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Transcendent Philosophy 2, 173-191 © London Academy of Iranian Studies

The Notions of Māhiyyah and Eidos: A Comparison


between Sadrā’s Transcendent Philosophy and Husserl’s
Phenomenology

Abdul Rahim Afaki

Abstract
Both Mullā Sadrā and Edmund Husserl are the philosophers of
transcendence but different from each other with respect to partly their
own character and partly their affiliation with two different domains of
thought namely Muslim philosophy and Sūfism and Western philosophy
respectively. Sadrā’s ikmatal-H al-Muta‘āliyyah (Transcendent
Wisdom)1 is characterized as eclecticism in the sense that this is an
attempt of reconciliation of and, at the same time, reaction against his
predecessors like Aristotle, Ibn-Sīnā, Ibn-‘Arabī, the Illuminationists
and the Peripatetics etc. In addition, he also incorporates the Muslim
theological elements in his thought. On the contrary, Husserl’s
transcendental philosophy, far more well known as phenomenology, is
claimed to be ‘a radical way of philosophizing’ which rejects every
‘presupposition’ whatsoever pre-given by past philosophies, religion,
culture and tradition.

Two Philosophers, if they are recognized by the same trait,


must have some intellectual resemblance though there might be
certain differences, whether major or minor, between them. Both of
our thinkers reject rational conceptual process as an appropriate way
of approaching reality. Instead, both focus on intuitive experience to
unveil reality. In their philosophies of transcendence, the notion of
essence plays a vital role but its relationship to reality is perceived
differently. This will be the focal point of my paper. I would like
here to explore the notions of ‘Māhiyyah’ and ‘eidos’ as expounded
174 Abdul Rahim Afaki

by Sadrā and Husserl respectively. Māhiyyah and eidos are two


different versions of the notion of essence that is a very significant
milestone through their paths to reality. For Sadrā, the ultimate
reality is the Necessary Existence (al-Wujūd al-Wājib) which is
absolutely objective and transcendent and so cognizable only
through the Gnostic experience (‘Irfān). The Necessary Existent is
to impart existence to the individuals to make them ‘accidental
existences’ as the sun, being a source of light, is to impart light to
other objects in order to illuminate them as they appear to us.
Whereas the essence of an existent is not an objectively existing
reality rather it is a subjective working out of the nature of
particulars by human rationality. So essence always remains, for
Sadrā, a secondary reality that is construed by a subjective mind
rather than cognized as an objective reality. Furthermore, essence as
a secondary reality is unified (muttahid) with existence which is a
primordial reality that can never be known by conceptual mind but
only the Gnostic experience can unfold it.

Unlike Sadrā’s al-Hikmat al-Muta‘āliyyah being grounded


upon the difference between essence and existence Husserl’s
phenomenology is based on the relationship between essence (eidos)
and the thing in itself. For him, eidos is tantamount to the thing-in-
itself so his main focus is to workout an ‘eidetic method’ to reach at
eidos; once it is achieved then the thing in itself will never be veiled
any more. His eidetic method begins with the ‘bracketing’ of all
ideas, concepts and beliefs pre-given by culture and tradition. With
this bracketing one absolutely breaks with actuality and is led to the
‘transcendental-subjective consciousness.’ This consciousness as a
pure intuition grasps eide (pl. of eidos) of individual beings and so
gives rise to the whole life-world as an object constituted by a
subject.
Drawing from their views on philosophy, this study will
explore the meanings of transcendence as manifested in Husserl’s
and Sadrā’s thought. Furthermore, it will delineate how their
The Notions of Māhiyyah and Eidos: A Comparison… 175

concepts of philosophy and transcendence lead towards the notion of


essence.

Both Mullā Sadrā and Edmund Husserl are the philosophers


of transcendence but different from each other with respect to partly
their own character and partly their affiliation with two different
domains of thought namely Muslim philosophy and Sūfism and
Western philosophy respectively. Sadrā’s al-Hikmat al-
Muta‘āliyyah (Transcendent Wisdom)1 is characterized as
eclecticism in the sense that this is an attempt of reconciliation of
and, at the same time, reaction against his predecessors like
Aristotle, Ibn-Sīnā, Ibn-‘Arabī, the Illuminationists and the
Peripatetics etc. In addition, he also incorporates the Muslim
theological elements in his thought. On the contrary, Husserl’s
transcendental philosophy, far more well known as phenomenology,
is claimed to be ‘a radical way of philosophizing’ which rejects
every ‘presupposition’ whatsoever pre-given by past philosophies,
religion, culture and tradition.

