A Compilation of Islamic Philosophy and Theology [edited]

Chapter Four: Is Learning Philosophy Necessary?

In this chapter we shall try to discover whether learning philosophy is necessary and if it is for whom? In order to answer this question we have to enumerate all the things this field of study can accomplish and briefly explain it uses. We have to study these one by one and show whether any of these function makes learning philosophy necessary and if so will it be necessary for all people or only for certain group and in the latter case which groups are these ? but before listing and discussing the use of philosophy we have to clarify what is intended by ‘necessity ‘ and what is the standard o criterion for being necessary .Therefore , we begin our discussion by defining ‘necessity ‘ and its criterion and then list the used of philosophy and discuss their necessity of philosophy and then explain its uses.

Necessity and its Criterion

Clearly enough what intended my ‘necessity ‘ here is not religion necessity or legal obligation in contract to prohibition for the study of such obligation belongs to the domain of jurisprudence rather than philosophy. It is intellectual or rational necessity. For example, if the intellects determine that acquiring a certain benefit is necessary and philosophy is used to acquire such a benefit, it naturally declares that learning philosophy necessary.

Now, let us turn our attentions to this benefit and ask why it is necessary from a rational point of view, to acquire such a benefit? In other word, what is the criterion by which reason declares a certain benefit as necessary and another as unnecessary? It is certain that according to the judgement of a sound mind all those things are necessary whose absence would 1. Harm man’s individual or social life, and 2 expose man to eternal punishment in the hereafter.

There is problem with the first criterion but regarding the second there is a problem in that many people do not believe in a divinely revealed faith and therefore have no reason to believe in eternal life and its rewards or punishment s. On the other hand, so far in this book we have not proved the existence of these things so that intellectually they have to accept them.

Therefore, this criterion cannot be accepted under these conditions.

However, this objection is not acceptable since acceptance if this criterion does not require certitude concerning the existence of eternal life and the mere fact that it may exist would suffice, and no doubt logically speaking such possibility exist.

The possibility mentioned above exist since, firstly no irrefutable proof or convincing reason denying God existence, the next world or other spiritual matter has been set forth. Therefore, we cannot be certain of the non-existence of these things and the negation of the certainty of their non- existence would lead to the possibility of their existence. Secondly this is not a week possibility, for history shows that even those who denied the prophet admitted that in their behaviour,intelligence, andunderstanding of the truth they were far ahead of their time. Thus those who have no faith in the divinely revealed religions and the prophets still cannot deny the truthfulness and intelligence of this prophet s. Moreover the holy scripture and the history of religion show that all prophet, from Adam, peace be upon him, to Mohammed, the seal of the prophet, peace be upon him and his household, without exception have informed the people of the existence of God and his oneness, the existence of the next world, the different degrees of closeness to, or remoteness from God and paradise and hell. Moreover many mystics from different nation and sects throughout history have borne witness to some of these things. To a sound intellect his great volume of evidence greatly increases the probability that such things do indeed exist.

The reason tat for the acceptance of that criterion the mere probability of the existence of these things is enough is that firstly from a logical perspective not only preventing a definite harm is necessary but so is a avoiding a probable one That is if someone thinks that there is a chance he be exposed to certain harm and avoiding that harm would not entail similar or greater harm, reason dictates that he should aroid that harm.

According to the Quranic verse , Prophetic tradition and the teaching of other holy scripture, the intentional denial of the spiritual truths mentioned above and disbelieving them will incur internal punishment the mildest of which is incomparably this world. The same dire consequence is also in store for those who neglect issue concerning the hereafter.

Secondly from the rational perspective the mathematical expectation (the amount of probability multiplied by the value of the probable ) of dealing with spiritual and otherworld thing and also the mathematical expectation of reflecting over and investigating these matters are infinite , while the mathematical expectation of the greatest worldly pleasure and joys is limited and as any sound reason would decree, once in doubt , we should choose the thing whose mathematical expectation is greater.

We can conclude, then that the second criterion also unproblematic and on its basis we can infer the rational necessity of thing. On the ground if these two criteria we can have an assessment of the uses of philosophy and shoe that it is necessary for the following groups to learn it.

1- Those who fear that natural sensuality may lead them into philosophical sensationalism.

2- Those who have doubt abut their worldview.

