Ever since man has attempted to determine his relation to the external world, the formulation of world view has been a central problem of philosophic thought. The author's aim is to present the world view of Islamic philosophy against the backdrop of other views presented by modern Western philosophy, especially Marxism.
Two issues are involved in the difference between world views:
The first one relates to realistic and idealistic conceptions of the world. Realism believes in the existence of an objective reality independent of mind, while for idealism reality can be only mental. The second issue involves two separate outlooks within realism: materialism and theological realism. Materialism regards sensible matter as the common ground of all existence including mind and consciousness. Theological realism (hitherto referred to as 'realism')goes beyond matter and asserts the existence of an eternal and infinite cause as the primary cause of all phenomena, including the mental and the material realms.
Correction of Some Errors: Here, it is necessary to correct the misconceptions n of some modern writers. The first of these errors is to consider the conflict between theology and materialism as the one between idealism and realism, as if theological thought advocated idealism and materialism was the only representative of realism.
The second is the accusation that the theistic world view attributes every phenomenon to a supernatural cause and thus makes science impossible by completely eliminating causality and law from the realm of nature. This accusation is false, because theology considers God as a cause transcending nature, as a power above nature and matter. This error involves a misunderstanding of the place of the transcendent cause in the causal chain.
The third error is that of identifying spirituality with idealism, whereas spirituality can be considered as an attribute of idealism as well realism; it has a different meaning in each of these outlooks.
Thus there are three kinds of world views: idealism, materialism and theological realism. Idealism was studied in Part 1, while discussing the theory of knowledge. Materialism and theological realism will be studied in this part.
A Clarification: At the outset a number of points have to be clarified. Firstly, what is the basic feature that distinguishes all the various versions of materialism from theological realism, making them two conflicting schools? The answer is that the basic distinguishing feature of materialism is its denial that there is anything beyond the scope and realm of experimental science. Both the theologian and the materialist accept the findings and formulations of science, but they differ over the issue that there is an immaterial realm of existence beyond the realm of experiment and sensible phenomena. The materialist considers natural causation revealed by experiments as the sole ground of all existence, including mind and consciousness. The theological realist, on the contrary, regards the knowing subject and its knowledge as being of an immaterial nature. Further, theological realism asserts that the developments and movements studied by science are, in the ultimate analysis, attributable to a cause transcending nature and the material world. The materialist denies this and claims that no immaterial or transcendent causes are revealed in the field of experiment; nature is dynamic, autonomous, self-sufficient and self-contained.
It is clear that there is no dispute between theology and materialism with regard to scientific truths. The theologian admits all scientific truths; he just admits other truths and asserts the existence of a primary, non-sensible and immaterial cause of nature's movements and phenomena.
Secondly, if the conflict between theology and materialism is that of affirmation and negation, which of the two schools is responsible for giving evidence in favour of its position? The theologian must offer reasons for his affirmation and the materialist for his negation, for absolute denial like absolute affirmation requires proof. The materialist, by his absolute denial, in fact asserts that he has examined the entire realm of being and not found any immaterial cause in it.
Now a second question arises : What kind of evidence that can be?
The answer is that the evidence for the affirmation or for the denial must be based on reason, not on sense experience. This is contrary to the materialist view, which considers sense experience as its evidence and claims that the propositions of metaphysics and theology cannot in general be verified by sense experience and that an analysis of experience and nature does not reveal the existence of immaterial things. Now if materialism is correct in its claim that sense experience and science do not constitute a proof for the propositions of theology, then neither can they be proof for its absolute negation. Moreover, the truths of science are not the subject of disputation between theology and materialism. For the disputation relates rather to the philosophical interpretation of these truths which asserts the existence of a cause transcending the limits of sense experience. It is clear that sense experience cannot be considered as a proof for the negation of a truth outside its own limits.
Science does not affirm the materialist view of the world. All the truths uncovered by science leave room for the assumption of a cause above matter. Scientific experimentation cannot prove that matter is not created by an immaterial cause. Therefore, the proof in support of materialism cannot be based on scientific truths or sense experience. Rather, materialism is a philosophic interpretation of experience and scientific truths, in the same way as theological realism is; both of them give different interpretations to the findings of science. The soundness of these interpretations cannot be established on the basis of sense experience.
This leads us to a third question: If scientific experimentation is not sufficient by itself for deciding the issue, is there any other means available to the human mind? Al-Sadr's answer is that human reason is sufficient for studying this issue, in the same way as it studies all scientific issues in the light of primary rational knowledge, which is independent of experience. Thus the method adopted by theological realism in demonstrating its propositions is ultimately the same method by which we prove all scientific truths and laws.