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Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 August 2017

Muhammad U. Faruque*
Department of Near Eastern Studies, University of California, Berkeley. 250 Barrows Hall, Berkeley, CA 94720, USA


This study investigates the problem of the natural universal (kullī ṭabīʿī) in the works of Mullā Ṣadrā (d. 1640). The problem of universals made its way into Arabic/Islamic philosophy via its Greek sources, and was transformed into the problem of natural universals by Avicenna. Weighing in on this problem, Ṣadrā reinterprets the nature of natural universals against the backdrop of his doctrine of “the primacy of being.” As he argues, a natural universal or quiddity qua quiddity is an “accidental being” that requires wujūd for its existentiation. Thus, Ṣadrā re-envisions the status of natural universals by stripping them of their disputed status as independently existing entities.


Dans cette étude je me propose de réfléchir sur le problème de l'universel naturel (kullī ṭabīʿī) dans l’œuvre de Mullā Ṣadrā (d. 1640). Le problème des universaux s'est introduit dans la philosophie arabe et musulmane via les sources grecques et s'est trouvé transformé en celui des “universaux naturels” aux mains d'Avicenne. En contribuant à son tour à l’évolution de ce problème, Ṣadrā réinterpréta le statut des universaux naturels à partir de sa propre doctrine de la “primauté de l’être”. Selon lui, un universel naturel ou “quiddité en tant que quiddité” est un “être par accident” qui requiert wujūd pour son existentiation. Ainsi, Ṣadrā re-envisage le statut des universaux naturels en les privant de leur statut contesté en tant qu'entités “indépendantes existantes”.

Research Article
Copyright © Cambridge University Press 2017 

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1 The problem of universals is tackled, in one form or another, in every major philosophical tradition, be it Western, Islamic, Indian, Buddhist, or Chinese. For the Platonic allusion to the problem, see Parmenides 132A1–6 and 129D–E; Republic 598C–D and X 596a6–7 in Plato, Complete Works, ed. John Cooper and Douglas S. Hutchinson (Indianapolis, 1997). For Aristotle's treatment of the problem of universals, see, for example, Metaphysics, 1003a11, 10232b29ff., 1038b35, 1038b11ff., 1005a12–17, 1027a17–18 in Aristotle, , The Complete Works of Aristotle: The Revised Oxford Translation, ed. Barnes, Jonathan (Princeton, NJ, 1984)Google Scholar. A great deal of controversy abounds in secondary literature as to whether the Platonic Forms can be thought of as universals or whether Aristotle's accusations against Plato of making universals particular substances are justified. For an in-depth analysis of these issues see Chiaradonna, Riccardo and Galluzzo, Gabriele (eds.), Universals in Ancient Philosophy (Pisa, 2013), pp. 23ff.Google Scholar, and de Libera, Alain, La querelle des universaux: De Platon à la fin du Moyen Age (Paris, 1996), pp. 402–26Google Scholar. For the Aristotelian background, see Owens, Joseph, The Doctrine of Being in the Aristotelian Metaphysics (Toronto, 1978), pp. 366ffGoogle Scholar. An overview of the problem of universals in Mediaeval philosophy can be found in “Medieval problem of universals”, in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy ( (accessed on 11/10/2014). Raja Ram Dravid's The Problem of Universals in Indian Philosophy (Patna, 1972) gives us a detailed presentation of the problem of universals in Indian philosophy, while Buddhist and Chinese treatments of the same problem are discussed, respectively, in “Dharmakīrti,” in the Stanford Encyclopaedia of Philosophy (esp. section 1.1) ( (accessed on 11/10/2014), and Liu, JeeLoo, “Reconstructing Chinese metaphysics: a white paper,” Journal of East-West Thought, 1 (2012): 151–63Google Scholar. For a thorough account of the problem of universals in the Islamic tradition, see Quṭb al-Dīn al-Rāzī, Risālat taḥqīq al-kullīyāt (MS Warner Or. 958 (21), fols. 67b–71b, University of Leiden Library); Mīr Sayyid Jurjānī, Ḥāshiyat taḥrīr al-qawāʿid al-mantiqiyya fī sharḥ al-Shamsiyya (MS Dānishgāh-i Ferdowsī-yi Mashhad, (1244) 157; and ʿAbd al-Raḥmān Jāmī, Risāla fī al-wujūd in The Precious Pearl: Al-Jāmī’s al-Durra al-Fākhira, trans. Heer, Nicholas (Albany, 1979), pp. 223–57Google Scholar. Finally, for a modern understanding and survey of the problem of universals see Van Orman Quine, Willard, “On what there is,” in Quine, , From a Logical Point of View (New York, 1961), pp. 119 Google Scholar, and Galluzzo, Gabriele and Loux, Michael J. (eds.), The Problem of Universals in Contemporary Philosophy (Cambridge, NY, 2015)Google Scholar, passim.

2 See Moreland, James P., Universals (Chesham, 2001), pp. 1ffGoogle Scholar.

3 See, for example, Fine, Gail, On Ideas: Aristotle's Criticism of Plato's Theory of Forms (Oxford, New York, 1993), esp. pp. 183ffGoogle Scholar.

4 Plato, Republic 476ff (I have explained the argument with slight alteration). Understandably, the theory of Forms (eidos) is much more complex than the way I have presented it here, especially since Plato himself points out several difficulties in conceiving the Forms and alternative ways of approaching the aporia, most notably in his Parmenides 132ff. Notwithstanding, as it has already been mentioned the apparent connection between universals and the Forms is undeniable, at least that is how the later tradition including the Muslim philosophers conceived the problem. One of the better studies devoted to the explication of the Platonic Forms in the Parmenides is Coxon, Allan H., The Philosophy of Forms (Assen, 1999), pp. 333 and 131–5Google Scholar.

