of the world and human beings it suffices us to know that when the human existence stretches his arms to his sides and moves them in different directions, he finds himself in place in a way that his arms limit him on two sides and are placed on his right and left. In other words, man perceives his right and left sides according to his right and left hands and has no other idea concerning their location. Then he assumes that his right and left sides are determined by the existence of his arms, and that thinking about whether something is on the right or left side depends on his arms and to a lesser extent, on his eyes, which might look at the right or the left. He might also believe that place is nothing apart from the mental consideration of the right or left side or both of them. A person who sometimes, unwittingly and unmindfully, or sometimes due to interchangeable employment of the left and right hands, finds their effects the same in practice and assumes that their places and effects are relative, believes that place has no principiality, and, exactly in the same way that the directions of his body, which depend on his specific consideration, justify the directions in place, is nothing out of the domain of these directions and their being mentally-posited. They believe that there is nothing apart from these very directions, and that if there is any principiality, it merely belongs to them, and, thus, place is nothing but the mental consideration of various directions. Like their fellow men, philosophers have never probed into the following questions:

1- Which principle contains the existence of directions in the world?

2- What is it that accepts directions and grants meaning to them?

3- What is it that grants true and objective or Ideal and imaginal realization to directions?

If place were an accidental and essentially non-principial thing for spatial objects, it could be ignored within the domain of our visible experiences, and not even a single case in which the spatial attributes of spatial objects we deal with could be abstracted or separated from them. When determining whether object A is beside or on object B or vice versa, the differences in observation originate from the various spatial attributes of these two objects; attributes that determine the spatial distance between us and either of those two objects. It is place that individuates our visually-related concepts of objects rather than vice versa. Our idea of objects that are on each other, in spite of its clarity and obviousness, does not, by itself, reveal our distance from them. Such ideas include the various sizes of visual (not real) objects; however, in spite of referring to the existence of a distance between objects and us, they do not inform us completely of the quality of true distances. We will know about the real distances of special objects from each other only when we can observe, evaluate, measure, and perceive them in place far from the qualities that make us see something.

Simply because we 'do not see' the place in spatial objects, we are not allowed to assume that, like genus, the place is annihilated in spatial objects whose differentia are considered as genus, and that they are only spatial objects which have realization. Such an assumption is inconsistent with the obviousness of place, which is the most obvious of all obvious things, and, at all times, when facing the objects and existences in the world, we think and exist in a way that confirms the pre-existence of place. Accordingly, it is clear that our conception of place precedes our conception of spatial objects.

It is also to be pointed out that we do not intend to simplify the concept of place through its pure concept so that it would be more appropriate for physical sciences. While place is simple by itself and does not need to be conceptually simplified. Place is the simplest concept that man can rely on in philosophizing, as he constantly does so in his life.[1] Man finds objects in their place in his life, and if they are in motion, he trusts the direction of their motion in place, and if he does not find certain things in space and place, he brings faith in their non-existence or, at least, considers them unknown.

Accordingly, the path of philosophizing about place leads to nowhere but deliberating upon or thinking about the very place we live in. We must think and philosophize about place as simply as we live in it.


Spatial Substance and the Place of Motion

According to an old tradition, Greek philosophers viewed the two sister concepts, time and place, as relative categories. We can see the traces of such a trend in all sources of Islamic philosophy, including those belonging to Peripatetic and Ishraqi schools of philosophy. And al-Asfar is no exception in this regard. Similar examples represent nothing but unconditional adherence to Aristotle's words on physics and accepting Ptolemaic astronomy, which we have responded to in Faridah makaniyyah.

Like Aristotle, Peripatetics consider place nothing more than an accident. According to the definition given by Peripatetic philosophers, ''ayn (place) refers to the existence of a thing that has been obtained in place. It is wrong to introduce' ayn merely as a relationship between the object and its place, since, in this way, it will be considered as one of the categories of correlation. Mulla Sadra distinguishes between two types of 'ayn:  real 'ayn and unreal 'ayn.[2]

Since the Peripatetics, in line with Aristotle, did not conceive of place or vacuum as substance, in order to explain the spatial status of an object, they resorted to the term ''ayn ' or 'place'. However, this term, as the above-mentioned phrases reveal, has no meaning and concept unless it refers back to place. Therefore, these philosophers, accompanied by Mulla Sadra, turned to the term 'real 'ayn''  in the opinion of clarifying the meaning of ''ayn', while such a term, like the definition of 'ayn, suffers from ambiguity and a vicious circle in concept.

Mulla Sadra believes that for every spatial moving thing there is an actual 'ayn at the time of its motion. It is necessary to note that according to him and other Peripatetics, firstly, 'ayn does not merely refer to place; rather, it refers to the object's occurrence and actuality in place, and when we say that there is an actual ''ayn' for the moving agent, it means nothing but doubled emphasis on the actuality and realization of ''ayn'. Secondly, 'actual 'ayn' and 'actual place' in Mulla Sadra's statement in this regard are considered 'an 'ayn for a thing' or a place for a thing rather than ''ayn by essence' and 'place by essence'.  Mulla Sadra states that the individuals of a category in which motion occurs are not restricted to momentary individuals; rather, they include the category of both momentary individuals, who are the criteria for rest or immobility, and temporal individuals, who gradually come into existence and definitely conform to motion and are the same as it.[3] What is indeed 'moment' except for the limit of time in which there is no time? If it is the criterion for motion, it means that the absence or non-existence of time is the negative measure and criterion for the category of place. Thus there would be no criterion out of time, while the mere fluidity and continuity (not being interrupted) of time deprives it from being a criterion or measure for something.

