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BASIC PROBLEM3 OF "AF-STRACT QUIDDITY"

By
Toshihiko Izutsu
Professor at McGill University
I nsti tute of I slamic Studies
I
The concept of qui ddi ty (mhyah) plays an exceedingly i mportant
rle in I slamic philosophy, nt only in metaphysics bt als in logic. Fr the
Eisagg (Ar. Isghuji), which constitutes the First Book of classical Aristote-
lian logic as it has been accepted by the Muslims, is in its essentials nothi ng
other than an el aborate theory of qui ddi ty. I n the course of history, the
concept of ^qui ddi ty has raised in I slamic thought a number of interesting
problems. The so-cal l ed iUibrt of qui ddi ty is surely of the most i mpor
tant of those problems.
The word i tibrt fsg. iHibr) rneans ^(various possible) ways of look-
ing at a thing. The expression (<i ctibrat of qui ddi ty, therefore, refers to
various possible ways in which qui ddi ty can be viewed at the level of
conceptual analysis. I t must be noted that the expression in no wise suggests
the existence of various kinds of qui ddi ty. All that it ndicates iS that every
qui ddi ty can be rationally approached from a number of different angles,
or can be conceived in a number of different dimensions, and that at each
of the dimensions qui ddi ty discloses different rational characteristics.
Three iHibr&t have been consecrated by philosophic traditi on as being
the most fundamental among all the i magi nabl e approaches:
(1) la bi-shart or non- conditi oned.
(2) bi-shart I or ^negatively conditioned.
(3) bi-shart shay or positively condi ti oned.
Of these three the most controversial have always been the first and
the second. The present paper will deal with som of the most basic problems
that have arisen around the second, bi-shart I.
The very concept of qui ddity qu negatively condi ti oned (mhiyah
bi-shart I) goes back directly to the metaphysics of I bn Sn (Avicenna).
Bt it became a rel moot problem in I slamic philosophy with the descri p-
tion Nasi ral - Di n al -T s gave of this concept in his celebrated Tajrid al-
Aqid. I n view of this fact, we shall do well to start by reproduci ng the
short bt highly controversial passage of this latter work, in which Tsi
enumerates what he considers the characteristic features of qui ddi ty qu
negatively conditioned.1
ABSTRACT QUIDDITY 4
II
(1) Wa - qad tkhadh al - mhiyah,
(2) mahdhufan an-h m *ad-h,
(3) bi-hayth
(4) lau indmm ilay - h shay\
(5) la-kna z id.
(6) wa- l takn maqlah al,
dhlika al-majm(.
(7 ) Wa - hiya al - mhiyah bi - shart I,
(8) wa- l tjad illa f i al-adhhn
Qui ddi ty may be viewed,
all elements other than itself being
removed therefrom,
in such a way that,
if any element were adjoined to it
(i.e. the qui ddi ty),
it (i.e. that element) would bt be
something external (and superadd-
ed),
and it would nt be predi cated of
that combined whole.
Qui ddi ty' in such a state is ne
gatively condi ti oned,,5
and it does nt exist except in the
mind-
5 T. IZLJTSU
Fr a correct understandi ng of what is stated here about the categry
of qu negatively condi ti oned' it must be remembered that most of the lead-
ing Muslim philosophers recognize, over andabovethe three Vtibrt, another
iHibr or a stage which metaphysically precedes all of them, namely, a stage
at whi ch qui ddi ty is viewed in its conceptual puri ty prior to its being
determined or conditioned by anythi ng whatsoever. Thi s is the iHibr of
qui ddi ty qu itselfv (mhyah min hayth hiya).2
At the stage of qu itself, qui ddi ty is viewed in a state of totl
indetermi nati on. No determi nati on, either positive or negative, is attached
to it. I t is nt determined evenbythe purely negative determinati on of not-
bei ng- determined - by - anything. Qui ddi ty is here being considered in
itself and by itself. There is absolutely no reference to whatever is nt itself.
I t is in the capacity of the humn mi nd, however, to detach itself
from the state of pure intuition, recede a step, and consider the i ntui ted
thing, whatever it may be, from a distance, observing it in an objective
way. Qui ddi ty qu itself, when observed in such a manner, discloses itself
to the mi nd as something transcending, or cut off from, all other things. No
longer is the qui ddi ty then being i ntuited in its absolute purity; fr other
things have already i ntruded int the field of consciousness, except that the
qui ddi ty is pt int a negative relation with these other things. That is
to say, the other things of which the mi nd is conscious and which, so to
speak, surround the qui ddi ty, are intentional ly expelled fiom the field of
consciousness and kept back from the qui ddi ty. All this is a conscious
process, at least theoretically if nt practically. And the absolute puri ty or
transcendence of the qui ddi ty becomes re - established on the ground pre-
pared by this rational process. The qui ddi ty is now in the state of nega
tively condi ti oned.
