Platonic Ideas in Mull Sadrs View

Zahra Mustafawi

Throughout the history of Islamic civilization there have always been certain philosophers who have had a deep concern to reconcile all fields of the Islamic sciences. Among the most important activities of the past thinkers we can refer to the establishment of connection and harmony among the Islamic disciplines and various methods of inquiry. That is why at certain points there has been an overlap of issues in different scientific domains and the methods of one field have influenced those of other fields. Physics (tabiyyt), philosophy, kalm, gnosis (irfn), exegesis (tafsr) and even jurisprudence (fiqh) are considered among such disciplines. For example, many philosophers have made forays into theological debates and many theologians have brought new ideas to the realm of philosophy. There have also been sages who have delved into mysticism before turning towards philosophical discourses. Long ago, there existed quite a number of Muslim scholars who had mastery over different disciplines and wrote treatises on them not simply because different fields of knowledge were not developed. Yet, this was done with the intension of reconciling all the sciences.

Among these scholars, Khwjah Nasr al-Dn Tus made impressive achievements in establishing a solid connection between philosophy and theology. He is distinguished from such figures as Ghazzl, Taftzn, and Fakhr al-Dn Rz for he did not fight against philosophy with the weapon of Islamic theology and did not mix the valuable achievements of human sciences such as philosophy with theological discourses. Rather, using the weapons of philosophy and human reason, he attempted to solve theological riddles and established the Sh theology based on theosophical thoughts, and in this manner he blazed a new path before the seekers of knowledge.

However, Mull Sadr proceeded to reconstruct the Islamic sciences. He made his utmost efforts in synthesizing the three disciplines of mysticism, philosophy, and theology. Mull Sadr not only established theological debates based on philosophical thoughts, as Khwjah Nasr had done, but also took another great stride in enriching philosophy. Owing to his familiarity with Islamic mysticism, he strove toward fashioning them in a philosophical language and theosophical method, and presented a philosophy based on mystical findings.

In order to reach this noble goal, Mull Sadr gave up mystical terminologies and claims and by creating a similar language within philosophy, he set out to achieve this important goal. Perhaps this was the key to his success and his incomparable influence on the process of divine theosophy. He did not approach philosophy like mystics so that he would view it as an ordinary, and not-so-important discipline, nor did he coin new terms that would be strange to philosophical discourse, as Shaykh al-Ishrq did. He presented a new philosophy out of philosophical claims and the discarded sayings of the theosophists. This philosophy includes such discussions as analogical gradation of being, trans-substantial motion, the union of the intellect and the intelligible, and the immateriality of the faculty of imagination. Hence, the divine wisdom did not adopt any other path except for that of the prevalent philosophy and its methods.

When we briefly compare Mull Sadrs transcendent theosophy and the Islamic mysticism, we see that he has approached philosophy through mysticism and at the same time he has not transferred everything from mysticism into philosophy. The three important points to be discussed are as follows:

First, the issue of the Principiality and Unity of the reality of being (aslat wa wahdat-i haqqat-i wujud), which Mull Sadr has discussed in his own philosophy in an unprecedented manner though it is far from the mystical pantheism.

Second, is the issue of the relationship of causality which he has defined it as tashaun, and that the the effect has no independent reality from the cause but it is among the states (shuun) of the cause has been transferred from mysticism to transcendent theosophy. 1

In these two discussions, Mull Sadr has extensively used the very terms used by mystics such as Qaysar and Qunaw. He, too, admits that the foundations of these two discussions have been explicated in mysticism. He has shown his gravitation towards mysticism in the book Maftih al-ghayb, more so that al-Asfr and al-Shawhid al-rububyyah.

It seems that the weak point of Mull Sadrs theosophy lies in the fact that he, while using mystical principles, has made some changes in them, and has replaced the principles with similar concepts and themes. There are deficiencies in this transition from mysticism to philosophy, which has failed to achieve excellence in scholarship, though it has blazed the path before the transcendental theosophy towards mystical understanding.

It is befitting here to make a reference to my esteemed father, the noble mystic or our era, Imm Ruhullah Khomein. It was he who with the mastery over Islamic mysticism, tried to provide a new interpretation of transcendent theosophy suitable for speculative mysticism (irfn-i nazar). Hence, the philosophy he had in mind is more transcendental than the one that Mull Sadr developed. The late Imm never gave up mystical claims and tried to bring the mystical ontological unity into philosophy, and to follow the discussion of Gods attributes based on the mystical tasting.

He, also, made a synthesis of mysticism and theology and explained theological issues such as determinism, delegation, and the discourse of the soul with mystical teaching. Among the most important concerns of His Eminence was to explicate transmitted theology (Kalm-i naqli) based on speculative mysticism and transcendent theosophy. With a quick review of his numerous books, we realize how his mystical tasting has influenced his exegesis of the verses of the Holy Quran and commentary on the Hadiths of the Blessed Household of the Prophet (s).

However, the third point that needs to be discussed is the issue of Platonic Ideas. The Platonic Idea, regardless of the special significance it has in transcendent philosophy, is among the discussions that Mull Sadr has transferred from mysticism to theosophy and has used the same simulative method to develop it in transcendent theosophy. This theory is among the rejected theories in the Islamic peripatetic philosophy which Mull Sadr has revived and has accordingly mentioned eight proofs for it. Thus, in the second part of the article the proofs of Platonic Ideas are going to be reviewed. At this point, however, it is necessary to emphasize that the theory of Ideas, in the sense that has been discussed in transcendent philosophy and the writings of Mull Sadr, has a mystical root and is the same as the immutable archetypes (aayn-i thbitah). The characteristics that Mull Sadr enumerates for the Ideas are similar to the characteristics of immutable archetypes.