5 Apart from Alexander of Aphrodisias and Porphyry, practically all other major Platonists and Christian thinkers such as Iamblichus (d. c. 325 CE), Syrianus (d. c. 437 CE), Proclus (d. 485 CE), Simplicius (d. c. 560), Asclepius (d. c. 570), and Boethius (d. c. 525) too have had their share in the formulation-reformulation of the problem of universals through either independent works such as that of Proclus' The Elements of Theology (Kitāb al-Īḍāḥ li-Arisṭūṭālis fī al-khayr al-maḥḍ), or commentaries on Platonic and Aristotelian texts.

6 Isagoge, V1.3.1, trans. Space, Paul V. in Five Texts on the Mediaeval Problem of Universals: Porphyry, Boethius, Abelard, Duns Scotus, Ockham (Indianapolis, 1994), p. 1 Google Scholar.

7 See Alexander of Aphrodisias, Quaestiones 1.11 (al-ḥayawān al-kullī) 9, 23, 25–29; 24, 9–16; 1.11, 30–32; 1.3, 26–28; Metaphysics 1, 50, 7–20, 52, 14–22; Metaphysics 5, 386, 26–31; 377, 15–17; 387, 6–8; 425, 8–25; Metaphysics 3, 178, 5–179, 5; 210, 25–216, 11 (all trans. are from Dooley and Madigan) and Tweedale, Martin M., “Alexander of Aphrodisias' views on universals,” Phronesis, 29 (1984): 279303, esp. pp. 285ffGoogle Scholar. According to Tweedale, the common elements in both Alexander and Avicenna are too numerous to be mere coincidental, implying that the latter must have drawn on the writings of the former. The present study adds further evidence to the above observation, see section II. For more discussions on the notions of “nature” and the “universal” in Alexander and the Aristotle-commentators, see the recent study by Rashed, Marwan, Essentialisme: Alexandre d'Aphrodise entre logique, physique et cosmologie (Berlin, 2007), pp. 67, 94–8, 191–2 and especially, 254–60Google Scholar. Rashed generally agrees with Tweedale's interpretation but modifies and elaborates on it further. According to Rashed, Alexander makes a distinction between “nature” (which he takes to be “form”) and the “universal,” thereby differing from the traditional Aristotelian account of universals according to which the universals are forms. This distinction allows Alexander to avoid the vexing question of whether a thing (pragma) may exist without its form or nature. Furthermore, in Quaestio 1.3, Alexander asserts that the existence of “natures” depends on the existence of particulars, since the common things, insofar as they are in particulars, eternally succeed one another and are indestructible. Such a claim paradoxically puts Alexander closer to the Platonic position that endorses a distinction between a form and a universal, despite his espousal of the Aristotelian denial of the separate existence of forms, see Rashed, Essentialisme, pp. 254–60.

8 For helpful discussions on “common nature” [which Ṣadrā appropriates as “common meaning” (al-maʿnā al-mushtaraka)] see Owens, Joseph, “Common nature: a point of comparison between Thomistic and Scotistic metaphysics”, Mediaeval Studies, 19 (1957): 114 Google Scholar. Aquinas discusses the problem of common nature at length in his short treatise On Being and Essence (De Ente et Essentia). His views do not differ in substance from that of Avicenna; see Aquinas, Thomas, On Being and Essence, translated by King, Peter in Aquinas, Basic Works, edited by Hause, Jeffrey and Pasnau, Robert (Indianapolis, 2014)Google Scholar.

9 For a lucid explanation of the three different types of universals, see Marmura, Michael E., “Avicenna's chapter on universals in the Isagoge of his Shifāʾ ,” in Welch, Alford T. and Cachia, Pierre (eds.), Islam: Past Influence and Present Challenge (Edinburgh, 1979), pp. 3456, esp. pp. 41–3Google Scholar. In his study, Marmura discusses Avicenna's views on universals extensively. Although he refers to the Metaphysics V of al-Shifāʾ a few times, his analysis of the issue is rather limited to his translation of the Madkhal (Isagoge) of al-Shifāʾ in the same volume. For a general survey of the problem of natural universals in Arabic-Islamic philosophy, see Izutsu, Toshihiko, “The problem of quiddity and the natural universal,” in Amine, Osman (ed.) Études Philosophiques (Cairo, 1974), pp. 131–77Google Scholar.

10 For an explanation of this position, see ʿAbd Allāh Javādī Āmulī, Raḥīq-i makhtūm: Sharḥ-i Ḥikmat-i mutaʿāliya (Qum, 2011), vol. 6, pp. 22–3.

11 For a detailed exposition of this point, see Āmulī, Raḥīq, vol. 6, pp. 23–5.

12 Avicenna, The Metaphysics of the Healing, translated by Michael E. Marmura (Provo, 2005), 5.1. For the Avicennan response to these arguments see, section II of the present article.

13 Avicenna, Metaphysics 5.1, 26.

14 It should be noted that while recognizing the existence of the natural universal in the extra-mental world, Avicenna also discusses its prior existence, see section II of the present article. See also the relevant citation in Alexander's Quaestio 1.11 from which Avicenna might have constructed his own argument of ante rem universals: “That it is posterior to the thing is clear… For if living creature exists there is no necessity for living creature as genus to exist; as a supposition there could be just one living creature, since universality is not in the being of [living creature]. But if living creature as genus exists, it is necessary that living creature exists. And if animate being with sensation were done away with, living creature as genus would not exist (for it is not possible for what is not to be several individuals); but if living creature as genus were done away with, it is not necessary for animate being with sensation to be done away with, for it could exist, as I said, even in a single [individual]” (Quaestio 1.11,24, 8–16, trans. Sharples).