The qui ddi ty in this new state of puri ty is a qui ddi ty as an
ABSTRACT QUIDDITY
6
abstract concept. Structurall y it is said to be negatively condi tioned because
here its conceptual purity is mai ntai ned by di nt of a negative determination,
namely, that of nt - being - accompanied - by - anything - else.3 I n the traditi on-
al theory of universalia in I slamic logic, qui ddi ty" in such a State is known
as rational uni versal (kulit (aqli). I t may conveniently be exemplified by
the pure concept of ani mal viewed as a self - subsistent rational entity pre-
cluding all other concepts that may possibly be associated with it. I n the text
given above, Tusi refers to this aspect of the probl em by the clause(2): all
elements other than itself being removed therefrom. The sentence (6) States
that a qui ddi ty considered in this way is a qui ddi ty qu negatively con
ditioned.
The text mentions three more points as characteristic of quiddi ty qu
negatively conditioned.
Fi rst:-----as indicated by (3) - (4) qui ddi ty in such a state cannot
form an integrl whole with any other concepts. This is bt a direct conse-
quence of (l )-(2). Since the concept of ani mal , fr example, is in this
dimension supposed to subsist i ndependently of all other elements which, as
we have j ust seen, are being consciously kept back from it, it is natural that
the concept should absolutely refuse to be combined with any other concept-----
that of rational , fr exampl e int a conceptual unity. Ani ml and
rational' here are two i ndependent concepts. Evn if we forcefully pt them
together, what is obtai ned will be nothi ng more than an external combi na -
tion of two self-contai ned elements refusing, j ust like oil and water, to be
mixed with each other. The combination ani mal - rati onal in this concep
tual dimension wll aptly be compared with a mn and a stone pt side by
side in the external world. They can never be integrated int a whole. This
negative feature distinctively marks off the qu negatively condi ti oned
from the qu non - condi ti oned, fr i f rati onal is adj oined to ani mal in
7 T. IZUTSU
the l atter dimension, the two concepts get smoothly combi ned int a third
concept, i.e. that of rati onal ani mal which in fact is nothi ng bt the con
cept of mn.
Second:-----as i ndi cated by (6) a qui ddi ty in the state of qu
negatively condi ti oned can never be predicated of anythi ng other than its
own self (Ani mal is ani mal ), nt even of itself as combi ned with something
else. As we have observed in the foregoing, ani mal and rati onal , fr
instance, are in this dimension preclusive of each other, so that the combi -
nati on of these two concepts remains an external combinati on of two i nde-
pendent elements: ani mal +rati onal . The ani mal +rati onal is of course qui te
a different concept from ani mal , because it is animal-i- X , representing
somethi ng more than mere animality. Ani ml (qu negatively condi ti oned)
cannot possibly be predi cated of ani mal + X because the former precisely
represents mere animal ity. And by this negative feature, too, the qu negatively
condi ti oned proves radically different from the qu non - conditioned, fr in
the l atter dimension ani mal has a full ri ght to be predi cated of the com
bi ned whole ( Ani mal +rati onal i san ani mal , that is, Mn is an ani mal ).
We may add that in the text quoted above, Tusi does nt discuss the
rel ated problem, whether there is something that can be predicated of
qui ddi ty qu negatively condi tioned . Briefly stated, the answer is yes.
Fr, al though pri mary intelligibles cannot be predicated of it, secondary
intelligibles can4. (Ani mal is a genus, Mn is a species, etc.).
T hi rd:-----as i ndicated by the last sentence of the text, (8) qui d
di ty qu negatively condi ti oned does nt exist except in the mind. There is no
disagreement among Muslim philosophers that qui ddi ty deprived of all its
accidents, i.e. a purely abstract concept, cannot exist in the external world.
The rel problem is rather, whether qui ddi ty in such a state does or can
exist in the mi nd. Among the leadi ng thinkers of the l ater periods of I slam,
ABSTRACT QUIDDITY 8
like J urj ni , Taftzni , Qshji, etc., we ind this pi'oblem being very seri-
ously discussed. Those who take the position that qui ddi ty in its absolute
puri ty cannot exist even in the mi nd argue that to exist rS the mi nd is
itself an accident so that a quiddi ty existing in the mi nd is by this very
qualification deprived of the conceptual purity which is at issue in the pre-
sent context. That is to say, the qu negatively conditioned cannot exist
i n the mi nd without bemg transformed int something else
Against this argument, those who admi t the menti ex;stence ( ' qu
negatively conditioned point out that the negative thesis is based on a eon-
fusion between two different intentions5. We must, they argue, clearly
distmguish between a State of affairs being viewed in its primary, de facto
mode (nafs al-amr) of being, i.e. as natural ly given, before the light of anal -
ysis is shed upon it, and the State of affairs being viewed analytically when
the secondary, reflexive intenti on of consciousness is focused upon its structure.
