MULLA SADRA'S THEORY OF TRANSUBSTANTIAL MOTION: A TRANSLATION AND CRITICAL EXPOSITION

MEHDI DEHBASHI, Fordham University

Abstract

The body of this dissertation contains two sections: (1) a translation from the Arabic of fourteen chapters of Mulla Sadra's Asfar including commentaries by Sabzawar(')i and Tabataba(',)i which deals with his theory of transubstantial motion; and (2) an exposition and critical evaluation of his argumentation. Sadra was convinced that a philosophy which gave primacy to existence over essence, and which required an understanding of motion as continuous process in which nothing is static, was much better suited to monotheism than was an essentialism.^ The text we have chosen to use is the accepted critical edition prepared by A. S. H. Tabataba(',)i, R. Muzaffar and other scholars. Our investigation has both an historical and a purely philosophical dimension.^ Sadra's primary contribution lies in two original theses: (a) his theory of the primacy of existence over essence and its analogical gradations. God is the most complete and final source of existence and man is one modification of the realm of existence; (b) his theory of substantial motion, aimed at refuting the very basis of the peripatetic understanding of nature in terms of fixed substances.^ Mulla Sadra considers substantial motion to be a gradual transformation occurring in the very inner structure of things. Thus, a thing or substance which is now in a certain ontological state is regarded by him to be undergoing a continuous and gradual inner transformation until it reaches a new ontological state. The whole process of this inner transformation is in reality a series of passings away and recreation by God. He held that the natures of this world are changing in their essences and moving with regard to their substances, while their accidents follow them in this renewal, and so receive any change which occurs in the substances. These accidents are united with their substances in actualization in the same way that differentiae are unified with genus and consequently move in accordance with the movements of substances. Only existential objects are the real subjects which change differentiae and genus. In the entire progression of existence, therefore, each preceding mode of reality becomes a genus and loses itself in the succeeding differentiae. We mean by transubstantial motion the existential motion of substantial nature which is to be a state of flux from the very beginning of its existence.^ Existentially, every being is a unity and a totality. Interpreted existentially substance and accident form a numerical unity in the existing individual. Nothing can affect accident without affecting substance. If accidents change, so does substance. Existentially, therefore, transubstantial motion is basic. But does such change require an existential subject which remains stable and unaffected? The only plausible candidate is prime matter. But prime matter is nothing existential, but only pure potentiality. Existentially, then, the "subject" of transubstantial motion must be the motion itself. Or, if one prefers, there is no subject of such motion understood as something itself stable and inert. If there were such a thing, then one would be forced into either an infinite regress or a denial of motion on the existential level.^ When we turn our attention to "time," we note that for Mulla Sadra time is not a mere accident used in measuring locomotion. Instead, for Mulla Sadra, both time and motion are the basic constituents of finite existents. Mulla Sadra makes time another dimension of physical nature so that his view of physical bodies is four dimensional. ^

Subject Area

Philosophy

Recommended Citation

DEHBASHI, MEHDI, "MULLA SADRA'S THEORY OF TRANSUBSTANTIAL MOTION: A TRANSLATION AND CRITICAL EXPOSITION" (1981). ETD Collection for Fordham University. AAI8111542.
http://fordham.bepress.com/dissertations/AAI8111542

Share

COinS