Two Philosophers, if they are recognized by the same trait,


must have some intellectual resemblance though there might be
certain differences, whether major or minor, between them. Both of
our thinkers reject rational conceptual process as an appropriate way
of approaching reality. Instead, both focus on intuitive experience to
unveil reality. In their philosophies of transcendence, the notion of
essence plays a vital role but its relationship to reality is perceived
differently. This will be the focal point of my paper. I would like
here to explore the notions of ‘Māhiyyah’ and ‘eidos’ as expounded
by Sadrā and Husserl respectively. Māhiyyah and eidos are two
different versions of the notion of essence that is a very significant
milestone through their paths to reality. For Sadrā, the ultimate
reality is the Necessary Existence (al-Wujūd al-Wājib) which is
absolutely objective and transcendent and so cognizable only
through the Gnostic experience (‘Irfān). The Necessary Existent is
176 Abdul Rahim Afaki

to impart existence to the individuals to make them ‘accidental


existences’ as the sun, being a source of light, is to impart light to
other objects in order to illuminate them as they appear to us.
Whereas the essence of an existent is not an objectively existing
reality rather it is a subjective working out of the nature of
particulars by human rationality. So essence always remains, for
Sadrā, a secondary reality that is construed by a subjective mind
rather than cognized as an objective reality. Furthermore, essence as
a secondary reality is unified (muttahid) with existence which is a
primordial reality that can never be known by conceptual mind but
only the Gnostic experience can unfold it.

Unlike Sadrā’s al-Hikmat al-Muta‘āliyyah being grounded


upon the difference between essence and existence Husserl’s
phenomenology is based on the relationship between essence (eidos)
and the thing in itself. For him, eidos is tantamount to the thing-in-
itself so his main focus is to workout an ‘eidetic method’ to reach at
eidos; once it is achieved then the thing in itself will never be veiled
any more. His eidetic method begins with the ‘bracketing’ of all
ideas, concepts and beliefs pre-given by culture and tradition. With
this bracketing one absolutely breaks with actuality and is led to the
‘transcendental-subjective consciousness.’ This consciousness as a
pure intuition grasps eide (pl. of eidos) of individual beings and so
gives rise to the whole life-world as an object constituted by a
subject.

Drawing from their views on philosophy, this study will


explore the meanings of transcendence as manifested in Husserl’s
and Sadrā’s thought. Furthermore, it will delineate how their
concepts of philosophy and transcendence lead towards the notion of
essence.
The Notions of Māhiyyah and Eidos: A Comparison… 177

Views on Philosophy

Husserl’s and Sadrā’s views on philosophy are very


significant in order to expound their notions of essence, for these
notions are deeply rooted in what they understand and how they
interpret philosophy. Sadrā defines philosophy as ‘the perfecting of
the human self by cognizing through demonstration, within the
limits of man’s potentiality, the realities of the things in themselves
in terms of judgments rather than mere opinions or imitations’
(AsfārI, p.20). He further equates this definition with the view that
philosophy ‘is an attempt of man, within the limits of his
potentiality, to establish an intellectual order in relation to the
cosmos in order to become like the Divine’ (AsfārI, p.20). These
views reflect that Sadrā is not only a Sūfī whose objective is to have
the religious experience par excellence characterized by becoming
one with God. Rather in order to have that experience he focuses on
the intellectual grasping of all aspects of human life from its Origin
(al-Mabdā’) to the afterworld (al-Ma‘ād). He designs a grand
intellectual scheme for perfecting his soul by accumulating the
Divine Wisdom (al-Hikmat al-Ilāhiyyah) that encompasses all
domain of knowledge including ‘the knowledge of God, the angels
and the Divine Scriptures.’ That is to say, the Divine Wisdom ranges
from ‘the knowledge of how God originated the world,’ ‘what the
laws of nature are’ and ‘how they determine the functions of
cosmos’ to ‘the knowledge of human self,’ ‘how it is related to the
world’ as well as ‘to the Heavens (al-Malā’ al-ā‘la)’ (AsfārI, pp.2-
3). Owing to the mind-body dualism of human existence, Sadrā
divides philosophy into two types of hikma (wisdom) namely the
theoretical wisdom (al-hikamt al-nazariyyah) and the practical
wisdom (al-hikmat al-‘amaliyyah)2 corresponding to the ‘abstract
thinking’ and ‘the relational action’ of man respectively (AsfārI,
p.20). The task of the former is to cognize, with perfection, the
reality of the extraneous phenomena as things in themselves.
Whereas the objective of the later is to engage with the good actions
178 Abdul Rahim Afaki