Certainy, they go on to argue, a quiddity existing in the mi nd is
nt a qui ddi ty pure and simple without any qualification. Bt in the first
of the two dimensions that have j ust been explained, existing in the mi nd
is still a matter of the pri mary mode of being, and as such the hght of
consciousness is nt shed upon it. As long as the mi nd does nt take cogni-
zance of it, existing in the mi nd does nt constitute an accident of the
qui ddi ty. And such is exactly the dimensjon in which the qu negatively
conditioned is actualized. The being - in - the - mi nd viewed as an accident
o* the qui ddi ty belongs to a different dimension, and is therefore to be
completely ignored at this stage of pri mary intention. The being - in - the - mi nd
disdoses itself as an accident of the qui ddi ty only at the stage of secon
dary i ntenti on, when the consciousness havi ng in itself the pure qui ddi ty
al ready actualized, directs now its attention to the very fact that it is beinj>
conscious of the qui ddi ty i n such a state.
9 T. IZUTSU
A similar, bt slightly different solution of the probl tm has als been
proposed by som of the philosophers, the gist of which is as follows. The
functioni ng of the mi nd is by natr such that it can represent anything,
even its own non - existence. I t is, therefore, quite a simple matter fr the
mi nd to represent qui ddi ty in the state of an absolute purity, deprived of
all its accidents, be they external or menti. So even i f quiddity qu nega
tively condi tioned be qualified, already at the primary stage, by bei ng- i n-
the-mi nd, the mind is able to consider it as something nt qualified by this
menti accident.
Those who take this position usually explain the situation by having
recourse to cases that are more easily understandabl e, like the concepts of
non - existent and unknown. A non - existent thing is existent in the
mi nd as long as it is conceived as something, be it in a purely negative way.
Bu this ki nd of existence does nt prevent it from being the concept of
non - existent. Similarly something unknown is known as such the moment
the mi nd takes cognizance of it. I t remains nevertheless the concept of
unknown i n itself. J ust in the same way, qui ddi ty qu negatively condi -
ti oned is qualified by bei ng- i n- the- mi nd insofar as the mi nd is conscious
of i t; bt in itself it is qui ddi ty standi ng aloof from all qualifications, and
as such is opposed to quiddi ty qu positively condi ti oned.
So far the above-quoted text of Tusi would nt seem to lead int any
serious difficulties. I ts argument appears flawless. Such, however, is in
reality nt the case. Fr many of the fi rst-rate thinkers claim to notice a
gl anng contradi ction between the clauses (2) and (4). Hence the thesis of
two different meanings of the expression qu negatively conditioned (bi-
shart I). Wa shall be concerned with this problem in the following section.
ABSTRACT QUIDDITY 10
III
Before examining the natr of the contradi cti on or confusion which
Ts is said to ha ve made in putti ng the clauses (2) and (4) together in his
description of qui ddi ty qu negatively condi ti oned, let us first give a brief
explanation of the two different meanmgs which these thinkers attach to the
expression bi-shart I.
(1) The first meani ng of qu negatively condi ti oned concerns essen-
tially and exclusively the conceptual rel ation between a qui ddi ty and its
accidents. Here qui ddity qu negatively condi ti oned means qui ddi ty in
the state of a totl seclusion from everything alien and external to itself-----
qui ddi ty as viewed in its absolute conceptual puri ty apart from all other
elements, whether the latter be its inseparable accidents (like being - an - odd-
number in relation to the qui ddi ty of the number 3) or separabl e accidents
(like bei ng-whi te in relation to the qui ddi ty of mn). I t will be quite
clear that this is precisely the meani ng in which we have in the foregoing
pages used and understood the expression qui ddity qu negatively condi
tioned. I t will be clear als that a qui ddi ty understood i n this way cannot
exist in the external world, because it cannot bt be an abstract concept.
(2) The second meani ng of bi-shart I concerns a rel ation that obtains
between the constituent parts ( aj z \ sg. j ut ?) of qui ddi ty. Here we start
from a concrete situation in which we find a qui ddi ty (e.g. mn) being
existent in the mind as a conceptual composite (murakkab) constituted by
another qui ddi ty (ani mal ) and a differentia (rati onal 5). What we are
initially given is, on this supposition, a composite whole (mn). Our reason
exercises its discriminating ability upon this composite whole and anal yzesi t
int its components: ani mal 5and rati onal 5. Then the reason considers the
concept of ani mal 5thus taken out of its original composition as an independent
11 T. IZUTSU
enti ty standi ng opposed to the other element: crati onal \ The concept of
ani mal viewed in this way exemplifies the second meani ngof quiddi ty qu
negatively condi ti oned. The qu negatively condi ti oned is to be taken here
as a consti tuent part (juz?) ormatter (maddah) of a qui ddi ty (animal'1)
as the mati er of mn in the present example). Ani ml here is negatively
condi ti oned in the sense that its conceptual independence is conditioned by
its difference or separation from rati onal .
