The Causes Responsible For Materialist (lecture 3)
The second reason of importance in the large-scale inclination towards materialism in the West lies in the inadequacy of its philosophical ideas. In fact, that which is called 'divine philosophy' (hikmat-e ilahi) is in a very backward state in the West, though perhaps some people may not concede that the West has not reached the level of the divine philosophy of the East, especially Islamic philosophy.
Many philosophical ideas which raise a hue and cry in Europe are among the elementary issues of Islamic philosophy. In translations of Western philosophical works we come across certain ridiculous observations cited from major European philosophers. We also find some statements which show that these philosophers were confronted with certain insuperable difficulties while dealing with theological issues. That is, their philosophical criteria were not satisfactory. It is obvious that these inadequacies created an intellectual climate conducive to materialism. The Problem of the First Cause:
One of the things that may appropriately be mentioned for the sake of example is the story of the 'First Cause' in Western philosophy. Although it is somewhat a difficult issue, we hope that our readers will show some patience.
Hegel is one of the great and famous philosophers of the world whose greatness is certainly undeniable. There is much that is true in his works. We will first quote a statement of this great philosopher concerning one of the most important issues of metaphysics and then compare it with what Islamic philosophy has to say in this regard. This statement is about the 'First Cause,' i.e. about the Necessary Being, from the standpoint of Its being the first cause of existents. Hegel observes:
In solving the puzzle of the world of creation we should not go after the efficient cause ('illat-e fa'ili), because, on the one hand, the mind is not satisfied with infinite regress (tasalsul) and continues to look for the first cause. On the other hand, when we consider the first cause, the puzzle is not solved and the mind is not satisfied; the problem remains as to why the first cause became the first cause. For solving the puzzle, we should find the end or the purpose and reason for being, because if we know for what it has come into existence, or in other words, when it is known that it is something rational, our nature is satisfied and does not seek another cause. It is obvious that everything requires a justification by reason while reason itself does not require any justification.
The commentators of his works have been unable to explain his intent, but perhaps a close examination might reveal what troubled this man.
If we wish to express this matter in our own philosophical idiom, in a manner that would accord with Hegel's viewpoint, or at least would come near it, we might say, [the conception of] God should be accepted in a form which is directly acceptable to the mind and not as something which the mind is constrained to accept under some compulsion. There is a difference between a notion whose teleology (limmiyat) the mind directly apprehends-and this apprehension is a natural one-and a notion which is only accepted because there is a proof which negates its contradictory and compels its acceptance. In fact, the basis of its acceptance is that one is left without an answer to the proof negating its contradictory. On the other hand, when the contradictory of a particular proposition is negated and proved to be false, naturally and necessarily that proposition has to be accepted because it is not possible for both contradictories to be false and one of them has to be necessarily accepted, considering that the falsity of one of the two contradictories is proof of the correctness of the other.
Accepting a notion due to the falsity of its contradictory compels and constrains the mind, without really convincing it, and there is a difference between compelling and constraining the mind and convincing and satisfying it. Often one is silenced by a proof while in the depth of one's consciousness there lingers a kind of doubt and hesitation with respect to the matter proved.
This difference is observable between 'a direct proof' and reductio ad absurdum (burhan-e khulf). At times, the mind travels naturally and consciously from the premise and the middle term to the conclusion. The conclusion is the direct product of the middle term, as in a deductive argument (burhan-e-limmi). In this type of proofs the mind spontaneously deduces the conclusion from the premises, and the conclusion, to the mind, is like a child born naturally from its parents. But in reductio ad absurdum-or even in burhan-e inni for that matter-this is not the case. In reductio ad absurdum, the mind accepts the conclusion as a compulsion. The state of the mind here is similar to that of a person encountering a coercive force before which he is helpless. He accepts it because he cannot reject it.
In these types of proofs, as one of the two possibilities is invalidated by proof, the mind is forced into accepting the other. The other alternative that is accepted by the mind is accepted only because its contradictory has been rejected, and one from among a pair of contradictories has to be necessarily accepted, for it is impossible for both contradictories to be false. Hence it accepts the other possibility under constraint and compulsion. This acceptance of one side is due to compulsion and not spontaneous.