According to the trans-substantial motion of the nature of the bodily world, the individuals of the category in which motion occurs are not limited to momentary individuals; rather, in addition to them, who are the criterion for rest, it also includes those temporal individuals with graded existence who are in conformity with motion and, rather, the same as motion. For the moving agent motion is an extensional activity that is connected to the extension of its temporal individuals. Such temporal unrestful units possess hidden identities which are connected to each other and cover all the assumed limits in moments.[4] According to Hajj Mulla Hadi Sabsiwari's interpretation, the individuals of moment, who are assumed to be in motion, are receptacles for motion and possess extension and division. And if motion were not extensionless and indivisible, such an extension and division would be the criterion for motion (and in this case motion would occur in motion). It can be inferred from Sabsiwari's interpretation that there are certain presuppositions associated with motion that can never be ignored. One of these presuppositions is 'moments' that he explicitly refers to as the receptacles for motion. This idea poses, in fact, an objection to Mulla Sadra's idea, stating that temporal individuals are the 'time' of motion, since time, itself, is a continuous extension, and temporal individuals are qualified by extension, while Sabsiwari believes that no extension and division can be assumed for motion.

Apparently, Mulla Sadra's words indicate that temporal individuals accompany momentary individuals, who have, themselves, no criterion except for spatial individuals (in our interpretation), and motion occurs in these individuals. Such an idea, which provides the basis for his reasoning in the trans-substantial motion, gives rise to several questions and objections. How is it possible for such different individuals, i.e., those who are essentially spatial (momentaries) and those who are essentially temporal (temporals), to be subsumed under a single category in which motion occurs? How are such individuals combined to create a single category as a receptacle for the occurrence of motion? And if, indeed, these are temporal individuals who are graded in existence, conform to motion, and are, rather, the same as motion, is the motion in momentary individuals principial or a mentally-posited or accidental issue? If we say that, since spatial parts or individuals possess actual existence, motion is realized in place, what does motion in place, which refers to transfer from a part or individual to another spatial part or individual, mean?

It would be useful to refer to an idea attributed to 'Allamah Dawani in relation to our problem here. Motion means mediation among individuals. Of course, he views this mediation as a state between pure potentiality and pure actuality. As we know, place has no potential part by essence, and the mediating motion takes place among spatial individuals who are all actual. In 'Allamah Dawani's words, individuals are assumed momentary and refer to time.

In his interpretation of Dawani's view, Hajj Mulla Hadi Sabziwari says that the temporal individual of the category has actuality for a moved; however, this actuality is neither pure potential nor pure actual. This is because "what is never realized and void of rest is a single individual." And connection and unity are commensurate with individual unity. Sabziwari confirms 'Allamah Dawani's view by saying that the predication of mediation among individuals does not mean that the moved is not dressed by the very individual in which motion takes place. Thus 'Allamah's view of mediation is an individual in which motion is neither pure potentiality nor pure actuality.[5]

Concerning a Divine ('Arshi) principle, we read in the 12th miftah of Mafatih al-ghayb: "The quantity of any motion and transformation is the same as its extensional quantity and mass as matter, and the transformation of what is considered matter and accident, along with the subsistence of what exists in it is allowed as the subject and form rather than deemed impossible. The truth as we should know it is that the mode of matter consists of potency, possibility, and imperfection, and since it is matter, it exists at the level of potency, is of a weak unity, and its completion, realization, actuality, and individuation are mediated by form."[6] It will be extensively discussed that, firstly, all the modes of place are not summarized in its extension, and, secondly, pure and simple place appears completely, more than any thing else, in its realized form. No potential aspect can be found in the realized form of simple and pure place; therefore, one cannot conceive of imperfect possibility in it. If you look at a stone, a lion, or a man, the extension and quantity of extension of one in relation to the other has no defect in their realized forms. This is the case although the extensional mode in moving bodies is other than other vegetative and vital modes on the basis of the unconditioned condition and depends on their growth, dejection, separation, and extension. If you look at the individuals of each species, you understand that there is no imperfect aspect in terms of quantity and extension in each realized individual; rather, the existing imperfect aspect (or aspects) in each individual in comparison to another individual of the same species is related to other issues. For example, the shortness of an arm is considered a defect in terms of its imperfect functioning or disproportionate appearance and not in terms of the quantity of its extension.

However, in Mafatih al-ghayb, a definition has been given for the elemental simple body which, more than being a definition for 'body', is appropriate for 'extensional place': Extensional quantity in the simple body is the same as its form rather than its matter, thus it lacks the capability for separation, union, and changes in quantities.

Annihilation and development are possible in other bodies, including simple bodies and mineral and vegetative forms. Accordingly, like matter, other bodies which are given the opportunity for dormancy in a more transcendent form than that in the simple body include the extensional quantity in themselves.[7] This extensional quantity, since, at least it, possesses form, is the same as extensional place. The criterion for our awareness of extensional place (as it is) is this very spatial form.[8]

Accordingly, it seems that if we can separate the theory of trans-substantial motion from that of the natural motion of bodies (which is an Aristotelian and an altered and unacceptable theory today), its philosophical bases will be more agreeable and its capabilities more revealed. Nevertheless, this is not possible in the domain of Aristotelian natural philosophy. Unfortunately, Mulla Sadra bases most of the examples and proofs of the trans-substantial motion on the principles of the very Aristotelian physics and natural philosophy. He believes that direct motion is the implicant of the combination of bodies and says,

And its reason is that both water and earth have their own place and are natural. Every body, inevitably, has a natural place, as explained in natural sciences, and its combination with an other would not be possible, unless one of them moves to the place of the other, and if both of them are necessitated by their place and do not move from there, their association with each other would be in the form of contiguity and association rather than synthesis…

If there is any combination in existence, it will not be possible unless through motion, and this motion is impossible, unless it is from one direction to another. Thus it obviously requires two directions which must be limited and possess two opposite natures. However, their difference in terms of nature and species is necessitated by whether motion is natural or unnatural. Natural motion requires the place which it leaves to be opposite to the place that it seeks, since if they were the same, it would be impossible for motion to leave one and take shelter in the other. And if motion is unnatural, meaning that it is against the demands of the existing nature, it would be desirable to be a natural tendency towards the other direction.[9]