I t is i mportant to remark fr a ri ght understandi ng of what we are
going to say about the confusion Tusi may have made between the two
meanings of bi-shart I, that a qui ddi ty understood in the second sense
is considered by all those who make this distinction to exist in the external
world. I t must be addmi tted, they say, that primarily a qui ddi ty in such a
state exists only in the mi nd, fr it is originally a product of a rational
analysis by which the mi nd establishes it as an i ndependent entity in sepa
rati on from its compani on from which it is in reality nt separated. However,
insofar as it exists in its original form in the external world in combi nation
wi th its differentia and other accidents, it does exist secondarily and per
accidens, in the external world.
Wi th this prel imi nary explanation i n mi nd, let us now turn to the
argument of those who see a confusion in what Tsi says about the struc-
ture of qui ddi ty qu negatively conditioned.
The mai n poi nt of thei r criticism is as follows. Tsi s description of
qui ddi ty qu negativel y condi ti oned lacks consistency in that it can be
taken nefiher in the first sense throughout nor in the second sense. The
criticism is based on the observati on of the two following facts.
(a) The expression: all elements other than itself being removed
therefrom clearly shows that what Ts has in mi nd is qu negatively
condi ti oned in the first sense. Bt the clause which follows it, namel y: i f
ABSTRACT QUIDDITY 12
any element were adjoined to i t stands flagrantly in conflict with this
understanding. Fr qu negatively condi ti oned in the first sense is sup -
posed to be absolutely detached from all other elements, so that if any
element were to be adjoined to i t ---------even by mere supposi ti on---the
qui ddi ty would cease to bei n the puri ty of qu negativel y conditioned
in the first sense.
(b) Nor, however, is it possible fr us to take Ts s description con -
sistently in the second sense, because the sentence i 8) explicitly states that
the qui ddi ty" in question does nt exist except in the mi nd. We have
already seen above that qu negatively condi ti oned does exist in the exter
nal world, albeit secondarily.
According to J urj n , the clause (2) fits only the first sense, while the
clause (4) is proper only to the second sense. Thus he sees in Ts s descri p
tion an obvious and undeniable confusion between the two meanings.
I t is interesting to remark in this respect that because of this confu
sion' no less an authority than Taftzni goes to the extreme of denying the
authenticity of the Taj ri dal - Aq'id itself. Comparing the above-ci ted passage
with what Tsi says in his Commentary on the Avicennian Ishrt, Taftzni
reaches the astonishing conclusion that this work is probabl y nt a rel work
of this great Master. Says he: (The confusion be ween the two meanings)
testifies that this is nt one of his rel works. I n this (confusion) we have
an i ndubi tabl e evidence in support of the negative opi nion that has been
expressed about the Tajrid a l - Aq'id, namely that it is nt an authenti c
work of Tsi, despite the fact that the book is too good and precious to be
ascribed to anyone else.8
Of all those who see a confusion in Tsi s description, Qshji (Al 5
al -Di n Ahmad al -Qshj i , d. 1474) deserves special mention. He was
among the first thinkers to recognize the distinction between the two technical
13 T. IZUTSU
meanings with which we are concerned in this section, and to emphasize the
i mportance of mai ntai ni ng this distinction rigorously and in the most sys-
tematic way, nt restricting the distinction to qu negatively condi ti oned
alone bt extending it to qu positively condi ti oned and qu non-condi
ti oned as well. And on the basis of this widened vicw, Qshji criticised
I asis exposition, al though he did nt go to the extent of denying the authen-
ticity of the Tajrid al-'AqHd. I n view of the historical importance of his
theory, we shall give here an outline of the mai n ideas which he expresses
on the parti cul ar problem at issue in his famous Gommentary9 on this very
work of Tsi.
I t is i mportant to note that, since, as we have j ust seen, Qshji does
nt restrict the distinction between the two meanings" to bi-shart I, bt
extends it systematically to I bi-shart and bi-shart shay\ the problem is no
longer how one should understand the expression qu negatively condi
ti oned. Qshji rather proposes to establish now two different systems of
i tibrt of qui ddi ty, two systems of technical terininology which are parallel
to each other in that both consist of three terms exactly the same, bt which
are different from one anofher in i hat they are based each on a different
mterpretati on of the terms.
The basic meani ng in terms of which one of the two systems is
constituted is the same as what we have al ready eluci dated at the outset of
the present section as the first meaning of qu negatively conditioned. The
iHibrt of qui ddi ty, under this i nterpretati on, turn out to be a systematic
presentati on of the three maj or ways in which reason can consider qui ddi ty
m terms of the degrees and modes of determinati on.
The second system of the iHibrt of qui ddi ty is a classification of
the mutual relations that are conceivable between the i nner (or essential)
constituents of qui ddi ty", which are capable of being predi cated of the latter.
ABSTRACT QUIDDITY 14
Thus, to repeat, we have two systems of iHibrt of qui ddi ty, each
consisting of the same terms:
(1) I bi-shart qu non-condi ti oned,
(2) bi-shart I qu negatively condi ti oned,
(3) bi-shart shay qu positively conditioned.
