Sadrian Transcendent Philosophy: The Philosophy of the Present and Future 

Dr. Hamidreza Ayatullahy

 History reacts differently to philosophers' thoughts. Several factors work hand in hand for a philosophical idea to be posed and taken into consideration by the people of thought. In the history of philosophy, we confront a lot of philosophers who have succeeded in attracting the peak of attention of their contemporary philosophical society to their new viewpoints and take part in the challenges in favor and against them in their own lifetime. We may refer to Descartes, Malebranche, John Locke, Kant, and Hegel as some of these philosophers. As opposed to this trend, the history of philosophy reveals that there have also been some philosophers who did not enjoy this chance, and their philosophical views were not received warmly in the course of their lifetime, and thus they live in anonymity. However, a short or long time after their death, their ideas were greatly appreciated by others. In spite of his satisfactory political status, Leibniz's anonymity at the time of his death is a sign of the world's heedlessness to this great philosopher when he was alive. Nevertheless, his philosophy was reappraised in the 20th century, and the traces of his philosophical thoughts can now be witnessed in modern thinkers' views. Kierkegaard died in the 19th century; however, his theories did not meet approbation even until the end of that century. It was in the second decade of the 20th century that his ideas gradually started attracting the attention of other thinkers. Moreover, they began to play an increasingly important role in the geography of modern human thought. This current continued until it provided the inspiration for the development of a distinguished philosophical current like Existentialism. Interestingly enough, his ideas and theories became the source of inspiration for a new trend in physics called quantum physics. Bohr came up with the idea of quantum levels of energy in atoms when reading about Kierkegaardian three-fold levels in one of his books. Apart from the historical and geographical factors that play a role in the ways a philosophers' ideas might affect others, the ontological potentials of a philosophy also play a role in their influencing the human thought and expanding its horizons. It is this very issue that turns a philosophy into a dynamic and everlasting school of thought. In contrast, the absence of such potentials turns it into a philosophy whose history has come to an end. The purpose of this paper is to inquire into the dynamic elements of Mulla Sadra's philosophy to discover such ontological potentials. The temporal distinction between the basic tenets of Sadrian Transcendent Philosophy and the philosophical thoughts posed in other philosophical fields of the world at his time is revealed through a comparison between them. The ideas that Mulla Sadra propounded at that time are comparable to the issues introduced 200 years after him. Mulla Sadra's contemporary, Descartes, when dealing with the issue of the body-soul relation, talks about their parallelism on the basis of his own philosophical principles and about their unity on the basis of the realities known to him. His views in this regard provide the basis for the rise of several other issues in philosophy.[1] However, Mulla Sadra's interpretation of the soul,[2] which introduced the soul as is created with the body but becomes spiritual through spirit is close to the views of the 20th century philosophers (such as Whitehead and Bergson). This interpretation can clearly explain issues such as the distinction between the body and the soul while enjoying unity, as well as their unity while enjoying distinction, without having to follow a materialist approach to animal and vegetative souls (like Descartes). That is, the ontological potential of a philosophy such as that of Mulla Sadra can not only solve the existing problems but also present specific keys to the complexities of the dark corners of human thought in the future. It is in the light of this Sadrian view that psychologists have now developed a new approach in addition to the two medicinal-bodily and mental-perceptive ones. This new approach does not negate any of these two views and, rather, presents an efficient combination of them. Further research is required in this regard to enrich the fields of modern psychology and, even, mental philosophy more than ever before. The ontological potential of Mulla Sadra's philosophy represents the dynamism of his thoughts. In recent years, several comparative studies have been carried out on Mulla Sadra's thought and contemporary Western thinkers' philosophies. There are certain problems in this regard and working in the two different fields of Western thought and Islamic-Iranian culture makes such comparisons very difficult. Nevertheless, the results of such studies, firstly, point to the open potential of Mulla Sadra's philosophy. Such a capacity enables it to present numerous ideas and issues alongside other modern approaches. Secondly, they indicate that if we consider the history of human thought as a current enjoying a mutual interaction among factors to enlighten many of the dark corners of human mind (without presenting a developmental evaluation of them), then we can conclude that such comparisons, themselves, are rooted in the fact that with the rise of new ideas and views, a great number of previously presented thoughts reveal their breadth and depth evermore. In this way, and in the light of new thinkers' delving into or presenting deeper views of specific problems rooted in issues unknown to human beings, we can observe the depth and sharpness of the ideas and theories raised from Sadrian Transcendent Philosophy. Thirdly, such new ideas and theories motivate neo-Sadrians to follow this philosophy in order to discover new solutions for contemporary man's problems. Nevertheless, their method for doing so will not be any different from what we have so far been familiar with; it will be a method based on the richness of the ideas of Mulla Sadra, the pioneer of the Transcendent Philosophy.

