Being in Islamic philosophy::Being


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Being in Islamic philosophy The nature of "being" has also been debated and explored in Islamic philosophy, notably by Ibn Sina (=Avicenna), Suhrawardi, and Mulla Sadra.<ref>Iranian Personalities</ref>
A modern linguistic approach which notices that Persian language has exceptionally developed two kinds of "is"es, i.e. ast ("is", as a copula) and hast (as an existential "is") examines the linguistic properties of the two lexemes in the first place, then evaluates how the statements made by other languages with regard to being can stand the test of Persian frame of reference.
It is noticed that the original language of the source, e.g. Greek, German and English, has only one word for two concepts, ast and hast, or, like Arabic, has no word at all for either word. It therefore exploits the Persian hast (existential is) versus ast (predicative is or copula) to address both Western and Islamic ontological arguments on being and existence.<ref>Toofan, M. Zabān ast yā hast?(Language: is or exists?. Ketāb-e Tehran, 2000</ref>
(See also The Philosophical Outcomes of Persian treatment of Indo-European copula) This linguistic method shows the scope of confusion created by languages which cannot differentiate between existential be and copula. It manifests, for instance, that the main theme of Heidegger's Being and Time is astī (is-ness) rather than hastī (existence). When, in the beginning of his book, Heidegger claims that people always talk about existence in their everyday language, without knowing what it means, the example he resorts to is: "the sky is blue" which in Persian can be ONLY translated with the use of the copula ast, and says nothing about being or existence.
In the same manner, the linguistic method addresses the ontological works written in Arabic. Since Arabic, like Latin in Europe, had become the official language of philosophical and scientific works in the so-called Islamic World, the early Persian or Arab philosophers had difficulty discussing being or existence, since the Arabic language, like other Semitic languages, had no verb for either predicative "be" (copula) or existential "be". So if you try to translate the aforementioned Heidegger's example into Arabic it appears as السماء زرقاء (viz. "The Sky-- blue") with no linking "is" to be a sign of existential statement. To overcome the problem, when translating the ancient Greek philosophy, certain words were coined like ایس aysa (from Arabic لیس laysa 'not') for 'is'. Eventually the Arabic verb وجد wajada (to find) prevailed, since it was thought that whatever is existent, is to be "found" in the world. Hence existence or Being was called وجود wujud (Cf. Swedish finns [found]> there exist; also the Medieval Latin coinage of exsistere 'standing out (there in the world)' > appear> exist).
Now, with regard to the fact that Persian, as the mother tongue of both Avicenna and Sadrā, was in conflict with either Greek or Arabic in this regard, these philosophers should have been warned implicitly by their mother tongue not to confuse two kinds of linguistic beings (viz. copula vs. existential). In fact when analyzed thoroughly, copula, or Persian ast ('is') indicates an ever-moving chain of relations with no fixed entity to hold onto (every entity, say A, will be dissolved into "A is B" and so on, as soon as one tries to define it). Therefore, the whole reality or what we see as existence ("found" in our world) resembles an ever changing world of astī (is-ness) flowing in time and space. On the other hand, while Persian ast can be considered as the 3rd person singular of the verb 'to be', there is no verb but an arbitrary one supporting hast ('is' as an existential be= exists) has neither future nor past tense and nor a negative form of its own: hast is just a single untouchable lexeme. It needs no other linguistic element to be complete (Hast. is a complete sentence meaning "s/he it exists"). In fact, any manipulation of the arbitrary verb, e.g. its conjugation, turns hast back into a copula. (For detailed discussion, see General Features and Persian sections of IE Copula)
Eventually from such linguistic analyses, it appears that while astī (is-ness) would resemble the world of Heraclitus, hastī (existence) would rather approaches a metaphysical concept resembling the Parmenidas's interpretation of existence.
In this regard, Avicenna, who was a firm follower of Aristotle, could not accept either Heraclitian is-ness (where only constant was change), nor Parmenidean monist immoveable existence (the hastī itself being constant). To solve the contradiction, it so appeared to Philosophers of Islamic world that Aristotle considered the core of existence (i.e. its substance/ essence) as a fixed constant, while its facade (accident) was prone to change. To translate such a philosophical image into Persian it is like having hastī (existence) as a unique constant core covered by astī (is-ness) as a cloud of ever-changing relationships. It is clear that the Persian language, deconstructs such a composite as a sheer mirage, since it is not clear how to link the interior core (existence) with the exterior shell (is-ness). Furthermore, hast cannot be linked to anything but itself (as it is self-referent).
The argument has a theological echos as well: assuming that God is the Existence, beyond time and space, a question is raised by philosophers of the Islamic world as how He, as a transcendental existence, may ever create or contact a world of is-ness in space-time.
However, Avicenna who was more philosopher than theologian, followed the same line of argumentation as that of his ancient master, Aristotle, and tried to reconcile between ast and hast, by considering the latter as higher order of existence than the former. It is like a hierarchical order of existence. It was a philosophical Tower of Babel that the restriction of his own mother tongue (Persian) would not allow to be built, but he could maneuver in Arabic by giving the two concepts the same name wujud, although with different attributes. So, implicitly, astī (is-ness) appears as ممکن الوجود "momken-al-wujud" (contingent being), and hastī (existence) as واجب الوجود "wājeb-al-wujud" (necessary being).
On the other hand, centuries later, Sadrā, chose a more radical rout, by inclining towards the reality of astī (is-ness), as the true mode of existence, and tried to get rid of the concept of hastī (existence as fixed or immovable). Thus, in his philosophy, the universal movement penetrates deep into the Aristotelian substance / essence, in unison with changing accident. He called this deep existential change حرکت جوهری harekat-e jowhari (Substantial Movement). It is obvious that in such a changing existence, the whole world has to go through instantaneous annihilation and recreation incessantly, while as Avicenna had predicted in his remarks on Nature, such a universal change or substantial movement would eventually entail the shortening and lengthening of time as well which has never been observed. This logical objection, which was made on Aristotle's argumentation, could not be answered in the ancient times or medieval age, but now it does not sound contradictory to the real nature of Time (as addressed in relativity theory), so by a reverse argument, a philosopher may indeed deduce that everything is changing (moving) even in the deepest core of Being.

Being sections
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Being in Islamic philosophy
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