Tahafut al-Falasifa

(Incoherence of the Philosophers)


Abu Hamid al-Ghazali (1058-1111 CE)

Translated into English from Urdu Translation by Sabih Ahmad Kamali


Problem XVIII
Of their inability to give a rational demonstration of their theory that the human soul is a spiritual substance which exists in itself; is not space-filling; is not body; or impressed upon body; and is neither connected nor disconnected with body – as God is neither inside the world, nor outside it, or as the angels are


THE consideration of this problem requires the description of their theory of the animal and human faculties The animal faculties are divided by them into two: motive and perceptive. The perceptive faculties are of two kinds: external and internal. The external perceptive faculties consist of the five senses. These are impressed upon bodies. The internal perceptive faculties are three

(i) The faculty of fantasy, which is located in the forepart of the brain, behind the faculty of sight. In this faculty remain the forms of seen things, when the eyes are closed. Indeed, the data of all the five senses are impressed upon it. Hence it is called the sensus communis. But for it, he who saw white honey, and could not perceive its sweetness until he tasted of it, would not perceive the sweetness without tasting it — as he did before — even on seeing it a second time. But in this faculty there is something which judges that this white thing is also sweet. It follows that this 'something' is a judge working with the combination of two things — viz., colour and sweetness. For only thus can it judge of the existence of one from that of another.

(ii) The estimative faculty perceives the meanings, whereas the preceding one perceives the forms. Form means something which depends upon Matter — i.e., body — for its existence. By meaning, on the other hand, is understood something whose existence does not require body, although accidentally it may be in body — e.g., hatred or kindliness. For instance, the goat perceives the colour and shape of a wolf. These things cannot but be in body. But it also perceives the wolf's hostility towards it. Or the lamb perceives the shape and colour of its mother, then her kindliness and agreeableness. Therefore, it runs away from the wolf, but follows its mother. Unlike colour or shape, it is not necessary fox kindliness or enmity to be in bodies, although accidentally they may be.

Thus the estimative faculty is distinguished from the preceding one; and it is located in the hindmost ventricle of the brain.

(iii) The third internal perceptive faculty is called sensitive imagination in the case of animals, and cogitation in the case of man. Its function is to compose sensible forms with one another, or to superimpose meanings upon forms. It is in the middle ventricle of the brain, between the faculties of retention and memory. It enables a man to imagine a flying horse or any other combination which he may never have observed. This faculty could, as will be seen presently, more properly be connected with the motive faculties, not the perceptive ones. The knowledge of the location of these faculties is derived from the Art of Medicine. When one of the ventricles of the brain is affected, these things — i.e., perception, etc., — are also disturbed.

Further, (they assert) the faculty upon which are impressed the forms of the data of the five senses conserves those forms — which (forms) therefore persist after having been received. When something conserves another, it does not do so by the faculty by which it receives. For instance, water receives, but does not conserve. Wax receives by its moisture; but, unlike water, it conserves — by its dryness. Therefore, the conserving faculty is not a receiving one. So it is called 'retention.'

The meanings impressed upon the estimative faculty are likewise conserved — by the faculty which is called 'memory.'

So the internal perceptions, when the faculty of sensitive imagination is included among them, are five, just as the external are five.

The motive faculties are divided into (a) that which moves in the sense that it impels towards movement; and (b) that which moves in the sense that movement is the result of its direct efficiency.

The motive faculty which moves in the sense that it impels towards movement is the faculty of appetence. When the form of an object of desire or aversion is impressed upon the faculty of fantasy (which we have mentioned above), the faculty of appetence impels the active motive faculty towards movement. It has two subdivisions

(i) Faculty of desire, which rouses to movement that brings about approximation to things imagined to be necessary or useful in the search for pleasure.

(ii) Faculty of anger, which rouses to movement whereby it is sought to keep away that which is imagined to be harmful or deleterious, and thus to overcome it. With the action of this faculty is completed the coordination of the faculties which results in the activity called action.

The active motive faculty comes into play in the muscles and the nerves. Its function is to contract the muscles and to pull the tendons and ligaments, which are connected with the limbs, towards the position where this faculty runs its course; or to relax or expand them so that they tend away from the position.

These, then, are the faculties of the animal soul, described here in a brief and general way.


The Human Rational Soul

It is also called (by them) the Communicative Soul. For, apparently, being the choicest fruit of Reason, communication by language is the rational activity. Hence the relation between the two terms.

The rational soul has two faculties: the theoretical, and the practical. Each one of these two is called Reason, but this is so because the name is common to them. The practical faculty is the motive principle of the human body, urging it towards those human activities which are marked by coordination, and whose coordination is derived from the deliberation characteristic of man.