in order to reach to the moral height. Thereby ‘the human soul can
be able to control the human body so that it becomes totally
determined and dictated by the soul.’ As we have said earlier
Sadrā’s thought is eclectic in nature: the same is the case with his
definition of philosophy. So far he tends to amalgamate the
intellectual grasping of the things in themselves with the Sūfī
experience of becoming one with the Divine. Moreover, while he
explains the two types of wisdom he refers to the Qur’ān and the
Hadīth to further elaborate his view of philosophy. In case of the
theoretical wisdom he quotes a Hadīth in which the Prophet
Muhammad is reported to ask Allah to make him ‘see the things as
they are in themselves.’ Whereas drawing upon the verses 4, 5 and 6
of Sūrat al-Tīn (Chapter 95 of the Qur’ān) Sadrā explains the
combination of the theoretical and the practical wisdom. The Qur’ān
says:

We have indeed created man in the best of moulds (ahsani taqwīm),


then we abased him to the lowest of the low (asfala sāfilīn) except those
who believe and do righteous deeds, and so for them shall be a reward
everlasting. (Qur’ān 95:4-6)

According to Sadrā, the term ahsani taqwīm (the best of


moulds) refers to the distinct and pure nature of the human soul
whereas the phrase asfala sāfilīn (the lowest of the low) defines the
bodily aspect of the human existence that was derived from the
‘dense’ (kathīf) and the ‘dark’ (muzlim) material. Moreover, the
phrase “those who believe” corresponds to those who have the
theoretical wisdom. That is to say, when once one totally submits to
Allāh one finds oneself able to know the reality of the world through
one’s belief in the Divine revelation. This ability necessarily leads
one to al-‘amal al-sālih (the good deed) which is the sphere of the
practical wisdom. So Īmān (belief) and al-‘amal al-sālih correspond
to the theoretical and the practical wisdom respectively. When one
perfects oneself in terms of this bipartite wisdom one leads oneself
to become like the Divine. This two-dimensional view of philosophy
The Notions of Māhiyyah and Eidos: A Comparison… 179

(Falsafah) or wisdom (Hikmah) of Sadrā’s is known as al-Hikmat


al-Muta‘āliyah (Transcendental Wisdom)3 (AsfārI, pp.21-22).

Unlike Sadrā’s eclectic view of Transcendental Wisdom, as


discussed above, Edmund Husserl, rejecting every presupposition
given by tradition, culture, philosophy and science, emphasizes a
radical way of philosophizing which he calls ‘transcendental
phenomenology.’ Drawing upon Descartes’ Meditations, he tends
‘to begin with new meditationes de prima philosophia’ subjected ‘to
a Cartesian overthrow the immense philosophical literature with its
medley of great traditions.’ That is to say, Husserl’s transcendental
phenomenology begins with ‘absolute poverty of knowledge’ being
devoid of any philosophical presupposition or pre-judgment (CM,
pp.1-6). This beginning of philosophical investigations with absolute
poverty of knowledge to cognize the phenomena is the first step of
Husserl’s phenomenological method which he calls ‘the
phenomenological éπoχή (epoche).’ The epoche is not the denial or
doubt (as in case of the Cartesian method) concerning the existence
of world. Instead, it is a ‘bracketing’ or ‘suspension’ ‘which
completely bars’ the beginners of philosophy ‘from using any
judgment that concerns spatio-temporal existence’ (Ideas, pp.110-
111). At this moment of complete ‘disconnexion’ through the
phenomenological epoche the only thing that ‘remains unaffected’ is
the ‘consciousness in itself.’ That is to say, at the moment of epoche
there happens a reduction-a leading back to ‘pure consciousness’
which is the only ‘phenomenological residuum’ after the complete
suspension of the world. The simultaneous happening of the
phenomenological epoche and reduction makes pure transcendental
consciousness available as the only field of the radical
philosophizing which Husserl calls ‘the science of phenomenology’
(Ideas, p.113). The philosophical investigations proceed through the
experiences of pure transcendental consciousness which is a pure
intuition whereby philosophy takes shape of ‘[t]he pure
phenomenology of the experiences of thinking and knowing.’
180 Abdul Rahim Afaki

Whatever appears to pure intuition is the thing in itself or


phenomenon which intuition cognizes in terms of its eidos (essence).
So phenomenology, according to Husserl, ‘must bring to pure
expression, must describe in terms of their essential concepts and
their governing formulas of essence, the essences which directly
make themselves known in intuition, and the connections which
have their roots purely in such essences. Each such statement of
essence is an a priori statement in the highest sense of the word’ (LI,
Vol.I, p.249). This Husserlian notion seems to be an echo of Sadrā’s
concept of the theoretical wisdom which leads him to the things in
themselves in terms of the Gnostic experience of transcendence. But
the difference between them lies in the states of knowledge attained
through the intuitive experience. In case of Sadrā, man becomes like
the Divine having the knowledge of the things in themselves.
Whereas in Husserl’s case, through intuitive experiences man, in
terms of the essences of the things in themselves, constitute the life-
world (Lebenswelt), ‘the world in which we are always already
living and which furnishes the ground for all cognitive performance
and all scientific determinations’ (EJ, p.14).