Therefore, in my opinion, Mull Sadr with his background in Islamic mysticism has taken a new step in philosophy. First, he has interpreted the meaning of Platonic Ideas in accordance with mystical thoughts. Second, while relying on mystical intuitions, he has used a language based on the proof.

The present article deals with the views of Mull Sadr on the Ideas and the reader who is well-versed in mysticism may find out to what extent the characteristics of the Ideas are similar to immutable archetypes.


I said: We on the one hand, believe in multiplicity, i.e. we say many beautiful things and many good things, and also other things of any form of whatever type each of them having their own boundaries and definitions.

He said: Of course.

I said: On the other hand, for every one of these multiple species, we believe in an immaterial being, i.e. the immaterial beauty, the immaterial good, and the immaterial anything else which is found in the world off multiplicity. These are the unified form and absolute of those multiplicities.

He said: That is so.

I said: I must add that multiplicities are visible rather than rational, whereas the cognitive forms are rational rather than visible. 2

These statements are quoted from Platos master, Socrates, who has uttered them in his debates with Adimantos and Glaucken, the two elder brothers of Aristotle. They show his views on immaterial forms (Suwar-i mufriqah), which later came to be known as Platonic Ideas.

Aristotle, Platos student, has criticized his theory and has referred to a number of objections in his Metaphysics.3 Through the history of Islamic philosophy, the students of the Aristotelian school have expounded on these problems.

The issue of Platonic Ideas has been discussed among Islamic theosophists and has been a source of disagreement. Frb and Ibn Sn (Avicenna) have rejected the theory of Ideas. However, the Illuminationists (Ishrqyyun) based on Shaykh Shihb al-Dn Suhriwards interpretations have accepted the theory of Ideas.

Regarding the background of this theory, it should be pointed out that before Plato and Aristotle, too, there has been a tendency towards this theory among the Greek philosophers, as Mull Sadr has referred to it in one of his books.4

Mull Sadr attributes this theory to Empedocles, Pythagoras, Agathadimon, and Hermes.5 Moreover, as pointed out by Ibn Sn in some of his works, the theory of Ideas had been posed before Socrates.6 Mull Sadr has even attributed this theory to the Stoic sages and ancient Iranian philosophers.7

It should be noted that according to Mull Sadr subsequent to the discussion of the theory of Ideas among Islamic philosophers, each one of them has tried to have a better understanding of the theory, though; they have not succeeded in this area. He asserts:

Figures such as Abu Nasr Frb have attempted to assay the issue of separate Ideas (muthul-i mufriqah) with rational demonstration, but have not been successful and Frb has gone wrong in the very understanding of this theory.

In this article, the author will try to refer to different viewpoints of the Islamic philosophers and it will be shown that according to Mull Sadr the best interpretation is the one which Ibn Sn has made, though even he has not been able to explain the theory of Ideas and its reality.

According to Mull Sadr, the theory of Ideas has not been an issue open to [rational] demonstration. Rather, the ancient philosophers have discovered the existence of Ideas through their intuition.8

Furthermore, Mull Sadr has referred a number of verses of the Holy Quran that support the existence of the separate.9 Finally, Mull Sadr believes that none of the Islamic philosophers has been able to truly understand the theory of separate Ideas and only he has been successful in this regard.10

First Discourse: Mull Sadrs View on the Ideas
Critique of the Viewpoints

In order to better clarify the issue of the Divine Platonic Ideas (muthul-i illhi-yi afltun), Mull Sadr puts forward the views of others on the Ideas. Then, while criticizing and reviewing the views of Islamic philosophers, he presents his own viewpoint. He refers to Plato as such: It is said of divine Plato that many of his views are compatible with those of his Master, Socrates. As he says: The beings (mawjudt) have immaterial forms (surat-hi mujarrad), and it is possible to call them divine Ideas. These forms neither disappear nor decay. However, those that disappear and decay are the existing beings (mawjudt-i kinah) in the world of objects. On the contrary, the immaterial Forms remain.11

Mull Sadr says: There are different interpretations concerning what Plato intended by Ideas and their mode of existence. He refers to some of these interpretations as follows:12

1- Frbs Interpretation

In his book al-Jam bayn-i ray-i al-hakmayn,13 the Second Teacher (i.e., Frb) maintains that the beings in Gods knowledge have forms that are in the manner of acquired knowledge, and although temporal and spatial individuals and beings change and disappear, those Forms remain.

2- Ibn Sns Interpretation

According to Ibn Sn, what Plato meant by the Ideas in the world of intellects (lam-i uqul) was that the universals and quiddities that can be found in multiplicity (kathrn) and at the same time have numerous individuals (afrd) in the world of matter are themselves available in the world of intellects and exist in the universal form. These intellectual beings are the cause of their own corresponding objects in the sensible world and precede them.14

3- Shaykh al-Ishrqs Interpretation

Any simple species, such as spheres and elements or any composite species such as plants or animals in the world of intellects have an intellect independent from matter that is the possessor of that species and is an archetype. The relation between the archetype and the natural individuals is that it dominates the individuals and oversees them. Since each one of the intellects is at the end of the vertical chains of intellects, it seems as if it is the horizontal intellect. These intellects based on the degree of the multiplicity of physical species are multitude. Hence, any one of material species has its own corresponding intellect and a self-subsistent idea, which becomes the source of these species.15

4- Muhaqqiq Dawns Interpretation

Platonic Ideas are the same as suspended beings in the world of Ideas which other philosophers believe in, as well.16