The function of the theoretical faculty,, which is also called Speculation, is to apprehend the realities of the intelligibles, which are free from Matter, Space, and Dimension — i.e., the universal judgments which are called States or Aspects by the Mutakallimin, and the Abstract Universals by the philosophers.

Thus the soul has two faculties, corresponding to. two different planes. Speculation or the theoretical faculty corresponds to the plane of the angels, from whom the soul derives real cognitions. It behoves this faculty perpetually to be receptive to what comes to it from above. The practical faculty, on the other hand, brings the soul into relation with things of a lower order, viz., the body; the governance of body, and the reform of the moral habits. It is desirable that this faculty should govern all the bodily faculties; that the latter should be ready to learn the manners it has to teach them; and that they should be subservient to it. Not the practical faculty, but the bodily faculties should be the passive recipients of influences; for otherwise, the physical qualities would generate in the soul those servile attitudes called the Vices. Let the practical faculty be dominant, so that the soul may thereby acquire attitudes which are called Virtues.

(This is a brief summary of their detailed account of the animal and human faculties. Even this much is lengthy enough, although we have omitted the description of the Vegetative Faculties, which were not relevant to our purpose. Nothing of what the philosophers have said here is like those things which the Sacred Law lays us under an obligation to disbelieve. For they are observable facts, which — by God's will — form part of the regular course of events. However, we intend to question their claim that by rational arguments they can know the soul's being a substance which exists in itself. Ours is not the attitude of one who would not admit God's power over such a thing, or would maintain that religion actually contradicts this view. On the contrary, we will show in the discussion of Resurrection that religion lends its support to this view. But we dispute their claim that the Intellect alone is the guide in this matter, and that therefore one .need not depend on religion in regard to it.

So we demand that they produce their arguments. And they would assert that they have many:)




In the first argument, they say:

The rational cognitions subsist in the human soul. These cognitions are not infinite, and in them there are indivisible units. It follows that the substratum of these cognitions must also be indivisible. But all bodies are divisible. Therefore, the substratum of the rational cognitions is not body. This can be put in accordance with the conditions of the logical figures. To do that in the aptest way, one might say:

(i) If the substratum of knowledge were a divisible body, then the knowledge subsisting in it would be divisible.

(ii) But the knowledge subsisting in it is not divisible.

(iii) Therefore, the substratum is not body.

This is a hypothetical syllogism in which the contrary of the antecedent follows as an indisputable conclusion from the interpellation of the contrary of the consequent. There can be no doubt about the validity of the figure of the syllogism, or about the two premises. For in the first premiss it is stated that every thing which subsists in a divisible substratum is divisible; and that if the divisibility of the substratum of knowledge is supposed, then the divisibility of knowledge will be axiomatic and unquestionable. In the second premiss it is stated that knowledge which is one and subsists in man is indivisible. For it is impossible to consider it to be divisible ad infinitum. If it is considered to be divisible only to a certain extent, then it will consist of units which cannot be divided any further.

In short, we know things in such a way that we cannot suppose the extinction of some of them, while others remain. For 'some' and 'others' are inapplicable to them.


Objection from two points:

Firstly, it might be said: How will you disprove one who says that the substratum of knowledge is an individual atom which, although filling space, is indivisible? This idea is found in the theories of the Mutakallimin. This idea having been adopted, the only difficulty which remains is that it may be regarded as improbable. That is, it might be said How can all the cognitions subsist in the individual atom, while all other atoms surrounding it are left vacant and unoccupied? But this assumption of improbability is no good to the philosophers, for it can be directed against their own theory. Thus, one might ask, how can the soul be something one, unspatial, undesignated, neither inside the body nor outside it, and neither connected nor disconnected with anything corporeal? However, we do not like to make much of this point. For the question of the indivisible part has been discussed at very great length, and the philosophers have a number of mathematical arguments for it which, if considered by us, would make the present discussion too lengthy. One of those arguments may be related here. Say the philosophers

If the individual atom is between two other atoms, does one of its two sides come into contact with the same thing as the other does, or. are the two things different? It is impossible that the two should be identical; for then the two sides of the atom would coincide. For if A touches B, and B touches C, then A will be in touch with C. If, on the other hand, things in contact with the two sides of the atom are different, that only proves multiplicity and division.

Such a difficulty cannot be solved without a lengthy discussion. However, we are under no obligation to consider it. Therefore, let us pass on to the next point.


In the second place, we will say:

Your statement that every thing which subsists in body must be divisible stands refuted by your own description of the faculty by which a goat perceives a wolf's enmity. That (perception) is something one and indivisible, because enmity has no parts some of which might be supposed to have been perceived, while others were not. And, according to you, the perception does reside in a bodily faculty, inasmuch as the soul of animals is something impressed upon bodies, and incapable of surviving death. And all the philosophers are agreed on this point. Now, even if it were possible for them to concoct the supposition of the division of the data of the five senses: of the sensus communis; and of the retentive faculty, still it would be impossible for them to suppose the division of the 'meanings' for which it is not a condition to be in Matter.