Meanings of Transcendence
Owing to the simultaneous differences and resemblance in
their conceptions of philosophy, one can now understand the
difference between the meanings of the term transcendence as
comprehended by Husserl and Sadrā. For Husserl, phenomenology,
as shown above, is a radical way of philosophizing which sounds the
Cartesian radicalism in working out a philosophical method. His
notion of ‘transcendental subjectivity’ can be grasped in relation to
the Cartesian view of ‘the ego cogito.’ Husserl’s fundamental
phenomenological method is that of transcendental epoche which
bars ‘Ego”or ‘I-myself’ completely from the world of space and
time and all of its scientific ideation. The gateway to the
phenomenological investigations is the method of transcendental
epoche which leads one to an absolute poverty of knowledge.
The Notions of Māhiyyah and Eidos: A Comparison… 181

Thereby ‘the whole concrete surrounding life-world’ is transformed


into ‘only a phenomenon of being.’ In epoche, the surrounding life-
world does not remain as something existing rather it is ‘something
that claims being’ (CM, pp.18-19). The world is the world of
experience and in epoche I experience it as I experienced it before
but ‘the only difference is that I, as reflecting philosophically, no
longer keep in effect (no longer accept) the natural believing in
existence involved in experiencing the world.’ In addition, all of the
processes of ‘position takings’ regarding the world, ‘the judgings,
valuings, and decidings, the process of setting ends and willing
means’ are also suspended, as they involve believing in the existence
of the world (CM, pp.19-20). This absolute and universal depriving
of all beliefs concerning the ‘existential status (Seinsgeltung)’ of the
life-world and all existential position takings regarding it does not
lead one to nothingness. On the contrary, the epoche, with this
absolute poverty of the surrounding life-world, leads one to the
absolute and universal richness of ‘pure Ego’ or I-myself. The
richness of I-myself is characterized by ‘my own pure conscious life,
in and by which the entire Objective world exists for me and is
precisely as it is for me.’ (CM, pp.20-21) Husserl relates his pure
transcendental consciousness to Descartes’ ego cogito, as it
experiences the objective world, perceives it, remembers it, thinks of
it, judges about it, values it, desires it, or the like which Descartes,
according to Husserl, indicated ‘by the name cogito’ (CM, p.21).
But Husserl’s pure Ego tends to remain above all life-world and
‘refrain[s] from doing any believing that takes “the” world straight-
forwardly as existing.’ Instead, the pure Ego enters the world ‘that
gets its sense and acceptance or status [Sinn und Geltung] in and
from’ the Ego itself not independent of it (CM, p.21). The
transcendental epoche, as we have already discussed, as it leads Ego
back to the rich realm of its experience, is also called ‘the
transcendental-phenomenological reduction.’ The method of
transcendental reduction, according to Husserl, makes
transcendental subjective consciousness ‘epodictic’ in nature. Here
182 Abdul Rahim Afaki

Husserl again refers to the Cartesian notion of doubt to explain his


view of epodicticity. In case of the Cartesian method, the ego sum is
found as certainly existing by doubting the existence of the whole
world around. Similarly, Husserl parenthesizes the extrinsically
existing life-world through epoche and reduction to find
transcendental subjective consciousness as epodictically evident. In
this ‘transcendence,’ according to Husserl, the epodictically evident
‘reduced Ego is not a piece of the world…neither the world…is a
piece of…Ego,’ rather

“This “transcendence” is part of the intrinsic sense of anything worldly,


despite the fact that anything worldly necessarily acquires all the
determining it, along with its existential status, exclusively from my
experiencing it, my objectivating, thinking, valuing, or doing, at
particular times-notably the status of an evidently valid being is one it
can acquire only from my own evidences, my grounding acts.” ( CM,
p.26)

Thanks to his notion of transcendence, Husserl rejects the


extrinsic and objective existence of life-world without denying the
status of the same as a domain of experience for pure transcendental
consciousness. Ultimately, this life-world is constituted by the
consciousness through the eidetic method of cognizing as we will
see in the next section of this study.