5- Mr Dmds Interpretation

All the temporal and material entities, though per se, are in need of time, place, and condition. However, in relation to the knowledge of the Almighty Who has an absolutely Illuminationist and all-embracing knowledge, they are all in the same rank, and there is no superiority among them in this regard. Hence, from this aspect, none of these beings has renewal, decay, or contingency. In this vision, they do not have a need for material potential or physical conditions; therefore, they are immaterial beings. What Plato meant by Immaterial Ideas is this very aspect of beings.17 Then, Mull Sadr criticizes these interpretations and says:

Critique of Frbs Views

The Platonic Ideas despite the views of the Second Teacher, Abu Nasr Frb, are independent and self-existent entities, which exist, in the external reality. They are not like the formative knowledge and acquired knowledge in others. Plato has been quoted as saying: In the state of immateriality, I saw luminous spheres.18 Hermes, too, asserts: A spiritual being imparted knowledge to me. I asked him: Who are you? He said: I am your perfect and complete nature. Therefore, it has been declared in the statements of ancient philosophers as well as Plato that the divine Ideas are independent beings and not in the subject.

Critique of Ibn Sn

Mull Sadr criticizes Ibn Sns interpretation of Platonic Ideas and maintains that Plato could have never stated such theories. He says: Undoubtedly, Plato, one of whose students is the First Teacher [Aristotle], with his superior status is so great that one can not attribute to him indistinguishability between disassociation based on intellect and being.19

The Best Interpretation

Mull Sadr, however, maintains that Ibn Sn has presented the best interpretation of Platonic Ideas,20 and the error on the part of Ibn Sn is caused by his interpretation of the positions based on which Plato has presented his theory of Ideas. He says: The very theory which has been presented in al-Shif concerning the Platonic Ideas and according to which each entity has an individual in the world of intellects in the same way that they have individuals in the sensible world is the gist of Platos idea. Plato and Socrates have not gone astray in this area and the idea that any intelligible universal which exists in the mind has an intellectual existence and that the common sense predicated on sensible beings has an intellectual existence should not be ascribed to them. There is no doubt that Aristotle and his master, Plato, are much greater in status to have made such mistakes in the elementary issues of philosophy.

Critique of Suhriwards Views

In the writings of Shaykh al-Ishrq, however, it is not clear whether the archetypes (arbb-i anw) have the same essence and reality as the sensible beings. From the proofs of Shaykh al-Isrq21 one can only understand that any type of physical species has an archetype which belongs to that species and it is not only the governing (mudabbir) individuals of that species, but also the cause of their realization. Yet, do the archetypes and individuals have the same reality or not? The proofs and writings of Shaykh al-Ishrq do not deal with this issue. Hence, the archetypes (arbb-i anw) that appear in his writings are different from the divine Ideas in Platos works.

Critique of Dawns Views

Regarding the views of Muhaqqiq Dawn, it must be noted that the ancient philosophers who have discussed the divine Ideas, did believe in the world of Ideas, a world which ranks in the hierarchy of being, lower than the world of intellects and higher than the material world. The entities of this world, although separate from the matter, are not immune from their accidents. Moreover, they are spirits that have the same quantity and quality of all other accidents of the matter.

It is said that in the particular perceptions of human beings the knower is connected to the world of Ideas at the time of perception, in the same manner that at the time of perception of universals based on the theory of the unity of the intellect and the Intelligible (maqul) the intellect is connected to the world of universals and intellects. Accordingly, the world of Ideas is a world similar to the material world, and the beings of that world have the same qualities of the bodies. However, the difference between them is that the beings of the material world have a material being and the beings of the world of Ideas have a being separate from the matter not from its accidents. With these descriptions it is clear that Plato, his masters, and his followers maintain that the divine and luminous ideas are from the world of intellects and not from the world of Ideas.

Critique of Mr Dmds Views

While criticizing the views of his master, Mr Muhammad Bqir Dmd, Mull Sadr says:

Based on what he [Mr Dmd] has said, necessarily there would be the same number of Platonic intellectual ideas as there are individuals and beings in the world of matter, because the permanent form of each material being is specific to it and distinguished from the permanent form of another material being. Whereas, according to Plato, for any species of material bodies there is only one Idea and not one intellectual Idea for each individual of the material beings.

Interpretation of Mull Sadr

After reviewing Mull Sadrs critique of the interpretations of divine Platonic Ideas propounded by the great Islamic philosophers, it is appropriate to review his views on these intellectual beings. His theory is comprised of the following parts:

A- Unity of the Reality of the Species and the Ideas

Mull Sadr says that Platonic Ideas as well as the species and bodies have the same reality and only their modes of existence are different from one another, in other words one is material and the other one intellectual. However, their essence and reality are the same. That is, any species of bodies in the material world has material instances and in the world of Ideas it has an ideal individual. This is the main point of difference between his idea and that of Shaykh al-Ishrq, because Shaykh al-Ishrq does not patently accept the unity of reality of physical species and its Platonic Idea, while Mull Sadr says: The form of existents of the world of bodies is the same as the form of existents of the intellectual world which has been created by the Almighty. Since the reality of each existent is its form, therefore, those two existents have the same reality.22

B- Intellectual Existence of the Ideas

As was said in response to Muhaqqiq Dawn, the Platonic Ideas according to Mull Sadr are intellectual beings and not beings that belong to the world of Ideas. Consequently, in many cases, he has referred to them as intellectual or immaterial ideas. Regarding the Treasures (khazna-yi ashy) in the verse And there is not a thing but its [sources and] treasures [inexhaustible] are with Us23 Mull Sadr says: These treasures are the immaterial forms, and the intellectual Ideas are present before God for these natural sensible species. All natural species have a form separate from the material entities as viewed by Plato.24 Concerning the natural forms, he says: The natural forms can be realized in external world in an intellectual form, [separate from matter and its accidents], and Plato and his followers had the same views about divine immaterial forms.25