If it is said:

The goat does not perceive the absolute enmity divested of Matter. It only perceives the enmity of a particular wolf which has an objective appearance — viz., the enmity associated with his person and figure. But the rational faculty apprehends realities which are divested of Matter and objectivity.


we will answer:

The goat perceives the colour and the figure of the wolf, and then his enmity. Now, if colour is impressed upon the faculty of sight, and so is figure, and if both are divisible by the division of the substratum of sight, then what is that by which the goat perceives enmity? If it is a body, the perception must be divisible. And I wonder what would be the content of this divisible perception! Will it be a perception of a part of enmity? If so, how can enmity have a part? Or will every part of the perception be the perception of the whole of enmity? If so, enmity will be known over and over again — because of the existence of the perceptions in each part of the substratum.

This, then, is the doubt which will create difficulties for them in their argument. They must try to remove it.


If it is said:

This means that there is self-contradiction in the intelligibles. But the intelligibles are irrefragable. Since it has not been possible for you to doubt the two premises — namely, that the 'one' knowledge is indivisible; and that that which is indivisible cannot subsist in a divisible body — it is not possible for you to doubt the conclusion.


The answer:

Our only purpose in writing this book was to show the inconsistency and the self-contradiction involved in the philosophers' theories. And that purpose has been achieved, inasmuch as we have shown that one of the two things — viz., either the theory of the rational soul, or the explanation of the estimative faculty — must be abandoned.

Further, we will say, from the contradiction involved in their thesis, it is clear that the philosophers are unmindful of where in their syllogism confusion lies. Perhaps the source of confusion is their assertion that, if impressed upon body, knowledge would be impressed, as colour is impressed upon the coloured object; and that, consequently, like the division of colour by the division of the coloured object, knowledge would be divided by the division of the substratum. The unsatisfactory thing here is the word 'impression.' Possibly, the relation between knowledge and its substratum is different from that between colour and the coloured object. That is to say, it is different from that which is said to be commensurate with the substratum, and impressed upon it, and spread through its extremities, so that the division of one will divide the other. It is possible for knowledge to be related to its substratum in a different way. It is possible that because of that relation the division of the substratum should not divide knowledge itself. Perhaps, therefore, knowledge is related to its substratum in the same way as the perception of enmity is related to its physical substratum. The ways in which attributes are related to their substrata are not confined to a single pattern. Nor is our knowledge of their details absolutely reliable. Therefore, judgments about them, unless based on a perfect knowledge of the details of the relation, will be unreliable judgments.

Now, to sum up. There is no denying the fact that things mentioned by the philosophers raise a strong presumption of probability. What is denied here is that they can be known by a knowledge which is certain, uncontested, and indubitable. We have seen how far it is open to doubt.




In their second argument, the philosophers say:

If the knowledge of 'one' rational — i.e., divested of Matter — object of knowledge were impressed upon Matter in the same way as accidents are impressed upon physical substances, then, as shown above, the division of the physical substratum would also divide knowledge necessarily. But if it is not impressed upon, and commensurate with, the substratum, and the word 'impressed' is objectionable, then we can express the same thing in a different way.


Their Inability to Give a Rational Demonstration

Thus, let us ask: Is there a relation between knowledge and the knower, or not? It is impossible to cut off all the relation; for in that case, it will not be possible to show why his being the knower of it is more appropriate than anyone else's being the knower of it. But if there is a relation, it must be one of the following three kinds: (i) Either there will be a relation with each one of the many parts of the substratum; or (ii) with some of the parts as distinguished from others; or (iii) with none of them.

Now, it will be false to say that there is a relation with none of the parts; for if there is no relation with the units there can be none with their aggregate either. The aggregate of dissimilar things is still a dissimilar thing.

Again, it will be false to say that there is a relation with some parts of the substratum. For in that case, the parts with which knowledge is not related will have nothing to do with knowledge. Therefore, it will be possible for us to exclude them from consideration.

Again, it will be false to say that there is relation between each supposed part of the substratum and the essence of knowledge. For if there were a relation with the entire essence of knowledge, then that which is known to any one part would be, not a part of the object of knowledge, but the whole object of knowledge as such. And then the known thing would be known over and over again, actually for an infinite number of times. But if each part were to have a relation with the essence of knowledge different from that of any other part, then the essence — of knowledge would be conceptually divisible. And we have shown that the knowledge of something one in all respects is not even conceptually divisible. Finally, if each part of the substratum were to have a relation with something out of the essence of knowledge which was different from that with which another part was related, then the divisibility of knowledge because of this relation would be all the more evident. And the division is impossible.