Hegel wants to say that our going after the first cause and our acceptance of it belongs to the latter category. The mind does not directly apprehend the first cause, but accepts it to avoid infinite regress. On the other hand, it sees that although it cannot refrain from accepting the impossibility of infinite regress, it also cannot understand the difference between the first cause and the other causes that makes these causes require a cause while the first cause can do without it. In his own words, one cannot understand why the first cause became the first cause. But if we seek the teleology and end [of being] we arrive at an end and purpose whose being an end is essential to it and does not require any other end and purpose.
Statements similar to Hegel's with respect to the first cause have been made by Kant and Spencer as well. Spencer says, "The problem is that, on the one hand, human reason seeks a cause for every thing; on the other, it rejects both the vicious circle and the infinite regress. Neither does it find an uncaused cause nor is capable of understanding such a thing. Thus when a priest tells a child that God created the world, the child responds by asking, 'Who created God?' "
Similar, or even more baseless, are Jean-Paul Sartre's remarks in this regard. He, as quoted by Paul Foulquie, says -concerning the first cause: It is self-contradictory that a being be the cause of its own existence. [^1]
Paul Foulquie, while explaining Sartre's statement, says, "The above argument which Sartre has not elaborated is usually presented in this manner: If we contend that we have originated our own existence, we have to believe that we existed before our existence. This is the obvious contradiction which unravels itself. [^2]
Let us now look at the true picture of the theory of the first cause from the philosophical point of view. Is it as what Sartre and others say-a thing bringing itself into existence and laying the foundations of its own being, so as to imply that a thing is its own cause and its own effect?
Or is the meaning of the first cause what Kant, Hegel and Spencer have imagined, i.e. a being whose case involves an exception to the law of causation? That is, although every thing requires a cause and it is impossible for it to be without a cause, the first cause, an exception, is not such?
And is it the case that the impossibility of infinite regress, which makes us accept the first cause, actually compels us to accept a thing's being its own cause? Is it the case that our mind, in the process of avoiding one impossible, is forced into accepting another? Why? If the basis is that the mind should not accept what is impossible, then it should not accept any impossible whatsoever. Why should there be any exception?!
In accordance with the picture presented by Sartre, the first cause, like all other things, is in need of a cause, except that it itself fulfils its own need. According to the conception of Kant, Hegel and Spencer, we are compelled for the sake of avoiding infinite regress to allow an exception among things which are logically similar, and say that all things require a cause except one, the first cause. As to the difference between the first cause and other causes that makes all other existents depend upon a cause while this one is an exception, the answer is that there is no logical difference. It is only for the sake of avoiding the impossibility of infinite regress that we are forced to assume one of them as not being in need of a cause.
In this interpretation, the first cause is not assumed to require a cause and to meet its own need (as in Sartre's interpretation); rather, it is assumed that the first cause does not require a cause to bring it into existence. That is, the first cause is an exception to the law of causality. But as to why it does not require a cause, and why is it an exception, this interpretation gives no answer.
The first interpretation is very childish. No philosopher, or even an half-philosopher or laymen, would conceive God in this manner. Therefore, we will discuss briefly only the second interpretation and present the correct picture while doing so.
In our view, the doubt of the likes of Kant, Hegel and Spencer concerning the first cause derives from two basic philosophical issues, both of which have remained unsolved in Western philosophy. Of these, the first is the issue of fundamentality of existence (asalat al-wujud), and the second that of the criterion for requiring a cause (manat-e ihtiyaj bi 'illat). It is not appropriate here to discuss and explain the issue of fundamentality of existence, or the contrary doctrine of the fundamentality of essence (asalat al-mahiyyah).
However, we shall confine ourselves to giving a brief explanation. On the basis of the notion of fundamentality of essence-to give a very elementary and superficial picture of it, that is, one based on the assumption that God also, like all other existents, has an essence and an existence (which is an invalid idea even from the viewpoint of the proponents of the theory of fundamentality of essence, because they too consider God as pure existence)-the question arises as to why everything requires a cause while God doesn't. Why is one being Necessary and others contingent? Is it not that all beings are essences which come into existence?
But on the basis of the theory fundamentality of existence-whose principal architect in regard to its philosophical demonstration and providing the proofs is Sadr al-Muta'allihin Shirazi-the pattern of thinking changes radically.
On the basis of the former theory (fundamentality of essence) our conception of things will be that their essence is something which is intrinsically different from existence. Existence should be given to it by another being. We name this other being 'cause.' But in accordance with the theory of fundamentality of existence, the real being of things is what they partake of existence. Existence is not an essence to which another being may bestow existence. Hence if it be necessary that an external cause bestow something, that thing would be the very being of things, which happens to be existence itself, not something accidental and additional to the essence of things.