C- The Relationship Between the Species and the Ideas

There are different views concerning the relation between the Ideas and the physical species in the writings of Mull Sadr. On the one hand, he introduces the Ideas as the cause and sustainer of material beings, and on the other hand, he says that their simile is that of a shadow and the object. He also considers them as the inner reality of the material beings. It is worth mentioning that reference will be made to a number of statements by Mull Sadr. However, the best way to synthesize these theories seems to be as follows:

Mull Sadr holds that the relation between cause and effect is changeable to tashaun, and asserts that effect is among the states (shuun) of the cause. Additionally, in different stages he considers Platonic Ideas as the cause and  inner-reality for material beings. He says: Any one of the physical species has a perfect instance in the world of creation which is the source and origin of other instances of species, whereas, the instances branch out from it as its effects.26

The Platonic Ideas are the intellectual substances and the spiritual Ideas that belong to physical species, and are present before God. As compared to physical species, these intellectual substances are the organizer of the inner mysteries, the sustainer of physical life, the mediator of creation, guarantor of survival, and repeater of instances.27

They are intellectual forms that are the innermost part of natural and sensible forms.28 The Ideas are the existing realities whose relationship to the disappeared sensible forms is the same relationship among the origin, the shadow, and the idea. Those Ideas, in turn, are the origin of these existing and renewing shadows, because in one sense they are the agent, the ends, and the form; these principles are intellects in actuality and are not devoid of possibility and potentiality.

Since the potential rational beings and the material beings (mddiyyt) have potentiality and possibility and the Ideas are the subject, ends, and the form of material beings, therefore, their relationship is similar to that of the object and [its] shadow.

D- Relationship between the Ideas and the Necessary Being

This section is the most important section that we have already discussed in the introduction of this article, because the similarity between the theory of Ideas and the theory of Immutable archetypes (ayn-i thbitah) can be easily observed in the writings of Mull Sadr where he discusses the relationship between the Ideas and the immutable archetypes.29

Moreover, he uses quite different expressions to refer to the relation between the Ideas and the Necessary Being. Mull Sadrs most basic expression is creation (ibd) on the basis of which it is argued that Platonic Ideas have been created through the Almightys creation. In his writings, he also comes across other issues, some of which will be presented in this part of the article.

An Explanation

In explaining the contradiction in his words, as in the previous section, the following points can be referred to: The relation of causality in the writings of that sage has been discussed with different expressions and terms. Following the views of the peripatetic philosophers, he sometimes refers to cause and effect as two separate beings, one of which depends on the other for its being. Whereas, their relationship has been explained in a deeper and more precise language to the extent that he gradually reaches the viewpoints of the Islamic mystics and their interpretation of the causality relationship as well as the relationship between God and the creatures. Here, is the point where he completes the Islamic philosophers by explaining the reality of the relationship between the Necessary Being and all-other-than-God.30

Divine immaterial forms that are present before God are not aware of their own essence, and except for God, no one is aware of them. The reason for this, according to Plato and Stoic philosophers, is that these immaterial forms do not take notice of their own luminous essence; they are annihilated in God due to their total obedience, they survive based on the subsistence of God, and are realized through the true being of God.31

He also says: Gods essence has rays, luminosity, light, and effects, and how can it be otherwise while the whole existence is illuminated by His Light and shines with His manifestation? Plato and his followers have called those lights and rays as luminous Ideas and divine Forms.32 As Platonic Forms are divine sciences and meanwhile the treasure-house of Lords knowledge, and because the attributes of the Almighty is the same as the essence, Mull Sadr maintains: Those intellectual Forms are in fact divine attributes which are obedient to his Being, whereas, the Exaltation and Majesty of God is due to His Own Essence and not because of these intellectual Forms. The fact that these intellectual Forms are divine attributes does not necessitate a multiplicity of pre-eternals, nor does it make the unitary and impermeable essence of God in need of perfection, because these intellectual forms are not independent or distinct from God, and their reality and being is not different form the reality and the Being of God.33

Mull Sadr has referred to the same meaning in Maftih al-ghayb as he has said somewhere else:34 The immaterial Forms are by no means a part of the world, and they are neither a part of all-other-than-God. They are, in fact, Forms of divine knowledge and perfect words that will not be completed nor wither away. As the Almighty says: What is with you vanishes: What is with Allah will endure.35 Furthermore, he holds: Say: If the ocean were ink [wherewith to write out] the words of my Lord sooner would be the ocean be exhausted than would the words of my Lord.36

The Summary of the Views of Mull Sadr

From what was said above, it can be concluded that according to Mull Sadr the Platonic immaterial Forms are divine knowledge, knowledge that exists eternally. The existents of the material world have an essence similar to that of the immaterial forms. Moreover, these beings are shadows of the immaterial forms in such a way that they have called those immaterial forms as the Ideas.

Therefore, the Platonic Ideas are intellectual beings and the forms of divine knowledge that are among the divine attributes. They are annihilated in his Essence and survive due to His subsistence. Additionally, they are not part of all-other-than-God. These luminous Ideas are the reality and the origin of sensible beings, and have a quiddity similar to them. They are also the cause and the governor of the sensible beings.