From this it will be seen that the sense data impressed upon the five senses are nothing but representations of particular and divisible forms; for perception means the appearance of the image of the percept in the percipient's soul. And each part of the sensible image has a relation with a part of the bodily organ.

Our objection to this argument is the same as to the preceding one. For the substitution of the word 'relation' for 'impression' does not remove the doubt about the impression of the wolf's enmity upon the goat's estimative faculty (as described by them). Obviously, the goat has a perception, and the perception is related to it, and the relation is determined in the same way as you have mentioned. For enmity is not a measurable and quantified thing whose image could be impressed upon a quantified body, and whose parts would bear a relation to the parts of that body. The measurableness of wolf's figure is not enough. For the goat perceives something else besides the figure, and that 'something' is enmity, or hostility, or unkindliness. And this enmity which is additional to figure has no quantity or measure. Nonetheless, it is perceived by a quantified body. Therefore, in this way, the present argument is rendered problematical, no less than the preceding one.


Should one say here:

Why did you not counter these arguments by saying that knowledge subsists in an indivisible, although spacefilling, substance — viz., the individual atom?


we would answer:

The theory of the individual atom belongs to Mathematics; and the explanation of the individual atom requires a lengthy discourse. Moreover, even that theory does not remove all the difficulties. For it would follow that power and will should also be in the individual atom. Man's action is inconceivable without power and will. And will is inconceivable without knowledge. The power of writing is in the hand and the fingers. But the knowledge of it is not in the hand; for in case the hand should be cut off, knowledge would not disappear. Nor is the will in the hand; for one can be willing to write, even when the hand is paralysed. If in such a case, one fails to write, the failure is to be attributed to the absence of power, not to the absence of will.




In the third argument, the philosophers say:

If knowledge were in a part of the body, then that part, as distinguished from all other parts of a man's body, would be the knower. But man is called a knower ; and being a knower is attributed to him as a whole, not to a particular place within him.

(This is silly. For man is also called a seer, a hearer, and a taster. And these attributes are also predicated of the animals. But this does not show that sensuous perception does not reside in the body. Nay, this is a permissible liberty taken with the words. For instance, it is said: 'He is in Baghdad.' Although the man is actually in only one part of Baghdad, not the whole of it, still he is related to the whole.)




In their fourth argument, they say

If knowledge were to subsist in a part, say, of the heart or the brain, then it would be possible for its contrary — i.e., ignorance — to exist in another part of the heart or the brain. And then one might be a knower and an ignorant person at the same time and in relation to the same thing. Since such a thing is impossible, it is clear that the substratum of knowledge is also the substratum of ignorance. It is impossible that two contraries should coexist in this substratum. If it were divisible, the existence of knowledge in one part and of ignorance in another would not be impossible. For two contraries existing in two different places are not mutually exclusive. For instance, the mottled colouring combines contrary colours in the same horse, but in different places; and blackness and whiteness coexist in the same eye, but in different parts of it.

Now, this is not necessarily true of the senses; for sense perceptions have no contraries. One only does, or does not, perceive; and between the two states there is the antithesis of being and non-being. No doubt, we say that one perceives by one of his parts — e.g., the eye or the ear — and not by the whole body. And there is no self-contradiction involved in such a statement. And this statement cannot be superseded by your statement that being a knower is contrary to being ignorant, and that the judgment applies to the whole body. For it is impossible that the judgment should refer to anything other than the substratum of the cause of the judgment. Therefore, the knower is that substratum wherein knowledge subsists. If the name is given to the whole of which the substratum is a part, this will be a metaphorical use. For instance, one is said to be in Baghdad, whereas he is in only a part of it. Similarly, one is said to be a seer; although, evidently, the judgment about seeing does not apply to the hands or the feet, but refers to the eyes exclusively. The opposition between judgments is like the opposition between their causes; for judgments exclusively refer to the substrata of the causes.

Nor can this position be invalidated by one's saying that the substratum in man which has the capacity to receive knowledge and ignorance is the same, and that knowledge and ignorance come to it as contraries. For you have held that every living body is capable of receiving knowledge and ignorance. You have not laid down any other condition besides that of life; and to you all the parts of the body are on par so far as the receiving of knowledge is concerned.



This will recoil upon you in the case of desire, appetite, and will. For these thing are possessed by men and animals alike, and they are impressed upon bodies. It is impossible that an animal or man should hate what he loves, thus combining within himself hatred and love for the same thing — in such a way that hatred exists in one substratum, and love in another. But this does not prove that hatred and love do not subsist in bodies. The reason why their combination is impossible is that, although the number of these faculties is large, and they are distributed among different organs, yet they are held together by one bond — viz., the soul. This bond belongs to man and animal alike. So with this bond holding them together, it is impossible for the diverse faculties to acquire relations which are — with reference to the bond — mutually exclusive. But this does not prove that the soul is not impressed upon body; indeed, in the case of animals, it actually is.