15 Avicenna, Metaphysics 5.1, 26–27. See also Ṭūsī, Naṣīr al-Dīn, Sharḥ al-ishārāt wa-al-tanbīhāt, edited by Dunyā, Sulaymān (Cairo, 1957–71), vol. 3, pp. 436ffGoogle Scholar. Bihishtī, Aḥmad, Hastī wa-ʿilal-i ān: Sharḥ-i namaṭ-i chahārum (Qum, 2011)Google Scholar; Sabzawārī, , Sharḥ-i Manẓūma, edited by Mohaghegh, Mehdi and Izutsu, Toshihiko (Tehran, 1969), pp. 131–5Google Scholar) for helpful glosses (taʿlīqāt) on these concepts by Hidejī and Āmulī, see pp. 330–2 in the same volume; cf. Sabzawārī, , The Metaphysics of Sabzavārī, trans. Mohaghegh, Mehdi and Izutsu, Toshihiko (Delmar, 1977), pp. 144–6Google Scholar.

16 Avicenna, Metaphysics 5.1, 4. Cf. Marmura, “Avicenna's chapter on universals,” pp. 43–5.

17 Avicenna, Metaphysics 5.1, 4–6.

18 Ibid ., 5.1, 4.

19 Taftāzānī continues by outlining the various kinds of universals: “[a concept may be universal] whether its instances are impossible or possible; or [its instances] do not exist or exist as only one, along with the possibility of some other [instance]; or the impossibility [of another instance]; or [along with the one existing instance, the possibility] of many, with a limit [to their number] or no such limit”, Saʿd al-Dīn Masʿūd b. ʿUmar Taftāzānī, Tahdhīb al-manṭiq, ed. Murtaḍā Ḥāī Ḥusaynī (Tehran, 2013), p. 44. See also pp. 288–9 of the present study.

20 Cf. Marmura, “Avicenna's chapter on universals,” pp. 41–2.

21 Avicenna, Kitāb al-Najāt fī al-ḥikma al-manṭiqiyya wa-al-ṭabīʿiyya wa-al-ilāhiyya, ed. Majid Fakhry (Beirut, 1985), p. 256.

22 Avicenna, al-Shifāʾ (Madkhal), ed. Ṭāhā Ḥusayn et al. (Cairo, 1952), p. 15.

23 Avicenna, al-Ishārāt wa-al-tanbīhāt, ed. Jacques Forget (Leiden, 1892; repr. Frankfurt am Main, 1999), p. 138; modified trans. taken from Inati, Shams C., Ibn Sina's Remarks and Admonitions: Physics and Metaphysics: An Analysis and Annotated translation (New York, 2014), p. 120 CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

24 See Ṭūsī, Sharḥ al-ishārāt, vol. 3, pp. 437–8.

25 Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, Commentary on the Book of Directives and Remarks (Sharḥ al-ishārāt), trans. Wisnovsky, Robert in Nasr, Seyyed Hossein and Aminrazavi, Mehdi (eds.), An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia (London, 2008–15), vol. 3, p. 191 Google Scholar. Cf. Fakhr al-Dīn al-Rāzī, Lubāb al-ishārāt wa-al-tanbīhāt, ed. Aḥmad Ḥijāzī al-Saqqā (Cairo, 1986), pp. 132–4.

26 Rāzī, Sharḥ al-ishārāt, trans. Wisnovsky in An Anthology of Philosophy in Persia, vol. 3, p. 191. Cf. Lubāb al-ishārāt, p. 145.

27 Metaphysics, 5.1, 4 (trans. Marmura, with modification).

28 Metaphysics, 5.1, 18 (trans. Marmura, with slight alteration).

29 See Rahman, Fazlur, “Essence and existence in Avicenna,” Mediaeval and Renaissance Studies, 4 (1958): 116 Google Scholar and Izutsu, Toshihiko, The Concept and Reality of Existence (Petaling Jaya, 2007), pp. 148–52Google Scholar. Both Rahman and Izutsu argue that the inquiry over the ontological status of quiddities is misdirected from the start. According to Rahman, Avicenna does not conceive of being and quiddity as mutually exclusive elements to start with, and then tries to fuse them by a kind of ‘metaphysical chemistry.’ Izutsu concurs by adding that the distinction between being and quiddity is not a ‘real’ one, i.e. it pertains to the analytic faculty of the mind. In his view, reason, when analyzing a concrete object, extracts from it two distinct concepts, i.e. being and quiddity. Thinking otherwise would imply that quiddity ‘existed’ prior to its existence. Notwithstanding the apparent cogency of both of these views, they fail to take into account the fact that Avicenna himself states that the ‘natural universal’ exists prior to its particulars (ante rem), arguing that quiddities “exist” in the Divine Intellect prior to their “existence” in the extra-mental world; see Metaphysics 5.1, 28. For a fine discussion on Avicenna's different formulation of the essence-existence distinction see, Wisnovsky, Robert, “Avicenna and the Avicennian tradition,” in Adamson, Peter and Taylor, Richard C. (eds.), The Cambridge Companion to Arabic Philosophy (Cambridge, NY, 2005), pp. 92136 Google Scholar. For an interesting, related analysis of the Ideas, see Wolfson, Harry A., “Extradeical and intradeical interpretations of Platonic ideas”, Journal of the History of Ideas, 22. 1 (1961): 332 Google Scholar.

30 Izutsu, The Concept and Reality of Existence, pp. 117–18.

31 Sayyid Muḥammad Ḥusayn Ṭabāṭabāʾī, The Elements of Islamic Metaphysics, trans. Ṣayyid ʿAlī Qūlī Qarāʾī (London, 2003), pp. 6 and 46.

32 Avicenna, Metaphysics 5.1, 26–27.

33 Ibid .

34 Ibid .

35 Metaphysics, 5.1, 26 (trans. Marmura, with significant alterations).

36 Metaphysics, 5.1, 20, with an alteration.

37 However, it is not clear if “temporal priority” is intended here. I will analyze various types of “priority” in the following paragraphs, when I return to this issue again.