Second Discourse: Mull Sadrs Proofs for the Ideas

First Proof

In this proof, a philosophical principle called imkn-i ashraf is used. Before Mull Sadr, Shaykh al-Ishrq has resorted to using this principle in order to prove the existence of immaterial Ideas. After expounding on the views of Shaykh al-Ishrq, Mull Sadr finds problems with his statements and detects a contradiction between the implementation of the said principles in Suhriwards approach37 .38

Here, the views and explanations of Mull Sadr in using the principle of imkn-i ashraf are intended. It is noteworthy that he has used this principle in order to prove the world of intellects.39 He has also utilized this principle in order to solve the immaterial Ideas. Since in one of the objections against Suhriward, he declares that Shaykh al-Ishrq through utilizing this principle has not been able to prove anything more than the world of intellect in general, and at the same time, he views the proof by Suhriward as the most probable aspect (aqrab al-wujuh madhkur) in his discourse on proving the archetypes,40 therefore, in utilizing this principle the utmost attention should be paid to his language.41

According to Mull Sadr, the principle of imkn-i ashraf (the possibility of nobler) is more a proof for demonstrating the intellectual Forms for each species, and much less a proof for rational principles for any physical species and for the activities of the intellects on material species. This means that for each material species there is an intellectual individual and an immaterial Form.

The reason that such intellectual Form exists is that each physical species has a quiddity existing in the mind and this mental quiddity is a possible being. There is no doubt that the realization of such a quiddity-like mental quiddity in the external world in a way that its relations to the individual of that quiddity are equal and at the same time separate from matter and its accidents is possible. If such a being is realized in reality, it is superior to the beings of the physical world, and such intellectual being of this quiddity exists in the mind and is dependent from it, as well. Therefore, it is superior and must be pre-existent because it is realized in reality independently.

What is of importance now is to examine whether it is possible for a physical quiddity to have a separate existence. Is there any obstruction on the path of realization of such a physical quiddity? In response Mull Sadr says that separate existence is possible for physical quiddities because the quiddity itself is possible and there is no obstruction for the realization of that being except for some barriers that have been mentioned, though all of them can be explained:

1-The intellectuality of a being is not permissible for a physical reality.

Response: The rational existence of this quiddity can also be realized in the mind, and it is admitted that quiddity has rational existence in the mind. Hence, the rational existence for physical quiddity is possible.

2-The rational being must be self-existent, whereas, the existence of physical individual is dependent on matter, and this dichotomy in being is impossible for a quiddity.

Response: It is permissible in existence that the individuals of one of its species to be different, some would be manifested in matter, and still some others would not be manifested, and the strength or the weakness of beings does not lead to their differences essentially.

3-The intellectual being is simple, while the physical beings are composite and comprise various elements.

Response: The totality and reality of any manifold and composite being that is found in natural beings is in its form, because it is actualized through its form. Moreover, multiplicity is potential in whatever that has unity in actuality. For example, natural man is one unified entity whose unity is directed towards the form of his unity and not his organs. Therefore, composite physical beings or intellectual and simple beings have one common reality. The compositeness of the corporeal beings does not make the intellectual beings composite, as well. 

Second Proof

Mull Sadr in this proof has utilized the characteristics of sensible beings. His proof is as follows:

If we study the reality and the essence of sensible species which has multiple individuals, we realize that the very reality and essence does not necessitate a specific size of occurrence in a specific site, or a special circumstance, otherwise mountainmust not have more than one instance, whereas, different individuals exist with different accidents and additions.

The presence of these accidents and characteristics of sensible beings shows the qualification of the object for sensibility. If a being does not have any of these sensible accidents, it would be intelligible and would be outside the world of senses. Since the essence and the reality of sensible beings do not necessitate any of the sensible accidents, as a consequence, the essence of sense impressions is intelligible. Since the reality of each object precedes its additions and accidents therefore, the intellectual being of each quiddity precedes the sensible being of that quiddity.

Of course, Mull Sadr has mentioned the proof for demonstrating the intellectual being and the world of intellects. However, since the content of the proof included demonstrating the immaterial forms and the Platonic Ideas, the author has utilized it at this stage.42

Third Proof

Mull Sadr has called this proof Oriental Theosophy (hikmat-i mashriqyyah) and has not referred to it while presenting other proofs for demonstrating the existence of the Forms.43 He says: If you want to conduct further investigation, then listen to Oriental Theosophy on the proof of the immaterial forms of these physical species and that [means] as you have understood from our Oriental sciences the reality of all the natural forms is their immediate differentia. 44

As it is understood from the beginning of this quotation, this part of Mull Sadrs words is a proof for the existence of the immaterial forms. While following the same discussion, he has put forward three proofs for demonstrating the existence of the archetypes. This shows that, in his writings, this aspect has been merely a commentary on the Platonic Ideas and cannot be construed as a proof, and those three proofs that he has mentioned later are reasonably acceptable. However, one can somehow pay attention to these statements and interpret them in a way that they would serve as a separate proof for the existence of the archetypes. The proof is as follows:

Any natural being may have genus and differentia, and would be composed of proximate genus and ultimate differentia (al-fasl al-akhr). The proximate genus (al-jins al-qarb), in turn, would be composed of genera and other differentia until it would reach the genus of generum and the remote differentia. However, the whole reality of that being is its fasl khir, and other differentiae and genera only pave the way for the presence of fasl khir. This means that the characteristics of matter is potential and the forms and qualities and other constituent parts of definition, i.e. the middle differentia and the remote differentia, would prepare the matter for accepting the form and immediate differentia. By this, the Emanation of the Origin and the Agent would reach the recipient and the immediate differentia would be realized. Following the realization of the immediate differentia in matter, the strength and effects of that nature would emerge from new differentia in the same manner that an agent would undertake an action, or emanation would emerge from the source of emanation. Consequently, matter and that which accompanies it, i.e. the middle differentia and the remote differentia would be the image and derivative of natural form and new differentia and the natural effects and actions, too, have a natural form.