Following his Peripatetic predecessors, Mulla Sadra associates spatial place only with the sensory feature of perception. A rational issue cannot be pointed at and conceived of in the motion of bodies. In bodily motion, the cause of limiting and determining motion is the sensory feature of place. Direction must be of a specific limit, "Since if you say the direction of the tree, the east, or the west, you must be able to point at each, and anything which stands at an endless distance from you and requires an endless journey to be reached at cannot be pointed at and anything that cannot be pointed at, has no direction, since if between you and, for example, the tree there is an infinite distance, you cannot point at it." Such statements are full of ambiguities and philosophical and mathematical problems. In what follows, with regard to two sense – geometrical pointing acts, the writer has illustrated the possibility of infinite direction in cylinder and cone and note the contradictions in Mulla Sadra's view in this respect. 

Text Box: Cone





   Text Box: Cylinder




  As shown above, the two directions drawn in the above two figures, while being geometrically individuated, are infinite and endless.


Placeness of Place, Simplicity of Place

In Kant's view, this is not place which is self-evident; rather, it is the Euclidian Geometry, which is realized in place, which is self-evident, and what justifies this self-evidence is man's ability of visualization, which provides the basis for our knowledge. If the self-evidence of place arises from man's visualization, it means that place by itself has no essential substance and only depends on the perception of our visualization; the very visualization that  Kant views as confirming the Euclidian Geometry.

It seems that unlike Kant's view, we must first discover the nafs al-amri (fact itself) self-evidence of place, and, then, after learning about an evident place and the self-evidence of place, explain and justify the hypotheses based on Euclidian or non-Euclidian Geometries, which have their own interpretation of the very  place.

However, like a visual thing, place, is a priori for Kant. He believes that we see the place, and that the Euclidian Geometry is possible on the basis of this very visual place. Certainty, place is not a visual thing in essence even if it is a priori. It is the most real thing which never becomes visual although being in place is the basic condition for the visuality of objects. Place is visual neither actually nor potentially. It is not sensible to the sense, although it is a condition for both the sense and the sensible. And since actual place is insensible, potential place will also be the same. Thus place cannot be considered an apriori visual, and, for this reason and for some others, the Euclidian Geometry is never conditioned upon visual place, whether the real visual or the imaginal one. The possibility of having a parallel line drawn from a point out of a line is never conditioned on visuality or place. Moreover, line and point, as they are generally defined in geometry, are never visual. No point, no line, and even no surface could ever be seen. According to geometrical definitions and limits, all the points, lines, and surfaces that are seen in the world of reality, are annexed volumes. The points referred to above are not geometrical points; similarly, the lines and surfaces mentioned in the same place, are not geometrical lines and surfaces.

The truth is that place, in spite of being intelligible, cannot be seen, which is neither due to its belonging to the body and material things, nor due to people's weak sight, nor due to the perceiver's negligence or weakness in perception. Rather, place is not seen due to the intensity of its obviousness and manifestness. It is not revealed because it is extremely manifest. However, the intellection of place, because of its being place, is the strongest kind of intellection, and place is the highest of all intelligibles. Thus, although, in the first step, it seems that place is the most material aspect of the object and yields itself to material and sense perception, it is in fact the most abstract intelligible that can be rationally perceived. The manifestation and obviousness of place are so subtle that they cannot eve  be perceived by sight, which is, itself, the most subtle kind of perception; hence, we must say that the spatially perceived is the most abstract kind of perceived things, and its perception is the most abstract kind of perception.

The places 'here' and 'there' are different from each other while there is no difference between their being a place. Thus the place of this spatial thing is different from the place of that one; however, being in place is predicated on both things in the same way, and this leads us to the reality that allotting place to something refers back to the essence of place, and it is place that limits 'here' to 'here' and 'there' to 'there'. In other words, here's being here and there's being there return to the essence of place and not to spatial objects or their quiddities and concomitants.

If you look at any category consisting of essences, accidents, and qualities, you see that essence becomes different and is separated from accident in its coming into being. In spite of the fact that all the manifestations of an essence return to it, that essence is different from them. Obviously, the essence of a manifestation is an essence, and the manifestation of an essence is a manifestation, and such a distinction between essence and manifestation or the inward and outward has always existed. Nevertheless, none of the essences, as we know them in the world, appear in their manifestations as they should. For example, consider the essence and substance of the body to understand to what extent the essential corporeal attributes of a body appear in its color, smell, or similar qualities. Perhaps, there is only one exception among all essences and substances, and that is the substance of place. Place appears in all its spatial manifestations as it is. The spatial manifestations of place are no lies. They are truly spatial and only manifestations of time. The substance of place appears in accidents as it is, and the distance and difference that we see between other essences and their manifestations are not seen here. On the whole, Parmenides' Doxa (knowledge of sensibles) which he intends to explain, is definable with place more than with anything else, for all the spatial manifestations of spatial disclosure could be found in spatial reality.


Spatial Inhabitation and Mental Inhabitation

An existent in a mental place, which is spatial by itself, is a place like the water in a pitcher that has fallen into the sea, i.e., like water in water. Whenever, we talk about mental existence, unconsciously, we have in mind the mental place, which, in spite of its difference from the place of material objects, is principially spatial. This is because we cannot think about a pitcher that has no dimension, surface, volume, or form. Obviously, there is no ambiguity in the pitcher's having dimension, although there is some ambiguity in the dimension of this dimension. This dimension requires an external and an internal space which signify nothing other than the concept of place. If we correct our perception of place and adjust it with the reality of place, it will not be difficult to understand that the mental pitcher is also spatial.