In this part, apart from the interaction and relation between the soul and the body, in line with the purpose of this paper, we will refer to some of the elements of Sadrian philosophy to prove its being a school of thought for both the present and future.

1. Time: Inquiring into the issue of time is one of the characteristics of the 20th century philosophy. The attention to time's fluidity has turned into the cornerstone of some well-known philosophers' ideas in this century. The conditions of vitalistic and process philosophies, on the one hand, and existentialism, on the other, made the process of time the focus of particular attention. Bergson's emphasis on the difference between time and duration revealed time's process.[3] Kant explained time in the mould of sense categories.[4] Any categorical view of time is equal to viewing it as static and spatial. This very issue ignored time's process in the framework of modern epistemology. In the 20th century, with Bergson's propounding the discussion of time and his emphasis on its process, which can be perceived by intuition rather than by the intellect, the issue of time changed face. Bergson tried to reveal the true nature of time through going beyond Kant's categorical and epistemological view. In doing so, he did not rely on mental frameworks anymore. He employed intuition so that he could explain the world on the basis of dynamic evolution. Likewise, Whitehead, relying on his process philosophy, introduced a new route through emphasizing occurrence, which was the prime element of the world in his view.[5] It was in the light of his existentialist approach that Heidegger considered time alongside being rather than whatness. All these changes paved the way for the development of a new and profound approach to the notion of time in philosophy.

Mulla Sadra's philosophy, on the basis of its cardinal principle, the principiality of existence, freed time from the mould of quiddative concepts and placed it in the essence of matter. As a result, instead of a categorical element of matter, time was viewed as an ontological element. Motion found its basis in the essence of matter, hand in hand with time, which also existed in the essence of matter. Accordingly, evolution and process were not accidental and external features of the matter anymore; rather, they were considered identical with the essence of the material world. The difference between continuous and instantaneous motions for Sadrian philosophers was based on the difference between these two approaches. Obviously, now that we have access to the achievements of Western philosophy in this regard, it will be easier for us to perceive the depth of Sadrian view concerning this point. Considering the recent views of the issue of time, Sadrian Transcendent Philosophy turns into a modern school of philosophy that can enter a dialog with contemporary ideas in this regard.

This element of Sadrian philosophy could be a basis for a philosophical study of other characteristics of the matter that are necessitated by modern physics and the relativity-quantum view.

2. Categories of understanding and secondary philosophical intelligibles: Kant found the key to perceiving the basic philosophical concepts such as causality, substance, existence, and necessity, which comprise the format of our mind apriori,[6] in the categories of understanding. Such a Kantian interpretation led to certain conclusions that made Kant deny some fundamental issues. The perception of the meaning of the Necessary Being in the matrix of the epistemological structure proposed by Kant led to some serious difficulties. Although he had to subcategorize cause under categories of understanding, he could not refuse to view it in an ontological form in another part of his philosophy. Thus he referred to nomen as the cause of phenomenon. The cause, which came after phenomenon, now came before that, i.e. between the nomen and phenomenon. Those who are familiar with Sadrian secondary philosophical intelligibles are now well aware of Mulla Sadra's completely different solution in this regard.[7] It is almost clear to these people that a great number of previously posed problems do not exist within the framework of Mulla Sadra's philosophical system. Perhaps, when comparing the philosophies of Mulla Sadra and Kant, the most important points of comparison are the categories of understanding and secondary philosophical intelligibles.

3. Existence and its priority to quiddity: When Kant directed all his efforts towards establishing a coherent epistemological system, and when, to continue with his works, Hegel finally and necessarily reached a wholistic Idealism, the humanity of that era faced an ontological problem. Hegel's wholism affected a great number of practical dimensions of life, and its impacts upon ethics and politics created a new view of government.

The need to go beyond essentialistic thought clearly appears in Kierkegaard's ideas and theories.[8] Serious attention to this view resulted in the appearance of different types of this ontological conflict in the 20th century. Through an apriori rather than posteriori view of existence, Nietzsche, Heidegger, Jaspers, and Sartre created a new kind of philosophical confrontation in the light of which they viewed the world from another angle and provided a more profound basis for explaining it.

