عنوان مقاله [English]
Philosophers and intellectuals have always been concerned with the problem of life. Many have considered it from different points of view. In ancient philosophy, life was attributed to the soul. Pythagoras was the first to treat the soul as the origin of life. He was followed by Anaxagoras who referred to the life force, which gave life to the material world, as Nous (intellect or spirit). Just like his predecessors, Plato believed that the soul was the origin of life, and in the case of real entities, life, spirit, motion, and reason are inseparable. Following Plato’s lead, Aristotle traced the cause or origin of life to the soul. These ideas left a great impact on Muslim philosophers. Avicenna—a prominent philosopher in the Islamic world—appealed to Plato’s and Aristotle’s accounts to argue that life is essential to the soul, believing that the soul is by itself alive, and physical objects come to be alive by virtue of the soul. Accordingly, the criterion of life for Avicenna is perception and action. After Avicenna, Mullā Ṣadrā provided the same definition, developing it by drawing on his own philosophical principles.
Mullā Ṣadrā argues that life is the origin of “perception” and “action,” incorporating the two notions in his definition of life. In his view, a living being is a perceiving acting entity; that is, an entity with knowledge and consciousness, which does certain actions. In other words, it should be such that it knowingly and consciously does the action. Given his philosophical principles such as the primacy of existence, its simplicity, and its gradation (tashkīk), he establishes the idea that life is a graded entity pervasive throughout all stages of existence. On this account, every living being’s life is the way of its existence, which determines its vital effects. The nobler and stronger the existence is, the more perfection the perception and the firmer the action will be. Hence, every being enjoys life as much as it enjoys existence. We refer to certain existing entities as non-living because we cannot perceive the effects of life in them. For volitional sensation and motion are indications of life, and beings that tangibly have such characteristics are living, and this is not to deny life in other beings. For instance, Quranic verses affirm that there is such a life in beings which cannot be perceived by human senses. Thus, according to Mullā Ṣadrā’s philosophy, all existing entities are ipso facto alive, whereas pre-Sadraean philosophies attributed life only to animals and humans on account of their perceptive and motive faculties, lacked by plants and solid objects, and thus they saw these entities as non-living. This is incompatible with Quranic verses and the principles of Mullā Ṣadrā’s philosophy. There are Quranic verses referring to the exaltation of God by all beings—something not perceived by human senses. These verses indicate that all beings enjoy consciousness and life. Mullā Ṣadrā argued for such general consciousness and life by drawing on his philosophical principles. In this way, the widespread view that only some beings are alive is implausible in terms of Mullā Ṣadrā’s transcendent philosophy, and once life is proved for a stage of existence, it will be proved for all other stages of existence by dint of the principles of the primacy, simplicity, and gradation of existence. This is compatible with many Quranic verses and hadiths in which the power to talk, to hear, and to know is attributed to apparently non-living beings, which implies a degree of life in them.
On this account, life is a graded reality that exists as an existential perfection in the necessary being, humans, animals, plants, and solid objects in different degrees. Thus, the necessary being is essentially alive, giving existence and life to other entities. Such existence is the same as life, and solid objects, plants, animals, and humans enjoy degrees of life to the extent that they enjoy degrees of existence. The view is confirmed by Quranic verses, denoting that all beings exalt God, which imply that all beings are alive. Mullā Ṣadrā cites the Quranic verse, “There is not a thing but celebrates His praise, but you do not understand their glorification,” and then comments that all beings prostrate for God and praise Him in a volitional conscious manner, and perfective attributes such as life, knowledge, and power are not separable from these beings.