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Our Philosophy – Ayatullah Muhammad Baqir as-Sadr

IV The Dispossession Theory

This is the theory of the Islamic philosophers in general. It can be summarized in the division of the mental conceptions into the following two kind:: primary conceptions and secondary conceptions.

The primary conceptions are the conceptual foundation of the human mind. (p. 69) These primary conceptions are produced from the direct genre perception of their content. Thus, we conceive heat because we had known it by means of touch. And, we conceive a color because we had known it by means of vision. Again, we conceive sweetness because we had known it by means of taste. Similarly, we conceive an odor because we had known it by means of smell. The same is true of all the ideas that we know by means of our senses. The sense perception of every one of them is the cause of their conception and the presence of an idea about them in the human mind. These ideas form the primary foundation of conception. On the basis of this foundation, the mind establishes the secondary conceptions. With this, the stage of innovation and construction begins – the theory under consideration gives this stage the technical name ‘dispossession’. The mind produces new notions from those primary ideas. These new ideas fall outside the scope of the senses, even though they are derived and extracted from the ideas that are given to the mind and to thought by the senses.

This theory is consistent with demonstration and experiments. It is possible for it to give a solid explanation of all the conceptual units. In light of this theory, we can understand how the notions of cause and effect, substance and accident, existence and unity came about in the human mind. All of them are dispossessed notions that the mind invents in light of the sensible ideas. Thus, we perceive the boiling of water [at sea level] when its temperature reaches one hundred degrees [centigrade]. Further, our perception of rhea two phenomena -the phenomena of boiling and that of temperature – may be repeated a thousand times, yet without our ever perceiving the causation of temperature to boiling. Rather, the mind dispossesses the notion of causality from the two phenomena that are offered by the senses to the field of conception.

Due to the limitation of space, we cannot discuss the manner, kinds and divisions of mental dispossessions. This is because in this brief investigation of ours, we are not to discuss anything other than the main points. (p. 70)

Assent and Its Primary Source

We move now from the investigation of simple knowledge (conception) to the investigation of knowledge as assent that involves a judgement, and by means of which human beings obtain objective knowledge.

Every one of us knows a number of propositions and assents to them. Among such propositions, there are those in which the judgement is based on particular objective realities, as in our statements: ‘The weather is hot.’ ‘The sun is out.’ Because of this, the proposition is called ‘particular’. There are also propositions in which the judgement is based on two general ideas, as in our statements: ‘The whole is greater than the part.’ ‘One is half of two.’ ‘The indivisible part is impossible.’ ‘Heat causes boiling.’ ‘Coldness is a cause of solidification.’ ‘The circumference of the circle is greater than its diameter.’ ‘A mass is a relative reality.’ The same is true of [other] philosophical, physical and mathematical propositions. These propositions are called ‘universal’ or ‘general’. The problem that we encounter is that of knowing the origin of knowledge as assent and the principles on which the edifice of human knowledge is based. What, then, are the primary threads from which that large group of judgements and knowledge is woven? Also, what is the principle that human knowledge reaches in explanation, and is considered a general primary criterion for distinguishing truth from other things?

There are a number of philosophical doctrines concerned with this issue. Of these doctrines we will take up for study the rational doctrine and the experimental doctrine. The former is the doctrine on which Islamic philosophy, as well as the method of Islamic thinking in general, is based. The latter is the prevalent view in a number of materialistic schools, of which the Marxist school is one.

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