This mental pitcher necessitates a a priori form of place, and Kant, the German philosopher, has not explained why this pitcher acts like an objective pitcher in this regard. Certainly both the mental existent, as he refers to, and the objective existent are principially spatial, and if there is any difference between these two spatial areas, it lies in the quality of the forms of the place and not in the principiality of each of those forms. Accordingly, unlike Kant's view and unlike Mulla Sadra's idea, stating, "fi (in) has two different meanings in different places," [10] we must say that fi pertains to place.

Place is the receptacle of the placed (what is placed) and the placed itself. It is not only a receptacle placing the placed like a pitcher for water. Place is both the pitcher and the water, both the water and the fish, and both air and the bird. It is the body surrounding each placed; however, it is not merely a surrounding body. It has been said that the surface of the containing body is tangent with the contained. Accordingly, place is the surface of the contained body which is tangent with the container. Such an abstract definition of place grants a specific geometrical, rather than voluminal, individuation to place, whereas place is an objective and annexed issue. It is the joint between the containing body and the contained rather than the interface between their surfaces. Place is substance and not accident.

The locus and dwelling of each spatial thing is space, which exists in each object. Between the locus and dwelling of place there is a kind of unity that is limited to place. Compare it, for example, with the concept of time. According to Peripatetic philosophers, Mir Damad, and Mulla Sadra, the locus of time is not temporal, and it does not exist in time. Therefore, there is always a difference between the locus and dwelling of time, and the kind of unity between spatial locus and dwelling cannot be found between temporal locus and dwelling, unless place, itself, is considered the temporal locus and dwelling of the thing.

Now the question is, 'Are we justified in saying that the mind and all the mental affairs in it are in place?' The response is that if the mind really exists in place, all mental affairs will also be in place, exactly in the same way that a receptacle that is in a second receptacle that is in a third receptacle is in the third receptacle. However, it must be clarified that the mind does not exist in place in the same way that a receptacle does in another one. A receptacle can be out of another one as it can be inside it, but there is no mind out of place, not even in the form of an empty receptacle. Thus the existence of the mind and the existence of place do not possess two separate identities and are not two different principials; rather, concerning their spatiality, they are one thing, and that thing is place, and the mind is non-principial in relation to place, which is the essence, as mental affairs are non-principial, are contained in a container, and cannot be realized without the mind and its existence.

Place cannot be considered a mental object so that it can be said not to be individually graded under the category of quantity, which is an accidental category. We cannot claim that the mental existence of place is not considered a reference for the concept of place either. Basically, as mentioned before, place is neither a mental thing nor an objective one. Moreover, it is not graded under any accidental category and is not an accident for any substance. Place is not an essential quality and, since it is not mental and has no mental existence apart from the mind itself, it does not belong to the category of mental accidental qualities.

According to Mulla Sadra, cognitive existence is other than the objective existence of things. It is also an existence other than the existence of forms and mental phantoms that appear to outward senses. Existence is unveiled and appears to inward faculties and perceptions. He believes that the immaterial soul learns about the existence of the (objective) world through outward perceptive faculties, and finds its way into another world which is a 'quantitative-phantom' one through inward perceptive faculties.[11] He does not stipulate whether this world, which is perceived by internal faculties is the same place or spatial world; however, he says that its two features are being 'phantom' and 'quantitative', which are 'themselves' spatial attributes. Obviously, those two worlds are in a way united, since the objective world is a quantitative world, too. Now one might ask: 'which of these two worlds is closer to spatial attributes and which is farther?'

Then he emphasizes the assumption that the objective world which is conjoined to external faculties possesses quantity, shape, and position, and the forms of the things of this world depend on these three factors. However, in comparison to the quantitative attributes of the existents of the objective world, the things belonging to the 'quantitative-phantom' world have some other attributes, which as Mulla Sadra explicitly refers to, are as follows: "According to Plato and his preceding prominent philosophers and the people of unveiling and intellectual intuition (among theologians), the existents of this world are not in place and have no direction; rather, they are between the world of intellect and the world of the sense."[12]

A comparison of these two ideas; that is, describing the non-objective world as the 'quantitative phantom and the existence of this world as 'not being in time and in any direction', reveals the obvious contradiction between them. How could the things of the quantitative world be out of place and without direction? However, beyond the existing contradiction in these phrases, which is extremely obvious and needless of reasoning and clarification, the problem is the writer's insistence on accepting a world which, in spite of occurrence of things in separation from matter and its dependents (such as color and brightness) in it, is generally described as being 'quantitative'.

Like Shaykh al-Ishraq, Mulla Sadra views Ideal phantoms as fixed things. Such phantoms, which appear in the world of quantity and phantoms are separate from matter. The surprising point is that in the descriptions provided by these two prominent philosophers for Ideal phantoms, in spite of enjoying quantity, shape, and voluminal form, they do not have any direction. Obviously, in their description of phantoms and quantitative Ideas, it has been assumed that 'quantity' can be essentially directionless. Certainly, direction is essentially as far from matter as quantity and amount are.

However, even if direction is a mentally-posited issue rather than a material one, we must say that, firstly, direction is among the concomitants of quantitative things, and, secondly, imaginal things and immaterial and quantitative Ideas, due to being quantitative, are necessarily spatial. Moreover, we can never imagine an object which has a voluminal form but lacks place. Therefore, we can say that the concept of place shared by Mulla Sadra, Shaykh al-Ishraq, and other Islamic philosophers is based on the description of material rather than essential place.

According to Mulla Sadra, the imaginal forms that exist neither in minds nor in essences possess a place. Such imaginal-quantitative forms do not exist in minds, since the macro is never imprinted on the micro, and, in fact, essences do not exist either, since no one sees such forms in the real world. The world of intellects is not the place of these forms either. This is because such forms are of shape and quantity, and these are only rational forms or nuri (like light)-imaginal forms, which are pure immaterial beings, that exist.[13]

It is not quite clear why Mulla Sadra makes such a big mistake in the phrasing of his ideas. On the one hand, he assimilates the place of phantoms and Ideal forms to the world of Ideas; on the other hand, he denies their being the same as Platonic Ideas. If these forms are not, in fact, the same as Ideal forms and immaterial luminous forms and are only of the type of image and quantity, why should we believe that they have an Ideal place?