The natural form is the act and the emanation effect of form and it is derivative. An individual, whose natural form is realized in it, is the image of that source of emanation. Besides, any one of the middle or remote differentia which pave the way for the realization of new differentia are themselves in the same matter of new differentia and a source of emanation in the world of intellect has created them and has made them in its own matter. These new differentia are the acts of that agent and its derivative.

Mull Sadr says that according to what has been put forward, there are origins of emanation in the world of intellects each of which is a source for a previous differentia and the source of its realization. In the same manner that the new differentia in the world of material beings is simple and forms the essence and the reality of material individuals, its agent and source of emanation in the world of intellect is simple and possesses the perfections of this form. Since it is devoid of accidents and additions of matter, it is a separate intellectual being.

We have, thus far, established that the reality of any one of the natural individuals would be the same as its form and new differentia. The source of this form is a reality in the world of intellects whose essence is united with the new differentia, and it is the cause of realization called the archetype or Platonic Idea.

Fourth Proof

The Summary of the Proof in Brief

The intellectual Forms definitely exist because man has rational and universal perceptions, and this is something self-evident. If the intellectual Forms were not self-existent, they might have three forms all of which are impossible. First, they would have been dependent on the material part of our parts. Second, they would have been dependent on our soul. Third, they would have been dependent on a separate, independent rational being, i.e. an immaterial substance that could have been the treasure house of the intelligible. However, since all three probabilities are impossible, it can be concluded that the intellectual forms are self-existent.

The Proof in Detail

Undoubtedly, we have a chain of intelligible issues, i.e. the issues that are understood by all members of human community. We are aware of these issues and have a universal knowledge of them, for example, issues such as the intelligible man, the intelligible tree, and the intelligible animal do not have the characteristics of material beings and are immaterial. Now, the following question is posed: Are these intelligible and universal forms self-existent or do they depend on the other? Besides, what is the other?

If that other in which intellectual forms subsist is the rational soul, then those intellectual forms must never disappear before the soul and lack of attention does not make sense. Moreover, since the soul is aware of itself, it is aware of its accidents, as well. Then, how would it be possible for a person to forget the intellectual forms? Hence, these forms are not subsisting in the soul either.

It might be argued that these intellectual forms are subsisting in an immaterial substance which is independent and is outside our soul, and that is the intellect and its treasure-house of sciences and the intellectual concepts to which whenever the soul is connected it is able to perceive the intellectual forms and whenever it is not connected it forgets them.

In response it can be said that this theory has a number of problems:

First, all the problems that exist regarding the emergence of the intellectual forms in the soul exist in their emergence in the immaterial intellect as well.

Second, if the rational principles accept these impressions (intiqsht and irtismt) of the matter, it would mean that the inferior has influenced the superior, and it would be impossible that the material world, which is the inferior, to influence the world of intellects. If these impressions were emanated from the world superior to intellects, it would mean that the multiplicity has emerged from One (whid), which is also impossible.

Third, when the soul ponders on these forms, it should also ponder on their place and the way in which they are manifested, whereas, the soul does not have such a perception about the intellectual forms.

Hence, the intellectual forms are not subsisting in others. Rather, they are self-subsistent, and this is what is meant by the Platonic Ideas, that is, there are intellectual forms which are self-subsistent and separate from the matter and its accidents.45

Fifth Proof

In this proof, Mull Sadr undertakes to demonstrate the Platonic Ideas through the issue of trans-substantial motion (harakat-i jawhar). He expounds on in two ways:

First Way

It has been demonstrated that motion is possible in the substance of material beings. As a subject undergoes changes in its quantity or quality, changes occur in its substance as well. The reality and essence of any material being perpetually changes, too. What the substance means is its new differentia, existence, and being which is changing and transforming at any given moment and following this trans-substantial motion other accidental changes occur, as well.

Additionally, it has been demonstrated that the substance of material beings is self-renewing in its essence; that is, its essence is in the process of transformation and this transformation is due to its essence and is not imposed on it. Rather, transformation is among the essential characteristics of any material being. Accordingly, the cause of the existence of the substance of a material being is a constant issue that the being should not be necessarily renewed (mutajaddid), because the principle that the cause of the renewed is [itself] renewed applies to cases in which renewal is an accident, whereas the material substances are such that renewal is identical to their essence. In this case, their cause is of intellectual issues, because the soul that in action is dependent on matter is viewed as a material nature.

Consequently, the cause of each material being and each material nature is an intellectual substance that has the same relation to the individuals of that species, its ranks, and its limits. While being the constitutive of the individuals of that species, that substance is the reality (muhassal) of species, the constitutive of the matter (along with nature) and the complementary of its genus. These characteristics all show that the intellectual substance is an immaterial form of this nature.

Second Way

Concerning motion, it has been demonstrated that there must be a constant subject to maintain continuity and unity of motion because the properties are in the process of change and transformation, and it is necessary for a subject to change from the beginning to the end of the motion. On the other hand, this constant subject cannot be matter because matter has generic unity and would be transformed and renewed with the changes of the form. It cannot be nature either, because according to the trans-substantial motion the material natures are in the process of change. Hence, this constant issue would be the maintainer of the unity of motion, the maintainer of the nature, an issue that is non-material and an intellectual matter.

