Universal Science: An Introduction to Islamic Metaphysics

The Universal Science ( ʿIlm-i kullī) by Mahdī Ḥāʾirī Yazdī, is a concise, but authoritative, outline of the fundamental discussions in Islamic metaphysics. For many years used as a textbook in Iran, this short text offers English readers a readily accessible, lucid, and yet deeply learned, guide through the Sadrian, Avicennan, and Illuminationist schools of thought, whilst also demonstrating how the ‘living tradition’ of Shīʿī philosophy engages with central ontological, epistemological, aetiological, and psychological questions. Discussions include the primacy of existence; the proper classifications of quiddity; and the manifold properties of causality and causal explanation. This is the first of the various influential works authored by this leading Shīʿah intellectual to have been translated into English from the original Persian.

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Mahdī Hāʾirī Yazdī (1923–1999) (Ph.D. University of Toronto) was an eminent Shīʿah intellectual. He taught at Harvard and Oxford, and was Professor of Islamic Philosophy at the University of Tehran. He was the author of several diverse texts ranging from epistemology to political theory.

John Cooper (1947–1998) was E.G. Browne Lecturer in Persian at the University of Cambridge. He studied at Cambridge and the Qum Seminary in Iran. He was the general editor of Encyclopaedia Iranica, as well as a prolific author and translator.

Saiyad Nizamuddin Ahmad (Ph.D. Princeton University) is Reader in Shīʿah Studies at the Shīʿah Institute. He has taught at the University of Texas at Austin, contributed to several journals, and is the author of a critical Arabic edition of Ibn ʿArabī’s Fuṣūṣ al-ḥikam.
Editor’s Introduction
1 Mahdī Ḥāʾirī Yazdī: A Philosophical Life
2 John Cooper: Oxford, Qum, and Cambridge
3 The Translation
4 ʿIlm-i kullī: Historical Context and Content

Universal Science: An Introduction to Islamic Metaphysics


1 Introduction
1 The Definition of Metaphysics
2 The Central Subject-Matter of Metaphysics
3 The Divisions of Philosophy
4 Metaphysics in the General Sense

2 Existence (wujūd)–Being (hastī)
1 The Meaning of Existence
2 That Which Makes Existence Known is Neither a Real Definition nor a Descriptive Definition
3 Which is Fundamentally Real: Existence or Quiddity?
4 The Definition of Quiddity
5 Arguments for the Fundamentality of Existence
6 The Concept of Existence
7 The Reality of Existence
8 Existence is in Addition to Quiddity
9 Truth (God, the Exalted) is Pure Existence
10 Mental Existence (or Existence in the Mind)

3 Mental Existence
1 The Enigma of Mental Existence
2 The Solution to the Enigma
3 The View of Ṣadr al-Dīn Shīrāzī
4 Unity of the Intellector and that Which is Intellected

4 Further Issues Relating to Existence
1 Existence is Absolute Good
2 Existence is a Singularly Unique Reality
3 Existence is Not Substance and is Not Accident
4 Existence is Not Compound
5 Absolute Existence and Determined Existence
6 The Secondary Intelligible
7 A Non-Existent is Not Anything
8 There is no Differentiation between Non-Existences, or any Causal Relationship
9 The Coming Back of What Has Become Non-Existent
10 History Does Not Repeat Itself
11 Making and Effecting
12 The Three Modes of Existence

5 Contingency (imkān)
1 General Contingency
2 Specific Contingency
3 Most Specific Contingency
4 Future Contingency
5 Pre-dispositional Contingency
6 Contingency of Occurrence
7 Contingency in the Sense of Likelihood
8 Indigent Contingency
9 Analogical Contingency

6 Priority and Posteriority
1 Coming-Into-Being and Eternity
2 The Divisions of Priority and Posteriority

7 Unity, Multiplicity, and Predication
1 Unity and Multiplicity
2 Divisions of the One [That is to say an investigation into how many ways things are said to be ‘one’]
3 Predication
4 Division of Predication
5 Multiplicity, Alterity, and Opposition

8 Quiddity
1 Quiddity and Its Necessary Parts
2 Quiddity in Itself is Neither Existent Nor Non-Existent
3 Mental Conceptions of Quiddity
4 The Natural Universal
5 Existence of the Natural Universal

9 Potentiality (quwwah) and Actuality ( fiʿl)

10 Cause (ʿillat) and Effect (maʿlūl)
1 Causality
2 The Divisions of the Efficient Cause
3 The Final Cause
4 Premature Death
5 The Formal Cause
6 The Material Cause
7 The Names for Matter
8 The Divisions of Matter
9 Things in Common between all the Causes
10 Some of the Properties of the Bodily Causes
11 Things in Common between the Cause and the Effect
12 A Discussion between Men of Wisdom
13 Vicious Circles and Infinite Regresses

This volume will appeal to all scholars of Islamic intellectual history, religious studies, Persian Studies, and comparative philosophy. It will also be easily accessible for advanced undergraduates and educated laypersons.