Each of these three terms carries a different meani ng according to
whether it is understood in reference to the one or the other system. L et us,
fr the sake of convenience, designate the two systems as System-A and
System-B respectively. Since about System-A what we already know is
sufficient fr our present purposes, we shall pt System-B in the foreground
and consider in particular bi-shart I and bi-shart shay3 which are of special
relevance to the problem we are concerned with.
L et us first take up bi-shart shay qu positively condi tioned, or more
literally qu conditioned by something. I t is to be remarked immediately
that in System-B the word shay does nt mean anythi ng ; that the refer
ence is rather to a certain definite thing. An accident like l aughi ng (dhik)
or Ccapable of writing (kti b), fr instance, function in System-A as shay*,
i.e. a conditioning factor of the qui ddi ty (of ani mal , fr instance). Fr
in fact in System-A anything can function as a conditioning factor of qui d
dity. The ani mal as conditioned by being -capabl e-of-wri ti ng is mn,
and it provides an example of quiddi ty qu positively conditioned. I n Sys
tem-B, on the contrary, only those concepts which are found in the interior
of a qui ddi ty and which essentially constitute it from inside are allowecl
to function as the conditioning factors of the qui ddi ty. Otherwise expressed,
it is only the diferentia that can be considered the shay of the qui ddi ty.
Animl, fr example, is in itself an i ndetermi nate qui ddi ty. I t does
nt acquire detcrmination and actuahty unless a diferentia (e.g. rati onal )
15 T. IZUTSU
be added to it. When ani mal is conceived as being in a state in which one
of its differentiae has already actuali zed it, the qui ddi ty of ani mal is
said to be in the state of qu positively conditioned. in terms of System-
B. Thus a qui ddi ty qu positively condi ti oned in terms of System-B is a
predicabl e, species.
Bi-shart I or qu negatively condi tioned" is als given two different
i nterpretati ons in terms of the two systems. I n System-A , bi-shart I reTrs
to the state in which qui ddi ty is kept deliberately detached from all el e
ments other than itself, while in System-B qui ddity qu negatively condi
tioned" is qui ddi ty viewed as a constituent element of a composite concep-
tual whole in which i t is combi ned with another constituent element. Here
we have a qui ddi ty (let us call it X) seen as joi ned to another element
(let us call it Y) so that as the result of this combination a third conceptual
enti ty (let us call it Z) is actualized. X and Y are the constituent elements
of Z; that is to say, each of X and Y is a part f j uz ) of Z. Thus, to
restate the matter in more concrete terms, ani mal (X) is combined with
rati onal 5 (Y ) to form a thi rd concept: mn (Z). M n in this context is
viewed as a conceptual composite made of ani mal and rati onal . Ani ml
is a part of mn. And under such an i nterpretati on, ani mal maintains
its own conceptual i ndependence so that whatever is joined to it is regarded
as something external to it. I t is in this sense that the quiddity of ani mal
is said to be in the state of qu negatively conditioned in System-B. Since
it is only a part, or a constituent element, of mn, it cannot be predi
cated of mn. I n other words, we cannot say in this parti cul ar dimension:
Mn is an ani mal ', fr ani mal here does nt include in itself the other
consti tuent of mn, namel y rati onal . Ani ml in this situation is said to
be the matter" (mddah) of mn.
I t must be noticed that in System-B, qui ddi ty", whether it be qu
ABSTRACT QUIDDITY
16
positively conditoned or qu negatively condi ti oned, is viewed as being
joined with something else. Evn in the state of qu negatively conditioned,
it is nt the case that qui ddi ty stands completely detached from all el e
ments other than itself, as it does in System-A. The only difference between
qu positively condi ti oned and qu negatively condi ti oned in System-B
lies i n the following fact. I n the former, the added element (Y) is viewed as
having completely penetrated int the i nner texture of the qui ddi ty (X)
in such a way that X is actualized as Z pure and simple, leaving outwardly
no trace of X and Y. Thus, to use again our familiar example, what we
actually have here is the pure concept of mn, while its constituent el e
ments, ani mal and rati onal , having been, as it were, dissolved int mn,
lie totally hi dden under this composite whole. I n the state of qu negatively
conditioned, on the contrary, the added element is viewed as remai ni ng
external to the qui ddi ty so that the two constituents, although they actu
ally are united int a single composite, mai ntai n each its own conceptual
independence. I n the very structure of mn, fr example, ani mal is intui-
ted in itself as an independently subsisting entity.
I t is on the basis of such an i nterpretation of the two systems that
Qushji claims to find a confusion between the two meanings of qu nega
tively conditioned as described by Tsi.
I he expression (2) all elements other than itself being removed
thereform, he argues, means mujarradah, i.e. completely stripped of all addi-
tional factors, and therefore it applies only to System-A. Fr, as we have
j ust seen, in System-B, the qui ddi ty is nt intuited in its absolute i nde
pendence; it is viewed in combi nati on with another element, except that the
two factors are regarded as mutual l y exclusive of each other.