There is another question which arises at this point. Is it necessary that existence as such-that is, regardless of its form, manifestation and plane-requires to be bestowed by another being, implying that existence qua existence is identical with being a gift and emanation [of something else with dependence, relation, being an effect, and being posterior [to that which gives it existence], and hence is necessarily finite? Or is there some other perspective?
The answer is that the reality of existence, despite its various planes and manifestations, is no more than a single reality. It does not necessarily entail need and dependence upon another thing. That is because the meaning of dependence and need with respect to existence (in contrast to the dependence and need which were assumed earlier in relation to essences) is that existence should itself be needy and dependent. And if the reality of existence were need and dependence, it implies that it will be related to and dependent upon something other than itself, while no 'other' is conceivable for existence, because something other than existence is either non-existence or essence, which, as presumed, is derivative (i'tibari) and a sibling of non-existence. Hence the reality of existence qua reality of existence necessitates independence, self-sufficience, and absence of need for and relation with something other than itself.
It is also necessarily absolute, unconditioned, and unlimited. That is, it entails the impossibility of non-existence and negation finding a way into it. Need, want, and dependence, and similarly finitude and mingling with non-existence, derive from another consideration, which is different from the consideration of pure existence: these derive from posteriority and being an effect (ma'luiyyat). That is, existence qua existence and regardless of all other considerations necessitates self-sufficience and independence from cause. As to the need for a cause-or in other words, that a being at a particular plane and stage should require a cause-that derives from its not being the reality of existence and its reliance upon God for coming into existence through emanation. And the logical consequence of being an emanation is posteriority and need, or rather, it is nothing except these.
From here we come to understand that according to the theory of fundamentality of existence, when we focus our intellect upon the reality of existence, we find there self-sufficience, priority, and the absence of need. In other words, the reality of existence is equivalent to essential necessity (wujub-e dhati), and to use an expression of Hegel's liking, the rational dimension of the reality of existence is absence of need for a cause. Dependence upon a cause derives from a consideration (itibar) other than the reality of existence, and this consideration is posteriority and finitude. In other words, the need for a cause is the same as existence at a plane posterior to the reality of existence, and, in Hegelian terminology, the need for a cause is not the rational dimension of existence.
This is the meaning of the statement that 'The Truthful, when they contemplate the reality of existence and observe it sans every condition and relation (idafah), the first thing which they discover is the Necessary Being and the First Cause. From the Necessary Being they infer Its effects which are not pure existence, being finite beings bearing non-being within.' This is what is meant when it is said that in this logic there is no middle term for proving the existence of God; the Divine Being is the witness of Its existence.
God bears witness, and those possessing knowledge and upholding justice, and the angles, that there is no God but He. (3:18) The proof of the sun is the sun (himself): if you require the proof, do not avert thy face from him! If the shadow gives an indication of him, the sun (himself) gives spiritual life every moment.
This discloses the baselessness of the statements of those who say that the notion of the first cause involves a contradiction because it implies that a thing is the originator of its own existence and hence exists before coming into being.
Similarly baseless is the statement of those who say: 'Supposing that we prove that every thing has been brought into existence by the first cause, the question remains as to what has brought the first cause into existence; hence the first cause remains an unjustifiable exception. Explaining the Universe by Means of Reason and not Cause:
Hegel believed that explanation of the universe on the basis of the first cause, irrespective of whether we consider it to be mind, matter, or God, is impossible because the concept of the first cause itself is inexplicable. Therefore, a different way should be found for an explanation of the universe. First we should see what is meant by 'explanation,' he said.
Now an isolated fact is usually said to be explained when its cause has been discovered. And if its cause cannot be ascertained, it is said to be an unexplained fact. But we cannot explain the universe in this way. If the universe could be said to have a cause, then either that cause is the effect of a prior cause, or it is not. Either the chain of causes extends back in an infinite series, or there is somewhere a 'first cause' which is not the effect of any prior cause. [f the series is infinite, then no final and ultimate explanation is to be found. If there is a first cause, then this first cause itself is an unexplained fact .... To explain the universe by something which is itself an ultimate mystery is surely no explanation. [^3]
Later on Hegel observes that the concept of causality not only cannot provide an explanation of the universe but is also incapable of explaining particular things, because explaining involves the description of the logical relationship between a thing and something else. Whenever a thing is logically 'inferred' from something else it is said to have been explained.
