God’s knowledge and the flux that is material being

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.



6 thoughts on “God’s knowledge and the flux that is material being

  1. salam friend.

    If the things are nothing but different grades of existence, what is the thing that make the things different relative to each other?

    If it’s the existence itself, all the things would have been one species with variances in just attributes, but that is not the case. What I mean is this: let’s take light as an example. If it was existence that was the cause of differences in different shades of light, then we would assume it is possible that some lights are dimmer compared to other lights. But we do not have only light in the existential realm, but other species such as human, chimpanzee, dolphin, rotating chair, etc… We cannot say that they are all DIFFERENT species because they are different grades of existence, because there has to be a cause independent of the what is to be caused from a cause.

    If existence (wujud) is similar to life (in a broader sense, such as a rock has life in it in so far as it is found in the existential realm), then we see that life itself is not sufficient to predicate change in the receptacles it get infused with (but is necessary – it is the essence that suffices a thing to be what it is in addition to life or existence).

    If this is tackled, there is no need to get in to the latter portion of the argument.


    1. salam my friend, hope you’re well.

      can you please clarify the relation of the points that you raised to the two horns of the dilemma that i raised for the Sadrian? thanks in advance.

      1. Salam.

        I am well my friend. Hope you as well.

        The relation is that if there are essences, then the concept of gradual motion or change of essences is refuted because it is not intelligible for an essence to be itself and change at the same time.

        Hence, God would know them in spite of their constant (material or existential) flux – (This is to stay within the frame of the argument, not to say that God does not know the particulars’ motion in time of the motion but only know them universally through the essences because essences are fixed or immutable entities; which is another topic of discussion).


      2. right, but Sadra rejects that there are real essences in the world. he thinks there is just one modulated existence which, in its material mode, is constantly in change/flux. one conclusion i’ve argued for is that He cannot know this flux without Himself changing.

  2. Indded my friend.

    That is why, in my initial response (to sadra’s view), I objected to his concept of non-existence of essences by providing some points.

    Be safe, Salam for now.

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