In their fifth argument, they say:

If the intellect were to perceive the intelligibles by a bodily organ, it could not know itself. But the consequent is impossible, since the Intellect does know itself. It follows that the antecedent must be impossible.


We will say:

Doubtless, the contrary of the antecedent may follow as the conclusion from the interpellation of the contrary of the consequent. But this happens only when it is proved that there is a necessary connection between the consequent and the antecedent. Now, in your argument, it is not clear whether the connection between the two is necessary. How will you prove it?


If it is said:

The argument is as follows: Being in body, sight does not relate to sight. Vision is not seen; nor can hearing be heard. And the same holds of all other senses. So if the Intellect were to perceive by a bodily organ, it could not perceive itself. But in truth, the Intellect knows itself, as it knows what is other than itself. Every one of us knows himself, as he knows the Other. And we also know that we know ourselves as well as others.


we will answer:

For two reasons, the point made by you is invalid.

Firstly, in our view, it is possible for sight to relate to itself, thus becoming the sight of the Other as well as of itself — just as the knowledge possessed by any one of us is the knowledge of the Other as well as of itself. Although such a thing is contrary to the regular course of events, we admit the possibility of a departure from that course.

The second reason is even more cogent. We admit this impossibility of self-perception in the case of the senses. But why is it that something which is inapplicable to some of the senses is considered to be inapplicable to all of them? What is the difficulty in believing that, in spite of the common corporeality of all the senses, the judgment about the senses with respect to perception may differ from one case to another? In fact, sight and touch do differ — inasmuch as the tactual perception is not acquired until there is contact between the object and the organ of touch (and the same applies to taste), whereas the case with sight is just the reverse. The removal of contact is a prerequisite for visual perception, so much so that if the eyes are closed, the colour of the eye­lids cannot be seen just because of their contact with the organ of sight. This difference between sight and touch does not make the two differ with respect to dependence upon body. Why, then, is it improbable that that which is called the Intellect should be one of the bodily senses, differing from the other senses insofar as it perceives itself?




In their sixth argument, they say:

If the Intellect were to perceive by a bodily organ as the sense of sight does, then like any other sense it would be unable to perceive the organ. But in fact, it does perceive the brain, or the heart, or whatever may be called its organ. It follows that the Intellect has no organ or substratum. For otherwise, it would not be able to perceive it.



Our objection to this argument is the same as that to the preceding one. It is not improbable that sight should perceive its own substratum although here the question of what is the usual thing comes up. Again, we might say (as we did in the preceding argument): Why should it be impossible for the senses to differ in this respect, even though all are alike impressed upon bodies? Why do you say that nothing which exists in body can perceive its physical substratum? Why do you make a universal judgment based upon a few particulars? That is a procedure whose invalidity is agreed on all hands. Logic tells us (how valid the inference is) when a universal judgment is based on one or more than one particular instance. For instance, it is believed that every animal moves its lower jaw at the time of eating. This inference is made because, through the inductive observation of animals, we have found that all the animals whom we saw did the same. But this shows our failure to take cognisance of the crocodile which moves its upper jaw. Now, the philosophers have come across only the five senses through inductive observation. Having found these senses constituted in a certain manner, they pass judgment upon all senses. Maybe, however, the Intellect is a sense bearing the same relation to all other senses as the crocodile does to all other animals. On this view, therefore, the senses will, in spite of their common corporeality, be divided into those which do, and those which do not, perceive the substratum. In fact, they are already divided into those which perceive their object when it is not in contact with them (e.g., sight), and those which do not perceive until there is such contact (e.g., taste or touch). So the description given by the philosophers is not conducive to certainty, however plausible it may be.


If it is said:

We rely, not merely on the inductive observation of the senses, but on a rational argument. Thus, we say, if the heart or the brain were the soul of man, the perception of the heart or the brain could never be inaccessible to him. On the contrary, that knowledge would always be present, because man is never devoid of self-perception. The essence of none of us is inaccessible to his essence. On the contrary, we are perpetually affirming ourselves by ourselves. But as far as the heart or the brain is concerned, no one perceives them, and no one believes in their existence, until he has heard the story of the heart or the brain, or observed another man anatomically. So if the Intellect were to subsist in body, it would be necessary for it either always to perceive the body, or never to perceive it at all. But neither of the two alternatives is true. For sometimes a bodily organ is known; sometimes, not.