3- Those whose worldview is exposed to doubts.

4- Those who are obliged to defend their religion rationally.

5- Those who feel the necessity to search for a deeper understanding of divine knowledge.

6- Those scholars who are intellectually qualified to learn philosophy.

We should not forget, however , that in cases where learning philosophy is declared to be unnecessary this should not be taken to mean that it is undesirable In general there is no doubt that learning philosophy is desirable.

The uses of Philosophy and their evolution

1- Satisfying the Sense of Curiosity

Philosophy, like any other field of scholarship satisfies mans curiosity concerning question related o its subject matter. Clearly enough, if we overlook its other characteristics and consider only this single quality , learning philosophy would not be necessary for, although ignoring the sense of curiosity altogether by completely repressing it is essentially impossible , satisfying it cannot be said to make the study of philosophy a necessity. Both in the past or at present there have been many people who do not study any field of scholarship. Including philosophy and so have ignored their instinctive curiosity, nevertheless, they have enjoyed relatively comfortable lives and who have attained spiritual stations.

2- Removing Double Ignorance

All forms of learning, including philosophy, put an end to man double ignorance concerning issues related to their subject. For example, many people wrongly believe in chance and accident, or mistakenly believe that spirit is material, and by philosophical demonstration we can make such people aware of their mistakes. Still however, if we overlook other characteristics of philosophy and evaluate philosophy would not be necessary. For in general man‘s ignorance of certain things neither disrupts his life in this world nor ruin it in the hereafter. It is true that it would be right to say that doubt ignorance about issues discussed in philosophy can be harmful to his life in this world and the another issue altogether and will be discussed in due course. Therefore the mere removal of double ignorance does not make learning philosophy necessary.

3- The Indispensable Foundation of Life.

What is meant by the above title is that life without philosophical statement would be impossible. In order to understand the turn of this claim we may consider one simple routine occurrence. Suppose that you have returned from your friend’s house but you suddenly remember that you have left your ring on his dinner table. You call him, describe the ring to him and ask him if he has found it. After looking for it, he tells you, “there is no ring on the table, but there is a ring under the table which is yours.” The analysis of this simple occurrence shows that it cannot be justified without presupposing a number of philosophical statements.

For example, let us consider the statement; we have to presuppose the concepts of existence, nonexistence, object or thing, essence or substance (by which is meant the body of the table or the ring), space and time. All these concepts are intellectual rather than tangible. Moreover, to make this statement true, we have to assume the truth of the following philosophical statement:

1- ‘A thing that is seen in a certain place must be there’.

Without presupposing this statement we cannot accept that there is a ring under the table.

2- ‘A visible thing which is not seen in a certain place is not there.’ Without presupposing this statement we cannot accept that there is no ring on the table.

3- ‘Behind these visible appearances, such as colour, shape and size, there is a substance or an essence, in short a body, such as a ring or a table, etc.’ Without presupposing this statement we cannot speak of the ring or the table.

4- ‘The spatial position of a particular object is an accidental issue and changing it would not result in turning that object into something else.’ Without presupposing this statement we cannot be sure the ring under the table is the same that was on the table.

5- ‘The temporal position of an object is an accidental issue and changing it would not cause the thing in question to turn into something else.’ Without presupposing this statement we cannot be sure whether the present ring is the same as the one that existed before.

6- ‘The agreement of two contradictories or their simultaneous elimination is impossible,’ which, applied both true and false, or neither true nor false. It must necessary be either true or false. Without presupposing this statement we can argue that your formed statement is both true and false or it is neither true nor false.

7- Every body occupies a space and space is not an illusory or imaginary things. Although this statement has nothing to do for the ring here and there is based on ones belief in the existence of space.

Further reflection will perhaps rival more statement and presupposition. If we look closely into our and other daily affair, we see that we use much other philosophical statement, such ad causal necessity the law of causal homogeneity, the law of the simultaneity of cause and affect the impossibility of regress and so on. These philosophical statements exist in all human minds people believe in them and constantly use them, though perhaps not consciously. We many appreciate the function of these statement in our every life if we imagine a situation in which they were complete erased from the people minds for a shirt time or everyone seriously believed them to be false we would seaside perceive , then , that in such a situation life would degenerate into utter choa.