Besides, why could we not say that, rather than in an Ideal place, they are in a spatial place, which is a simple and immaterial one in which objects of different amounts or quantities and shapes exists, whether material or immaterial? This is because the simplicity or immateriality of the spatial place is not an obstacle to the appearance of the so-called material analogous objects in it, and this appearance does not decrease the immateriality of place since it is place.

In the following lines in the same place, although not explicitly, Mulla Sadra, at least implicitly, acknowledges the existence of a quantitative world that, according to the evidences in the phrases, can be considered the same spatial world.[14] Unfortunately, as revealed in other places, he equates this world with its contents, that is, its imaginal forms.[15]

Mulla Sadra believes that there are two worlds: one is the world of forms of things, which are known through external senses, and the other is the world of the things that are perceived through something other than external senses. The soul, observes the existence of the forms and images of certain existents that are not revealed to external senses through internal faculties. It can even transcend these two worlds by means of internal faculties and observe the forms of objects (in a world that is out of both external and internal world).[16]

However, the human soul finds access to the existence of another world which is other than the world perceived by sensory external faculties. This world is the quantitative-phantom world, which is other than the quantitative-corporeal world. Following this, Mulla Sadra attributes this idea to Plato and other earlier great sages that the existents of this non-external world exist neither in place nor in direction. This world is the world mediating between the intellect and the sense, "Since rational existents, including matter and its dependants, are totally separate from its place, shape, quantity, generation, light, and Ideas, and sensory existents submerge in these accidents. However, the fixed Ideal phantoms that exist in this world (world of Ideas) are immaterial in a way that they accept no direction and place. They are also corporeal in a way, for they possess quantities and shapes."[17]

Now the question is, 'Where could a world that exists in 'no place' be?' By the Ideal presence of objects Plato means presence in a world whose place is not corporeal; however, Mulla Sadra does not seem to have perceived this issue properly. This is because the Ideal presence of objects is the reason for a kind of placedness that is not corporeal any more but is rather an Ideal one. Thus in their Ideal presence, objects depend on a place that is not corporeal. Therefore, we can say that place is the Ideal presence of Ideal spatial things, and place's being Ideal in no way means their being unreal.

Mulla Sadra does not agree with those who believe in the existence of corporeal phantoms and bodily Ideas in the faculty of imagination or sense. The soul sees the forms and phantoms in the world of Ideas. However, he does not say where the world of Ideas exists, since this world, which according to Shaykh al-Ishraq is the macro-cosm of Ideas, is the micro-cosm of Ideas in Mulla Sadra' view, and, in any case, mental faculties are the prerequisite tools for the soul's observation of things. Obviously, the transfer from the macro-coms of Ideas to the micro-cosm turns the issue of imaginal place into an impossible and obscure one.

Although place exists in all three worlds, the world of matter, the world of Ideas, and the world of the intellect, which exists through its potency before the Truth, place can indeed be found in no place other than place.[18] If place was merely in unity with the material forms in the outside and at the time of our senses' contact with spatial objects, we could not ever have a true concept, image, and picture of the world of place. This is because what we essentially know about place, that is, our knowledge of place, has no material and bodily part in our soul and is in no way similar to and commensurate with material spatial things. The same also holds true about the place of the world of Ideas and the place of the world of intellect. The place of imaginal or rational forms cannot be said to imaginal and rational forms, since what is essentially known has no Ideal or rational part and is not similar to these forms. Moreover, how could we accept that the place of imaginal and rational forms really exists in the outside while such forms have merely been provoked is our soul through Ideal or rational effects?

We should pay attention that Mulla Sadra stands against those who believe in the existence of corporeal phantoms and bodily Ideas in the faculties of imagination and the sense.[19] He says he disagrees with this group in two points. First, imaginal forms are present in the human soul and not in the outside world, as Shaykh al-Ishraq attributes their existence to the macrocosmic world of imagination. These forms exist as long as the soul pays attention to them, and when it does not, they are annihilated and become non-existent. Shaykh al-Ishraq assumes that the existence of these forms depends on the subsistence of the soul, whereas Mulla Sadra does not. Second, the mirror-like forms that Shaykh al-Ishraq refers to in the world of Ideas are considered by Mulla Sadra as shadows of sensible forms and enjoy shadowy immutability, that is, immutability by accident rather than by essence, in this world, (emphasis here), i.e., the quantitative world.

It seems that if we regard the quantitative world merely as the world of imaginal forms, whether those in the outside world (which Suhrawardi believes in) or those in the soul (which Mulla Sadra believes in), there is no need to assume the existence of the quantitative world. In fact, if we accept the immaterial quantitative world as a world, it will be nothing but place. It seems that Mulla Sadra was unaware of the various meanings of the word 'world'. By world he only means the existence of the subjective imaginal forms, whereas the existence of a world that is presupposed to be perfect is like an independent quiddity, and the subjective imaginal forms, which depend on the soul for their existence, do not deserve the title of 'the world' and cannot be something in which Mulla Sadra believes (as referred to at the beginning). However, concerning the second disagreement between Mulla Sadra and other great philosophers, that is, the issue of the existence of the immaterial quantitative world, he implicitly confesses that place is a world. This is because mirror-like forms or the shadow of sensible forms possess a shadowy immutability rather than essential, immutability in place. What is of essential immutability is the world of place itself. Apparently, Mulla Sadra can be criticized on the ground of resorting to the petition principia to clarify his view, yet he has in fact had no other choice; the obviousness of place or, in Mulla Sadra's words, the immaterial quantitative world, is a primary kind of obviousness and cannot be defined.