Therefore, the nature has an essence that is composed of the renewed and material substance and a constant intellectual substance. In this manner, the essence of nature is united with the essence of that intellectual substance in a way that the essences and their actions are united while one of them is material and the other one intellectual.46

In the discussion on trans-substantial motion, we have mentioned that Mull Sadr, because of the motion in the category of substance, believes in Platonic Ideas and discusses this issue in his treatise al-Huduth.47

Sixth Proof

This proof, too, like the fourth one is put forward through the perception of the intelligible but in a different turn:

Mull Sadr in this proof refers to the problem of mental existence and shows that he has not accepted the issue of primary predication, though formerly, he had diligently discussed it in the issue of mental existence and had considered it as a solution to the problem.48 In al-Shawhid al-rububiyyah his change of mind is quite evident.49 Concerning the issue of mental existence it has been discussed that if man conceives a substantial quiddity and during the conception that quiddity becomes present in the mind, that quiddity, on the one hand, is substance and is self-subsistent. On the other hand, it has been present in mans soul and is knowledge. Therefore, it is an accident of the soul and has an accidental existence. Then the question is, how a being can be both a substance and an accident?

In this proof, Mull Sadr refers to this problem and it seems that there is no response to this question, and since it is an accepted question in the discussion on mental existence, he consolidates the foundation of his reasoning on this basis. He explains that among the beings some are natural and exist, along with their matter and accidents in the world of senses, and some are physical universals that exist along with their individuals accidentally in the external world. In addition to these two types, there are other intelligible beings that are separate from the matter and its accidents. The intelligible beings that are shared by the individuals and are imposed upon them. That is why they have equal relation to all the individuals, while they are devoid of material attributes and individuals. They are characterized with the intellectual individuation because intellectual individuation and sensible individuation are not mutually exclusive.

After these explanations, Mull Sadr continues that the intelligible being which is separate from matter is either independent or self-subsistent. This is the same as immaterial Platonic Ideas, or it subsists in the soul and when the soul perceives it, it is realized in the soul and is predicated upon it. In this case, the imagined substantial quiddity (since it is the constant reality and essence of the individuals and can be referred to as the substance more than the sensible instances) would be necessarily an accident and a quality predicated upon the soul. That is, a being would be both an accident and a substance.

In response to this question, it has been said that a universal substance such as an animal is a substance because if it is realized in reality it is Not-in-the-Subject and it does not negate the possibility of being In-the-Subject in the mind, because the substance, which the characteristic of In-the-Subject-in-the-mind is true about it, if realized in reality would be independent of place. However, this response, which has been asserted in the works of philosophers such as Ibn Sns al-Shif, has been criticized and Mull Sadr has refuted it in the discussion on mental being.

At this point, he says:

 What is realized in the soul is not the rational form of that quiddity. Rather, it is a mental quality that prepares the soul to have a rational observation that would show its universal reality. According to what has been mentioned in this proof, the universal reality of any quiddity would be a self-sufficient and self-subsisting being which the soul contemplates it during the perception.50

Seventh Proof

This proof, also, like the previous proof is based on perception and the processes that take place during the perception. In this reasoning, Mull Sadr utilizes the issue of the Unity of the intellect and the intelligible that he has proven earlier. After discussing the preliminaries which were put forward in the previous proof and admitting that in the world of existence an intellectual being exists which is actually perceived by the soul and approving that in the mind of man there are rational beings which are rational in actuality because they are in the intellect, Mull Sadr puts forward:

As it has been demonstrated in the issue of the Unity of the intellect and the intelligible, the existence of the sensible is in fact the existence of the senses and the existence of intelligible in actuality is the same existence of the intellectual substance of intellect and the intellect and intelligible are united and it has become clear that the intellect is a being which in actuality is an immaterial substance. Therefore, the intelligible is like the intellect and the intellect that is united in existence with such a substance is a separate substance like it. Therefore, if someone considers the quiddity of man and understands it, and imagines its rational and intelligible meaning in the mind, it becomes clear that man has an intellectual instance in the world of intellects and also any one of the natural beings instead of its own sensible existence in the material world has an intellectual existence in the world of intellects.51

Subsequently, Mull Sadr points to the fact that from each quiddity in the world of intellects and immaterial beings only one instance can be realized; however, since the exposition of that reasoning is not within the scope of the present article it will not be discussed.

Eighth Proof

In this proof based on the actions and effects of natural beings, Mull Sadr concludes that Platonic Ideas and accidental intellects, whose relations to the individuals of their species would be co-extensive, exist. His reasoning is as follows:

We know that all corporeal archetypes such as plants and trees have certain effects that are special to them. What these effects intend are special characteristics which in their own right are constant for each one of them. That is, any of the corporeal archetypes in the matters that they have, possess special effects specific to each one of them and they are not self-sufficient in the creation of these characteristics and cannot show such effects. This is due to the fact that the corporeal archetypes are material beings and if they have any effect it is with the contribution of the matter as well as the special situation that would be necessary for the occurrence of that effect. That is, any action that is done by corporeal forms must be in tandem with matter and the specific situation needed for the realization of the action. While, if the corporeal form has an effect in its own matter, none of these two conditions would be realized.

The reasons would be that first, no entity has a position in relation to itself; second, form must have its effect without the contribution of the matter and would be independent form the matter in its own agency. Accordingly, the corporeal form needs matter both in agency and in the very origin of existence.

In conclusion, the archetypes do not hold sway over their own matters. Therefore, for the manifestation of their characteristics and effects they are dependent on others and either the soul or the intellect must bestow their characteristics. However, the soul cannot bestow them with the effects of the forms because the soul is similar to other natural forms in regard to its acts and its dependence on the body. Thus, it belongs to, and is dependent upon the body.