Like Husserl Sadrā believes in transcending in order to


cognize the realities of the things in themselves as we have already
seen in the last section where he defines philosophy. But his concept
of transcendence is entirely different from that of Husserl’s. In order
to comprehend the realities of the things in themselves, according to
Sadrā, there is no need to deny their existence independent of the
human mind. Instead, without such denial one can have a Gnostic
experience (‘Irfān) of the existence (Wujūd) as such. Sadrā uses the
metaphor of ‘journey’ (safar) to elaborate his view of transcendence
which is gnostic in nature. His al-Hikmat al-Muta‘āliyyah is not
The Notions of Māhiyyah and Eidos: A Comparison… 183

simply the work of a philosopher who attempts to understand


everything by his reason or abstract thinking. But rather it is a sort of
intellectual movement that perfects the human soul by the
completion of the Four Journeys (al-Asfār al-arba‘ah). He describes
these Four Journeys in his magnum opus, al-Hikmat al-Muta‘āliyyah
fi’l-Asfār al-‘Aqliyat al-Arba‘ah (The Transcendental Wisdom in the
Four Intellectual Journeys). The Four Journeys are as follows:

“The First Journey: from the creatures (al-makhlūqāt) to the Truth (al-
Haqq),
The Second Journey: continues in the Truth with the Truth,
The Third Journey: from the Truth to the creatures with the Truth, and
The Fourth Journey: continues with the Truth in the creatures.” (AsfārI,
p.13)

Sadrā’s intellectual scheme implies that transcendence is a


movement or journey from the creatures, the things in the
surrounding world, to the Divine in order to become like the Divine
as indicated as the First Journey above. This Journey is not merely a
mystic experience in which the human soul is lost in the Divine,
rather it is an intellectual movement of a Gnostic (‘Ārif) to become
like the Divine reflecting on ‘the nature of existence and its
accidents (‘awārid)’ (AsfārI, p.20). This is the character of his
thought that demarcates him from the Sūfī order of Islamic tradition
of which he himself is a part. He attempts to establish a ‘necessary
relationship between the Hikmah and the existence’ (AsfārI, p.22).
The Hikmah, for him, is ‘the Divine Knowledge’ (al-‘Ilm al-
Ilāhiyyah) whose ‘main topic is the Absolute Being (al-Maujūd al-
Mutlaq).’ Moreover, ‘as every being is an effect of some other being
this sphere of learning focuses on the First Cause (al-Sabab al-
Awwal) of all beings’ (AsfārI, p.24).

Māhiyyah and Eidos


The main thrust of Sadrā’s philosophy is the ontological
underpinning of his Transcendental Wisdom, the focal point of the
184 Abdul Rahim Afaki

First Journey in his grand intellectual scheme whose task is to


cognize the nature of existence with all other notions related to it.
This study focuses on the notion of Māhiyyah (essence) as Sadrā
expounds it in relation to the existence. Sadrā believes that ‘all
essences (Māhiyyat) are the accidents of the existence4 which
become characteristically related to it first of all other accidents of
it’ (AsfārI, p.25). He considers existence as an unconceivable or
undeterminable term, as it is beyond the known methods of
conceiving namely ‘the definition’ (al-hadd) and ‘the description’
(al-rasm). The former is not applicable to existence, for in order to
define something one should necessarily know the genus (jins) and
the division (fasl) but existence is universally common to all,
therefore one cannot ascribe it to any particular genus. Moreover,
since it is devoid of genus therefore it is devoid of division. The
method of description is also not applicable to existence, for in this
case one describes something unknown by the help of some very
well-known meaning, but ‘nothing is known better than the
existence.’ Therefore, it will be an absolute mistake to interpret the
existence by the help of some other entities considered as more
meaningful than the existence. So the existence, for Sadrā, is beyond
all demonstration and conception of the human mind (AsfārI, pp.25-
26). That is to say, the existence is absolutely extrinsic and objective
being entirely independent of not only the human mind but anything
extraneous to it (AsfārI, p.27). It is the only reality that is real in
itself whereas all other entities including the essence, as they are, are
accidents of the existence. Sadrā demarcates the Necessary
Existence (al-Wujūd al-Wājib) that is a Being-in-Itself (Maujūd bi
Nafsihī) from the accidental existence (al-wujūd al-‘ārid) that is a
being which depends on other to exist (maujūd bi ghairihī) (AsfārI,
p.27). This distinction is grounded on his notion of hierarchy of
attribution of the meaning of the existence to different beings with
respect to their essences. The meaning of existence is common
among all beings that attribute it. However, all of the beings are
essentially different in the attribution of the meaning of the existence
The Notions of Māhiyyah and Eidos: A Comparison… 185