For example, when we know that angle A is equal to angle B and that angle B is equal to angel C, we arrive at the logical conclusion that angles A and C are equal. The mind necessarily concludes that it has to be so and it cannot be otherwise, that it is logically impossible. Here the equality of angles A and C has been explained with the help of two premises. These two premises are the reason or ground for the equality of angles A and C, not its cause.
But causality does not explain a thing. Causality simply states an existential proposition (qadiyyah wujddiyyah) and not a necessary proposition (qadiyyah daruriyyah). This is because the concept of causality is arrived at by experience and not through logical inference. For example, we find by experimenting that water turns into steam due to heat and freezes due to cold. Consequently we say that heat is the cause of vaporization and cold the cause of freezing of water. But our mind does not make a judgment that it should be so necessarily and logically. Supposedly, if we arrived at the opposite conclusion by experiment, finding that water freezes due to heat and turns into steam on being exposed to cold, this would make no difference to the mind. Hence this assumption is not something logically impossible, whereas in contrast the assumption of inequality of angles A and C in the earlier example is a logical impossibility. Causality does not explain that an effect should be an effect logically, and that which is a cause should logically be a cause. Therefore, the universe should be explained through reason and not by resorting to causes. The difference between reason and cause is that a cause is something isolated; that is, it has an existence separate from that of its effect, whereas a reason is not isolated and separate existence from what it explains.
For example, the equality of angles A and B, and similarly of B and C, is the reason for the equality of angles A and C. But these reasons do not have an existence isolated and separate from what they prove, as in the case of causes which have an existence independent of their effects. Identity of Mind and Reality:
Hegel then discusses another principle, the principle of the identity of knowing and being, or the identity of mind and reality, or the mental realm and external reality. He is trying to remove the wall of dualism separating the mind from external reality. In Hegel's view, the mind and external reality are not two isolated realities alien to each other. That is, they are not two totally different entities opposing each other. They are identical because they are but two different aspects of a single reality. And the ground for this assertion is that the problem of how knowledge is possible appears to be insoluble if we do not accept it. [^4]
Hegel launches his philosophical project on the basis of these two principles. The first is that reason and not cause can provide an explanation of the universe, and the other, the identity of knowing and being. He starts with being which he considers to be the first reason. From being he derives non-being, and from that he arrives at 'becoming' which is a concept denoting motion. In this manner he proceeds with his dialectic.
It is not possible for us to provide here a critique of Hegelian philosophy and to investigate the mainspring of his errors by applying the criteria of Islamic philosophy, which in itself would be a long and interesting account. Here it will suffice to point out that according to the theory of fundamentality of existence (asalat al-wujud) and with attention to the special 'Argument of the Truthful' (burhan-e Siddiqin), Hegel's imagined dichotomy between cause and reason, between the why and wherefore (limm-e thubiti and limm-e ithbati) vanishes. The first cause in this philosophy is both self-sufficient and without the need of a cause, as well as self-explanatory and requiring no ground. It is the cause as well as the ground of all things, as well as their explainer.
For solving the problem of epistemology, too, there is no need to resort to the identity of knowing and being as conceived by Hegel. The problem of knowledge, which is one of the most difficult and complicated issues of philosophy, has another solution. An elaborate discussion of these two issues has to wait for some other occasion.
We explained that according to the doctrine of fundamentality of existence the question as to why the first cause became the first cause becomes totally meaningless. Now we may observe that this question also does not arise on the basis of the doctrine of fundamentality of essence, because it arises only when we necessarily assume that the Necessary Being possesses an essence like all other existents which is additional to its existence.
But we are not compelled to make such an assumption. Rather we are compelled to assume the contrary; that is, after conceding the impossibility of an infinite regress we have no alternative except accepting the existence of the first cause, the Necessary Being. Similarly, since the Necessary Being cannot be an entity composed of essence and existence, we make the assent that It is pure existence and sheer ipseity (inniyat-e sirf). Naturally there remains no room for our question.
The proof is also valid on the basis of the theory of fundamentality of essence (aalat al-mahiyyah). Philosophers like Ibn Sina have taken the same path. If there remains any question, it relates to another point, that if the reality of the Necessary Being is pure existence, what is the reality of other things? Is essence the reality of other things, existence being something derived (i'tibari) in relation to them, implying that the realm of being is a duality? Or is it that the reality of all things is what they partake of existence?
