Matter Or God?

The question dealt with in this chapter is whether the first cause of existence is matter or something transcending it. This is the ultimate issue in the conflict between theological philosophy and materialism.

The dialectic is but an unsuccessful attempt of materialism to unite the efficient cause and the material cause of the world, in accordance with the laws of dialectical contradiction.

Al-Sadr briefly recapitulates the development of the scientific study of matter from Greek thought to the twentieth-century atomic physics.

Modern physics discovered that energy is the substratum of the world and matter is a state of energy. In the light of these discoveries the quality of materiality itself becomes an accidental quality.

The philosophical conclusion that follows from this is that it is not possible to regard matter as the first cause of the world. Moreover, science has established that there is one kind of matter that underlies all the various elements, compounds, substances and things. But how can a single reality be the cause of different and contradictory manifestations? According to al-Sadr such a thing is not possible. Hence matter cannot be the efficient cause of the world, as the world is full of different and multifarious phenomena.

Furthermore, the properties or qualities that matter manifests in the various spheres of its existence are accidental to the primary reality of matter. Further, the property of materiality itself is also accidental. Hence, raw matter, which all things share, cannot be an essential cause of those properties or qualities.

Al-Sadr points out that the method followed by theology for demonstrating the necessity of an efficient cause of the world is the same as that followed by experimental science for explaining empirical phenomena. He does not fail to point out here that the dialectic with its theory of contradictions is able to account neither for the progression of the elements in the atomic table nor for the formation of chemical compounds.