Regarding the discussion of mental existence, Mulla Sadra eventually agrees with the great Plato[20] and his masters concerning their belief in the theory of rational Ideas and individual existence in the rational world for each and every bodily species.[21]

To remove the problem of mental existence, Mulla Sadra says the fact that an existent that is in a second existent that is in a third existent exists also in the third existent is not true about the mental issues existing in the mind, which exists in the outside. When we say the water is in the jar, and the jar is in the house, the point is true about two principial existents that possess external existences, i.e., water and jar. However, mental issues have no identity in the mind and are not principial but possess a shadowy existence. As mentioned previously, he states, "The meaning of 'in' differs in these two cases, and the uses of 'in' here and in place and time are not the same. The reason for difference here lies in reality and virtuality, since the existence of the thing in the outside is not the same as the existence of water in the jar, for it means that it results in desirable effects while its existence in the mind is not so."[22] This very reasoning that Mulla Sadra offers for removing the problem of demonstration of mental existence is, in fact, another indication for the principiality of spatial existence against non-spatial existence (without his having the intention for it to be so). As he has acknowledged, the proposition 'in' is principial with reference to place; otherwise, it has a metaphorical meaning.  Thus we say that there is no way to avoid spatial existence and, eventually, every thing is located in a place.

Mulla Sadra believes that there are four types of conjunctive quantity: line, plane, body, and time. Unlike the disjunctive quantity, there are common boundaries among the parts of conjunctive quantity and either an essentially unchanging placed (what is in a place) or a non-placed. However, a placed conjunctive quantity is like a geometrical body with width, length and depth, a plane with two sides, or a line with a direction. Nevertheless, the non-placed conjunctive quantity is like time, which is inherent in existence and has no other reference.

Therefore, according to Mulla Sadra's theory, could we say that the mental intelligible of the placed conjunctive quantity is obtained in the mind but is not subcategorized under quantity, while quantity is individually quantity in the outside? In his theory, there is no mental individual for the mental intelligible of quantity, and since the reference of mental intelligible is in the outside and not in the mind, we cannot say whether this reference is true reference for the mental intelligible of quantity or not. We know nothing about the conformity between the reference and concept of quantity. Our knowledge is only limited to the nature of quantity rather than its references, whether in the outside or in the mind, where no such reference could be found Hajj Mulla Hadi Sabziwari has clearly confirmed this point and rejected the idea that mental individuals follow the demonstration of mental existence for every natural thing, and that the referred individual is natural by common predication.[23] In his Glosses on al-Asfar, 'Allamah Tabataba'i, too, says that mental concepts, which are essentially considered as attributes of the soul, are mental attributes and, thus, cannot be compared with the outside. However, in comparison to the outside and external reality, they are concepts rather than substances and accidents. They are merely concepts and not mental attributes.[24] Nevertheless, it is common knowledge that Hajj Mulla Hadi Sabziwari has employed special care and meticulousness in posing the problem of mental existence. In his Glosses on Sharh-i manzumah, he explains the quality of the concept of substance in the mind and quotes from Fadil Qushchi that when conceptualizing the substance, two things appear in the mind: One is the external existent and the other is the quiddity existing in the mind, which is known, universal, of the type of substance, and independent from the mind. This quiddity could merely be qualified by being mental. It appears in the mind exactly in the same way that an object appears in time and place.

Concerning the above quotation, Sabziwari explains that the appearance of an object in place and time does not mean that it depends on them; it means that an object in which a certain amount of spherical motion is originated is related to the place that surrounds it. However, his explanation in this regard makes the issue even more complicated. The questions which might arise here are what is the nature of the bilateral relationship between the embracing and the embraced? Is place merely a relative category? And if place is in fact a mentally-posited rather than real issue, then what is real and not mentally posited? Is this bilateral relationship between the embracing and the embraced not a relative issue by itself?

It has been said that the effects of essentials are separate from those of species in the mind as a place. Now, the question is which quantity is real, and whether it is the quantity in the mind which is real or the quantity in the outside. If the meaning of quantity is nothing other than being merely divisible by essence, how could it exist in the mind, that is, how could a mental concept be a quantity but an indivisible one? Mulla Sadra says in response that real quantity does not exist in mind. The quiddities of objects are actualized in the mind, but this is not true about their individuals. Hence, we must say that quantity is not actualized in the mind as a place, since the mode of the external existence and individuation of quantity and its divisibility have no way in the mind. "The predication of the concept of quantity on these species is like the predication of its concept to itself, i.e., its existence has the some limits of what derives from it, like deriving an object from what is essential to it or is its essence. Thus, as the concept of quantity is not, in a sense, the same as its individuals and extensions and cannot be divided in essence, the species derived from it in the mind also follow the same rule (individuals and extensions are not the same as concepts)."[25] & [26]

The author of this paper believes that our rational form of the substance of place is under no category except for substance. The form of place is sometimes found in the outside without the place's being in mind and sometimes in the mind as a place. The substantial form of place that exists in the mind also exists in external entities. Place enjoys as much individuation in external entities as it does in mental receptacles. Individuation and substantial existence in the outside and in the mind specifically belong to place. Place is not merely a universal form in the mind, that, due to ambiguity, is in agreement with the contradictory limits of unity and plurality, and the intelligible and the sensible. Place is the only quiddity whose existence, whether in the outside or in the mind, is not in any other subject. Place is the subject (the external world) and the subject of the subject (the world of the mind).


Nature of Place

In his al-Shifa, Ibn Sina has pointed out that those simple realities that have no genus and differentia do not have to be placed under a specific category. There are several things that are not under deca-fold categories, for example, specific possible existences which are not necessary beings or the simple differential of specific existences which are simple quiddities and not subcategorized under the genus of any member of any category.[27] If point is not placed under any accidental category, could line be so? The same question could also be asked about plane and volume. If we merely accept that point is a simple reality that has neither genus nor differentia, we can accept the same about plane and volume and say that plane (mother of bi-dimensional space) and volume (mother of three-dimensional space) are free from genus and differentia.