38 Avicenna, al-Ishārāt wa-al-tanbīhāt, p. 143 (trans. Inati, with modification) in Ibn Sina's Remarks and Admonitions, p. 125. On Ṭūsī’s explanation of this passage, see Ṭūsī, Sharḥ al-ishārāt, vol. 3, pp. 460–2.

39 Avicenna, al-Ishārāt wa-al-tanbīhāt, p. 139 (trans. Inati, with modification) in Ibn Sina's Remarks and Admonitions, p. 121.

40 This interpretation is also supported by Ṭūsī in his commentary. According to him, quiddity is not separable from existence except in the mind. However, even in the mind the quiddity seems to possess “mental existence” or wujūd dhihnī, see Ṭūsī, Sharḥ al-ishārāt, vol. 3, pp. 463–4. However, it should be noted that Ṭūsī does not specifically address the question of the ontological status of the natural universal.

41 Fixed entities are the unchanging objects of God's knowledge, some of which are brought into concrete existence, and others of which are not. In both states, they remain “non-existent” and forever “fixed” in God's knowledge. In later Islamic intellectual history, they are directly identified with the quiddities of Islamic philosophy; see Rustom, Mohammed, The Triumph of Mercy: Philosophy and Scripture in Mullā Ṣadrā (Albany, 2012), pp. 61–2, and 189–90 (notes 36–38)Google Scholar. For a discussion of fixed entities, see Chittick, William, The Sufi Path of Knowledge: Ibn al-‘Arabī’s Metaphysics of Imagination (Albany, 1989), pp. 12, 183, 245Google Scholar; Chittick, , The Self-Disclosure of God: Principles of Ibn al-‘Arabī’s Cosmology (Albany, 1998), pp. 1819, 148–9, 229Google Scholar; Rustom, Mohammed, “Philosophical Sufism,” in Taylor, Richard and Lopez-Farjeat, Luis (eds.), The Routledge Companion to Islamic Philosophy (New York, 2016)Google Scholar. The Muʿtazilites believe immutables or non-existents subsist as things (ashyāʾ) distinct from God; see Rahman, Fazlur, The Philosophy of Mullā Ṣadrā (Albany, 1975), p. 147 Google Scholar; Wolfson, Harry A., The Philosophy of the Kalam (Cambridge, MA, 1976), pp. 359–72Google Scholar; Frank, Richard M., “The Aš‘arite ontology: I Primary entities,” Arabic Sciences and Philosophy, 9 (1999): 163231 Google Scholar, and Al-Maʿdūm wal-mawjūd: The non-existent, the existent, and the possible in the teaching of Abū Hāshim and his followers,” MIDEO, 14 (1980): 185209 Google Scholar.

42 Bertolacci, Amos, “The distinction of essence and existence in Avicenna's Metaphysics: the text and its context,” in Opwis, Felicitas and Reisman, David C. (eds.), Islamic Philosophy, Science, Culture, and Religion: Studies in Honor of Dimitri Gutas (Leiden, 2012), pp. 257–88Google Scholar.

43 Ibid ., p. 287.

44 Ibid ., pp. 273–4.

45 I.e. an inseparable accident of every quiddity, such that it is not a constituent of that quiddity, e.g. the concept of “one”.

46 Avicenna, al-Mubāḥathāt, ed. Muḥsin Bīdārfar (Qom, 1992–3), pp. 218–19; Fārābī, , Kitāb al-Burhān, in al-Manṭiqiyyāt li-al-Fārābī, ed. Dānishpaẓūh, Muḥammad T. (Qom, 1987), vol. 1, p. 298, 616 Google Scholar.

47 Bertolacci, “The distinction of essence,” pp. 287–8.

48 On natural and divine existence, cf. Menn, Stephen and Wisnovsky, Robert, “Yaḥyā ibn ʿAdī’s Essay on the four scientific questions regarding the three categories of existence: divine, natural and logical. Editio princeps and translation,” Mélanges de l'Institut Dominicain d’études orientales du Caire (MIDEO), 29 (2012): 7396 Google Scholar. Natural existence refers to the existence of a form in a concrete individual while divine existence refers to the existence of a form taken in and of itself, independent of either mental or concrete existence.

49 Avicenna, Metaphysics, 5.1, 28.

50 Priority can be of six kinds: 1) priority with respect to order, 2) priority with respect to essence, 3) priority with respect to time, 4) priority with respect to place, 5) priority with respect to nobility, 6) priority with respect to nature, see Naṣīr al-Dīn Muḥammad Ṭūsī, Qismat-i mawjūdāt (Persian), pp. 12–13 in Majmū‘ah-yi rasā’il, trans. Morewedge, Parviz (New York, 1992), pp. 1213 Google Scholar; cf. Ibn Sīnā, Ishārāt, pp. 150–1.

51 Avicenna, Madkhal I.12, p. 69. For a detailed explanation of this discussion, see Madkhal I.12, pp. 56–65.

52 It is also notable that Avicenna rejects the Muʿtazilite notion of ashyāʾ maʿdūma, which is in line with the Madkhal I.2 passage on the three different considerations of quiddities as cited in the text.

53 For an in-depth analysis of Avicenna's borrowing as well criticism of Ibn ʿAdī’s theory, see Rashed, Marwan, “Ibn Adi et Avicenne: sur les types d'existants”, in Celluprica, Vincenza and D'Ancona, Cristina (eds.), Aristotele e i suoi esegeti neoplatonici (Naples, 2004), pp. 116–22 and 129–30Google Scholar.

