Monday, April 29, 2013

Knowledge as a Mode of Being: Mulla Sadra’s Theory of Knowledge: Hossein Sheykh Rezaee* and Mohammad Mansur Hashemi∗∗

Mulla Sadra’s (1571/2-1640) theory of knowledge is unique because, contrary to modern epistemology which is separate from ontology, it is a part of his ontological system and cannot be discussed in isolation. Rather than pure epistemology or ontology, Sadra has an ‘ontoepistemology’, according to which truth and being are two sides of the same coin. For this reason, this paper starts by explaining two of Sadra’s ontological doctrines: ‘the primacy of being’ and ‘the gradation of being’, both dealing with ‘being’, which is the cornerstone of Sadra’s system. After that, Sadra’s ontological definition of knowledge is explored. According to this definition, knowledge is a mode of (immaterial) being and is identical with presence.
Then Sadra’s account of the real known objects will be explained. According to him, ‘mental existences’, which are created by the soul when confronted with external objects, are the real known objects. In the next step, the relationship between the known objects and the knower will be discussed, which according to Sadra is identity. The role of knowledge, which is a factor in changing the substance of the soul, is the next issue discussed. This role will be explained by means of ‘substantial motion’, which is an important ontological doctrine in Sadra’s system. Finally, two points in Sadra’s epistemology will be considered critically: the issue of correspondence and his theory of truth. It will be argued that Sadra is not clear about the issue of correspondence and therefore his theory of knowledge cannot cover experimental knowledge.

* Faculty Member of the Iranian Institute of Philosophy, Tehran.
∗∗ Member of The Encyclopedia Islamica Foundation

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