This would i mmediately imply that the clause (4): i f any el ement
were adjoined to i t cannot apply except to System-B. The particule lau i f
17
T. IZUTSU
indicates that the menti act of adj oining another element to the qui ddi ty
is a mere supposition. Bt even a supposed adj oining of another el ement
transposes the qui ddi ty from System-A to System-B.
Qshj i concedes that it is nt impossible to understand the expression:
All elements other than itself being removed therefrom as a reference to
the structure of qu negatively conditioned in System-B}namely to under
stand it i n the sense of the qui ddi ty" nt internally mi xed with any other
element even i f in actual ity it may be found in combination with other el e
ments. I n that case, the clause (4) would be nothi ng more than an additional
explication of what is expressed by (2). I n support of this i nterpretation one
could adduce the words of I bn Sin himself which are found in the Mta -
physics c~his .STiz/ and which read: Quiddity* may be taken qu condi
tioned by nothi ng (i.e. qu negatively condi ti oned). That is the case when
its concept is represented strictly in such a way that it should be represented
alone, that whatever is j oi ned to i t should be considered something external
to it, and that the original concept should nt be predi cabl e of the compo
site concept (thus produced as the result of this combi nati on).
Bt then, Qshji continues to argue, the description of Tsi thus
i nterpreted would come int conflict with the sentence (8): and it does nt
exist except in the mi nd. Fr qu negatively condi ti oned in system-B
can very well exist in the external world as well as in the mi nd, whereas
whatever is completely stripped of all addi ti onal factors cannot in the natr
or the case exist in the external world.
IV
Toward the end of the 15th century there arose an i nteresting philo-
sophical despute between J al l al - Di n al - Dawwni (142 7 - 15 01) and
Ghi yth al - Di n al -Dashtaki (d. 1542). Dawwni and Dashtak were two
ABSTRACT QUIDDITY
18
outstanding philosophers of the age, who were sharply opposed to each other
on a number of maj or problems. The two meani ngs of qu negatively
condi tioned happens to be one of those problems on which they desagreed
in a radical manner*0.
Dashtaki denies the very existence of two different systems of technical
terminology. Each one of the three maj or i tibrt: I bi-shart, bi-shart I and
bi-shart shay', maintains one and the same basic technical meani ng whether
it be applied to the relations between qui ddi ty and its accidents (System-
A) or to the relations holding between the constituent elements of qui ddi ty
(System-B).
Dashtaki admits that what Tusi refers to by the expressi on: all other
elements other than itself being removed therefrom is certainly qui ddi ty
viewed by itself, in isolation from all external elements. Bt this does nt
mean that Tsi is considering here qui ddi ty, as it were, in a completely
void space, putti ng it in a state of totl conceptual isolation i n which it
appears wi thout any accompanying acci dent fr, Dashtaki says, observ-
ing qui ddi ty in such a state serves absolutely no purpose in the present
context. What is in queston is rather qui ddi ty observed in such a state
that it will remai n conceptually independent, refusing to be umfied with
any accident that may come to be attached to it, i.e. qui ddi ty that will
continue to keep its self-identity even when in actuali ty it is accompani ed
by other elements. ^ This and nothi ng else, Dashtaki says, is what is meant
by the abstraction ( tajrid, i.e. rendering abstract or naked, mjjarradah) of
quiddi ty from all accompanyi ng factors ( lawhiq, sg. lhiq).
I t goes without saying, Dashtaki adds, that qui ddi ty seen in such a
state does nt exist in the external world. Fr in the external v'orld qui d
dity is completely unified with whatever accompanies it, be the accompa -
nying factor essential or accidental. An accompanying factor is a predicate,
19 T. IZUTSU
and every predi cate is natural ly unified and identified with the subject in
the external world.
According to Dashtaki, no other i nterpretati on accords with the words
of I on Sin, (which we quoted earlier toward the end of the last section).
Dawwni , however, takes exception to this view. He says: Dashtaki s
thesis is nothi ng other than a downri ght denial of the external existence o
'matter. Fr qui ddi ty which is actually accompani ed by another faclor
bt which remains v ithout being unified with it, cannot bt be matter ;
and Dashtaki declares that qui ddi ty in such a state does nt exist except in
the mi nd. Bt saying so, Dawwni continues to argue, comes int direct
conflict wi th what I bn Sin taught, who clearly recognized the existence of
matter. Besides it comes int conflict with reality as well.
The upshot of this argument is that we have to admi t that there
are two systems of technical terminology in terms of which the phrase qu
negatively coxdi tioned must be undestood in two different meanings.