54 Stephen Menn thinks that Metaphysics, 5.1, 28 is anomalous. According to him, by this passage Avicenna meant to say “by Ibn ʿAdī and his school”, that is, he was not referring to his own view. However, Menn does not bring any textual evidence for the above claim. On the contrary, Avicenna, unlike Ibn ʿAdī, brings up the idea of divine providence, and in other places of the Metaphysics explicitly states what this means, as can be seen from Metaphysics, 9.6, 1. Furthermore, the notion of ʿināya does not seem to contradict what Avicenna's says elsewhere concerning this (e.g. in Madkhal I.2 and I.12), see Menn, Stephen, “Avicenna's metaphysics”, in Adamson, Peter (ed.), Interpreting Avicenna (Cambridge, 2013), pp. 143–69, pp. 154–5CrossRefGoogle Scholar. It should however be noted that Marwan Rashed does not interpret the passage along these lines, see e.g. Rashed, “Ibn Adi et Avicenne,” p. 119. According to Rashed, Avicenna leaves this matter in vague, probably because of the tension and confusion it might engender with the Platonic Ideas.

55 Metaphysics, 9.6, 1, translation modified.

56 See for example, Avicenna, Metaphysics 8.7, 1–4; 8.6, 5–8; 8.6, 12–13.

57 An alternative translation of tashkīk is modulation.

58 The origin of the issue of tashkīk in Arabic and Islamic philosophy lies in manṭiq (logic), where two types of concepts can be discerned: concepts which either correspond to their external instances (maṣādiq) by way of univocity (tawāṭuʾ), or by way of gradation. An example of the former is the concept of man (insān) while that of the latter are light (nūr), time, number etc. For an overview of the treatment of tashkīk in Avicenna and his Greek and Arabic predecessors, see the excellent study by Treiger, Alexander, “Avicenna's notion of transcendental modulation of existence (taškīk al-wuğūd, analogia entis) and its Greek and Arabic sources,” in Opwis, and Reisman, (eds.), Islamic Philosophy, pp. 327–63, at 353–61Google Scholar. It should be noted that this study does not discuss tashkīk in relation to the ontological status of natural universals. Before analyzing the principle of tashkīk, it is necessary to specify its criterion of which at least three are relevant in the present context. They are as follows: tashkīk ʿāmm (general), khāṣṣ (specific) and akhaṣṣ (most specific). The “criterion” of gradation that pertains to wujūd is the “general criterion” (tashkīk ʿāmm) that states that that by which a thing differs (mā bi-hi al-ikhtilāf) is exactly the same as that by which that very thing shares in common (mā bi-hi al-ishtarāk). Indeed, that by which contingent beings differ from the Necessary Being is nothing other than wujūd, while that which is common between them is also wujūd. But between the wājib and the mumkin lies an insurmountable gulf since there is gradation in wujūd. Based on the preceding analysis, it appears that Avicenna's conception of gradation does not flesh out all the different ramifications of tashkīk. For a detailed analysis of tashkīk, see ʿUbūdiyyat, ʿAbd al-Rasūl, Niẓām-i Ṣadrā-yī: Tashkīk dar wujūd (Qum, 2010), pp. 1732, 55–97, 191–257Google Scholar. This study is particularly useful in explaining the problematic of gradation in Ṣadrā, and its historical roots in Avicenna.

59 For the ensuing discussion in the next paragraph I rely mainly on Treiger's treatment of tashkīk in Avicenna and his predecessors, see Treiger, “Avicenna's notion of Transcendental,” pp. 338–52. For a background discussion on how the term “existent” should be predicated (i.e. as synonymy or homonymy), see Ibn al-Ṭayyib, Ibn al-Ṭayyib's Commentary on Porphyry's Eisagoge, trans. by Gyekye, K. in Arabic Logic: Ibn al-Ṭayyib's Commentary on Porphyry's Eisagoge (Albany, NY, 1979), pp. 7790 Google Scholar; Fritz W. Zimmermann (tr.), al-Farabi's Commentary and Short Treatise on Aristotle's De interpretatione (Sharḥ kitāb al-ʿibārah li-Arisṭuṭālis) (London, New York, 1981), 18.24, 62.16, 78.18, 80.16,27, 110.19, 122.12, 146ff.; Fārābī, Alfārābī’s philosophische abhandlungen, ed. Dieterici, Friedrich [Risāla fī jawāb masāʾil suʾila ʿanhā] (Leiden, 1892), pp. 8291 Google Scholar.

60 Treiger, “Avicenna's notion of transcendental,” p. 360.

61 Avicenna, Maqūlāt (al-Shifāʾ), ed. Ibrāhīm Madhkūr et al. (Cairo, 1959), pp. 9–36. On the theory of predication and discussions of homonymy in Aristotle, see Back, Allan, Aristotle's Theory of Predication (Leiden, 2000), pp. 5997 Google Scholar; Brennekom, Rick Van, “Aristotle and the copula,” Journal of the History of Philosophy, 24.1 (1986)Google Scholar; Irwin, Terence H., “Homonymy in Aristotle,” The Review of Metaphysics, 34.3 (1981): 523–44Google Scholar and Shields, Christopher, Order in Multiplicity: Homonymy in the Philosophy of Aristotle (Oxford, 1999)Google Scholar, esp. chs. 2 and 9. Some useful semantical interpretations of the Aristotelian notion of being/existent in the Arabic tradition are as follows: Bäck, Allan, “Avicenna on existence,” Journal of the History of Philosophy, 25.3 (1987): 351–67Google Scholar and Rescher, Nicholas, “Al-Farabi: is existence a predicate?,” in Studies in the History of Arabic Logic (Pittsburgh, 1963), pp. 3942 Google Scholar.

62 Avicenna, Maqūlāt, pp. 20–1, 26–7, 28–31, 36.

63 Treiger, “Avicenna's notion of transcendental,” pp. 360–2.

64 Avicenna, Mubāḥathāt, pp. 218–19 (trans. Treiger, with some modifications); cited in Treiger, “Avicenna's notion of transcendental,” p. 362.

