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I’ve been thinking about substantial motion lately. The following are some (rather sketchy) notes I jotted down (for a forthcoming paper) as an argument (against the Sadrian view) occurred to me. I take the two horns of the dilemma below, on Avicennian grounds, as a reductio ad absurdum of substantial motion.

First, some preliminary premises:

Once having established motion in substance, Mulla Sadra goes on to make a two-fold identification: (1) he identifies, fi’l-kharij, body with motion and (2), on the basis of tashkik al-wujud, he identifies being material or corporeal in general with fluxive existence simpliciter, such that, on his view, to be material just is to be something constantly changing in every way. Moreover, for him, quiddities, as something fixed or stable, are merely i’tibari; hence, any given material thing, say what we call that horse over there in the barn, has no fixed extra-mental reality, as a horse, independent of our mental act of ‘cutting’ a particular ‘slice’ out of the flow of one gradational material existence and calling that slice ‘this horse’. In other words, that particular horse qua such is nothing but some fleeting or passing moment, fixed or determined as such only by the mind, in the flux that is material existence.

The argument:

Does God know the ‘flow’ that is any given material substance? If, one the one hand, He does know it, then He’s implicated in change, which is a conclusion Sadra agrees to be absurd. Or at the very least, I don’t see how He would not be implicated in the flux of material being. One cannot appeal to Him knowing it through some putative (immutable) archetypes or intelligibles – for (1) He would not know it precisely as a flow and so would not know it as it is (more on this point later); and (2) that move of the proponent would just beg the question insofar as it assumes that there are such things in the first place to appeal to. For a proof of such things in God’s knowledge, it seems to me, would have to presuppose that there are such things in this world; but, according to Sadra, in the material world there are no real (immutable) essences – again, a given material substance is just a particular mode of existence, conceived as static only in the mind, but always in flux in external reality insofar as it undergoes motion in its very substance. On the other hand, if God does not know the flow, then He cannot be its cause. Proof of the consequent: God’s simplicity (more on this later). And so, contra Sadra, God cannot then be the cause of material being, which, among other things, militates against his doctrine of constant re-creation or huduth-e ‘alam.

 

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