New Publication by Mansooreh Khalilizand and Kata Moser

The network members Mansooreh Khalilizand and Kata Moser published each a paper in the anthology “Women’s Contemporary Readings of Medieval (and Modern) Arabic Philosophy” edited by Saloua Chatti. The paper by Mansooreh Khalilizand focuses on the debate about on primacy of existence (aṣālat al-wujūd) versus the primacy of essence (aṣālat al-māhiyya). Khalilizand aims at problematizing and questioning what has been taken as a matter of course in the research, i.e. the implication of the debate on the primacy of existence versus the primacy of essence, formulated as a strict dichotomy in a particular stage of Islamic philosophy.
Kata Moser examines in her study the contemporary Arabic discourse on the legitimacy and nature of metaphysics. In particular the study presents and discusses the notions of Zaki Naguib Mahmoud, Youssef Karam, and Yumna Tarief El-Kholy on Metaphysics.


The paper “Primacy of Existence Versus Primacy of Essence – What Is the Debate About?” by Mansooreh Khalilizand examines the debate on the primacy of existence (aṣālat al-wujūd) versus the primacy of essence (aṣālat al-māhiyya) which developed around the question of what fills the texture of reality. The primacy of existence states that only existence fills it, whereas the primacy of essence argues that it is the diverse and distinct essences which actually are. The respective debate was initially developed in the School of Isfahan, moved to center stage and formulated as a strict dichotomy by Mīr Dāmād and later by his disciple Ṣadr al-Dīn Šīrāzī. It is a fact that Fārābī, Ibn Sīnā and Suhrawardī preceded the formulation of this debate. However, the first two are usually considered to have supported the primacy of existence while Suhrawardī is considered to have adopted the primacy of essence. The manner in which the debate developed influenced the narrative of the history of Islamic philosophy, a narrative that largely dominates the modern scholarship. The question that tends not to be raised, however, is what precisely this debate is about and whether its meaning and implications are really as clear as they are supposed or purported to be.


The study ““Superstition” or “Crown of Science”? Zaki Naguib Mahmoud, Youssef Karam, and Yumna Tarief El-Kholy on Metaphysics” by Kata Moser
examines the contemporary Arabic discourse on the legitimacy and nature of metaphysics. With the growing influence of science, metaphysical questions were sidelined or even deem wrong altogether. The study presents and discusses three of the most important contributions to this debate in their own right and with regard to their corresponding references to one another: The debate in question started in the 1950s with neo-positivist Zaki Naguib Mahmoud (1905–1993) rejecting it bluntly in his widely read contribution Khurāfat al-mītāfīzīqā (The Fable of Metaphysics, 1953). The central thesis of this work is that metaphysical hypotheses have no connection and relevance for the knowledge of reality and that they are void of meaning and, hence, have to be abolished. Neo-Thomist Youssef Karam (1886–1959) criticized this position and gave a different account of metaphysics in his works al-ʿAql wal-wujūd (Reason and Being, 1956) and al-Ṭabīʿa wa-mā baʿd al-ṭabīʿa (Physics and Metaphysics, 1959). He posits that metaphysics is the most abstract and most comprehensive science that deals with being as such, including God, and it is necessary in order to gain a correct knowledge of reality. Yet another contribution to the debate has been presented by Popperian Yumna Tarief El-Kholy (1955–) in her book al-ʿIlm wal-ightirāb wal-ḥurriyya (Science, Alienation, and Freedom, 1987). El-Kholy also holds metaphysics to be necessary by the sheer fact that all scientific theories include a metaphysical theory. The metaphysical theory that she considers most suitable for present scientific research is indeterminism, which is both an account of the epistemological access to reality as well as the ontological structure of reality itself. El-Kholy values the scientific approach to reality without denying the possibility of metaphysical knowledge and without entering the field of the knowledge of God. The discussion of these contributions demonstrates the range of solutions that Arab philosophers offer to the crisis of metaphysics and where they locate the controversial issues.



Keywords: Metaphysic · Existence · Essence · School of Isfahan · Mīr Dāmād · Ṣadr al-Dīn Šīrāzī · Fārābī · Ibn Sīnā · Suhrawardī · Zaki Naguib Mahmoud · Youssef Karam · Yumna Tarief El-Kholy · Contemporary Arabic Philosophy · Neo-Positivism · Neo-Thomism · Popperian · Epistemology · Ontology