65 For an elaborate discussion, see Ṭūsī, Sharḥ al-ishārāt, vol. 3, pp. 458ff.

66 Metaphysics 6.3, 26. This viewpoint is somewhat opposed to the Ṣadrian understanding of gradation, which encapsulates the whole of reality, that is, all of existence. A typical demonstration of tashkīk in Ṣadrā would take the following syllogistic form: 1) existence is primary 2) existence is synonymous (al-mushtarak al-maʿnawī) in all existents 3) multiplicity in existence is real 4) existence is simple (basīṭ). Therefore, existence must be a gradational reality (amr mushakkik) embracing unity in multiplicity and multiplicity in unity. For more proofs of tashkīk and how Ṣadrā’s exposition of it differs from that of Avicenna, see ʿUbūdiyyat, ʿAbd al-Rasūl, Dar āmadī ba-niẓām-i Ṣadrā-yī (Tehran, 2014), vol. 1, pp. 137–60Google Scholar.

67 See Sūznichī, Ḥusayn, Waḥdat-i wujūd dar ḥikmat-i mutaʿāliya (Tehran, 2011), pp. 30–4 and 49–50Google Scholar.

68 Ṣadr al-Dīn Shīrāzī, al-Ḥikma al-mutaʿāliya fī al-asfār al-ʿaqliyya al-arbaʿa, ed. Riḍā Luṭfī, Ibrāhīm Amīnī, and Fatḥ Allāh Umīd (henceforth Asfār) (Beirut, 1981), vol. 2, chap. 6, pp. 28–9.

69 Avicenna, Metaphysics 5.1, 2–3.

70 Ibid .

71 On Jurjānī, see van Ess, Josef, “Jurjānī,” Encyclopedia Iranica, vol. XV, Fasc. 1 (2009): 21–9Google Scholar, available online at

72 On Taftāzānī, see Madelung, Wilferd, “At-Taftāzānī und die Philosophie,” in Perler, Dominik and Rudolph, Ulrich (eds.), Logik und Theologie. Das Organon im arabischen und im lateinischen Mittelalter, STGM 84 (Leiden, 2005), pp. 227–35Google Scholar; on Dawānī, see Pourjavady, Reza, Philosophy in Early Safavid Iran: Najm al-Dīn Maḥmūd al-Nayrīzī and His Writings (Leiden, 2011), pp. 415 Google Scholar.

73 Jurjānī, Mīr Sayyid Sharīf, Sharḥ Kitāb al-Mawāqif li-ʿAḍūd al-Dīn ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ibn Aḥmad al-Ījī, ed. ʿUmayrah, ʿAbd al-Raḥmān (Beirut, 1997), vol. 1, pp. 290–2Google Scholar. One should also look at al-Qūshjī’s (d. 1474) Sharḥ Tajrīd al-iʿtiqād, which contains useful parallels. Unfortunately, I have not been able to acquire a copy of this, see ʿAlāʾ al-Dīn ʿAlī al-Qūshjī’s, Sharḥ Tajrīd al-iʿtiqād, Lithograph Edition by Mullā ʿAbbās ʿAlī, Tabriz, 1883.

74 One should also look at Taftāzānī’s formulation of the different iʿtibārāt of quiddity and his rejection of its external existence insofar as it is bi-sharṭ lā. His interpretation of the external existence of universals might have influenced that of Dawānī, as we shall see in the ensuing paragraphs. It is also interesting that Taftāzānī engages with Sufi thinkers such as Ibn ʿArabī and their well-known doctrine of waḥdat al-wujūd in relation to his rejection of the external existence of universals, see Saʿd al-Dīn Taftāzānī, Sharḥ al-Maqāṣid fī ʿilm al-kalām, ed. ʿAbd al-Raḥmān ʿUmayra (Beirut, 1998), vol. 1, pp. 310, 311, 336, 403–4, 409. See also, ʿAḍūd al-Dīn Ījī, al-Mawāqif fī ʿilm al-kalām (Beirut, n.d.), p. 66, 1–7.

75 Pourjavady, Philosophy in Early Safavid Iran, p. 32.

76 For instance, Mullā Ṣadrā uses the following honorific titles for Dawānī: baʿḍ ajalat al-mutaʾakhkhirīn, baʿḍ al-muḥaqqiqīn, al-mawlā al-Dawānī, baʿḍ ajalat aṣḥāb al-buḥus, al-muḥaqqiq al-Dawānī, al-ʿallāma al-Dawānī, baʿḍ ajalat al-fuḍalāʾ; for Ṣadr al-Dīn: baʿḍ ahl al-taḥqīq, baʿḍ al-amājad, baʿḍ al-mudaqqiqīn, baʿḍ al-adhkiyāʾ, al-sayyid al-ʿaẓīm. As for Ghiyāth al-Dīn he states “alladhī huwa sarābihi al-muqaddas, Ghiyāth aʿāẓam al-sādāt wa-al-ʿulamāʾ, al-manṣūr al-muʾayyad min ʿālam al-malakūt,” see for instance, Ṣadrā, Asfār, vol. 1, pp. 42, 60, 306, 91, 399, 422, 307, 59, 315, 415 respectively; vol. 4, pp. 86, 86 respectively; Rasāʾil-i falsafī (Qum, 1983), p. 171.