Does the benefit just allude to make the study of philosophy necessary? No for all people gradually perceive these statements and unconsciously use them without any need to learn philosophy. Why these statement are also called common sense conviction. Furthermore, no doubt they are not clearly or precisely understood in their common sense usage. In philosophy they become more exact, their meaning are clarified their limit and boundaries are defined and objective to be answered. In short their ambiguity is removed <Still, we do not need this clarification to manage our daily affair s and can content ourselves with their common interpretation.

Defining the Border between Sense and Reason

In order to delineate the border between sense and reason must return to the hypothetical situation mentioned above.

Prior to our analysis of that situation , we could not recognise that intellectual presupposition employed in it, believed it to be a completely sensible occurrence and thought that in similar situation , namely in simple routine events, the intellect does not play an important role.

However, after the analysis we begin to realise our mistake. Now what kind of analysis is that? Certainly it is a philosophical analyse a simple ordinary occurrence to determine precisely the contribution of intellect in that occurrence and show that even in the simplest and most sensible issues we cannot overlook the contribution of intellect and say that our only mean id knowledge are the sense or only those statement are valid that are confirmed by sense and experience. So, one of the uses of philosophy is that it teaches man that the role of the sense in his life is much more limited and that of the intellect much greater, than what he be lives. In other words, learning philosophy liberates man from that natural sensationalism which because of our natural life affect.

However, does this benefit make learning philosophy fro all or most people , since natural sensationalism does not create any problem for our everyday life as most people are affected by it and still face no difficulties in their lives. It is also not incompatible with admitting intellectual accepts propositions or demonstrations so that it should end with blasphemy and denial of life in the hereafter, and so come under the second criterion. He who is affected by y this sensationalism also admits the self-evident intellectual concepts and proposition and accepts and employs their demonstrations that are founded on them and can prove the existence of God and the next world by them. His only mistake is that he thinks that many of these concepts and propositions are sensible and empirical rather than intellectual. it is true that those who fear that natural sensationalism nay lead them to philosophical sensationalism, according to which all intellectual concepts and study of God or the hereafter is possible, may find it necessary to learn philosophy to understand the undeniable contribution of intellect indifferent field of learning.

1- A Holistic Outlook

In the first chapter it was says that the subject of philosophy unlike the subjects of other branched of knowledge is general and logistic and therefore in contrast to other field of scholarship philosophical investigation is not limited to a particular aspect of the world. This difference makes philosophy unlike other kinds of knowledge, holistic and comprehensive in its outlook that is it give us an outline and picture of the whole world of being?

Does this characteristic make learning philosophy necessary? No for acquiring such a picture to the required extent can also be obtained through the conviction if a intellect and there is no need for learning philosophy. No doubt the picture provide by philosophy is much more exact and complete than the one set more desirable, but such an exact picture according to the two criteria set forth earlier is unnecessary .

2- A Profound Outlook

Most of the people often look superficially at the phenomena they encounter in this world. They see many things that are apparently diverse and different and see no connection or similarity between them, such as the fall of different bodies on earth the rotation of the moon round the earth the flow and ebb of the sea, the arrow -like route of the of canon shell, and the change of season However, scholars look at these things more profoundly. On the basis of certain philosophy and non- philosophical presupposition s and by experiment and reflection, they look into phenomena are indeed similar to each other for it is only one law (that appears in different forms) such as general gravel which in one place appears in the form of the fall of bodies to earth and in another place in the form of the rotation of the moon round the earth and so on .Second on the basis of this one dominant law all apparently diverse things and phenomena are linked with each other in a causal relationship In short scientists do not content themselves with the appearance and the surface of things and phenomena, but by probing them deeply look at roots and see a united and coherent world. But how far does this probing and looking in depth continue? It continues until they come to presuppositions. As soon as they reach this point they stop and scientific investigation comes to an end. However, philosophy start precisely at this point and philosophical investigation begins here. In its analysis confirmation, negation, endorsement, and explanation of philosophical presuppositions of science, philosophy looks even more deeply into things. Therefore in this journey from the surface of phenomena to their depths, and in this profound investigation, philosophy begins where all other branched of learning stop. It deals with the roots on which other discipline depend and by the help of which try to explore the phenomena we encounter in the world, philosophy looks at root of all other field of learning and this is why it is deeper than other discipline. This profound approach is not limited to philosophical discussion about the presupposition of science but rather philosophy discussions and perspective in general are essentially profound and deep.

