Existence as a Predicate in Kant and Mulla Sadra
Reza Akbarian, Tarbiat Modarres University, Iran
The question of "existence as a predicate" enjoys an outstanding significance from the historical andcomparative point of view.
Kant, the eminent German philosopher, claimed that existence could not be a real predicate for its own subject,since existence is not a concept that could add anything to an object. According to Kant, existence in its logicalsense is, merely, copula (
), rather than either of the terms. The copula of the proposition, on the otherhand, does not indicate something that owns a real referent. Its exclusive role is, rather, to establish a nexusbetween the predicate and the subject.Mulla Sadra, the great Muslim Philosopher, has acknowledged the concept of being (
) as an independentand predicative concept. His remarks concerning the contents of the simple proposition, i.e. "A is existent" aresimilar to that of Kant in some respects and different from them, in others. In so far as the content of theproposition signifies the subsistence and the realization of the subject, rather than the subsistence of somethingfor the subject, their respective remarks are quite similar; however in so far as Mulla Sadra, on the basis of hisphilosophical stance, i.e. "the principality of being" demonstrates that what is principle in external reality is"existence" rather than "quiddity", he is quite different from the philosophical viewpoint of Kant. Quiddity, inhis opinion, is mentally posited (
) i.e. either abstracted from the limits of being, or it is the manifestationof the limits of being within the mind.A comparative study of Mulla Sadra’s and Kant’s views concerning existence as a predicate, or any other issuein general, without taking into account their whole systems as well as the basic principles of Mulla Sadra’sontology, will be impossible. The being that is applied by Mulla Sadra, like other Muslim philosophers -as apredicate in the existential proposition- is totally different from that of Kant. Mulla Sadra, just as hispredecessors, examined the concept of being-God- and reality from an aspect wholly different from that of Kant. Accordingly, Kant and Muslim philosophers, despite their similar methods of applying the concepts intheir philosophical arguments, believe in two exactly distinctive worlds. Therefore, to compare them, it is notpossible to consider certain concepts such as "being" or "necessity", and ask about the soundness of either one.However, the chief aim of this paper is to carry out a comparative study of the philosophical systems of thetwo philosophers.The present paper is a comparative study of Kant’s denial of existence as a real predicate, on one hand, andMulla Sadra’s acknowledgement and demonstration of such predicates, on the other. Hopefully, this study willpave the ground for an inquiry into one of the most important philosophical problems, and the way for a studyof the "reality of being" in Mulla Sadra’s philosophy will be prepared through the demonstration of suchphilosophical propositions.
The study of Kant’s doctrines on existence as "predicate" and comparing it with that of Mulla Sadra-who believes in the reality of philosophical concepts- who presents an account other than that of Kant, in order to prove the reality of philosophical propositions are of paramount importance. Kant,the famous German philosopher, claims that existence cannot be a real predicate for its subject; forthe existence is not (such) a concept which can add something to a thing. According to Kant, and inlogical terminology, existence is, in fact, only a copula of the proposition and neither of its sides.The copula of a proposition does not tell us a thing, which may have a real referent. The only task of it is to connect the predicate to the subject.The highly respected philosopher of the Islamic world, Mulla Sadra, accepts existence as anindependent and predicable concept. His words on the simple proposition "A exists" are similar tothat of Kant’s, in a way, and different in another way. The content of this proposition is theaffirmation and realization of the subject, and not the affirmation of something for the subject; inthis way, he is unanimous with Kant; but since -relying on the primacy of existence- he proves thatwhat has reality in the external world is existence, and not quiddity, here he differs from Kant.