due to various respects. For instance, the Being that is uncaused by


any other prior being ‘will be naturally the First and the Foremost
among all beings’ (Mutaqaddim ‘ala jami‘ al-maujūdāt bi’l-taba‘)
or ‘the existence of substance’ (wujūd al-jauhar) is prior to the
existence of accident’ (wujūd al-‘ārid) (AsfārI, pp.35-36). The
hierarchy or the discrepancy in the attribution of the meaning of
existence to all of the beings is to take place through their essences.
That is to say, the Divine is essentially different from the mortal, the
substance is essentially different from the quality, the form is
essentially different from the matter because the attribution of the
meaning of existence to these beings is different from each other.

Sadrā defines essence (māhiyyah) as ‘what something is as it


is’ (al-shaiyu hua hua) or in other words it is ‘an answer to the
question about a thing-What is it?’ For instance, to the question-
‘How much is it?’ The answer will be ‘the mass’ (kammiyyah) of
that thing which, according to Sadrā, is the essence (AsfārII, pp.2-3).
It implies that essence, unlike existence, is the matter of cognition
that can be encompassed by the human perception (mushāhidah) as
an accident of the existence. The underlying reality of all beings is
the existence that carries essences with it which can be cognized by
the conception of the human mind while the existence is beyond all
methods of cognition except the Gnostic experience as discussed
earlier. Meanings of essences always remain on the epistemic or
cognitive plane and so they cannot guarantee the manifestations
(tashakhkhus) to beings as they are. Instead, the manifestation of
beings as they are in themselves is determined through their
existential relationship to the Real Existence (al-Wujūd al-Haqīqī)
that is the Origin (al-Mabdā’) of all beings (AsfārII, p.12). The
distinction between cognitive and the existential plane of the things
in themselves is essential in Sadrā’s philosophy to draw the
significant difference between essence and existence. The essence of
the thing in itself, although it is one with the existence, belongs to
the cognitive side of being of that thing. Whereas the existence is not
186 Abdul Rahim Afaki

and cannot be a matter of cognition, rather it is absolutely existential


or ontic which relates everything to its cause, the Necessary
Existence or the Divine. For ‘all beings are shadows (zilāl) and
illuminations (ishrāqāt) of the Divine (AsfārII, p.12). So the only
way to reach the existential realities of the things in themselves is
the Gnostic experience of becoming one with the Divine, the Origin
or Source of all existence.

Husserl may agree with Sadrā on the view that essence is


something what is as it is and also on the view that reality cannot be
graspable through traditional empirical and rational methods of
cognition. However, he would intensely disagree with Sadrā on
drawing a distinction between essence as something cognizable
being an accident of the existence that is an absolutely objective and
extrinsic reality. On the contrary, Husserl emphasizes on the
constitution of all reality by an absolutely pure transcendental
subjective consciousness as we have already seen above. This huge
difference between the two philosophers transcendence is due to the
distinction between their intellectual commitments and methods of
philosophizing. Sadrā is an eclectic-revivalist of Muslim traditions
both of philosophy and Sūfism. So he has never been able to deviate
from his absolute commitment to the Gnostic experience of oneness
of being to unveil all reality. While Husserl, being absolutely
committed to suspend all traditions of Western intellectualism, is to
work out a new method of unfolding the reality which he calls ‘the
eidetic method’ or ‘the method of eidetic description’ (CM, p.69).
The first step in this method, as shown earlier, is the transcendental
reduction which leads one to one’s transcendental ego when one
parenthesizes all givenness of actuality. This is not simply a
transcendental-phenomenological reduction, rather it is an eidetic
reduction in which ego, though situated in ‘the empirical
factualness,’ entirely breaks with the same. This ego, in the next
step, selects a fact of perception to change it ‘into a pure possibility’
by ‘[a]bstaining from acceptance of its being.’ This ‘shift’ of ‘the
The Notions of Māhiyyah and Eidos: A Comparison… 187

actual perception into the realm of non-actualities’ takes place on the


plane of mere ‘fantasy’ or imagination. The procedure of
‘fantasiableness’ or ‘imaginableness’ of perception removes it ‘from
all factualness’ to make it become ‘the pure “eidos” perception,’ an
‘essential universality.’ The pure eidos is absolutely ‘unconditioned
by any fact’ and so an ‘a priori’ in the very true sense of the term.
Along with the shift of a fact into an a priori universal the ego is also
transformed from an empirically situated subject into ‘an intuitive
and epodictic consciousness of something universal’ (CM, pp.70-
71). Through this imaginative procedure of selecting facts to
transform them into the pure eidos perceptions, the transcendental
subjective consciousness constitutes whole of the life-world in terms
of eide.