77 Ṣadrā thinks that Ṣadr al-Dīn is a proponent of the primacy of being, while Dawānī that of the primacy of quiddity, see Ṣadr al-Dīn Shīrāzī, Asfār, vol. 1, pp. 65, 101–3, 228–9, 270–7, 292–4, 312–47, 393, and vol. 6, pp. 62, 102–9. As is well known, Mir Damad advocates the primacy of the quiddity over existence when it comes to contingent beings. According to him, the stage of individuation (tashakhkhuṣ) and determination which is identical to the stage of actual existence in the real world follows after the intelligible stage belonging to the universal quiddity itself. This becomes possible because actual existence in the external world is not identical with the original substance of the quiddity. For more information, see Keven A. Brown, “Time, perpetuity, and eternity: Mir Dämäd's theory of perpetual creation and the trifold division of existence. An analysis of Kitāb al-Qabasāt: The Book of Blazing Brands”, Ph.D. diss., Univ. of California (Los Angeles, 2006), pp. 162–4.

78 Dawānī, Jalāl al-Dīn, “ Risālat Ibṭāl al-zamān al-mawhūm ,” in Sabʿ Rasāʾil, ed. Taysirkānī, Sayyid Aḥmad (Tehran, 2001), p. 279 Google Scholar.

79 Ibid . He shows awareness that he is rejecting the views of these philosophers.

80 Ibid ., pp. 279–80.

81 Pourjavady, Philosophy in Early Safavid Iran, pp. 90–2.

82 Jalāl al-Dīn Dawānī, “a l-Ḥawrāʾ” [Sharḥ al-Zawrāʾ], pp. 207–8.

83 Dawānī, “Risālat Ithbāt al-wājib al-jadīda,” in Sabʿ Rasāʾil, p. 129.

84 Ṣadr al-Dīn al-Dashtakī, Ḥāshiya ʿalā sharḥ Tajrīd al-iʿtiqād, MS Majlis 1998, fol. 24a,10–14; trans. and cited in Pourjavady, Philosophy in Early Safavid Iran, p. 97.

85 This is in contrast to what Dawānī has asserted concerning the natural universal. See Ghiyāth al-Dīn, Muṣannafāt-i Ghiyāth al-Dīn Manṣūr-i Ḥusaynī-i Dashtakī-i Shīrāzī, ed. ʿAbd Allāh Nūrānī (Tehran, 2007), vol. 1, p. 19.

86 Ibid ., vol. 1, pp. 19–20.

87 Āmulī, Raḥīq, vol. 6, pp. 49 and 106ff. Wujūd as a universal is similar to the example of the sun discussed by Avicenna (see section II above), in that the former is the only universal that is found in reality because everything conceivable would be one of its instances.

88 See Lāhījī, Mullā Muḥammad Jaʿfar, Sharḥ al-Mashāʿir, edited by Āshtiyānī, Jalāl al-Dīn (Qum, 2007), pp. 138ffGoogle Scholar.

89 Āmūlī, Raḥīq, vol. 1, pp. 322ff.

90 Ṣadrā, , Al-Maẓāhir al-ilāhiyya fī asrār al-ʿulūm al-kamāliyya, ed. Āshtiyānī, Sayyid J. (Qum, 2008), pp. 26–7Google Scholar.

91 Ṣadrā, Al-Mashāʿir, p. 9 (trans. with modification taken from The Book of Metaphysical Penetrations, trans. Hossein Nasr, Seyyed; ed. Kalin, Ibrahim [Provo, 2014]Google Scholar).

92 For the arguments of the primacy of being, see Ṣadrā, Asfār, vol. 1, pp. 33–42, vol. 2, p. 287, vol. 3, pp. 36ff., vol. 4, p. 213; al-Mashāʿir (Beirut, 2000), pp. 4, 9, 10, 35, 52. See also the translation of this latter text in Nasr, The Book of Metaphysical Penetrations, pp. 6–16. Ṣadrā and his school present some thirty five arguments in favor of the primacy of wujūd, and refute the standpoint of aṣālat al-māhiyya or iʿtibāriyyāt al-wujūd. For an excellent analysis of the viewpoints of both the proponents and opponents of aṣālat al-wujūd, see Ghulamriḍā Fayyāḍī, Hastī wa-chistī dar maktab-i Ṣadrāʾī (Tehran, 2011), chapters 2–4.

93 In Ṣadrā’s ontology, which is largely inspired by Sufi metaphysicians such as al-Qayṣarī (d. 1350), what is “ultimately real” is wujūd, and although he accepts multiplicity (kathra) based on his notion of tashkīk (gradation), he never affirms multiplicity as existing in and of itself; see Asfār, vol. 2, chap. 6, pp. 20–5, and Dāwūd al-Qayṣarī, Sharḥ Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam, edited by Ḥasanzādah Āmulī (Qum, 2008), 25ff.

94 Asfār, vol. 1, pp. 49, 107, 198, 210; vol. 2, pp. 236–7, 339–40; vol. 3, p. 33.

95 Ṣadrā, Mashāʿir, pp. 53–5.

96 Also, aṣālat al-wujūd itself is premised on the “self-evident nature” (badīhī), “synonymy” (al-ishtarāk al-maʿnawī) and “universality” (kulliya) of the concept of “being,” see Asfār, vol. 1, pp. 33–40 and 117–25. On another note, it should be made clear that Avicenna was not concerned with the “underlying reality” of entities (for him entities are simply found in the external world as composites of being and quiddity), which is why, for him, the question of the “primacy” of either being or quiddity was irrelevant. However, his works can be read as supporting both positions. For more information on this point, see Kalin, Ibrahim, Knowledge in Later Islamic Philosophy: Mullā Ṣadrā on Existence, Intellect, and Intuition (New York, 2010), pp. 97–8CrossRefGoogle Scholar.