This change of view was also a basis for Mulla Sadra so that, through extending philosophical issues form their quiddative outward to their ontological inward, he could create a fundamental change of approach to introduce more efficient ways to solve a great number of philosophical complexities. The emphasis on existence prior to quiddity was the very deep angle that the needs of contemporary philosophy had addressed. The bases and consequences of priority of existence to quiddity in Mulla Sadra's philosophy are different from those in Western philosophy. However, the rise of the contemporary philosophical conflicts clearly reveals the significance of Mulla Sadra's view, posed four centuries ago. And it is this very concern of recent philosophers that necessitates the grounds for a dialog between him and contemporary philosophy.

4. Hermeneutics: Although a hermeneutic view of texts, particularly, of holy texts, became a serious issue with Schleirmacher, a hermeneutic view of existence developed another basis in Heidegger and Gadamer. This view is not limited to the geographical and historical conditions when interpreting and analyzing the texts. Rather, it mainly reveals itself in its ontological confrontations.

When we face the ontological appearance of the Divine language in Mulla Sadra's interpretive ideas, we understand that such a fundamental hermeneutics paves the way for a profound perception of texts. Contemporary hermeneutics and the related philosophical endeavors have provided an appropriate philosophical context for the Sadrian different but ontological view to present a profound and influential theory in this regard.

The above issues are some examples of dynamic thoughts in the Sadrian School, which contemporary Western philosophy is trying to understand. In spite of the fact that Sadrian and western philosophies have their roots in different sources and present their philosophical views on different bases, there are several proximities of ideas between them so that they can pave the ground for a dialog between these two important trends of thought.

Finally, it is worth a mention that the above issues were only a few of Sadrian innovations and thoughts that, due to their growth and dynamism, can be propounded alongside and even ahead of a great number of already existing thoughts and ideas. In this regard, we can refer to other cases, each comprising an independent discussion representing the dynamism of  Mulla Sadra's philosophy.

For instance, in line with gnostics, Mulla Sadra's emphasis on the issue of the macrocosms and microcosms and the relation between them has developed a new face in contemporary phenomenological studies. In fact, phenomenologists view this issue as a key point in pushing the borders of this field even further behind.

The attention to mentally-posited perceptions in Sadrian philosophy has given rise to the development of certain delicate points in the philosophy of ethics and law that could play a significant role in explaining the bases of these two disciplines.

The major problems in contemporary philosophy of religion receive responses in Sadrian philosophy which are different from those given by the common western religious studies. This school of thought has, indeed, granted a new and bright horizon to the current discussions in this field.

Considering the recent particular attention devoted to Sadrian philosophy, every year some other dynamic elements of his philosophy are posed in philosophical centers of the world. This represents the great potential of this school of thought in the future world. This philosophy will prove its being a philosophy of the present and future through more interactions with contemporary philosophical thoughts and the necessities that lie ahead in the course of time. It is now a responsibility for Sadrian philosophers to prepare the context for a dialog between Mulla Sadra's philosophy and modern thoughts so that its efficiency in interacting with other fields of thought is demonstrated.



[1]. Descartes, R., 1369 AS, Meditations on First Philosophy, trans. Ahmad Ahmadi, 2nd ed., Part 2, pp. 82-102, Tehran, Tehran University Press Center,  and The Passions of the Soul, 1376 AS, trans. Manuchehr Sane'i Darrehbidi, pp. 331-338, al-Huda International Publications.

[2]. Mullā Sadrā, 1410 AH, al-Asfār, vol. 8, p. 347, Dar al-Ahya al-Turath al-Arabi.

[3]. Bergson, H., 1368 AS, Time and Free Will, trans. Persian trans. Aliquli Bayani, pp. 95-101, Intishar Co.

[4]. Kant, E., 1367 AS, Prolegomena to Any Future Metaphysics, Persian trans. Qulamali Haddad Adil, p. 121, University Press Center.

[5]. Griffin, D., 1381 AS, God and Religion in the Post-Modern World, Persian trans. Hamidreza Ayatullahi, p. 103, Aftab-i Tawsi'a.

[6]. Ibid., pp. 167-172.

[7]. Mullā Sadrā, al-Asfār, vol. 1, pp. 332-340.

[8]. Copleston, F., 1367 AS, History of Philosophy, Persian trans. Daryush Ashuri, vol. 7, p. 337, Sorush Publications.



 Print This Document

Save This Document on Your System