Hence, the intellect is the only being which can bestow these effects to natural forms and all effects which are emanated from different bodies like heat, coldness, color, taste, and such are not from the archetypes but from an agent on which archetypes rely and the very existence of the archetypes depends on Him. This agent is an intellectual substance that has an equal relation to all of the individuals of that species and the corporeal forms are dependent on Him in their existence and acts.52


[1]. The principle of bast al-haqqah is also one of the mystical discussions and is considered to be the result of these two issues.

[2]. Plato, The Republic, 6th vol., p. 380.

[3].  Aristotle, Metaphysics, vol.7, chapter 14, p. 251.

[4].  Mull Sadr, Mafth al-ghayb, p. 418.

[5].  Ibid., al-Asfr, p. 163:5.

[6].   Ibn Sn, al-Shif, al-Ilhyyt, p. 310.

[7].  Mull Sadr, Mafth al-ghayb, p. 436, al-Mabda wal-Mad, p. 141, al-Shawhid al-rububyyah, p. 171.

[8].  Mull Sadr, Mafth-al ghayb, p. 447.

[9].   Ibid.

[10]. Commentary upon Hikmat al-ishrq, pp. 375 and 251.

[11]. Mull Sadr, al-Asfr, p. 42:2

[12]. For more information see Mull Sadr, al-Asfr, p. 48:2 and then, Commentary upon Hikmat al-ishrq, p. 252.

[13]. Frb, al-Jam bayn-i ray-i al-hakmayn, p. 106.

[14]. Ibn Sn, al-Shif, al-Ilhyyat, pp. 318, 311, and 204; al-Burhn, p.188, al-Mubhitht, p. 370.

[15].  Suhriward, Hikmat al-ishrq, A Collection of Shaykh al-Ishrqs Works, p. 92:2; al-Talwiht, A Collection of Shaykh al-Ishrqs Works, p. 68:1.

[16]. This theory could not be found in Muhaqqiq Dawns works, because he has interpreted Ideas as intellectual beings in Shawkil al-hur f sharh hayakil al-hur, p. 187.

[17]. Mr Dmd, al-Qabast, p.150.

[18].    Mull Sadr, al-Asfr, p. 50:2.

[19].    Mull Sadr, al- Asfr, p. 47:2.

[20]. See Mull Sadr, Commentary upon Hikmat al-ishrq, p. 251.

[21]. For the proofs of Shaykh al-Ishrq see Mull Sadr, al-Asfr, vol. 2, pp. 53-62 and Suhriward, A Collection of Shaykh al-Ishrqs Writings, vol. 1, al-Mutriht, p. 453, and al-  Mughwimt, p.191, A Collection of Shaykh al-Ishrqs Writings, vol. 2, Hikmat Ishrq, p. 154.

[22]. Mull Sadr, al-Asfr, p. 191: 5.

[23]. The Holy Qur'an: al-Hijr, verse 82.

[24]. Mull Sadr, Mafth al-ghayb, p. 418.

[25].    Ibid., p. 518.

[26].    Mull Sadr, al-Shawahid al-rububyyah, p. 163.

[27]. Ibid., Mafth al-ghayb, p. 447.

[28]. Ibid., p. 424.

[29]. See Qaysari, Sharh Fusus al-hikam, introduction, chapter 3.

[30]. Mull Sadr, al-Asfr, see discussions on cause and effect, p. 299:3.

[31]. Mull Sadr, Mafth al-ghayb, p. 436.

[32]. Ibid., p. 204.

[33]. Ibid., p. 216: 5.

[34]. Ibid., p. 424.

[35]. The Holy Qur'an, al-Nahl, verse 96.

[36]. The Holy Qur'an, al-Kahf, verse 109.

[37]. Mull Sadr, al-Asfr, 198:7.

[38]. Mull Sadr, al-Asfr, pp. 58-62:2 and al-Shawhid al-rububyyah, pp. 169-171.

[39]. Ibid., Mafth al-ghayb, p. 443.

[40]. Ibid., al-Shawahid al-rububiyyah, p. 169.

[41]. Ibid., Commentary on Hikmat al-Ishrq, p. 373.

[42]. Ibid., Mafth al-ghayb, p. 444.

[43]. Mull Sadr has proposed these words in Shawhid al-rububyyah, p. 163 under the title tahsl arsh li hikmat mashriqqyah, and has not considered them a proof for demonstrating Platonic Ideas. However, since his Commentary upon Hikmat al-Ishrq comes later, it has been as the source.

[44]. Mull Sadr, Commentary upon Hikmat al-Ishrq, p. 373.

[45]. Ibid., al-Asfr, p. 70:2.

[46]. Ibid., al-Shawahid al-rububiyyah, p. 159, and Commentary upon Hikmat al-Ishrq, p. 374.

[47]. Ibid., al-Huduth, Rishah f, and Rasail, p. 35.

[48]. Mull Sadr has proposed the primary predication in order to solve the question regarding mental existence as well as the question on the way a being such as knowledge has the quiddity of knowledge and concept. In his numerous works, Mull Sadr defends this theory and considers it as the only way for solving the problem of mental existence. He asserts: Knowledge is a being and its quiddity is an accident that belongs to the accidents and the qualities of the soul. Although it is a mode of existence and does not possess quiddity and at the same time it is a conceptual quiddity, it is in unity with it, but it is not its quiddity and its existence. That is, an individual knowledge is not that quiddity and is only its manifestation. According to primary predication, that being which intelligible is subsisting in it, , can predicate the conceptual quiddity. However, this theory has some problems that is not within the scope of this article.

[49].  Mull Sadr, al-Shawhid a-rububiyyah, pp.31-33.

[50]. Ibid., p. 161.

[51]. Ibid., al-Asfr, p. 506:3.

[52]. Ibid., al-Shawhid al-rububiyyah, p. 161.


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