The point may be elucidated as follows: The perception which subsists in a substratum perceives the substratum because of the relation between the two. And it is inconceivable that perception should bear any other relation to the substratum than that of subsisting in it. Therefore, it will always perceive the substratum. If, however, this relation is not sufficient, it will never perceive the substratum, in-so-far as it can bear no other relation to the substratum than that of subsisting in it — just as if it were to know itself, it would know for ever, not being inattentive at any time.


we will answer:

Man is always conscious of, and inattentive to, himself — inasmuch as he is conscious of his body, or his physical constitution. No doubt, the name of the heart, or its from, or its figure is not definite in his consciousness, yet he affirms himself, qua body — so much so that he affirms himself by reference to his clothes or his house. But the Self mentioned by the philosophers has no such associations as the house or the clothes (hence the inadequacy of the idea). It is clear that the fundamental affirmation of body is inseparable from self-consciousness. If one is inattentive to its figure or name, this may be like his inattention to the substratum of smell (viz., the two protuberances in the forepart of the brain which resemble the two nipples of the breast). Everyone knows that he perceives smell by his body; but everyone does not conjure up the specific character or the shape of the substratum of the perception — even when he is aware that the substratum is nearer to the head than to the back, or nearer to the inner part of the nose than to the inner part of the ear. Similarly, man is conscious of himself and knows that his ego which constitutes him is nearer to his heart than to his feet. For he can suppose the survival of his ego, while the feet do not exist. But he cannot suppose the survival of the ego, while the heart does not exist. Therefore, it is clear that the philosophers' statement that sometimes man is aware, and sometimes unaware, of body is not true.




In their seventh argument, they say:

Faculties which perceive by bodily organs are exhausted by the incessant activity of perceiving. For incessant motion corrupts bodies, and leads to their exhaustion. Similarly, powerful things which are perceived through an intense exertion weaken these faculties, and sometimes corrupt them to such an extent that, having perceived the powerful things (e.g., a loud noise, in the case of hearing; or a dazzling light, in the case of sight), they are unable to perceive lesser and weaker ones. Therefore, the corrupting effect leaves the ear or the eye unable to perceive a low voice or minute visible things. Even so, one who has tasted of very intense sweetness is unable to perceive the sweetness of lesser intensity.

Just the reverse is the case with the rational faculty. Its continuous apprehension of the intelligibles does not tire it. The cognition of the more distinct things (viz., things whose truth is self-evident) gives it greater strength, rather than weakness, in order to apprehend less distinct things (viz., things known by inferential knowledge). If sometimes the rational faculty appears to be exhausted, this results from the fact that it had employed the faculty of fantasy, and received its assistance. It is the physical organ of the faculty of fantasy which gets weaker, and consequently fantasy does not serve the Intellect.

(This is the same technique as we found in the preceding argument. Let us reaffirm that it is not improbable for the physical senses to differ in respect of these things. Something proved in the case of some of the senses need not be true of others. Nay, even for the bodies it is not improbable to differ — so that some of them are liable to be weakened by motion of a certain kind; while others are in a position, not to be enfeebled, but strengthened by that motion (which anyhow exercises an influence over them). On this assumption, there will be a. cause producing a new potency in some of the bodies, because of which they will not be adversely affected by motion. And all these assumptions are perfectly possible inasmuch as it is not necessary to universalise a judgment which is found applicable to a few things.)




In their eighth argument, they say:

The faculties which reside in parts of the body get weaker when, at about the age of forty, physical growth stops. From that time onwards, sight or any other physical faculty is much weaker than it used to be. But in most cases, the rational faculty grows stronger in that period; and this rule is not disproved by the fact that apprehension of the intelligibles is not feasible, when disease overtakes the body, or when senile decay brings about dotage. Once it is recognised that at least sometimes the rational faculty grows stronger, while the body is getting weaker, it will be clear that the former is self-subsisting. And then, even if at some other time the derangement of the rational faculty is found to accompany that of the body, it will not follow that the former depends upon the body. For if (in a hypothetical syllogism) the consequent itself is questioned, no conclusion follows. Thus, we can say:

(i) If the rational faculty were to subsist in body, the weakness of the body would weaken it invariably.

(ii) But the consequent is impossible.

(iii) Therefore, the antecedent is impossible.

If, however, we say that the consequent exists in some cases, it does not necessarily follow that the antecedent should exist.