One should not equate Husserl’s method of fantasying fact


into the pure eidos to Sadrā’s way of the Gnostic experience to
become like the Divine though it can also be interpreted as a highly
imaginative and intuitive experience. Husserl’s eidetic ego does
break with actuality like Sadrā’s transcendent gnostic but in order
not to become one with the Divine. Instead, his transcendental ego
becomes free of all factualness to constitute the same life-world
(Lebenswelt). Husserl’s transcendental phenomenology develops
through the eidetic method whose all investigations are nothing ‘but
uncoverings of the all embracing eidos, transcendental ego as such,
which comprises all pure possibility-variants of…..de facto ego and
this ego itself qua possibility’ (CM, p.71).

Conclusion
Although Sadrā and Husserl both are the philosophers of
transcendence having certain commonalties between them, they
differ from each other as well with various respects. Both are deeply
interested in cognizing the realities of the things in themselves but
begin to attain this task very differently. The later is to reject the
whole tradition of his academic culture to find out a radical way of
188 Abdul Rahim Afaki

philosophizing. Whereas the former is to show an extremely


accommodative attitude towards the past philosophies in order to
reconcile the various intellectual currents of Muslim tradition in
terms of his al-Hikmat al-Muta‘āliyyah. Both focus on
transcendence to grasp the reality but their meanings of
transcendence are entirely different from each other. For Husserl,
Ego’s break with factualness leads to the pure transcendental
consciousness which is free of all beliefs and position takings
regarding the spatio-temporal existence. So transcendence, being
absolutely devoid of any touch of religiosity, is merely an epistemic
or cognitive attempt of the Ego to see the phenomena differently.
That is to say, rather than cognizing the world with the pre-given
beliefs and ideas Transcendental Ego grasps the same in terms of
eidos perception which it intrinsically constitutes through its own
process of imaginableness or fantasiableness. For Sadrā, on the other
hand, it is not enough to break with actuality to experience the
transcendence in the exact sense of the term. Instead, one should
attempt to have the Gnostic experience of becoming one with the
Divine in order to find oneself transcendent. So transcendence is not
merely a cognitive attempt rather it is a cognitive-existential
experience of the human soul through which the soul not only
becomes like the Divine, but simultaneously grasps the reality as
well. This is so as Sadrā demarcates between existence and essence
very significantly. Essence, for him, is something cognizable
through the traditional methods of conceiving the objects like
defining and describing etc. while existence is universally common
underlying reality that cannot be determined or conceived through
those methods. Therefore, the only way to know the existence is to
transcend this world to become one with the Absolute Existent, the
Origin of all existence. On the contrary, Husserl, though he is also
interested in grasping the reality of the things in themselves, is to
believe that reality is not beyond the human mind. Rather it can be
graspable by the human mind if the mind is reduced to the eidetic
Ego that can transform all fact into the pure eidos through the
The Notions of Māhiyyah and Eidos: A Comparison… 189

extraordinary procedure of fantasying or imagining. This eidetic


method ultimately leads not to the Divine but to the constitution of
the same life-world in which the Ego is always already living and
experiencing.

Abbreviations
Asfār Sadr al-Dīn Shīrāzī, al-Hikmat al-Muta‘āliyyah fi’l-Asfār al-‘Aqliyat al-
Arba‘ah (The Transcendental Wisdom in the Four Intellectual Journeys), 9
Volumes, Bairūt, Dār al-’Ihy ā’ al-Turāth al-‘Arabī, 1419/1999 (The volume one
of this book is abbreviated as AsfārI and volume two as AsfārII)

MM Sadr al-Dīn Shīrāzī, al-Mabdā’ wal-Ma‘ād (the Origin and the


Afterworld), Bairūt, Dār al-Hādī, 1420/2000

CM Husserl, Edmund, Cartesianische Meditationen (Cartesian Meditations),


Trans. D. Cairns, The Hague, Nijhoff, 1967

EJ Husserl, Edmund, Erfahrung und Urteil: Untersuchungen zur


Genealogie der Logik (Experience and Judgment: Investigations in a Genealogy of
Logic), Rev. and Ed. L. Landgrebe, Trans. J. S. Churchill and K. Ameriks,
Evanston, IL, Northwestern University Press, 1973