However does its deep outlook make learning philosophy necessary? The answer is negative for most people, for though the deep philosophical perspective is interesting and desirable its absence will not disturb man life either in this world or in the next. we have all know ,many people who did not have this deep outlook but incurred no great material or spiritual harm because of it , it is true that if a society lacks such deep thinkers altogether it ill face culture decay and deterioration and no doubt this decadence may disturb its social life .

Therefore this characteristic makes it necessary that in every society some learned and qualified people should study philosophy and specialise.

Providing The Presuppositions of the other fields of Study

It was explained in the last chapter that all branches of knowledge posses some general particular philosophical presuppositions without which research in those discipline would be either meaningless is impossible. The principle of non- contradiction , the principle of the possibility of knowledge , the principle of causality, the law of causal necessity, the law of causal homogeneity , the law of the simultaneity of cause and effect , the impossibility of circle and degree , the impossibility of opposition , the principle if simplicity the existence or nonexistence of nature , the existence or nonexistence of nature movement, the existence or nonexistence of absolute space the existence or non-existence of the whole as something independence from the part determinism versus free will. The existence or non - existence of quantity in the external world and many other philosophical laws and proposition are among there presuppositions. Some of these are discussed in philosophy , some other in type of philosophy that is used in genitive constructions, such as the philosophy of the empirical science , the philosophy of mathematic , the philosophy of the social science and the philosophy of science and skill other problems, in their different aspects are studied in both. We can say, then that it is philosophy that provide many of the presupposition of the other field of study depend, each discipline is dependent on a certain form of philosophy and when that discipline is accepted and finds current and as soon as that philosophy associated with it also become as that philosophy is destroyed that particular discipline will also be undermined. In short it is not the case that every philosophy can permit any intellectual discipline to grow out of it or to be more evident in the humanities and especially in the social science.

Does this characteristic make learning philosophy necessary?

The truth is that if we consider only this characteristic and disregards the impact of these branches of knowledge on man private and social life, still according to our two criteria the answer would be in the negative, for the mere fact that philosophy provides the presupposition of the other field of learning does not make learning ir necessary. It is true, however that if we consider the impact of these intellectual disciplines on man individual and social life it world is a different story and we shall do this in 2.8.

Providing The Fundamental Principle of Systems and Movement

As every intellectual disciple is dependent on true or false philosophical presuppositions or in other words as every field of learning is dependent on a type of philosophy, every social movement and every human system are also dependent on a philosophy. The Nazi Fascist and Marxist movement were dependent on the philosophies of Nazism Fascism and Marxism. Less important movement such as those of the Hippies, the Beatles, the Punks and the Raps are also dependant on their philosophies. In general al big or small movement that have emerged or will emerge have been influenced and will be influenced by a particular philosophy. Every kind of human systems whether ethical, political, legal economic or educational also depends on principle and presuppositions most of which are essentially philosophy.

Thus it is the task of philosophy that provides the principle and presuppositions of systems and movement. In short every true or false social movement or human system is based on a particular philosophy true or false. Social philosophers deal with these philosophies directly. However other social classes also have some understanding of these philosophies and in a general way and directly are affected by them through the circulation of the ideal promoted by this philosopher and because of this influence a particular philosophy becomes current in the society and is widely accepted by the public. Clearly enough a society will accept only those movement and system that are compatible with its accepted philosophy. Accordingly, every with any type of philosophy. Form this we can understand the hidden role of philosophy in man individual and social life As we have already seen, because of this characteristic philosophy plays a hidden role individual and social life of the people so that absence of a true philosophy may lead to confusion in those spheres and even lead to their Nazim Fascim and Marxism imposed on the human society or on a part of it, proves this claim. Hence according to the first criterion, there is no doubt that the existence of a true philosophy is necessary to avoid such damages and this in true make the study of philosophy necessary. Would it, however be necessary for all people? The answer is no .in fact the existence of a number of learned philosophy would be enough for once their thoughts circulate in the society other will be duly influence.

Therefore because of this characteristic, it is necessary that you should be some learned and well-qualified people to learned become experts in philosophy.