The cause of this (independence of the rational faculty) is that the soul has an action per se, when it is not distracted by, or preoccupied with, anything else. In general, it has two different functions: one in relation to the body (viz., the direction and the control of it); and the other in relation to its principles and its essence (viz., the apprehension of the intelligibles). These two functions are mutually exclusive, and opposed to each other. So when the soul is preoccupied with one, it is diverted from the other. It is impossible for it to combine the two. The diverting influences or the pre­occupations arising from the body are sensation, imagination, desires, anger, fear, grief, and pain. When you begin to reflect over the intelligibles, the effect of all these diverting things on you will remain in abeyance. Sometimes, mere sensation hinders the apprehension of the intelligibles, even though the organ of the Intellect may not have been afflicted, or its essence disordered. In any case, the cause of the failure to apprehend the intelligibles is the soul's preoccupation with one function at the expense of the other. For this reason, the intellectual function is interfered with by pain and sickness and fear; for they are all diseases of the brain.

And how can it be regarded as improbable that the actions of the soul in two different directions should be mutually exclusive? For mutual exclusion results from multiplicity even in one and the same direction. For instance, fear makes a man forget pain; desire makes him forget anger; and inquiry into one intelligible makes him forget another intelligible.

An indication that disease which befalls body does not affect the substratum of cognitions is this : when a man recovers health, he does not have to learn his cognitions anew. On the contrary, the entirety of his soul as it had been is restored to him. Therefore, all his previous cognitions come back without being re-learnt.


Our objection is to be staled as follows:

The increase and decrease of faculties have innumerable causes. Some of the faculties grow stronger in early life, others in the middle of it, and yet some others towards the end of it. This division takes into account the Intellect as well. The philosophers can only claim a knowledge of some of the causes (of the increase and decrease of faculties), however important they may be. It is not improbable that, in spite of\ their similarity in respect of subsistence in body, sight and smell should differ from each other. This difference may result in the sense of smell growing stronger after the age of forty years, whereas the sense of sight might become weaker. In fact, these faculties do differ in the case of the animals. Some animals have a comparatively strong sense of smell, others have a strong sense of hearing, and some others have a powerful sight. Such differences arise from the different constitutions of the animals. And it is impossible to give an exhaustive account of the differences of constitutions. So it is not unreasonable to maintain that the constitution of sense organs differs among individuals from one state to another. One of reasons why the weakness of sight precedes that of the Intellect may be that sight is prior to the Intellect. The activity of seeing starts in the earliest parts of life, whereas the Intellect ripens at the age of fifteen, or even later (as we may observe in the case of different men). Similarly, it is said that the effect of old age on the hair of the head precedes its effect on the hair of the beard; for the hair of the head is prior. All these facts require careful investigation.

But if the investigator is not prepared to trace them back to the regular course of events, it will not be possible for him to base upon them a reliable knowledge. For the hypotheses concerning the causes of the strength and weakness of faculties may be innumerable. To rely upon only one of them — as the philosophers have done — is not conducive to certainty.




In their ninth argument, they say:

How can body with all it accidents constitute man? The bodies are constantly subject to dissolution. What they lose through dissolution is replaced by food. Take for example a new-born baby. In the years to come, he will fall ill and become lean. Afterwards, he will recover, and grow fatter and stronger. And then it will be possible for us to say that he does not retain any one of those parts which existed at the time of his birth. Nay, first of all his being consisted of the parts of sperm. But in an advanced stage of his life, no part of sperm remains within him. For all those parts have dissolved; and others have come to replace them. Therefore, this body is different from that. And yet we say that this man is the same as that, and that the congnitions he had acquired in early childhood remain within him; although his physical parts may all have been changed and replaced. It follows that the soul's existence is independent of the body, and that the body is an instrument of the soul.



This hypothesis breaks down, when in the case of animals and plants the earlier and later stages of existence are compared. Just as a man is said to be the same, so is an animal or a plant said to be the same as it was in the past. And this does not prove that the animal or the plant has a being other than the physical one. Further, the conservation of imagined forms may be cited in refutation of what has been said (by the philosophers) on knowledge. For the imagined forms remain from childhood to advanced age, even though all the parts of the brain may have been replaced. If here the philosophers assert that all the parts of the brain are not replaced, then the exceptional character might belong to the heart as well; for the heart and the brain are alike physical. And in that case, how will it be possible for the body as a whole to have been replaced? We would rather say that even if a man lives for a hundred years, still parts of the sperm which begot him would remain within him. They cannot totally disappear. For this man is what he is by virtue of something which persists within him. His case is not different from that of a tree or a horse which remains the same in this stage as it was in that. So, in spite of many a dissolution and replacement, parts of the sperm do remain.

We can illustrate the point. Pour a pint of water into a vessel. Pour another, so that the two should mix up. Take one pint out of the vessel. Pour another into it. Again, take a pint out of it, and pour another into it. And do the same thing for a thousand times. Still at the last round we shall be able to judge that the vessel retains some part of the first water; and that no pint is taken out of it, but a part of the first water exists in it. For the first water existed in the second round; the third round consisted of parts of the second round ; the fourth one, of the parts of the third; and so on to the last one. And this will be a legitimate inference from the philosophers' principles, since they have admitted the possibility of the infinite division of bodies. So the absorption of food into the body, on the one hand, and the dissolution of its parts, on the other, may be compared to the pouring of water into a vessel and the draining of water out of it.