Since place is not under any differentiae of other substantial species, and since the concept of accident does not apply to it, it must necessarily be an independent substance. The universal rational nature of place, since it is place, is under the category of substance of place, and regarding its universality and intelligibility, that is, its quiddity qua quiddity, it is under its own category. In the mental place, place is not under the category of accident, rather, it is like an individual of the nature of place that possesses the individual modes of place.

The concept of substance in the sense of genus of place is not a purely mentally-posited concept, since mental place is a place by itself and, thus, the mental concept of place qua place is the same as the place of common predication, for place is nothing but common predication. Hence, its applicability and individuality return to itself. The mental concept of place, irrespective of its external existence, is place too, and common predication could be the same as mental predication only with regard to place. We cannot consider the mental concept of the substance of place as a merely universal concept, since the extension of the mental concept of place is the same as the place that exists in the outside, and apart from place, which the only reference for that concept, there is no other extension for this concept. The existence of place is melted in place, and place is not like genus for spatial things so that they actualize it in the same way that differentia actualizes genus. The reason is that it is possible for all spatial things not to exist while having the place still in existence. Moreover, if spatial things exist, the actualization of place's being place does not depend on the actualization of those things. More importantly, it is due to the actualization of place that spatial things are actualized.

In primary essential predication[28] of 'place is place', the subject of place is essentially the quiddity of the predicate, and, obviously, there is no contrast between the subject and the predicate. And it quite clear that by common technical predication place is the same as place by primary essential predication, since in the common technical proposition, the subject of place is in unity with the predicate of place, and the existence of place is the extension of the concept of place.[29] As we know, the content of common technical predication does not add anything to that of the primary essential one regarding place, and this is the very reason for the unique substantiality of place. And it is due to this very unity in common and essential predications of place that there is no place for identifying any contradiction in place's being place.

In sum, place is a category in which common predication is the same as essential predication and vice versa, and it cannot be subcategorized under mental categories which exist only through primary predication, rather than common.

The affirmation of place is not the same as the affirmation of a place for a thing so that it becomes an extension for the principle of 'when we demonstrate something for something else, it is different from demonstrating that thing itself.' Rather, place is the essence of having a place, which does not depend on any spatial thing for which place has been affirmed and demonstrated. And, rather, we must say that there is no affirmation, except for the essence of place, either in the mind or in the outside, so that place is affirmed through its affirmation.

Place is not added to or in contrast to being in place. Thus we cannot talk about the place of place, since there is no need for a place for place so that an infinite regression appears. There is no independent relation between place and its essence so that there would be a need for a place for this relation of place to place and for another place for the last relation of place to place. Place is itself.

In the rational perception of place, is the essence of place which is taken into consideration, not a mentally-posited view of place that is different from its real self. As mentioned before, there is one consideration ad one rational perception rather than two considerations and one rational perception, as postulated by Mulla Sadra concerning the mental accidents of existence.[30]

The occurrence of place to place is not mentally-posited; rather, the essence of the quiddity of place is place without any supplement. We cannot say that place is not in place at a level and is in place at another level so that we can say that place (existence) is an accident for place. Place is fact itself and, thus, the occurrence of place to place is absurd, since there is no contradiction in the essence of the issue. Place is the very place itself.

Individuation of place is not anything out of its quiddity. Place does not need external configurations and annexations for its individuation and actualization. External individuation is known by place and place by external individuation, and the two are not separate from each other. The essential effects that are expected from place are the conditions for the succession of the effects of place and result from it. It is the individuation of place that grants individuation to the outside or to the mind. Of course, the mind and the outside, due to their being far from and near to us, have two different individuations. However, the more they enjoy place (and not necessarily extension), they the more they are individuated.

Let's imagine that place is a mental nature in the mind. According to Mulla Sadra, mental natures involve essential concepts without any external effects (since effects arise from the existent and not from concept). For example, the mental nature of place entails the concept of quantity; however, it does not result in quantitative effects; that is, the mental nature, due to its being in the mind and depending on it, cannot be essentially divided into parts. He does not say how man can perceive an indivisible plane. Nevertheless, the question is: what is the difference between a divisible mental nature and an indivisible one? Apparently, Mulla Sadra believes that the criteria for differentiating that between the succession and non-succession of external effects, as well as between the individuation and non-individuation that appear in external and mental places, are the detailedness or briefness of such concepts. It seems that, for example, he views man's mental nature the same as the rational animal and believes that the nature of external man does not result in the external effects of act, being in place, growth, sense, and motion.[31]

This idea requires the interpretation of individuation, which is the criterion for the principiality of existence by detailing the essential concepts of quiddities and natures. However, as mentioned previously, the only criterion for the principiality of one mode in relation to another is place. In other words, both the individuation and principiality of existence lie in place. Allocating place to place is not like a relation to be connected to place from out of place. The existence of place does not depend on the relation of that existence to place. It is truly like the existence of a spatial thing in place. As the existence of a spatial thing in essence is nothing but its existence in place and its spatial existence; the existence of place is nothing but the same existence.

Allocating the quiddity of place to place is nothing but the simple truth of place, and this simple truth cannot be considered like genus or differentia for spatial objects. As emphasized previously, place has no genus or differentia.

Place is not an accidental issue for a spatial object so that, when explaining the relation of existence to quiddity, we consider it different from the relation of a spatial object to place. Whiteness does not exist essentially, unless it is placed in a white subject, and the same is also true about blackness. The other accidents, too, are not placed, unless they are placed in their subject. The only thing that is essentially placed and does not need another placed thing in having a place is substance. Therefore, it comes to light that the difference between spatial existence in place and spatial existence in subject, which Mulla Sadra refers to in al-Asfar,[32] has only been posed due to not distinguishing between the station of place and its simplicity and has no firm basis or criterion.