Laying the Foundation of Worldviews

We have all seen or heard about sages whom no worldly joy or bliss could make happily nor any misfortune or defeat downcast and forlorn. In contract, we have seen many people who have been destroyed by small miseries and misfortunes. Where is the root of this difference? it lies in their attitude towards existence , themselves their future their happiness or misfortune the world and its joy and pains. In short it lies i their attitude toward the world and the position of man in it, that is, in their ‘’ worldview’’ it would be no exaggeration if we say that no aspect of man could be more important than his worldview for this affects or rather determines all this action, his life in this world and in the hereafter and all his private and social affairs. Therefore in light of the two criteria already set forth, having a correct worldview is necessary for every one A worldview or as it has been described above, the individual attitude toward the world and man positions in it contain three basic questions:

1- Is the cause of the world phenomena, including man only material action and reaction and no non- material power has an role in their creation or even the creation of matter its lf? And essentially is existence equal to matter or is it rather that the material world is only a part of the world of existence, depending for it realization on another being that lies beyond it? in other words, does the world need a god and if it does , does it need gods, or is it that the existence of gods is impossible and the one God satisfies all that needs of being including man?

2- Is man life confirmed to his life in this world, or does he also have another life after death? And if he has another life is it limited or eternal? In my case, what is its relationship with his life in this world? This question entails another question Besides his corporeal body does man have something else called ‘spirit’

3- What is the surest way to find the right plan for one private and social life? Besides the conventional plans available to people, which in practice result in contradictory conclusions; is there any other plan whose validity is certain? The importance of the last question becomes more apparent when the answer to the second question is affirmative; that is, we come to the conclusion that man has an eternal life after death and he has to prepare, with his voluntary work in this mortal life, for felicity in the one to come. In that case, finding a sure means that shows the relationship between the two lives and an exact plan that can ensure eternal happiness becomes more urgent, and to the extent that life after death is valued more, finding the way to ensure happiness in it becomes more important. The first question is discussed under the title of “Monotheism”, the second under ‘Resurrection’ and third under ‘Prophet Hood’, which collectively account for the basic convictions is also necessary.

Does this make learning philosophy necessary for all people? Still the answer is negative. For most people, whose minds are not used to critiquing and raising questions can, on the basis of common sense convictions, find the correct answers to the philosophical questions related to worldview. What makes people err in their attempt to find worldview is the fact that they are prey to opposing inclinations rather than lack of proof or ignorance of philosophy? Hence, the philosophical nature of the questions discussed in worldview does not oblige people to learn philosophy. It is true, however that his characteristic makes learning philosophy necessary for the following two groups:

4- Those who have doubts about their worldview and are not certain whether it is right or wrong. Their mind is active and meticulous, and they cannot be satisfied with the simple proofs with which common people are contented. No doubt such people need the help of philosophy.

5- Those who have the right worldview, the monotheistic worldview, and have no doubt in it for the time being, but


1- How many factors does the necessity criterion include? Name them.

2- What are the uses of philosophy?

3- Which groups have to learn philosophy?

4- What is the difference between philosophical propositions and their corresponding common sense convictions?

5- By giving an example, show that philosophy looks at phenomena more deeply than science and science looks at the phenomena more deeply than convention!

6- Name the essential questions of worldview and explain them briefly.

7- It is possible that in Muslim countries, as long as the people believe in Islam, economic systems that abolish private ownership to be established and stabilized? Why? (In your answer you may also consider the philosophical aspect of the question).

8- In the holy verse “When you threw, it was not you that threw, but God who threw” (Anfal “8”:17) which refers to a pebble or an arrow thrown by the prophet, peace be upon him and his household, two issues have been admitted simultaneously:

1- Throwing is the Prophet’s action , peace be upon him and his household (because of the expression “when you threw”);

2- Throwing is God’s action (becaus e of the expression “but God threw”).

Explain on the solution of what philosophical question deep understanding of the compatibility of the two depend?

3- Explain how deep understanding o f the verse “And God created you and what you make” (Saffat “37”:96) depend on solving the philosophical problem on solving the philosophical problem of how one action may have two agents.

4- On understanding what philosophica l issue does deep understanding of the holy verse “But you will not unless God wills” (Insan “76”:30) depend?