In their tenth argument, they say:

The rational faculty apprehends the general rational universals or the States (as the Mutakallimin call them). It apprehends the absolute Man; while a particular human person is perceived by the senses. The absolute Man is not the particular person whom we can observe. For the observable person is in a particular place, has a particular colour, a particular measure, and a particular position; whereas the absolute Man is divested of all these things. It includes all that falls under the name man; even though it had non-observable colour, or measure, or position, or place. It includes all that may called 'man,' and for which it is possible to come into existence in the future. Nay, even if man does not exist at all, the reality of Man — divested of particular qualities — will subsist in the Intellect. The same applies to all other particular objects observed by the senses. For the Intellect abstracts from them their universal reality which is divested of Matters and Positions. The attributes of this universal reality may be divided into: (a) those which are essential — e.g., corporeality in the case of plants and animals, or animality in the case of man — and (b) those which are accidental — e.g., whiteness or length in the case of a man or a tree. We judge the essential or accidental character of these attributes in relation to the genus — i.e., Man or — Tree, or anything else we may have apprehended (not in relation to the particular object which is observed by the senses). This shows that the universal which is divested of all sensible associations is an object for the Intellect, wherein it exists. And this intelligible universal is undesignated, non-local, and unquantified.

Now, the universal intelligible may derive its non-local and immaterial character either

(i) from that which is universalised. But this is im­possible. For that which is universalised did possess dimension, position, and quantity.

Or (ii) from that which universalises — viz., the rational soul. If so, it is necessary that the soul should be non-local, undesignated, and unquantified. Otherwise, if the soul were to possess these things, then that which subsists in the soul would possess them as well.



The universal posited by you as subsisting in the Intellect is inadmissible. Only that which subsists in the senses comes to subsist in the Intellect. The difference, however, is that in the senses it subsists as an unanalysable whole; whereas the Intellect can analyse it. When the analysis is made, then — as far as particularity is concerned — the analysed thing which is isolated from its associations by the Intellect is still like that which is not isolated from its associations. Again, the difference is that that which exists in the Intellect is conformable to the intelligible object and to all other things like it in the same way. It is in this sense that it is said to be universal — namely, that there is in the Intellect the form of the intelligible which has been isolated from its associations, and which was first perceived by the senses; and that the relation of this form to all other individuals which belong to the same genus is one and the same. So if having seen a man, one sees another man, no new form will come into being — as it would if he were to see a horse after having seen a man (whereby two different forms would have come into being).

Such a thing happens even in the case of bare sensations. When one sees water, a form comes into being in his fantasy. When, afterwards, he sees blood, another form comes into being. But if he sees another water, no new form will arise. On the contrary, the form which has been impressed upon his fantasy will represent every individual water. Therefore, in this sense such forms have often been assumed to be universal. Similarly, when one sees a hand, there arises in his fantasy and in the Intellect the form of the position of the parts of the hand as related to one another — namely, the expansion at the palm, the division into fingers, the end of the fingers at the nails, even the size of the hand, and its colour, etc. So when he sees another hand exactly similar to the first one, no new form will arise. Rather, the second observation will be incapable of giving anything new to the fantasy, just as the observation of another water in the same vessel and of the same quantity will not give anything new. But when he sees another hand which differs from the first one in colour or measure, then he will have a new form — viz., that of the different colour or measure. But there will be no new form of a hand; for the smaller and black hand is as much of a hand as the larger and white hand. The two differ only in colour and measure, etc. So that which is common to the two hands will not produce a new form; because that form is identical with this. Only that in which the second hand differs from the first one will produce a new form.

This, then, is the meaning of the universal in relation to the Intellect as well as to the senses. When the Intellect apprehends the form of body in an animal, it does not acquire a new form of corporeality from that of the tree — as the fantasy does not acquire a new form from the preception of two waters at two different times, or in general no new form is acquired from the perception of any two things which are exactly similar. And this meaning of the universal affords no ground for the affirmation of a universal which is absolutely non-local.

No doubt, sometimes the judgment of reason does show the possibility of existence of something which is non-local and undesignated. For instance, it judges of the existence of the Creator of the world. But whence comes the idea that the existence of the Intellect in body is inconceivable? In the case of the Creator, that which is abstracted from Matter is the Intelligible-in-Himself which is independent of the Intellect and intelligent persons. But in the case of any other thing which has a basis in Matter, the explanation we have given shall apply.


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