A correct answer to this question lies in opting for the second alternative, which is the theory of fundamentality of existence.
Certainly the likes of Ibn Sina did not reject the fundamentality of existence. At that time the issue of fundamentality of essence and that of existence had not been posed among philosophers or others. Therefore this question, in the context of Ibn Sina's exposition, is one which had not been raised during that time, and it does not amount to an objection against his exposition. In any case, the objection raised by those like Kant, Hegel and Spencer is not valid even aside from the fundamentality of existence. Now we shall provide an explanation about the criterion for an effect's need for a cause. The Criterion for a Thing's Need for a Cause:
The law of causality and the cause-effect relationship between things form one of the most definite notions of human knowledge. The link and relation between the effect and its cause is not an apparent and superficial one; it is profound and permeates the very reality of the effect. That is, the effect, with all its being, is so dependent upon the cause that if the cause didn't exist, it would be impossible for the effect to come into being. All the sciences developed by man are founded upon this law. We have proved in its appropriate place that disregarding this law is tantamount to rejecting the presence of any order in the realm of being as well as negating every scientific, philosophical, logical and mathematical law. Here we do not consider it necessary to discuss this principle any further.
In this regard Islamic philosophers have posed an issue [^5] which in a some respects precedes the principle of causality. This issue is: What is the criterion of the need for a cause? On this basis, in every case-for example concerning the causal relationship between A (the cause) and B (A's effect)-two questions come to the mind:
First, why did B come into existence? The answer to this question is that the existence of A required that B come into existence, and had A not existed, B too would not have come into existence. Therefore, the existence of A is itself the answer to this question. Suppose a house is destroyed by flood and someone asks, 'Why was this house destroyed?' We reply that there was a flood.
The second question is, why does B need A and why cannot it come into existence without it? Why is not B independent of A? Obviously, the answer to this question is not that, 'That is because the existence of A required it.' We need to find another answer to this question.
The reply to the first question can be given on the basis of science, which is the product experimentation, because it is the function of science to discover causal relationships between things [^6]. Hence if we are asked as to what is the cause of B, we reply by relying on science that the cause of B is A.
But as to why B needs A and why it is not independent of A or any other cause, the answer to this question lies outside the domain of science and it is not possible to answer it by experimentation, analysis, synthesis or by distilling or grinding in a laboratory. It is here that philosophical analysis and precise rational inference come in. That is because the question does not relate to any concrete phenomenon, because although the effect's need for a cause is an undeniable reality, it is not a phenomenon isolated from the cause and the effect; that is, we do not have three external phenomena, the cause, the effect and the effect's need for a cause. On the same basis, science, whose function is to study phenomena, is incapable of answering this question, while philosophy, which is capable of discovering these relationships and penetrating into the depth of realities, is the only discipline competent to answer such questions.
From the point of view of philosophy the matter is not that B needs A because B has never been observed empirically to come into existence without A, and therefore B requires A and that the same is true of every effect with respect to its cause. From the philosophical viewpoint it is impossible for an effect to be not an effect and to be independent of the cause. The effect's dependence on the cause is inseparable from the reality of the effect, or, rather, it is the very reality of the effect. This is the reason why philosophy poses the issue in a general manner without discussing the particular causal relationship between some B and A:
What is the basis of causal dependence and where does the effect's need for a cause arise? Do things need a cause just because they are things and existents? Are thingness and existence the criteria of causal dependence, so that every thing and every existent should be dependent upon a cause just because of its being a thing and an existent? Or is it the case that mere thingness and existence are not the criteria of this dependence, because, if thingness and existence were the criteria of something they should in principle be the criteria of self- sufficience and independence, not the criteria of need and dependence. That which can appropriately serve as the criterion of neediness and dependence is some kind of deficiency in thingness and existence, not thingness and existence as such and ontic perfection.
Islamic philosophers, as well as the theologians (mutakallimun), who were the first ones to have started this debate, never considered thingness and existence per se as the criteria of neediness and dependence because that would imply that an existent needs a cause merely because it is existent. Rather, they were definite that there is another aspect of things deriving from their aspect of deficiency and nonbeing wherein lie the roots of this neediness and dependence. Altogether three theories have been advanced in this regard.