Against this criticism Dashtaki argues in the following way. He begins
by agreeing that qui ddi ty qu negatively conditioned" as he himself under-
stands it is a constituent part i.e. matter" of a qui ddi ty which,
accompani ed by accidents, actually exists. But}he says; a constituent part
is nt necessarily a constituent part in the external world. Fr it can very
well be a part which is obtai nabl e only through rational analysis. Rather,
it is i n the present context a rational part, because what are regarded as
accidents (or accompanyi ng factors) in the present context are all pre-
dicates, and predicates are nt constituent parts of qui ddi ty i n the
external world. So the denial of the external existence of matter in this
sense goes nei ther against the teaching of I bn Sin nor against the objective
structure of real i ty.^
This answer, however, does nt at all satisfy Dawwni. Besides, Dawwni
ABSTRACT QUIDDITY
20
radically differs from Dashtaki in the understandi ng of qu negatively con
di tioned. And his i nterpretati on of Tsi s text is accordingly very different
from Dashtaki s.
I n his view, the abstraction of qui ddi ty, i.e. looking ai ^qui ddi ty
in the state of isolation from other elements, is a relatve matter. That is to
say, qui ddi ty in such a state changes its natr and structure in accordance
with the other elements which are excluded from it. Dawwn points out
two casses as directly relevant to our problem.
(a) The first is the case in which qui ddi ty is viewed as being in
totl isolation from all other elements wi thout exception. Qui ddi ty in such
a state, being a sheer conceptual abstraction, cannot natural l y exist in the
external world. Fr in order to exist externally, qui ddi ty must necessarily
be determined in one way or another. Bt being - determined is itself an
alien factor added from outside to qui ddi ty in this dimension.
(b) The second is the case in which qui ddi ty is considered as being
preclusive of som definite element or elements, nt of all. Fr example, the
body viewed in isolation from the sul, the body from whose i nner struc
ture the sul is considered to be excluded, is in the state of qu nega
tively conditioned only with regard to the sul. Wi th regard to the rest of
the elements that could accompany the body, it remai ns indetermi nate,
that is, qu non-condi ti oned. I n such a case, it is quite possible fr the
body* to become actualized in the external world in vi rtue of som of these
elements other than the sul.
Dawwni is convinced that the distinction between these twocasescan
account fr the seemi ngcontradi cti on which is observable between Tsi and
I bn Sin concerning the external existcnce of qu negatively condi tioned.
That whose external exstence is denied by Tsi is qu negatively conditioned
in the sense ( d ) , while I bn Sin affirms its existence because he understands
21 T. IZUTSU
qu negatively condi ti oned in the sense ( b) . A ni ml does exist in the
external world when it is considered in the state of qu negatively condi
ti oned with regard to rati onal alone, although it cannot have external
existence when it is considered in isolation from all elements other than
itself. Thus, Dawwni concludes, there is no rel contradiction between the
two Masters.
V
L hiji himself13 has an original solution of his own to offer fr the
problem concerning the notorious confusion which many a leading thinker
have seen in Tsi s descn'ption of qu negatively conditioned.
He starts with qui ddi ty qu itself (min hayth hiya hiya). Qui ddi ty
qu itsel f is absolutely nothing other than itself. T hat is to say, all the
elements that could possibly accompany it, whether negative or positive, are
all precl uded from qui ddi ty at this stage. Thus we find Ts s words: all
elements other than itself being removed thereform literally actualized in
quiddi ty qu itself. I t is i mportant to remark, however, that at this highest
stage of abstracli on, the expression all elements other than itself being
removed thereform refers only to the de facto structure of qui ddi ty qu
itself before the mi nd starts to work upon it. Otherwise expressed, there is
as yet no representati on or notion of the exclusim of other elements from
qui ddi ty. The very act of conceiving its - bei ng-detached-from-al l -other -
elements belongs to the secondary level of rational elaboration. A tthe pri mary
level of conception which is prior to all rational elaborati on, qui ddi ty is
simply i ntui i ed in itself, there being on our part no awareness even of its
being isolated from other elements.
Now according to Lhiji, the expression all elements other than
itself bei ng removed therefrom must be understood exactly in this sense. I t
ABSTRACT QUIDDITY
22
is i ntended to be a descerption of the state in which we find qui ddi ty qu
itself before our mi nd proceeds to analyze its structure.
Thus, in the view of Lhji, the first sentence i n the above-ci ted
passage from Tsis Tajrid must be given an articulation entirely different
from the usual one. The usual arti cul ati on in accordance with which we
transl ated the passage earl i er1^ connects the words all elements other
than... with the verb qad tkhadh (may be viewed), so that the sentence
reads: Wa qad tkhadh/al- mhiyah/mahdhfan an-h m ad-h. The arti cul a
tion which Lhiji proposes takes the words all elements other than... as an
adjectival phrase qualifying al-mhiyah, so that the readi ng will be: Wa qad
tukhadh/al-mhiyah mahdhufan ian-h m ad-h/bi hayth lau indmm..., which
will mean: Qui ddi ty in the state in which all elements other than itself are
removed therefrom (i.e. in the state of qu itself) may be viewed in such
a way that if any element.... Under this i nterpretati on, Tsi is here referring
to the above - mentioned process of rational el aboi ati on in virtue of which
quiddity qu itself comes to be viewed in such a state that whatever is
associated with it must be regarded as an alien element added to it from
outside. The structure of qui ddi ty which is disclosed to the mi nd through
such a rational process is no other than qu negatively condi ti oned.