Ideas Husserl, Edmund, Ideen: zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und


Phänomenologischen Philosophie (Ideas: General Introduction to Pure
Phenomenology), Trans. W. R. Boyce Gibson, London, Allen & Unwin, 1931

LI Husserl, Edmund, Logische Untersuchungen (Logical Investigations), 2


Volumes, Trans. J. N. Findlay, New York, Humanities Press, 1970

Notes
1. My translation of Sadrā’s al-Hikmat al-Muta‘āliyyah is a result of
benefiting both from Fazlur Rahman and Hussein Nasr. The former translated the
term as ‘the Sublime Wisdom’ while the later rendered it as ‘the Transcendent
Theosophy’ benefiting, may be, from Henry Corbin. See Fazlur Rahman, The
Philosophy of Mullā Sadrā, Albany, State University of New York Press, 1975,
p.19 and S. Hussein Nasr, Sadr al-Dīn Shīrāzī and his Transcendent Theosophy,
Tehrān, Institute of Humanities and Cultural Studies, 1997
190 Abdul Rahim Afaki

2. This division of al-Hikmah into al-Nazariyyah and al-‘Amaliyyah seems


to be very similar to that of Ibn-Sīnā’s. See Ibn-Sīnā, al-Ilāhiyyāt min Kitāb al-
Shifā’ , researched by Āyāt Allāh Hasanzādeh al ’Āmulī, Qum, Maktab al-A‘lām
al-Islamī, 1386/1966, pp.11-12
3. After having gone through Sadrā’s definitions of philosophy which I
have already discussed above as well as benefiting from Mīrzā Mahdī Āshtiyānī,
Hussein Nasr comes to the conclusion that Sadrā’s this concept of wisdom is the
same as well known as al-Hikmat al-Muta‘āliyah. He says: “There are…three
basic principles upon which the Transcendent Theosophy stands: intellectual
intuition or illumination (kashf or dhauq or ishrāq); reason and rational
demonstration (aql or istidlāl); and religion or revelation (shar‘ or Wahī). It is by
combining the knowledge derived from these sources that the synthesis of Mullā
Sadrā was brought about. This synthesis aimed to harmonize the knowledge that is
accessible to man through the following means, namely, Sūfism, the school of
ishrāq, rational philosophy (identified by Mullā Sadrā with the Peripatetic school)
and religious sciences including theology (kalām).” See S. H. Nasr, Sadr al-Dīn
Shīrāzī and his Transcendent Theosophy, Tehrān, Institute of Humanities and
Cultural Studies, 1997, pp.87-88
4. The priority of existence to essence is the view that demarcates Sadrā
from his predecessors including Ibn-Sīnā and al-Suhrawardī. He confessed that he
himself was of that opinion that essence is prior to existence but later he became
enlightened by the view that the objective realities are the existences not the
essences which can be cognized by the subjective mind through the ordinary
methods of the human conception. All possible existences are the shadows and
illuminations of One Real Light, the Necessary existence that cannot be conceived
through rational method but only by the Gnostic experience. For the Necessary
Existence is devoid of any essence, instead, its very existence is its essence. See
AsfārI, pp.48-49 and MM, pp.30-40
Bibliography
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Arba‘ah (The Transcendental Wisdom in the Four Intellectual Journeys), Volumes
1-9, Bairūt, Dār al-’Ihy ā’ al-Turāth al-‘Arabī, 1419/1999
2. ………………….., al-Mabdā’ wal-Ma‘ād (the Origin and the
Afterworld), Bairūt, Dar al-Hadi, 1420/2000
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6. Nasr, S. Hussein, Sadr al-Dīn Shīrāzī and his Transcendent Theosophy,
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The Notions of Māhiyyah and Eidos: A Comparison… 191

7. Husserl, Edmund, Cartesianische Meditationen (Cartesian Meditations),


Trans. D. Cairns, The Hague, Nijhoff, 1967
8. …………………, Erfahrung und Urteil: Untersuchungen zur
Genealogie der Logik (Experience and Judgment: Investigations in a Genealogy of
Logic), Rev. and Ed. L. Landgrebe, Trans. J. S. Churchill and K. Ameriks,
Evanston, IL, Northwestern University Press, 1973
9. …………………, Ideen: zu einer reinen Phänomenologie und
Phänomenologischen Philosophie (Ideas: General Introduction to Pure
Phenomenology), Trans. W. R. Boyce Gibson, London, Allen & Unwin, 1931
10. …………………, Logische Untersuchungen (Logical Investigations), 2
Volumes, Trans. J. N. Findlay, New York, Humanities Press, 1970