The quiddity of place is not different from place, and when one asks what place is, we should say it is the very thing that is in unity with place, which is considered real both in the outside and in the mind, and a rational inquiry into the quiddity of place requires attending to one of the modes of place.

However, place is not something mentally-posited that we attribute to a spatial object, since we can never perceive, grasp by intuition, or have assess to a spatial object without being in place.

Accordingly, we see that such a philosophical perception of place views the occurrence of place to place in nafs al-amr (fact itself), since place and essence are in unity in place itself and a single issue without having any difference from each other.

The qualification of place by its quiddity is not like qualifying a subject by its accidents. It is, rather, like qualifying the simple by its essentials. Place's being place cannot be negated to place. Being place is not an occurred or conditioned issue for place; rather, place is necessarily place, and one cannot conceive of a place that is merely the quiddity of place qua place and not place. This is because place is inherently place qua place. In other words, the phrase 'place is in existence' is exactly the same as the reality of 'place is place'. Qualifying place by the quiddity of place is an essential, rather than mentally-positied, qualification.

However, the quiddity of place is not separated from place, and the truth is that whatever we say about place is nothing but place, and we cannot doubt place's being place, though we can doubt the existence or non-existence of objects.

In other words, we might have doubts about objects' being or non-being in place. Hence, asking about the place of place is irrational and unimaginable. Attributing place to place is an essential attribution, and place does not occur to the essence of place. Moreover, the duality governing the relation between existence and quiddity does not work here. Accordingly, the principiality of place has no regression, and there is no doubt in the oneness of place with itself.

The intellect can never grasp the quiddity of place without spatial considerations. This reveals the essential affirmation of place. The quiddity of place is never void of any modes of place; as a result, place is never empty of place, not due to the consideration of mental existence, but due to the impossibility of denying place to the essence of place. The intellect deliberates over quiddity without considering any other existing object, and we cannot say that, in a sense, the intellect empties the quiddity of place from all modes of existence, and, in another sense, considers the quiddity of place like one of the modes of place. Therefore, there is no duality in the mental consideration of the quiddity of place, and we must basically say that there is no duality in the consideration of other quiddities either. Rather, there are two different perceptions instead of one; i.e., the perception of the quiddity of the existent and the perception of the quiddity of the non-existent. However, propounding that they are two considerations rather than two perceptions does not open a new window to reality and fails to bring about any victory. In fact, we can only view it as an argument that has repeatedly deceived our ears like a pleasing piece of music.



[1]. Naturally such simplicity of place requires simple geometries. Similarly, such geometries satisfy our physical theories of place.

[2]. Mulla Sadra, al-Asfar, 1981, 3rd  ed. vol. 4, pp. 215-216, Beirut, Dar al-Ahya.

[3]. Ibid., part 1 from the 1st journey, p. 425.

[4]. Ibid., p. 426.

[5]. Ibid., vol.1, p. 426, 2nd gloss.

[6]. Mulla Sadra, 1371 A.S., Mafatih al-ghayb, 2nd  ed., pp. 690-691. Translation and glosses by Mohammed Khwajawi, Tehran, Mawla Press.

[7]. Since matter enjoys no limit, one cannot conceive of any limit for this continuous quantity in corporeal objects. Moreover, Mulla Sadra believes that infinite dimension is impossible both in vacuum and in plenum. He does not offer a new argument in this regard.

[8]. "Form of Place and Possibility of Form", Letter of Philosophy (Namah-i falsafah), no. 5, Tehran, Office for Cultural Research, Winter 1377 A.S. and Spring, 1378 A.S.

[9]. Mulla Sadra, 1371 A.S., Mafatih al-ghayb, 2nd ed., p. 646. Translated by Khwajawi, Tehran, Mawla Press.

[10]. Mulla Sadra, al-Asfar, 1981, part 1 from 1st journey, 3rd edition, p. 311. Beirut, Dar al-Ahya.

[11]. Ibid., p. 300.

[12]. Ibid.

[13]. Ibid., p. 302.

[14]. Ibid.

[15]. Unlike Shaykh al-Ishraq, he considers the content of imaginal forms as being limited to the essence of the essential receptacle.

[16]. Mulla Sadra, op. cit. vol. 10, p. 300.

[17]. Ibid., p. 300.

[18]. In this short paper, we do not intend to clarify the nature and number of worlds in Mulla Sadra's view. There are several questions concerning his view of the worlds, their relations to each other, and their grades. However, what is related to the issue of the trans-substantial motion is that this motion apparently includes the world of the sense and is included in it. The substance of the world has a transitory and flowing existence, although its quiddity, unlike the nature of time and motion, is not in change and flux. The substance of the world is essentially in motion, passage, and renewal, and its truth is nothing other than annihilation and origination. This origination is a substantial one.

[19]. Mulla Sadra, op. cit., vol. 1, p. 302.

[20]. Plato's real name was Aristocle, and, interestingly enough, Plato, the name that people gave him is a spatial and extensional attribute and means 'wide'.

[21]. Mulla Sadra, op. cit., p. 307.

[22]. Ibid., pp. 311-312.

[23]. Ibid., pp. 297-298, 2nd gloss.

[24]. Ibid., p. 306, 1st gloss.

[25]. Ibid., p. 297.

[26]. Ibid.

[27]. Ibid., p. 281.

[28]. Ibid., p. 293.

[29]. This predication is true whether place is substance or accident.

[30]. Mulla Sadra,  Hikmat al-muta'aliyyah, 1222 AH, p. 13.

[31]. Mulla Sadra, al-Asfar, 1981, part 1 from 1st journey, 3rd edition, p. 311. Beirut, Dar al-Ahya.

[32]. Mulla Sadra, Hikmat al-muta'aliyyah, 1222 AH, p. 13.


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