All this would seem to indi cate that L hji does nt recognize the
validity of the conception peculair to System-A i n the understandi ng of
bi-shart I or qu negatively condi ti oned. Fr bi-shart I as understood in
terms of System-A would, n his view, simply be quiddi ty qu itself. His
treatment of the matter sliows at the same time how he understands System-
B in relation to qu negatively condi tioned. The l atter, according to his
understandi ng, refers to the state in which the negative situation of other
elements vis - - vis qui ddi ty has come int a clear focus of our conscious
ness after having been completely hi dden and invisible at the stage of qu
itself.
23 T. IZUTSU
Lhiji points out that the source of confusion fr the critics of Tusi
hes in the fact that Tsi uses the word mahdhufan kbeing removed in a way
which is really confusing. Bt in truth the removing here does nt mean the
rational process o removing all other elements from qui ddi ty. I t means
exactly the same situation which I bn Sin pointed to by the use of a far less
confusing phrase: bi -dht i -h in itself, i.e. quiddity qu itself.
Thus, L hij i concludes, there is no contradiction between Ts and
I bn Sin. Nor is there any confusion n the conception of Tsi himself between
the so-cal l ed two meanings of qu negatively conditioned.
VI
We have examined in the foregoing som of the representative views
on the natr and structure of qui ddi ty qu negatively conditioned. I n
spite of an exceeding i mportance that has been attached to i t or, we
mi ght say, precisely because of i t the problem does nt seem to have
reached any final solution. However this may be, the distinction between the
two meanings of qu negatively conditioned, together with the more
generl distinction between the two systems of the i tibrt of qui ddi ty,
have exercised an indelible influence on the development of I slamic phi l o-
sophy in all its branches incl udi ng the semantic theory of j urisprudence. Bt
to go further i nt details about these matters will take us too far beyond the
scope of the present paper.
Footnotes
1) Tajrid a U tiqd (or Tajridal-Aqid) in Kashf al-Mur&d by al-Hilli, Qum, undated, p. 60.
2) Aceording to the majority of the later philosophers, this stage is nt to be established
as that of "quiddity qu itself , bt rather as a special klnd of "quiddity qu
non-conditioned technically known as mhiyah I bishart maqsam. The latter is
"qu non-conditioned which stands side by side with, and opposed to, "qu
negatively eondltioned and "qu positively conditioned . Since. however, this
is nt a point having a direct bearing upnn the problem we are concerned with
in this paper, I shall treat the i'tibr now at issue as "quiddity qu quiddity .
3) See Taftzni: Shark al-Maqdsid', I stanbul, 1305 A.H., p. 98.
4) Hshim al-Husayni, fr example, categorically States: "quiddity in this dimension
cannot be predieatcd of anything else, nor can anything else be predicated of it
(Tawdh al-Murd, Tehran, 1381 A.H,, p. 131). Bt this is evidcntly a mistake
(See al-K zimi al-K hursanis remark on this point in his Taqrrt Muhammad
Husayn al-Nint, vol. 1, Tehran, 1368 A.H., p. 359. Als al -K hi: Ajwad al-
Taqrirt f i al-Usl, vol. 1, Qum, undated, p. 522.
5) See J urjni: Sharh al-Mawqif I I I , Cairo, 1907, pp. 26-28.
6) Abd al-Razzq al-L hiji: Shawriq al-llh&m, vol. 1, Tehran, 1860, p. 150.
7) Ibid., p. I 48.
8) Op. cit. pp. 101-102.
9) Sharh Tajrid al-Tsi, L ith., Tehran, 1247 A .H., pp. 84-85.
10) Dawwni wrote an encyclopaedic survey of I slamic philosophy entitied Unmdhaj al-
Ulm ("A General Survey of All Sciences) against which Dashtaki wrote a book
of refutation called Hadd al Unmdhaj al-Ulm al-JTlliyah ("Rcfutation of J alh
al-Dins General Survey of All Sciences ). The following exposition is based on
L hji (op. cit.) p. 149.
11) Thus understood, however, bishart I will simply be "matter (mddah) as wre have
defincd above. And this is what Dawwni is going to point out.
25 T. IZUTSU
12) This argument is certainly weak because it is based on a confusion between " matter
and genus. I n Avicennian metaphysics "matter is an external constituent, the
corresponding rational constituent being "genus .
13) Abd al-Razzq al-L hiji (d. 1640), disciple and son-in-law of Mll Sadr, the
author of the above-mentioned Shawriq alIlhm which he wrote in the form of
a commentary upon Tsis Tajrtd alI tiqd (or Tajrtdal - Aqid) bt whieh is far
more than a commentary. The book itself remains to be studied.
14) At the outset of Section I I .