97 For an explanation on the difference between a concept and its referent, see Izutsu, The Concept and Reality of Existence, ch. 2. For the arguments of the proponents of the primacy of quiddity, see Kamal, Muhammad, Mulla Ṣadra's Transcendent Philosophy (Aldershot, 2006), pp. 1223 Google Scholar and Kalin, Knowledge in Later Islamic Philosophy, pp. 98–100. Some of the prominent upholders of the primacy of quiddity were Suhrawardī (d. 1191) and Mīr Dāmād (d. 1631), although the former was probably not concerned with the primacy of either being or quiddity, see Rizvi, , “An Islamic subversion of the existence-essence distinction? Suhrawardī’s visionary hierarchy of lights,” Asian Philosophy, 9.3 (1999): 219–27Google Scholar.

98 Ṣadrā, , al-Shawāhid al-rubūbiyya fī manāhij al-sulūkiyya, ed. Āshtiyānī, Sayyid J. (Qum, 2003), p. 134 Google Scholar.

99 Mashāʿir, pp. 9–10.

100 Since in Ṣadrā’s ontology, “reality” is synonymous with the reality of wujūd at all levels, the highest level of reality, which is wujūd lā bi-sharṭ maqsamī (not wājib al-wujūd), cannot but manifests “itself” (otherwise, limitation will be imposed on it) and consequently becomes conditioned into various “forms/existents” that after mental analysis identified as quiddities. For the doctrine of the manifestation of being, see Asfār, vol. 2, chap. 6, pp. 28–9; Īqāz al-nāʾimīn (Tehran, 1985), pp. 58 Google Scholar and Āmulī, Raḥiq-i makhtūm, pp. 71–129 and also, Rizvi, Sajjad, Mullā Ṣadrā and Metaphysics: Modulation of Being (London, 2009), pp. 102ffGoogle Scholar. I am working on a study which seeks to deal with this issue in detail against the backdrop of the development of post-Avicennan philosophy, and in conversation with current debates in Ṣadrā studies, see “An analysis of the notion of “the absolutely unconditioned being” in the Metaphysics of Mullā Ṣadrā and Dāwūd al-Qayṣarī: based on the distinction between the concept and reality of existence),” in preparation for review.

101 Asfār, vol. 1, p. 272.

102 Asfār, vol. 7, p. 285.

103 Asfār, vol. 4, p. 213.

104 Asfār, vol. 2, pp. 3–4.

105 Non-derivative predication is the opposite of derivative predication (ḥaml al-ishtiqāq). In non-derivative predication, the subject and predicate are united in being, see Sabzawārī, Sharḥ-i manẓūma, pp. 150–2.

106 Ṣadrā, Shawāhid, p. 152.

107 Ibid ., p. 153.

108 Ibid ., pp. 153–4.

109 Ibid ., pp. 152–3.

110 On Ṭabāṭabāʾī’s life and work, see Algar, Hamid, “Allamah Sayyid Muhammad Husayn Tabataba'i: philosopher, exegete, and gnostic,” Journal of Islamic Studies, 17.3 (2006): 126 Google Scholar. Yazdī’s views on natural universals can be found in Yazdī, Mehdi Hāʾirī, Āgāhī wa-gawāhī (Tehran, 2003), pp. 1720 Google Scholar.

111 These technical terms are not found in the works of either Avicenna or Ṣadrā, although clear indications of them can be found in the writings of the latter. However, beginning most probably with Sabzawārī and Āqā ʿAlī Mudarris Zunūzī, they became the standard expressions for philosophical musings on the analytic considerations of both being and quiddity; see Sabzawārī, Sharḥ-i Manẓūma, pp. 132–3; Zunūzī, Bidāyiʿ al-ḥikam (Tehran, 1996), pp. 291–4, 371ff. As for the analytic considerations of wujūd, no substantial study of it exists in English, even though Izutsu's The Concept and the Reality discusses it in a limited fashion. The first thing to note is, unlike Avicenna's metaphysics, which proceeds from the being-quiddity distinction, Ṣadrā’s metaphysics begins with the distinction between the concept and reality of existence. Although the treatment of the concept-reality distinction is now slowly making its way into the growing body of Ṣadrian scholarship, no writer, to my knowledge, has shown its full implication for Ṣadrian ontology. For an extensive treatment of this issue, see the present author's already cited forthcoming study, An Analysis of the Notion of “the Absolutely Unconditioned Being.” For the concept-reality distinction in Ṣadrā in general see, Bonmariage, Cécile, Le réel et les réalités: Mullā Ṣadrā Shīrāzī et la structure de la réalité (Paris, 2008), pp. 2830 Google Scholar, and Meisami, Sayeh, Mulla Sadra (Oxford, 2013), pp. 24–7Google Scholar.

112 Ṣadrā, al-Taṣawwur wa-al-taṣdīq, in Ṣadrā, Mullā, Majmūʿat al-rasāʾil al-falsafiyya (Beirut, 2001), pp. 45–7Google Scholar.

113 Ibid ., p. 45.

114 Yazdī, Āgāhī wa-gawāhī, pp. 18–19.

115 Ibid ., p. 18.

116 Ṭabāṭabāʾī, The Elements of Islamic Metaphysics, pp. 46–8.

117 Ibid ., p. 47.

118 For more information on the varieties of nominalism, see Moore, Walter L., “Via moderna,” in Strayer, Joseph (ed.), Dictionary of Middle Ages (New York, 1989) vol. 12, pp. 406–9Google Scholar, and Klima, Gyula, “Nominalism,” in Brown, E. Keith (ed.), Encyclopedia of Language and Linguistics (Oxford, 2006), vol. 7, pp. 648–52Google Scholar.

119 See e.g. Davis, John W., “Berkeley and phenomenalism,” Dialogue, 1.1 (1962): 6780 CrossRefGoogle Scholar. It should, however, be noted that in analytic philosophy, a variety (or combination) of different forms of realism, representationalism etc. can be found.

120 By “substance of being” I do not mean being is a “substance” or has substance. Rather from the Sadrian standpoint, being is “analogous” to substance whereas quiddities are all accidents since “primacy” belongs to the former alone.

121 See section I.

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